Denali Northern Expenditure

1500 Days Until We Quit

The pandemic has me calculating all of our numbers on the daily, which made me realize, today is 1500 days from our target quit date of May 20, 2025! Why is this significant? Well, I’m sure you’ve heard of Mr. 1500 days. He and his wife set out to amass $1 million (+their remaining mortgage amount) in 1500 days. When they began in January of 2013, they had $586,000 and were contributing $2000/month toward investments. So… did they make it? YES! On April 19, 2016, they hit their goal (just 1204 days into their journey!). They now have a net worth over $3.6 million and are doing exactly what they want to be doing.

That means WE CAN DO IT TOO!

The New Plan

So our goal is the same as the 1500s. In 1500 days, we hope to have $1 million invested + at least 1 year cash + either a paid off mortgage or enough in a brokerage to pay off the mortgage. (If we pay nothing extra on our mortgage, we’ll need $235,000 to pay off the balance in May 2025.) We currently have $500k invested (THANK YOU CRAZY MARKETS!), which is less than the 1500s started with, but even if we just max out our two 401ks, we’re contributing $3,250 monthly, so we should be able to catch up.

Now, we’re more conservative in our estimates. I don’t trust the market to return 10% and I don’t think we could live off of $1 Million forever. However, that was never our goal. We want to be entrepreneurs for awhile without having to depend on the money forever. We are already CoastFI at 65 which means our $500,000 will take care of us forever after we’re 65 if we don’t touch it until then. This new goal will take us to Flamingo FI, which is another made-up goalpost, but I like it’s simplicity. Flamingo FI means you can count on your money doubling every 10 years counting on a 7.2% return and the rule of 72. So, with $1 million invested, in 10 years, that would be $2 million if we don’t touch it for 10 years and then we could withdraw between $60-80,000 forever (counting on a 3-4% withdraw rate).

With enough money to cover the mortgage and a 1 year emergency fund, we would just need to make enough for living expenses for a decade before being able to tap the investments. This sounds like a good balance between an exciting entrepreneurial challenge and a big enough safety net in case we either hate it or are terrible at it.

Why May 20, 2025?

The goal has always been to be available full time the summer before Penny is a senior in high school. We want her to be entirely in charge of the summer itinerary that year to maximize our time with her before she’s potentially getting college prepped the next year. She will get to choose where we travel and what we do that entire summer. May 20 is an arbitrary date that felt like a nice round number and is likely a few days before school will get out for the kids. 😉

Because the goal is not to never work or earn money again, I reserve the right to quit earlier if we hit our numbers earlier! This is, after all, about pursuing the things we want to do, so if that opportunity happens earlier, we’ll take it! (I mean, if we keep earning $20k/week with these crazy market increases, we’ll get there in no time!)

What’s the Entrepreneur Plan?

Mr. T and I have been dabbling for a few years with online side hustles we really enjoy. We currently sell t-shirts and coloring books on Amazon (affiliate link). With the pandemic, we’ve had almost zero time to work on any of those things, but have still managed to earn about $500/month as totally passive income. So, we’re not worried we’ll earn ZERO money when we quit our jobs.

We also have a HUGE LIST of things we want to create. We have so many stories we want to write together–likely YA fantasy. We’ve been piecing the worlds together in conversation over the past few years and are very excited to be able to go full time trying to map out and write the stories.

We also want to build an Etsy shop the kids can run to earn money in high school (and build up their Roth IRAs early). TBD what that looks like, but it’s on the list.

The list also includes an Alaska travel game we created a decade ago and a whole bunch of other things we’d like to see become realities. For us, most of this stuff isn’t about money. It’s about seeing these things in our brains become realities. But I’m also sure we can figure out something that will earn us money along the way. After all, we spent a year playing the Unemployment Game and won!

What are the Blog Plans?

We’ll keep documenting our journey along the way as we always have. Quarterly still feels like the right amount. I want to use real numbers because real numbers were what helped me know it was possible. But monthly seems braggy (and I can’t commit to more than quarterly right now!) Hopefully as we emerge from this pandemic (and I’m no longer working so much on COVID research and have a little more mental capacity), I’ll start posting more.

I have lots of things I have to work through as we get prepared for this big leap that I hope to talk through here including:

  • Pay off the house vs. Have the amount in a brokerage account (and how this decision impacts taxes and ACA subsidies)
  • Planning for healthcare
  • Helping the kids with college – how much and in what form (we don’t have 529s for any of the kids)
  • Eventual withdraw plans / Roth conversions, etc.
  • Donor advised fund?

And don’t worry! I’ll definitely keep you posted on the Birch tapping experiment and update the annual dipnetting numbers. I’m hoping to get back to a more consistent schedule by the end of 2021, but who knows what the world will look like then. No guarantees.

Q1 2021 Plan Update

Well, 2021 is starting to look hopeful. I’ve got both my shots (as of Monday) and Mr. T is getting dose #2 today! (We’re lucky to live in AK which has been open for vaccines for all 16+ for awhile now.) I’m still full time COVID-19 researcher and recently discovered I have ADHD.

So, I found myself a neuro-therapist that specializes in ADHD and started therapy this week! I look forward to learning some new tools to help get me out of this pandemic in a healthy way. Right now I’m burned out, exhausted, and sick of feeling gas-lighted (gaslit?) as people try to school me in all things COVID (this is LITERALLY MY JOB). Also with 5 people in this house for a full year, I need some executive functioning tools to not feel overstimulated and tired all the time. The good news is the kids have less than 2 months left of the school year! We’ve almost survived!

