Denali Northern Expenditure

Category: Plan Updates Page 1 of 8

Eklutna Lake

Q2 2022 Plan Update

Wait, what happened to Q1? That’s what you’re asking, I know it. Well, I guess life happened. We are in the process of building an addition after all! The good news is, I already mostly achieved my one goal for 2022: solve my migraines! Turns out iron supplements solved it. I now have 1-2 migraines a month and an amazing medication to take when they start that stops the headache. Modern medicine is a miracle.

Also, I’m ignoring the current state of the world in this update. I’m tired.

Addition update: We got our solar panels installed and I will never not geek out about them (okay, maybe in the winter when they don’t actually produce anything, but hopefully we’ll be living on energy credits we generated this summer!). We’re also in the thick of installing drywall, but took a break when the weather got nice to build a paver path and retaining wall along the property line. This was a ton of work and the kids were very helpful. Luckily, we had pulled up all the paver stones that were on the side of the house before building the addition and stacked them in our yard last summer so we reused all of those and saved ourselves at least $1000. The good news is that once the drywall and landscaping is done, the rest of the projects actually seem fun to me because they are weekend projects that have great payoffs (ie: installing flooring, installing closet shelving, bathroom vanity, etc.). So I look forward to all the exciting stuff ahead. And, we’re through all the expensive parts of the addition and almost done paying contractors (15k left!), so we can cash flow the rest of it when we feel like doing the projects. This is very relieving to me as a PF Geek.

Work update: I still have a job, but this month saw another dozen coworkers leave and an emergency meeting from the CEO about how “there is no mass exodus occurring” (which directly followed a 30-minute meeting where four people announced their resignations: something I would definitely define as a “mass exodus”). I’m still on COVID research all the time, so we’ll see how long that lasts, but I’m sticking it out while it does.

The Numbers:

Our mortgage is at $277,000 and at 2.125%, we don’t plan to pay this down early. With the rocky ride of the market as of late, our investments now sit at $593,000. Sad to drop below the 600k line, but we’re not worried (and we totally skipped the 500k bracket on the way up, so it wanted to say hello in our plan update page).

The Year of Yes

Maybe you recall that at the end of last year, I decided not to set financial goals this year and just say yes to all the things I wanted to do. Well, that is going SMASHINGLY. So far, we’ve said yes to:

  • A week in NYC and 5 Broadway shows – We timed it perfectly in February between COVID waves and the kids got to see Wicked, Hamilton, and The Play that Goes Wrong for the first time and all of us got to see Music Man with Hugh Jackman and Sutton Foster and Come From Away. It was an incredibly redeeming trip after two years of no live theatre and I loved it all. My daughter’s request was that next time we see MORE shows because five wasn’t enough. 😉
  • A week in the Florida keys followed by a week in DisneyWorld with my whole family – Just one week after returning from NYC, we went to Florida and I’m so glad we lucked out on COVID waves for both trips because both trips were crowds! But the kids had a great time in DisneyWorld with their grandparents and cousins and we all enjoyed trying every Key Lime Pie we came across as we worked our way through the Florida keys.
  • Solar Panels – I already talked about these, so I won’t say more here except that I have no regrets.
  • A pizza oven – This was on Mr. T’s “rich list” – a list we made at one point of all the things we would purchase if we were actually rich. It turns out, between the two of us it was basically just a pizza oven, solar panels, and a hot tub, so we plan to complete our rich list by the end of the year! And we’ve all been enjoying some delicious homemade pizza in our new Ooni (affiliate link).
  • The continued addition project
  • Tickets to Australia/New Zealand this Christmas – Okay, I actually used all the points we hoarded during the pandemic to pay for these flights, but am definitely spending money on tours of the glowworm caves, a day out on the Great Barrier Reef, and obviously a visit to Hobbiton.

We haven’t yet contributed to our Roth IRAs or maxed out our 401ks, but I think we will likely end up doing those things, too. Turns out that having two decent incomes is the ultimate life hack.

