Denali Northern Expenditure

Category: Plan Updates Page 1 of 7

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:

November 2018 Plan Update

Well November was uneventful for the Banks family until the very last day when we were hit with a 7.0 earthquake. We have lots of quakes here, but that was by far the biggest one we’ve felt as the epicenter was pretty close and it wasn’t very deep. It was a solid minute of shaking both side to side and up and down. We had tons of stuff fall down in our house, but miraculously, nothing broke. We’re all safe. The kids are just headed back to school today after a week off for the district to clean up the schools. Now, 10 days later, we are still having nearly 1-2 aftershocks of 4-5 magnitude every day and hundreds that are less than that. This interesting video shows all the aftershocks we experienced just in the first 48 hours. Needless to say, we did not sleep well for a couple nights.

So, now that the kids are back in school and we’ve gotten cleaned up here at home, we’re finally getting back in to the swing of things around here. Thank you to those that reached out to make sure we were safe. It felt good to be checked on.

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.)

First the exciting news: our mortgage is now at $5,500! This amount is killing me. Like, shouldn’t I be able to just come up with that and pay it off immediately?! So. Close.

Keep in mind this was at the beginning of the month, but at that point, our investments totaled $221,700. With so much focus on paying off the mortgage and living my life, I’ve hardly been paying attention to this number at all. (If it falls below $200k, I’ll certainly notice though!)

2018 Financial Goals Update:

  • KILL THE MORTGAGE – $5,500 – We’re working our tails off to try to get this killed before the end of the year, but even if we fail this goal, we’ll be able to kill it in the first couple months of 2019, so I still feel okay about it. But, I haven’t given up total hope yet. It’s still possible! (okay, less possible, but a miracle could happen.)
  • Merch Challenge Update (paying for our 27-night Europe trip and our extra mortgage payments with t-shirt sales) –  -$996 – Earned (with just shirt sales online): $17,717.04, Spent: $10,412.86 (Europe Trip) + $8300 extra mortgage payments – Details can be found in the Merch Challenge Q3 Update with another one coming out in January.
  • Max out Mr. T’s 401k – Automatic – however, limits rose to $18,500/year which makes it messy if you get 24 paychecks a year. But, we’ll hit $18,000 anyway, so pretty close.
  • Stretch Goal: Put $5500 into My Roth IRA – Not yet.
  • Market-Based Goal: $250,000 in investments by the end of 2018 – Markets down. Not looking possible this year. Oh well.

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:

  • $32.50 – Tickets to Ralph Breaks the Internet with the family. We all enjoyed it!
  • $93.05 – Black Friday at Fred Meyer. I head there around 2pm and buy my half-price socks and underwear for the family for the year. And I bought myself some leggings.
  • $221 – Podiatrist payment for Mr. T.

Financial Phrases:

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

  • “Earthquake insurance is expensive and not even worth it because the deductible is like 10-20%.”
  • “The house basically fell off the foundation. We helped them clean up a little bit, but they don’t have earthquake insurance, so what do you say? ‘Good luck’?”

October 2018 Plan Update

Better late than never, amiright? This October 2018 plan update is a couple of weeks late, but that is because we decided to take another epic family trip. As if a month-long European adventure wasn’t enough, we also decided that we would pack in a good old fashioned American road trip. So, in mid-October we flew to Bozeman, MT and drove from Yellowstone to Minneapolis seeing: Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Black Hills, Devil’s Tower, Mt. Rushmore, Wind Cave, Badlands, and, of course, the corn palace. 🙂 We had a fabulous time, saw amazing things, had beautiful fall weather, and arrived home in time for the first real snow of the year.

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.)

First the exciting news: our mortgage is now at $8,000! It’s so close! Maybe not end-of-year close, but very, very close!

Now for the investments: Since starting this blog in June 2015, our net worth has only dropped 5 total months. October 2018 is one of those months. When your investments aren’t bonkers high, the downswings aren’t has dramatic. All in all, month over month, our investments are only down about $16,000. Our investments now total $212,800. Are we worried? Nope. Why not? This is precisely what we planned for. Markets go up. Markets go down. We’re in no need of the money anytime soon. We’re going to let it ride.