The other thing happening is birch tapping season starts in the next couple of weeks (weather dependent)! We’ve built a reverse osmosis system to help cut down on fuel to make the syrup (because it takes 100 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup). We’re tapping 35 trees and with all the kids home all day every day, we’re all pretty excited to have a big family project to do together. And it will be a great big science experiment since this is all new territory for us. (Don’t worry, I will actually do a blog about the experience. Shocking, I know.)

The Money Stuff

It turns out, even after daily running the numbers, and the insane market, we still can’t retire yet. DANGIT. But can we just talk about how this market is INSANE? It’s UNREAL.

Still have a giant new (as of March) mortgage. It’s down to $318,000. At 3% for 15 years, my goal is to not pay it down early, but save enough money to cover it before early retirement (an account just for paying down the mortgage each month). But we’ll see if I last FOURTEEN MORE YEARS before paying it off.

And where has that bonkers market gotten us? Our investments are currently at $494,000 (SO CLOSE to half a million dollars!) making us officially CoastFI. That means if we don’t touch any of our investments until we are 65, we’re all set for traditional retirement. To calculate this number, you can use the Fioneers’ CoastFI formula (their website also has a calculator you can download for free if you don’t want to calculate it):

Coast FI # = FI # / (1+Expected Growth Rate)^# of years until retirement

We assumed a 5% growth rate and an annual spend of around $60-70,000 ($70,000 if we want to use a 4% withdrawal rate and around $61,000 for a 3.5% withdrawal rate). 27 years until Mr. T is 65 (I’m slightly younger, so I went with his). And BAM. There we are. CoastFI. Now we just have to figure out the next 27 years!

2021 Goals

We bought a house last year, as I mentioned, with the plan to build an addition. Mr. T and I are currently sleeping in the basement and plan to build a master suite off the main part of the house (we purchased the house with this addition in mind. We couldn’t find a house we liked that also had enough rooms for us). So, that’s our big elaborate project this year. Other than that, the goal is to max out all the things. 2020 was our first year of doing so (yay two full time incomes!!).

  • Have the Addition Exterior Finished – We are planning to do all the interior work ourselves (except MAYBE drywall. TBD). But we need to have the addition “dry in” by winter. Contractors are busy and we’re unsure if we’ll be able to get the help we need to get it done, but this is the big spendy goal this year.
  • Max Out My 401k ($2,661/$19,500) – I better raise my contributions!
  • Max Out Mr. T’s 401k ($4,788/$19,500) – Mr. T’s retirement contribution “slider” may be the death of me. I can slide it to “$732,” “$798” or “$819″ per paycheck, but not $750.” We were under by $600 in 2020 because of the dumb slider. I’m hoping to get closer to maxing out this year, but I’m doubting we’ll actually be able to get the exact $19,500.
  • Max Out my Roth IRA for 2021 ($6000/$6000) – Done. Probably the earliest I’ve ever done so!
  • Max Out Mr. T’s Roth IRA for 2021 ($0/$6000) – Not yet.
  • Max out a SEP-IRA – We maxed out for 2020 just this week and obviously we won’t be able to officially max out on this year until tax time next year, but I’d like to have enough set aside to be able to just max it out with taxes next year.

I hope you are all well. Take care of yourself. Be kind to one another. The world is dark enough.

Q4 2020 Plan Update

It is truly hard to believe that 2020 is finally coming to an end. This has been a year and a decade at the same time. I want to say that this year has been traumatic. Even if you never got COVID-19 and didn’t lose employment, you have experienced trauma. Just remember that it’s okay to not feel totally okay right now. You are not alone. It’s okay to not have a plan right now. It’s okay if you feel like you’re just treading water. Do what you need to do to get through this. Remember 2021 won’t get better right away. Prepare yourself for that.

I’ve seen so much hustle talk from wealthy people and it’s exhausting. It’s truly okay if you emerge from this pandemic with nothing to show for it but yourself and your family. Just get through it, friends. I’ve shared how I plan to approach New Year’s resolutions this year. I suggest you do something equally guilt-free.

It’s also okay to not see all the “bright spots” people keep saying about 2020. It’s hard to identify the positives when you’re in the middle of the trauma. One positive I would say is that 2020 made my migraines so bad I sought treatment and it turns out there are some miracle drugs on the market that can stop a migraine in 30 minutes. SCIENCE IS MAGIC.

I also wanted something to look forward to during this dark winter before vaccines come available, so I am diving all in to the two-week birch tapping season at the end of March. Birch syrup is a northern novelty. Because of the type of sugar that birch sap has, if you boil it down like maple sap to make syrup, it ends up with sort of a molasses-y taste (which still makes for yummy baking on carrots, salmon, or mixed with honey), but don’t you worry. I’m building (with much help from Mr. T) a reverse osmosis system to help cut out some of the bitterness. This is a big foray into my suburban semi-homesteading lifestyle I hope to ease into as we leave traditional employment. Don’t worry. I’ll definitely blog all about it.

The Money Stuff

I will say what I’ve said all year: This still feels like the least important conversation ever, at best, and unfair bragging at worst, but I committed to being transparent and that will continue. The most helpful thing to me on my journey was people sharing actual numbers. I hope ours can prove useful to someone else.