It’s so true. Our life got so much easier when we both started earning decent incomes. High income is the ultimate life hack. Like, I can just choose to have a “year of yes” and check it all off while the market tanks and inflation goes through the roof….? Unfair, right? It absolutely is.

Capitalism is the Worst

While we’re on the subject of unfair: my daughter just got her first job. She’s minimum wage and loves it, but I’ve been livid about the whole thing. First off, she was hired because they can’t find minimum wage workers that can drive themselves because they can’t afford to work minimum wage! The job is great, it’s great to have her get experience and have fun and get out of the house, but default capitalism is the worst. Her first three hours of work are deducted by the company for her mandatory uniform. I know this is the norm, but it shouldn’t be. If you require it, it should be covered by the company! When I asked her about breaks, telling her about her legal right to a break during her long shifts, she said that no one really does that because there’s not really a place to take a break. I basically lost my mind. I was like: “You say: I’m taking my break now, find a place, and sit down for a half hour.” She doesn’t see the problem in any of this because we drive her to the job, all of her expenses are paid for, and she doesn’t have a problem being on her feet for eight hours (apparently). One day, she worked a three hour shift and her allergies were out of control so her eyes were so red. She needed eye drops to be able to see clearly. I dropped her off at work, picked up eye drops, and brought them back to her at work. I then realized she would earn less than those eye drops cost at that shift and I was livid all over again. In short, my daughter is earning a few bucks that I will then match into her Roth IRA, and she’s also getting an anti-capitalist earful about worker rights. So win, win, right? 😉

Bear Market?

It’s actually killing me that I don’t currently have the cash to throw into the market right now because of the Year of Yes (and the final contractor bill pending). I have no idea what the market will do. I do, however, think the inflation is temporary and a lot of it is caused by companies inflating prices because they can. Yes, I think things are actually inflated because of supply chain problems (still pandemic and war related, primarily), but profits are also up considerably in many sectors. I don’t think inflation will stay high for years, but definitely likely for at least the next year. As for the market, I’m hoping it stays down long enough for us to get to our investments for the year! I have no way of predicting any of that, and I don’t like to time the market, but will Roth IRAs, which we usually fund in lump sums, it’s nice to see the market dip for the occasion.

It’s good to be back around these parts after a 6-month break. I missed you. I’ll share some pics of the inside of the addition as things move along. As for now, it’s just a boring box with some drywall. Stay healthy, friends. And hold on to each other. Be kind. The world is dark enough.

Q4 2021 Plan Update

Well, we wrapped up 2021. Woof. The kids are now all fully vaccinated with the oldest getting a booster this week. That is a big thing we’re grateful for. We’re also grateful Omicron was not quite here yet during the holidays, so we got to have our two usual families over for Christmas dinner and it felt somewhat normal. Omicron is def here now, so we’re back to hunkering down as much as possible and wearing our N95s everywhere (if you haven’t found a good, comfortable one yet, I recommend this one. I love it. Not even an affiliate link, just want you to have a good mask!).

My migraines ramped up to being 2-3 days a week, which is awful, so 2022’s main goal is to just get rid of migraines.

Other things that have gotten me through:

  • Online Board Games with lots of amazing PF bloggers. A new way to learn new games and get a dopamine hit when it’s my turn!
  • Weekly Goodwill trips: seriously love this new thing I do. I’m definitely not a minimalist. I have found so much great stuff including lots of the Christmas presents we gave. My daughter even found me an amazing Where’s Waldo shirt she gave me for Christmas. Good times had by all. I have considered just turning this blog into: things I find at Goodwill, but will save you all. But I will share the dollhouse I got for $3.50 and turned into a haunted house for Halloween:

We’re still up to our necks in house projects with the addition (we’re starting the wiring this week) and Mr. T building us some new chairs (aren’t they incredible?!):

Another picture, just in case you didn’t get a good look at the one at the top!

The Numbers:

Well, our investments are now at $744,600, which is INSANE. That’s over $300k from where we were a year ago. INSANE. A reminder that when we sold our condo last year, we brought out current mortgage under $300k and then refinanced at the end of 2021 into a 2.125% 15-year mortgage, so we’re trying not to pay that off early. Right now the mortgage is at $285,300.

As for 2021 spending (I didn’t keep track in 2020 with the world exploding right after we bought a new house), we spent a whopping $265,000 but that includes more than half of the addition and the extra mortgage payments to bring the current mortgage under $300k. In fact, when I take out all housing costs (mortgage, extra payments to mortgage), home updates (all the addition plus the furniture builds), and taxes, we only spent $46,500. We’re front-loading a lot of home costs (instead of buying a house with the right amount of bedrooms, we decided to buy one we liked and add a bedroom and cashflow that cost). But this also means I have NO IDEA how much “normal” spend is for us anymore. And likely won’t until at least 2023 (still much spending for the addition).

2021 Goals

We made these goals before we knew we were selling the condo. That certainly helped fund most of what we have listed here. But the addition is still the big unknown. We’ll hold off on making any new goals or doing anything big with money until that is paid for.

  • Have the Addition Exterior Finished – So we have a roof and it’s all framed… so kind of a win?! The windows and garage doors have been paid for, but thanks to supply chain problems, the windows aren’t expected until February and the garage doors should be arriving in May…
  • Max Out My 401k ($19,500/$19,500) – Done. My plan doesn’t let me go over, which is super nice, so I have it set up to max out on my last paycheck.
  • Max Out Mr. T’s 401k ($19,384/$19,500) – So close. Mr. T’s retirement has had a slider that only allows him to contribute in certain increments (ie: $798 or $819, but nothing in the middle). The GREAT news is that they have added a little box to the slider for 2022 that let’s you ENTER an amount!!! So we should be able to max him out in 2022!
  • 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 ($6000/$6000) – Done. Seriously nailing these goals (thanks to the unexpected condo sale!)
  • Max out a SEP-IRA – This will happen at tax time when our accountant tells us what we can contribute. But will hopefully happen then.

2022 is shaping up to be much less specific in goals.

I assumed I would get a lot of pushback on that idea, but all the comments were overwhelmingly supportive. Basically, 2022 is going to be me saying yes to all the things that feel comfortable and exciting and if I have to slow down my 401k contributions for that, I feel great about it. The first thing I’m saying “yes” to in the New Year is solar. Because for our addition, we have some serious electrical needs (service upgrade, panel upgrade, and sub-panel install). Mr. T is doing the main wiring, but doesn’t feel comfortable doing those thing. BUT, if we do them all with the solar stuff, we can deduct 26% of the costs with our solar. And if we’re going to do solar at all, we should do it soon to start the ROI clock. So I think that’s going to happen. I’m just really into spending money right now it seems. 😉

We also have to figure out the plan in the next few years because if we plan to pull the plug on working in May of 2025, we need to focus more on the brokerage account (which currently only has $60k in it). So maybe we’ll start those discussions in 2022 when we stop spending so much on this addition!

I hope you all have a lovely 2022 – well, as lovely as possible with Omicron raging and under 5s not able to get vaccinated…

Q3 2021 Plan Update

This has been an eventful quarter. We went on our first trip since the beginning of the pandemic. We traveled to see our parents in the Pacific Northwest before school started. It was lovely to see them and siblings and cousins, but by the time we went, Delta was starting to take over and things were not very relaxing and traveling was stressful. So, when we returned home, it was time to send the unvaccinated kids back to school and scream into the void. We’ve so far only had one known exposure at school and no one has managed to get it yet (knock on wood) despite cases in Anchorage being astronomical and hospitals being on rationed care. I hate this. Can it please be over yet?!

Alaska is now the worst place in the world for per capita COVID cases for the entire pandemic! I’m sick of all this winning!