Still have a giant new (as of March) mortgage. It’s down to $322,000. At 3% for 15 years, my goal is to not pay it down early, but save enough money to cover it before early retirement (an account just for paying down the mortgage each month). I also have to constantly remind myself that a lower interest rate (2.5%), would save us less than 20k BEFORE closing costs, so I need to just settle down and live with my pretty incredible 3% mortgage. (Though, if it drops to 2%, all bets are off!)

The market remaining high still remains one of the greatest mysteries of 2020. And it all feels like fake money at this point. But at this rate, we’ll hit our goals in 2021 and sail off into the sunset (just kidding). Our investments currently sit at: $444000. Bonkers, amiright? That’s a $73,000 increase over last quarter. That’s a salary! I’m sure this will continue to blow my mind as investments get higher, but in 2020, this seems particularly bonkers.

After last quarter’s work drama of the boss getting let go and getting a new supervisor, this quarter, I got ping ponged around the office. I still do the COVID thing but no one can quite decide who I should report to. This drama is sure to continue through the first quarter of next year when they think they’ve finally decided which team I should land on. This is the first year I’ve really been exposed to the giant corporation nonsense I’ve heard so much about. Like, can everyone just leave me alone to do the work we all agreed has been valuable? Instead I’m constantly stuck writing my strengths and weaknesses, goals for a week, a month, a quarter, a year, etc etc.

2020 has verified to me that a) Mr. T and I will not get bored not having regular employment and b) corporate life is not my natural habitat. I’ve been living vicariously through Purple’s early retirement the past few months (I mean, she even took a sleeper train car!).

2020 Goals

Here’s the final break-down. We did pretty darn good considering all the chaos that is 2020 (including purchasing a new house without selling the old one!).

  • Max Out My 401k ($19,500/$19,500) – DONE! I found out that my company doesn’t let you contribute too much, so my last paycheck just maxed out and then gave me the rest back!
  • Max Out Mr. T’s 401k ($18,900/$19,500) – Mr. T’s retirement contribution “slider” may be the death of me. This was as close as we could get because we can slide the slider to “$798” or “$819” – random, arbitrary numbers. I kept messing with it all year to try to get as close as we could… but I was still $600 off. Hopefully I can get this closer to the max next year.
  • Max Out my Roth IRA for 2019 ($6000/$6000) – Done (thanks to the extended July 15 deadline).
  • Max Out Mr. T’s Roth IRA for 2019 ($6000/$6000) – Done. Same.
  • Max Out my Roth IRA for 2020 ($0/$6000). Done.
  • Max Out Mr. T’s Roth IRA for 2020 ($0/$6000) Done.
  • Figure out and Contribute to a SEP-IRA –Done. Because we had a really good Q4 sales season in 2019 that paid out in Q1 2020, our self employment income was quite high this year (though Q4 2020 saw less than half as many sales, understandably). I just opened a SEP-IRA this week and contributed $2k. I’ll wait until my accountant tells me the final number needed to max out the employer part of this (since I already maxed my personal Roth IRA) and then contribute that amount.

I hope you are all well. Take care of yourself. Be kind to one another. The world is dark enough.

How To Set New Year’s Resolutions during Hard Times

So 2020 was something, wasn’t it? Now, I’m usually all for starting over and setting goals and resolutions at the start of the year, but I feel like 2021 New Year’s Resolutions need to look totally different than previous years and I think this is true for any really hard season in your life. Over the past several weeks, I’ve thought of several ways to approach goals during Hard Times and I think I’ve settled on what I think it should look life for me. Everyone is different, so don’t assume this is how you should be doing it. (If you need to just treat the New Year like any other day and keep on surviving, by all means, DO THAT.)

If you can adapt any of the following to yourself this New Year’s resolution season, go for it:


In “normal” times, this looks like reflecting on what you did well this year and what you would like to improve upon. But in the middle of Hard Times, this turns into self-shaming and that’s not going to get anyone anywhere. So, here’s how I plan to approach “end of year reflections” this year: Stream of consciousness write your thoughts and feelings of 2020. Seriously. Just write everything. Does that mean you just write down a bunch of angry words? Do it. But this moment is historic (in 2020, this is true both globally and in your own life, but tough times are personal historic moments). Document it. Add details that you’ve found notable this year. Here are just a few of mine:

  • We moved this year and the elderly new neighbors came over and tried to shake my hand at the front door and I had to decline but still try to seem friendly and happy to be in the neighborhood. It was a weird, notable moment for me.
  • The absolute horror I feel when I find someone wondering the grocery store completely maskless. It’s a cross between indecent exposure and fearing for my life.
  • One of my big regrets of 2020 was not watching Tiger King. Not that I feel like I’m missing out on the actual show, but at the beginning of all this, it was the first way the US came together in a collective experience binging that crazy show. And I was too busy with work because I’d just been thrown in the deep end of being the office COVID research expert. I feel like I missed out on a notable, collective experience in this lonely year.

What is this supposed to accomplish? Well, catharsis if nothing else. It’s not ever and we’re still in Hard Times. But reflecting helped me work through some emotions about this year and also find some humor in the insanity that is this Hard Time.

Set Just ONE Goal: Feel Better next year at this time.

See? That wasn’t so bad. I even set your goal for you. And it breaks all the goal setting rules. Other than being timely (one year), it is not specific or measurable. But it’s the only goal you need this year. I promise. Let me explain.