Work continues to lay people off at least monthly and everything is still so up in the air. I’m still on COVID research full time, but luckily that isn’t as time consuming as it was in 2020. I accidentally started freelance editing on the side because it’s enjoyable and not COVID related. (Turns out my standards for work are pretty low right now. Not about COVID? I’m in!)

I’m trying to handle the general pandemic stress by reading more. I recently read:

  • The Five Years Before You Retire (affiliate link). The book is about traditional retirement, but is a great resource for navigating that transition.
  • Working Twice as Hard (affiliate link) is written primarily for Black entrepreneurs, but I recommend it to white people too as it is helpful to be aware of racism in the workplace, help call out microaggressions, and be sure you’re not leaning too heavily on your Black colleagues to do your anti-racism work for you.
  • Laziness Does Not Exist (affiliate link) is revolutionary in that it’s thesis makes it really easy to call out unfairness. We’ve used “Laziness” to actually mean people who are disadvantaged in some way and are actually working way harder than the rest of us (ie: homeless, depressed, poor, etc.). It talks about how our culture has made us all so afraid that deep down we’re lazy, so we stop listening to our bodies and push through. I’ve been trying to slow down, nap when I feel tired, and really listen to my body. We’ve all been through a lot of stress and trauma this year and this book was a helpful excuse to give myself grace to rest.
  • Die With Zero (affiliate link). My main thoughts on this book were about how you can insure against money fears (and when an annuity makes sense). But this book also justified my desire to spend a bunch of money when this pandemic ends. I’ve got ten years with kids at home and I’ve got a lot to pack in! (Only 5 years left with Penny!)

I’m not sure what I’ll pick up next!

In other exciting news, the work on the home addition has begun. We have a foundation now! It’s been touch and go because there’s a contractor shortage (everyone wants to work on their houses after being stuck in them for so long). We’re still hoping they can finish the exterior so we can get roofing and gutters done before snow sticks around, but we really have no idea at this point.

The Numbers

This is the last quarter we’ll be paying such a high (3%) interest rate on our mortgage. I realize that sentence is crazy, but we were able to lock in a 2.125% and the bank paid us $500 toward property taxes to do it (this was in part because we bought the house so recently, they didn’t require an appraisal). The world is upside down right now. We just closed on it last week. I’m thinking with a sub-$300k mortgage at 2.125% for fifteen years, I may actually be able to have the self-restraint to not pay it off early. TBD, but if I can’t do it under those conditions, we know I’m not capable. The mortgage is currently at $288,000. With the fifteen year clock starting over and the lower interest rate, our monthly payment is also going down nearly $400! In the usual vibe of “my life is wonderful but it sucks right now for so many people,” my broker was talking about how the people who lost jobs in the pandemic, etc don’t have access to these low rates because they don’t have the income to qualify for a refinance, so they’re stuck with high interest rates on mortgages they can no longer afford because the bank says they can’t afford lower payments. Make it make sense.

Seeing our investments double in a year is also a bonkers situation. It feels unsustainable. I literally have no idea what happens next. But the pandemic has taught me that nothing can be predicted, so we just live our lives and do the best we can. With that being said, despite the market dips of September, our investments are now at $659,000.

2021 Goals

We made these goals before we knew we were selling the condo. That certainly helped fund most of what we have listed here. But the addition is still the big unknown. We’ll hold off on making any new goals or doing anything big with money until that is paid for.

  • Have the Addition Exterior Finished – So far, we have a foundation, which is good progress. Fingers crossed the framing happens this month. I’m hoping to report this is finished by the end of the year and Mr. T and I can start our work on the interior (we plan to do most of that ourselves).
  • Max Out My 401k ($15,138/$19,500) – My plan doesn’t let me go over, which is super nice, so I have it set up to max out on my last paycheck.
  • Max Out Mr. T’s 401k ($14,300/$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. My company doesn’t let you overcontribute, but I’m not sure about Mr. T’s. I’m afraid to try.
  • 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 ($6000/$6000) – Done. Seriously nailing these goals (thanks to the unexpected condo sale!)
  • Max out a SEP-IRA – My current plan is to save all our self-employment income in our business account without using any of it. This will mean we can max out our SEP-IRA and then put the other funds into the new brokerage account, but we’ll wait until the addition is done… we may need to use the funds we get from our t-shirts/coloring books business for the addition.