During Hard Times, all the fringe stuff falls away and you’re just surviving. It’s super easy to be like: I have eaten terribly this year, I’ve hardly exercised. My meditation time is down to zero. I haven’t hustled. etc etc etc. DON’T DO THAT. You’re in the middle of Hard Times. It’s okay to not be improving in all areas of your life. And you’re probably feeling yucky about lots of things. Pick just the yuckiest and set a simple goal to feel better about it next year than you do now.

This could mean many things. Maybe in order to feel better about that thing, you need to process it or approach it differently in order to feel better about it. Maybe you need to take some sort of action. Do that.

Example: My sedentary 2020 lifestyle has led to hip pain (yes, I’m a 35-year-old really old lady). My entire goal is to have my hip feel better at the end of next year. That will involve me moving it sometimes.

No Guilt Allowed

The goal is to mainly empower you to do SOMETHING helpful to yourself during Hard Times. It is NOT to give you something else to feel guilty about. What if all through January, I exercise the same amount I did 2020 and my hip still hurts? I can get up and move that hip once and feel great about doing that one thing. Was my goal exercise X amount each week? Nope. Was my goal to have zero hip pain at the end of the year? Also nope. It was just to FEEL BETTER. That’s it. I can’t have guilt about that at all because a) it’s not the end of the year yet and b) these are Hard Times and I’m just going to try to feel better.

Now, Happy New Year’s friends. May 2021 be way less terrible than 2020. And may we all feel better next year than we do this year in some way.


Q3 2020 Plan Update

Since I started getting hassled from my IRL readers about not updating (hi dad!), I thought I should update the blog before we got too deep into Q4. When last we chatted, the world was burning around us and there was a worldwide pandemic in full swing. Turns out, 3 months later, not much has changed there.

A young caribou in Denali National Park

So, let’s focus on the good stuff from the last 3 months: In July and August, we got to visit two national parks here in Alaska: Denali and Wrangell-St. Elias (the largest national park in the US). Because of the lack of tourists, Denali, which is usually only accessible by bus, opened the road to 70 cars per day for a few weekends. The tickets were nearly impossible to get (first to click through wins), but we had 4 computers and 4 people clicking and Penny will be the first to brag that she scored us the tickets. It was an INCREDIBLE trip. We had bears, caribou, porcupines, hares, and ground squirrels all crossing the road right in front of us. It was magical.

Wrangell-St. Elias and the Kennicott Copper Mine town (header image) are accessible via a 60-mile railroad pass road which is rough and narrow. Once you get to the edge of the water, you camp there with your car and bike across the river bridge (not accessible to cars) to get to McCarthy and Kennicott. This was also a great trip. Visiting places in Alaska with all locals is so enjoyable!

The kids also started school, via Zoom. It’s going well, for the most part, but the tag-teaming parenting/full-time jobs/3 kids in school is still an exhausting daily effort. My job is still 100% COVID-19 research which comes with a healthy dose of existential angst and Alaska’s cases have never been higher, so that doesn’t help much. But, we have a nice pod so we’re not totally starved for socialization and we’re healthy and so very lucky to still be employed, so there’s not a ton to complain about here.

The Money Stuff

I will say what I said last quarter: This still feels like the least important conversation ever, at best, and unfair bragging at worst, but I committed to being transparent and that will continue. The most helpful thing to me on my journey was people sharing actual numbers. I hope ours can prove useful to someone else.

Still have a giant new (as of March) mortgage. $327,000. At 3% for 15 years, my goal is to not pay it down early, but save enough money to cover it before early retirement (an account just for paying down the mortgage each month).

Our investments are up over $50,000 in the past quarter which still completely blows my mind because there is something seriously wrong with this economy. I covered successful investing on the Twitter:

So easy. Well, our investments now sit at $371,000. If market returns continue like this and we don’t die, we’ll early retire in no time!

Work, for me, got weird this quarter. My boss of 10+ years was laid off leaving me in management limbo. Currently, the consensus is I’m valuable because I’m the “COVID girl” but we’ll see what happens. In this world, anything is possible.

2020 Goals

With Mr. T and I both working, I had said that my goal was to max out all the retirement accounts for the first time ever. I still go back and forth on whether we’ll actually do this. I want to hoard all the cash, but also know I want to invest a whole bunch too. #RichPeopleProblems

  • Max Out My 401k ($17,003/$19,500) – Fun fact: my company uses percentage of pay instead of actual dollar amounts, so I’m gonna have to play with that to get close.
  • Max Out Mr. T’s 401k ($14,140/$19,500) – Another fun fact: Mr. T’s work uses an arbitrary slider for contributions. So, he can contribute something $784 or $832, but no number in between… so, we’ll have to play with that to get close this year as well.
  • Max Out my Roth IRA for 2019 ($6000/$6000) – Done (thanks to the extended July 15 deadline).
  • Max Out Mr. T’s Roth IRA for 2019 ($6000/$6000) – Done. Same.
  • Max Out my Roth IRA for 2020 ($0/$6000)
  • Max Out Mr. T’s Roth IRA for 2020 ($0/$6000)
  • Figure out and Contribute to a SEP-IRA – Not yet, but for tax purposes, I’m def gonna need to figure this out.

I hope you are all well. Take care of yourself. Be kind to one another. The world is dark enough.

Dipnetting: 2020

As a reminder, dipnetting is how we get our salmon for the whole year here in Alaska. I’ve explained the dipnetting process here and even shared our salmon recipe if you want to know how we cook it weekly.

This year I needed this dipnetting trip more than ever. We went with a family that is also avoiding other humans, stayed two nights, and it was so much of what I needed: sunshine, beach time, socializing time, etc. So therapeutic!

Penny and Florin tried dipnetting this year for the first time as well and each of them caught their first even salmon this year, so that was very exciting!

How did we do? It was a slow year. We worked hard and stayed two nights, but again, it was just what I needed. Total count: 25 salmon. – This equals just over 58 lbs of edible meat. The fish were also pretty small this year. Our smallest fillet: 9 oz (we’re going to try our hand at home smoking the little ones this year!). Biggest fillet: 30 oz (42 oz is our record).


Every year I calculate all the expenses associated with dipnetting to see just how good of a deal we’re getting on our salmon.


  • $58 – Fishing licenses for Mr. T and I.
  • $21.59 – Ice to keep the fish cool after catching.
  • $22.63 – Gas for the car (at least this cost is lower than previous years!)
  • $70 – The cost to camp on the beach two nights and drop our stuff off.
  • $139.99 – We used to get our salmon professionally smoked, but they went out of business, so we bought ourselves a smoker this year and decided to give it a try (no idea how that will go yet).
  • $22.32 – Blizzards at Dairy Queen for the whole family on the way home.
  • $79.99 – Waders for the girls. Price of them catching their first salmon: PRICELESS. (you saw that one coming, didn’t you?)

Total Costs: $414.52

Total Cost Per Pound: $7.15

It was our lowest meat haul since starting the blog and our most expensive per pound costs ever, but again, I feel like the therapy of going and doing was worth it. We actually got a vacation in the time of COVID and relaxation therapy. And with the salmon running pretty slow, I’m pretty happy with our haul.

For the first time, we kept the salmon bellies and smoked them. We also saved the salmon bellies from the friends that fished with us. They added up to an extra ten pounds of salmon. If you include those, it helps!

Total Cost Per Pound (Including Bellies): $6.10

What does salmon cost per pound where you are?

Q2 2020 Plan Update

Well, the world continues to explode around us and here I am posting on a useless blog. Some days, I feel like I could do so much more to solve the problems of the pandemic, systemic racism, gender inequities, the wealth gap, and SO MUCH MORE. I have poured my energy the past few months into two things: work (full-time COVID research) and teaching my children to care (translates to: talks to my children maybe WAY TOO MUCH about the above problems. Their generation is our hope). I remember learning about a year ago that some people actually thought men had NO benefits over women in society, employment, safety. IT BLEW MY MIND. Now, you can imagine my COMPLETE SHOCK AND ANGER to find out that people have this same belief about RACE. I mean, THAT IS NUTS. We have a huge history of terrible laws and policies that have held Black people back (starting with SLAVERY – no one should ever get over that). It’s been a quarter. In case it isn’t clear to you, I am a white, cis-gender woman with SO MUCH PRIVILEGE. My journey is completely unfairly weighted in my favor. You need to know that. And hopefully, we can make this journey more equitable for all!

In our “free time,” we continue the house projects which will be never ending. Most days, I’m so grateful for my wonderful life, but full-time COVID research causes a certain amount of existential angst I’ve tried to combat by spending more time reading in the sunshine in my new backyard.

The Money Stuff

This still feels like the least important conversation ever, at best, and unfair bragging at worst, but I committed to being transparent and that will continue. The most helpful thing to me on my journey was people sharing actual numbers. I hope ours can prove useful to someone else.

Still have a giant new (as of March) mortgage. $335,000. We are locked into a 15-year at 3%, so all logic indicates we should let it ride the full 15 years, but we’ll see if I last doing so. At least for now, we’re actively saving for an addition we have planned next summer, so other than rounding my monthly payments up to make them even (which adds a whopping $20 of extra principle a month!), we’re paying no extra on this.

I’m actually both grateful and furious the market hasn’t tanked yet. On the one hand, this is the kind of thing that causes me existential angst because I feel like the market is only still up because THE RICH PEOPLE ARE OKAY. And it’s SO UNFAIR. So while I’m angry the rich are getting richer in the midst of all this (while definitely realizing I’m counted among them!), I’m also glad we haven’t (yet) jumped into a depression because that will ALSO negatively impact people in terrible ways (primarily the poor, again). That being said, our investments currently sit at $317,000.

Also happy to report I finally updated to the widgets to the right. It’s been awhile. And I raised the $500,000 to $1,000,000 because even though we’re not there (or close), it feels possible now.

2020 Goals

With Mr. T and I both working, I had said that my goal was to max out all the retirement accounts for the first time ever. With the current climate, I’m not sure I’m going to do this. I currently plan to max out both of our 401ks and our 2019 Roth IRAs (this week!), but am unsure on 2020 Roths or a SEP-IRA. Mainly because I like cash hoarding and we also have an addition planned next summer… I might feel more comfortable now with more cash.