I’m watching Pfizer closely hoping we get an approved vaccine for the kiddos by the end of the month and spending some of my free time researching Japanese toilets for my master bathroom. I would not have predicted I would be doing either of these things in Fall of 2021, but life is crazy sometimes. As we enter the holiday season, I hope you have time to slow down, rest, recover, and safely spend time with loved ones.

Q2 2021 Plan Update

This was an eventful quarter. It kicked off with tapping our birch trees and making birch syrup. Then, we dealt with the last month of remote school for the kiddos followed by a visit from my parents and then Mr. T’s parents (after not seeing either for over a year and neither had seen our new house). We went on a glacier cruise. Here’s proof we saw a glacier calving (followed by a collective reaction from the whole boat and Florin yelling: “Yes! That was AWESOME!” a few times.):

Then we sold our condo to our renters and submitted our plans to the city for our home addition. I also chaperoned our oldest (who was fully vaccinated!) at a church camp adventure with 20 teenage girls that involved rafting, hiking, camping, etc. And then had eight coworkers come to visit. After a year of only being social with our one pod family, this quarter was both thrilling and totally exhausting.

Work is still tenuous, to put it mildly:

Since then, several others were let go and I’m now on my fourth manager in a year. I really don’t know what happens from here, but things aren’t terrible yet, so I’m holding out until they are (or until I get let go as well).

I also got my official ADHD diagnosis yesterday. I feel like I should throw a party or set up a gift registry or something. Momentous I guess.

Selling the Condo

It turns out that buying a house in February of 2020, renting it for a year, and then selling it to the renters was one of the smartest, luckiest financial decisions we’ve made. Zillow says our house has appreciated nearly 75k since purchasing a year ago, we sold the condo for top dollar, and we didn’t have to deal with listing it, etc. It was fabulous.

So what did we do with the money?

  • $25k went to a mortgage recast – We chose a recast because it will lower our required monthly payment when we quit our jobs. For now, we’ll still pay the current amount and likely recast again before quitting if we don’t pay it off so we have maximum monthly payment flexibility. This recast brought our balance down to $289,000 (below 300k!) and got rid of our $27/month PMI.
  • $6k went to maxing out my Roth IRA for 2021 (yay for knocking out two goals!)
  • $65k went to a joint brokerage account – maybe we’re behind on this whole FIRE thing, but we finally managed to open a brokerage account and put 65k in.
  • The rest is being set aside for our home addition. When the addition is done, we’ll assess what, if any, money is left over and figure out how to distribute it.

The market appears to still be on a tear. Wild, right? Between the market’s wild climbs and the condo selling, our investments are looking pretty darn good! We’re currently sitting at $639,000 in investments. Again: WILD, RIGHT?! We jumped over $100k in a quarter and skipped right over the $500ks in our blog quarterly investment tracking! And, as mentioned previously, our mortgage is now down to $289,000.

2021 Goals

We made these goals before we knew we were selling the condo. That certainly helped fund most of what we have listed here. But the addition is still the big unknown. We’ll hold off on making any new goals or doing anything big with money until that is paid for. Lumber fluctuations make it really hard to pin down a price for what we need done.