  • Max Out My 401k ($11,200/$19,500) – Fun fact: my company uses percentage of pay instead of actual dollar amounts, so I’m gonna have to play with that to get close.
  • Max Out Mr. T’s 401k ($7,700/$19,500) – Another fun fact: Mr. T’s work uses an arbitrary slider for contributions. So, he can contribute something $784 or $832, but no number in between… so, we’ll have to play with that to get close this year as well.
  • Max Out my Roth IRA for 2019 ($0/$6000) – with the extended July 15th deadline for this, we’ll maybe be able to do it!
  • Max Out Mr. T’s Roth IRA for 2019 ($0/$6000)
  • Max Out my Roth IRA for 2020 ($0/$6000)
  • Max Out Mr. T’s Roth IRA for 2020 ($0/$6000)
  • Figure out and Contribute to a SEP-IRA

Take Care of Yourselves

I ended our Q1 update this way, but I think it’s still important. Please take care of yourselves. If you live in the US, we’re in for a really bumpy ride. As of today, we’ve broken the 50,000 cases/day record and both case counts and hospitalizations are up or flat in every quadrant of the country. PLEASE avoid the 3 C’s: close contact, crowded places, and closed places. AND PLEASE WEAR A MASK IN PUBLIC.

Q1 2020 Plan Update: COVID edition

The world is weird now, right? All of a sudden it’s the middle of May but March was like ten years long. Let me first say that we’re incredibly lucky at this time in so many ways and we know that everyone is struggling, so please understand that what you’re feeling right now is okay to feel. If you need help, reach out for help. Mr. T and I both still have jobs. His is more secure than mine, but mine has turned into full-time COVID-19 research, so I will probably keep it for the near future anyway. We’re also trying to balance working on the new house, moving over there before our renters move into our condo on June 1, school schedules for our 3 kids, etc etc. It’s a lot.

March 2020

March was a strange month. We started the month in California for Spring Break. We went to Legoland and Universal Studios and everything seemed fairly normal. We then went to LA one day in the pouring down rain and got stuck in horrible traffic on the way back and during the HOURS we were stuck in the rain on the freeway in a standstill, the world changed. As we listened to the radio on the way home, Disneyland closed, sports were canceled, everything started happening at once. We had 3 days until we were supposed to return to Alaska. We got news the kids wouldn’t be going back to school upon return as school had been canceled. Quarantines hadn’t been initiated for all state returnees yet, but the trip home was scary and I kept worrying the 6-year old would cough or something and we’d get kicked off the plane. We made it home without incident and self-isolated for 2 weeks (and then much much longer because we’re still basically in isolation). Mr. T started working from home, my job got really intense with COVID-related stuff, and we started a big family calendar full of work meetings and school Zoom meetings so none of us would get in each other’s way.

The Money Stuff

It feels weird that I’m still talking about this stuff with all that’s going on. And the market not reflecting the real crisis of so many losing work is frustrating. It seems such an example to me of how this is impacting lower-income families so much more. It’s unfair and devastating.

At the end of March, we had scored ourselves a brand new mortgage so we found ourselves with a new mortgage balance of $336,000, but at 3% interest on a 15-year mortgage, we’re not planning to pay it off faster than 10 years (and I am trying to pledge to put no significant amount towards principal unless we’ve maxed out all the retirement things possible for that year). Our investments were at $276,600. Boy we went backwards didn’t we?

So we returned from an expensive vacation into a worldwide pandemic with a brand new mortgage. Of course I freaked out a little! I ran so many numbers and now have a WORST CASE SCENARIO PLAN. Right now, we have renters under contract for a year starting June 1. Because the condo is paid off, that money can pay half the mortgage of the new house. If Mr. T and I lose our jobs in the next year, we’ll live off of the cash we’ve been hoarding to build the addition we had planned to add onto the house next summer (and obviously forgo said addition). After the year is up on the condo renters, if they choose to move, we can sell that and live off that money for a bit. I digress…

Right now, we’re doing well. We both still have jobs. Our online sales are down 90%, so our side income is unremarkable (and may continue for some time since people aren’t feeling very confident shopping for stuff they don’t need right now). But, it feels better to know that even if we both lose our jobs, we’ll be okay.

The House

We spend March and April doing so much work on the house late at night, on weekend, etc. We removed the popcorn ceilings, patched the drywall, textured, and painted. We had the carpet replaced (we hired that one out). We installed hardwood flooring in the living room so the whole main floor has hardwood. We sanded down the existing hardwood and then stained and finished the whole thing so they matched. We drywalled a storage area into a little playroom for the kids. We exposed a structural beam that was hidden under drywall and finished it. We’ve painted. We’ve patched. The most frustrating part of all of it is that we have all been on top of each other during this whole thing when we have another big house just down the road that we could be using but still needed so much work. Now the main stuff is done and we can finally move in starting this week! Remember how I said we enjoyed house projects? No one warned me about popcorn ceilings. Do. Not. Like. And I’m glad we’re done with some big projects, because it’s been pretty exhausting.

2020 Goals

With Mr. T and I both working, I had said that my goal was to max out all the retirement accounts for the first time ever. It seems weird making financial goals right now, but since that was the goal I made in January, we’ll go with it and give ourselves grace if we don’t succeed (like basically every year. ha ha). I’m channeling the person on Amazon that bought one of my 2020 planners this week. (Like, you’re actually doing PLANNING for 2020?! Who IS this person!?) Here goes:

  • Max Out My 401k ($2,880/$19,500) – Fun fact: I found out THIS WEEK that the maximum was $19,500 for 2020 and not $19,000 like last year. I’m totally nailing this PF blogger thing. Seriously. I’m the greatest. Also fun fact: my company uses percentage of pay instead of actual dollar amounts, so I’m gonna have to play with that to get close.
  • Max Out Mr. T’s 401k ($5,100/$19,500) – Another fun fact: Mr. T’s work uses an arbitrary slider for contributions. So, he can contribute something $784 or $832, but no number in between… so, we’ll have to play with that to get close this year as well.
  • Max Out my Roth IRA for 2019 ($0/$6000) – with the extended July 15th deadline for this, we’ll maybe be able to do it!
  • Max Out Mr. T’s Roth IRA for 2019 ($0/$6000)
  • Max Out my Roth IRA for 2020 ($0/$6000)
  • Max Out Mr. T’s Roth IRA for 2020 ($0/$6000)
  • Figure out and Contribute to a SEP-IRA – Because our online sales for December were over $10k that month (then crashed pretty shortly thereafter), but we get paid in January on that money, our 2020 sales money is already over $10k. I need to figure out what “max out” means for how much we end up making in 2020 and do that.

Take Care of Yourselves

As I said at the beginning, this is a weird time for everyone and we’re all realizing stuff about ourselves that we didn’t know and we’re all feeling all the things. Please take care of yourselves. Check in with friends. This thing isn’t over yet and it could get worse before it gets better, so everything is up in the air for 2020. I’ll still do quarterly updates (though maybe continue the trend of being 6-weeks late on them) just to keep up momentum, but they seem silly since so much is uncertain. Hang in there, friends. I send you a virtual, social-distanced hug.

We Bought a House! (And a New Plan)

Just call me Maggie Jones. Get it? Because I’m keeping up with the Joneses? We had warned you that we might buy a house and we did. Surprise! Truth be told, we had outgrown our 1200 square foot condo. We had gotten very good at inventing storage solutions and getting rid of tons of stuff, but Florin sleeps in a very Harry Potter-like nook under Penny’s loft bed and Penny is entering her teenage years and there’s no place to hang out with teenage friends except in her tiny shared room or in our only shared living space (and Mr. T and I really didn’t want to spend the kids’ teenage years hanging out in our bedroom to give the teenagers “space” or hanging out with a bunch of teenagers all the time). Luckily, Mr. T and I have the exact same taste, so when a house came on the market that we loved, we bought it.

Considering the Family

While MY ideal future may involve gallivanting around the world with our children for years at a time, I am alone in this. My family also loves traveling, but my children have expressed the desire to lead “normal” adolescent lives during the school year. They are, however, amenible to traveling during school breaks and potentially taking longer 1-2 month trips during summertimes (like we did two years ago to Europe). They also expressed wanting a stable place to have friends come hang out.

Mr. T wants to feel more “settled” before we pull the trigger on moving to self-employment and has always wanted a home where the grandkids could come visit (and if we’re maxed out in our condo with the five of us, there would be NO comfortable space if we added spouses and children to that mix in the future).

Mr. T and I also really enjoy home projects. We refinished literally every surface in our current condo and because it’s a condo, there’s no capability for exterior additions. The home we bought is in pretty good shape, but we have an addition planned and several other projects that excite us! And with a big yard, we have limitless potential (want to get into gardening? We can do that! Need to build a shop out back to run our future million-dollar business? We can do that too!).

NOT Reasons We Bought a House:

  • As an investment: This choice was based entirely on the conversations we had about how we wanted our lives to look both now and in the future. It was not a financial choice. The numbers, obviously, would be in favor of staying in our paid-off condo forever.
  • Because of Pressures: Our rule has always been we would only buy a house if we were financially ready to do so and if we found one that we both liked better than our current condo (which we LOVE). We did not plan to buy a house solely for the sake of more room. There have always been plenty of houses bigger available but we always hated all of them. We also in no way did this to meet anyone else’s expectations (and I still find myself offended when we explain we bought a house and the reaction is: “I was wondering when you’d move past that condo”).
  • Because it’s cheaper than renting: Honestly, I don’t care at all about this argument. I know that’s a selling point for many people–not having to do repairs, etc–but that’s part of the fun of it for us. We love home improvement projects and we love making it our own.

Introducing: The NEW Plan

With my recent switch to full-time and our recent home purchase, we can finally recalculate again. Living in the condo has been a very much “will they won’t they” story the past five years for us where we just didn’t know if we’d be comfortable staying here forever. Now that we have a house we never intend to leave, we can add it to the calculations and more concretely visualize what we want that future to look like. So, here’s the rough plan:

  • 2020 – Finish up some work on the new place before moving in and then slow-move in. The benefit of having a paid-off house is that we can live here as long as we want while we do some of the things we want to do at the new place. Then we can take our sweet time going through all the stuff and moving over. We plan to wood plank some ceilings, install some hard-wood flooring, and replace the carpet before moving over. Also, hopefully, by the end of this year, we will have a renter in the condo.
  • 2021 – Build the planned addition on the house: a master suite on the main (so that even when we’re old and can’t do stairs, we can live here. We’re planning WAY ahead). The main reason we’re doing this is so that no one will have to share a room. And we can still have a “party room” for teenagers with an eventual ping pong table. Big dreams, amiright?
  • 2022 – Hit our original goal of $500k in investments. Can’t give the goal up now!
  • 2025 – This is the last year Penny will be in high school. Summer of 2025 will be her summer to direct our travels. She can choose any place in the world (within reason) and we’ll take a big trip based on where she wants to go. The goals by summer of 2025 would be to:
    • hit coast FI with our 401ks so that those will cover us until the end of time from age 60 until death.
    • have a business that is covering at least 50% of our annual living expenses
    • have enough money in non-retirement accounts to cover our other expenses from 2025-2043 when Mr. T turns 60.