  • 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. We have a contractor lined up pending plan approval by the city. If that takes too long, we’ll have to wait until next summer. But we’d really like to have the exterior done this year so we can spend the winter working on the interior.
  • Max Out My 401k ($10,077/$19,500) – I doubled my contributions this quarter and am on track for maxing out. But still have to make sure it doesn’t happen too early or I’ll miss out on my employer matching.
  • Max Out Mr. T’s 401k ($9,576/$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. My company doesn’t let you overcontribute, but I’m not sure about Mr. T’s. I’m afraid to try.
  • 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 ($6000/$6000) – Done. Seriously nailing these goals (thanks to the unexpected condo sale!)
  • Max out a SEP-IRA – My current plan is to save all our self-employment income in our business account without using any of it. This will mean we can max out our SEP-IRA and then put the other funds into the new brokerage account, but we’ll wait until the addition is done… we may need to use the funds we get from our t-shirts/coloring books business for the addition.

That’s a wrap from me for the quarter. We have loads of summer plans ahead of us and a (fingers crossed) fairly normal fall with kids back in school. Watching the Delta variant closely and hoping Pfizer is on time with their September approval for 5-11-year-olds with vaccinations! I hope you all have a lovely summer moving at the pace you want to as we figure out what the new normal is.

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 MORE…

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.

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.

April 2019 Plan Update

Since it’s almost June, I figured I should back it up and talk about April before the month completely escapes me. April was a great month. Still spendy as we finished up our big purchasing, but we’re starting to get back on track. We also introduced our children to a rudimentary budget we attached to the fridge. After each shopping trip (or for each field trip cost, piano lessons check, etc), they had to write the amount in the category it fit into and then deduct that amount from the total we set for the month (you know, like balancing a checkbook! Imagine that!). It went well. They started realizing how much things cost and got a better sense of: If we do this, we can’t also do that. We’re continuing it for May.

In other news, we managed to max out my Roth IRA by the deadline despite our high spending! I also headed to the office for a week and, though it is lovely to interact with coworkers, I do not know how people go to offices every single day.

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.)

Mortgage is still at $ZERO!

Investments have moved to $262,900 (by the end of April). Again, cash hoarding now. But I’ll be adding our cash hoard to this stash as well. So “Investments” will basically mean all savings in all varieties. I’d love to hit $300k by the end of the year, markets willing. But LOOK! We now have a QUARTER OF A MILLION DOLLARS saved! And are halfway to our original goal of $500k! So very, very exciting!

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) – Not yet.
  • Max Out Mr.T’s 2019 Roth IRA (0/$6,000) – Not yet.
  • Replenish Emergency Fund ($1,200/$1,200) – Because our emergency fund is in a Capitol360 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 ($300/$45,000) – Nothing new this month because we had to come up with the $2,500 to max out my 2018 Roth IRA. But we’ll catch up. $45k by the end of the year still seems like a big stretch. But you know, aim for the moon and you’ll fall among the stars or whatever. 😉

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 (prepare to be judg-y this month!):

  • $616.15 – My car needed new brake pads – bonus: They washed it!
  • $35 – My haircutter moved at the end of April, so I had to chop off all my hair before she was gone!
  • $699 – A new camera because ours stopped turning on.
  • $690 – A new mattress – Mr. T has been wanting one for awhile since ours was 13 years old and starting to hurt his back a bit. I wasn’t on board until this month. I spent an entire weekend in bed sick and my back was killing me by the end of it. We ordered a new mattress that night.
  • $69.85 – We took the kids to the local brew pub theater to eat pizza and watch the new Apollo 11 documentary. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, we’re headed to see the command module in Seattle this summer.
  • $510 – The last of the ferry tickets needed for this summer’s adventures on the Alaska state ferry!
  • $749.20 – Plane tickets to San Francisco in August to take Mr. T to see Hamilton! (It will be lovely to have another trip with just the two of us.)

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 just want a credit card with no limit and that I don’t have to pay. Obviously there wouldn’t be jobs. I would just travel with it.”
  • “I’m pretty behind on retirement after the attorney fees for my divorce.”
  • “I know a lady that has no idea if they even have retirement funds. I mean, she’s nearing sixty and has no idea how much is left on her mortgage or if they even have anything saved.”

January 2019 Plan Update

I CANNOT BELIEVE WE’VE PAID OFF THE MORTGAGE! Nothing else major is happening in January. It’s been a good month.

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.)

Our mortgage is now at $ZERO! I haven’t yet decided if I am going to include this in every single plan update from now until the end of time or if you will all get annoyed by that. 🙂 NO MORTGAGE BABY. NONE. ZERO. Read the story of our mortgage pay-off here.

Investments have moved to $222,960. To be honest, I haven’t really been tracking this for the past year. I mean, I’ve been updating the numbers correctly and adding them here, but I haven’t really cared. Now that the mortgage is gone, I feel so free with so many possibilities. I have already upped Mr. T’s 401k contributions to the maximum he can get with work rules ($18,600) and I’ve upped my 401k contributions to the maximum of 50% of my pay (which will only end up being like $10,000). And without a mortgage, there’s STILL money left to save! I can’t wait to see this investments number rise this year even if the market tanks.

2018 Financial Goals Update:

  • KILL THE MORTGAGE – DONE! Please eat chocolate in my honor.
  • Merch Challenge Update (paying for our 27-night Europe trip and our extra mortgage payments with t-shirt sales) – WE DID IT!!!
  • Max out Mr. T’s 401k – We got to $18,000 – His work has weird administrative rules, so we were only able to get $18,000 in there last year and we’ll hit $18,600 in 2019.
  • Stretch Goal: Put $5500 into My Roth IRA – NOPE. But there’s still time for 2018’s contributions!
  • Market-Based Goal: $250,000 in investments by the end of 2018 – Nopety nope. But as we know, market-based goals are always just for fun. We have no control over the market.

INTRODUCING: 2019 Financial Goals!

  • Max Out My 2018 Roth IRA ($5,500) – I didn’t manage to put a penny into my account in 2018, but I still have until April 15th to make up for it! $5,500 by April 15th with no mortgage seems totally doable. ANYTHING seems doable these days!
  • Max Out My 2019 Roth IRA ($6,000) – Self-explanatory.
  • Max Out Mr.T’s 2019 Roth IRA ($6,000) – Self-explanatory.
  • Replenish Emergency Fund ($5,000) – I’ve depleted all cash resources around here because when the mortgage got low enough that being mortgage-free was in our sights, I lost all sense of reason and sanity and started throwing everything at it possible. I’m coming clean that I don’t have an emergency fund anymore and I plan to remedy that in 2019.
  • Extra Investments ($10,000) – I haven’t figured out what this will look like yet (ie: brokerage, self-employment account etc.) because our income sources and amounts will impact that, but the goal is to invest another $10k.

If we manage to hit ALL of our goals this year, in addition to the 401k savings, we’ll be saving a total of $61,100! That’s NUTS! Fingers crossed!

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:

  • $367.20 – I signed Lui up for preschool Parkour classes. It lets him run around in a safe space for an hour a week and he loves it. It’s HILARIOUS to watch. He basically just slams him body against the walls and flails around. Classic.
  • $35.90 – Mr. T and I were FINALLY able to see Crimes of Grindlewald. We had tickets for the day after the earthquake and the movie theater was closed because of damages. So, we finally saw it this week and the local brewpub theater. Yummy pizza and root beer. So good.
  • $35 – Took the whole family to see the new Mary Poppins. I enjoyed it greatly.
  • $8.23 – I had to order my parents gifts from Amazon FOUR TIMES. They kept refunding me and then I’d have to reorder. With credits and refunds, I think I had to repay this much this month. Good news is they finally got them the third week of January. Sheesh.
  • $1,199 – Plane tickets to family in the Northwest and explore some Alaskan islands this summer.

Financial Phrases:

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

  • “We moved into an apartment so my husband could change jobs and put our house up for rent.”
  • “I think the pressure to buy his wife expensive gifts really motivated his career.”
  • “I went through Hell to pay off my student loans. They better not forgive everyone’s loans now!” Though I prefer Matt Lane’s (over at Optimize Your Life) response:

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