A transition in 2025 to self-employment with a large safety net seems like a very exciting move for all of us! One of the big WHAT IFs is healthcare. We have great insurance right now through Mr. T’s work and the single Obamacare plan in Alaska is real spendy. I’m hoping the US figures that crap out by 2025. Good grief!

So that’s it, folks! BIG CHANGES around here and we’re excited about ALL OF THEM! It’s going to be an expensive couple of years, but since we just about doubled our income recently, we’ll all still be able to save more. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted along the way. As always, thanks for being along for the ride.

Q4 2019 Plan Update

About a year ago, I had a dream that I had to write a post on this blog that said: “This blog was about our journey to early retirement. Unfortunately, I have to shut the blog down because I became a successful stand-up comedian and Netflix has given us a large advance for my comedy specials that we’ve reached our goals.” Unfortunately (for both Netflix and myself), that dream didn’t come true. However, our situation is changing dramatically, and thus, so is our journey.

When we first started our journey, I was a stay-at-home mom working less than ten hours a week. We were entrepreneurial wannabes but had no actual success. We made significantly less than $100k combined. This was an interesting place to be in and ultimately, why we started the blog. I read about a lot of people waiting to have kids until they were early retired or being able to retire early when the kids were still young. We already had two kids when we discovered the FIRE movement so too late on that front. AND, there was no way we would be able to retire anytime soon with our numbers. I chose to stay home with the kids to frontload my time with them. We knew the financial risks of doing so and ultimately, I still decided that’s what I wanted. We wanted that voice in the community, too.

Our original goal was $500k by 2022 because it seemed impossible. Everytime I would try to calculate real numbers, they wouldn’t work. I still argue that early in the journey, the numbers don’t matter. Do what you can and pick-ax up that financial cliff. Every step forward matters.

Why We Got Lucky

Having a stay-at-home parent stunts a career projection. We knew that. However, I lucked out having a part-time job I could work hourly around my schedule for the past nine years. This fall, Lui started school and my full-time momming years were at an end. I expressed interest in going full time and (after three months of absolute drama with the HR department), I’m happy to report they gave me an offer. AND it was higher than what Mr. T was currently making. (When I asked him if his masculinity was questioned as apparently happens when the wife makes more than 40% of the household income, his answer was: “More money for the household? Isn’t that a good thing? Also, I have no idea how much I make…”. Ironically, he got a promotion the next week which put his salary back over mine. The Patriarchy!!!) Anyway, this is not the norm for most stay-at-home-parents. So I am incredibly lucky. Now we haven’t gotten any of our new paychecks, so we don’t know exactly how much we’re dealing with here, but combined, we’re now around the $150k range pre-tax (and pre-benefits) with our two salaries combined.

This, I realize, makes us and our journey no longer relateable to many of you. This is often a point of contention in the Personal Finance community. When people focus on increasing income, their stories change and they are no longer relateable to so many. I, however, have been assured that until we reach $198k, we’re on the border. 😉

The Side Hustle

The reason we have the opportunity to get into that unrelateable category is because our entrepreneurial efforts have actually started paying off. I gave an update in Q3 on those efforts and am happy to report that this month, we surpassed $10k in sales in one month! This is HUGE for us (since our previous record was $3200 in October 2017 and we haven’t been able to get close to $3k again since then). The full-time designer we had left this month so we’ll have less outgoing money and we’ve pivoted the business toward things Mr. T and I enjoy doing ourselves. We’re working on building these things up in 2020 and we’re excited about the potential.

The Numbers:

Full disclosure: I stopped using Personal Capital (affiliate link) because they stopped working for Mr. T’s retirement funds. But I really did enjoy them before they stopped working entirely for me. (Also feel free to read my more in-depth review of Personal Capital.)

Mortgage is still at $ZERO! Again, we’re cash hoarding for a potential home purchase this year. Again, only if the market drops a bit and we find a house we like.

As of this random Monday in December (ha ha, can’t be bothered to wait until New Year’s to update the numbers) our investments and savings are at $324,000. The bonkers double digit markets have been good to us.

2019 Financial Goals (REWORKED):

  • Max Out My 2018 Roth IRA ($5,500/$5,500) – Thanks to the totaling of the car, WE DID IT!
  • Max Out My 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Still cash hoarding. We’ll see come the end of March if we want to do it this year.
  • Max Out Mr.T’s 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Ditto here.
  • Replenish Emergency Fund ($1,200/$1,200) – Because our emergency fund is in a Capital360 account so we can use it for free ATMs while traveling (but the account only earns 1%), we lowered our emergency account goal from $5000 to $1200. Then we changed this goal:
  • Extra Investments ($22,700/$45,000) – We still have a couple paychecks coming at the end of this month, so we’ll end the year with just under $25k here and another $7k in our business account (we don’t get paid for December’s sales until February). Not bad. Not great considering our goals, but not bad.

In 2019, we really focused on increasing income. We spent a lot of money a long the way and didn’t really keep track well (we trusted ourselves on autopilot). In 2020, now that we’ve set up some pretty good incomes, we’re going to focus on saving more of that money and grow our businesses. We’re also building a new plan that we’ll let you in on the details of in early 2020.

Meanwhile, as always, we’re grateful to have you along for the ride. And to celebrate the holidays, we’ll remind you that Mr. T and I put together a few holiday classics (the song-owners added the ads, not us, FYI):

Happy Holidays! Love, the Banks Family

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