2018 Financial Goals Update:

  • KILL THE MORTGAGE – $8,000 – We’re working our tails off to try to get this killed before the end of the year, but even if we fail this goal, we’ll be able to kill it in the first couple months of 2019, so I still feel okay about it. But, I haven’t given up total hope yet. It’s still possible!
  • Merch Challenge Update (paying for our 27-night Europe trip and our extra mortgage payments with t-shirt sales) –  -$1,483.98 – Earned: $16,141.73, Spent: $17,112.86 (with “earned” meaning the money we’ve made from selling shirts on Amazon and “spent” meaning all of the costs for the trip as well as any extra payments toward our mortgage) – For the most up-to-date, detailed information, check out our Merch Challenge Q3 Update.
  • Max out Mr. T’s 401k – Automatic – however, limits rose to $18,500/year which makes it messy if you get 24 paychecks a year. But, we’ll hit $18,000 anyway, so pretty close.
  • Stretch Goal: Put $5500 into My Roth IRA – Not yet.
  • Market-Based Goal: $250,000 in investments by the end of 2018 – Markets down. Not looking possible this year. Oh well.

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:

  • $13.80 – I also headed to the office this month. My manager paid for my lunch, but I bought my coworkers some dessert to share.
  • $131.55 – Our annual IKEA shopping trip we do when we go out of town. New washcloths, a drying rack, couch pillows, etc.
  • $39.20 – Our annual Trader Joe’s run. Mostly pumpkin butter and truffle brownies. I’ll be honest.
  • $62 – Delicious Indian food in Minneapolis. So. Yum.
  • $41 – Roadtrip DQ dinner and blizzards.

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 really want to be home with my kids but I can’t because we’ve got some pretty lofty financial goals right now.”
  • “When my kids go back to school, I probably start up a craft business again. It’s always in the back of my mind.”
  • “The drunk driver program seems unfair. If you have to call in at 8am every day and attend classes most evenings after work, what happens if you don’t have a job, a phone, or a car?”

Merch Challenge Q3 Update

As a reminder, we’re trying to pay off our mortgage and take our family on a 27-day Europe trip with just t-shirt sales in what we call the Great Banks Merch Challenge.

I’ll be providing quarterly updates. This one is 2018 Q3 update:

The Current Merch Challenge Numbers

Final Trip Costs: Reminder that this was a 4-week, 27-night trip through NYC (2 nights), England and Wales (16 nights), Norway (5 nights) and Iceland (4 nights) for 5 humans! It was absolutely spectacular and the best use of money ever.

For a complete break-down of each of these categories, check out our Merch Challenge Q2 Update.

  • Flights: $2,035.48
  • Lodging: $2,859.50 
  • Transportation: $1,712.29
  • Stuff: $1,487.17 (The Gear + Souvenirs)
  • Experiences: $1,468.95
  • Food: $849.47

TOTAL SPENT: $10,412.86

Verdict: DONE! Paid for with our first 8 months of t-shirt sales. How amazing is that?!

Mortgage Costs: 

For Merch to cover the rest of our mortgage, we’re including any payments we make above our minimum monthly payments. So, these costs are the extra payments we made starting with the November mortgage payment:

  • $2,100 (November)
  • $1,700 (December)
  • $1,500 (January)
  • $0 (February)
  • $100 (March)
  • $0 (April)
  • $0 (May)
  • $0 (June)
  • $0 (July) – Man, the trip really stunted our mortgage payments! No regrets, but we better hit it hard in the fall!
  • $900 (August)
  • $400 (September)
  • $0 (October – we actually put $8000 extra toward it, but that was PFD money, so we’re not counting it as part of the challenge)

TOTAL EXTRA PUT TOWARD MORTGAGE: $6,700

Current Merch Earnings (earnings are 2 months behind as that’s when we get and report the money):

  • June: $7.07
  • July: $218.24
  • August: $810.78
  • September: $1,065.67
  • October: $3,352.58
  • November: $1,837.50
  • December: $2,627.96
  • January: $1,076.85
  • February: $695.83
  • March: $783.40
  • April: $852.67
  • May: $854.17
  • June: $474.21
  • July: $531.01
  • August: $440.94
  • September: $512.85
  • TOTAL: $16,141.73

minus our trip costs of $10,412.86: $5,729.73

then we subtract our extra mortgage payments of $6,700 to get our

Merch Challenge Total: -$970.27

Verdict so far: Still possible, but looking unlikely.

I’m thrilled that the entire trip has been covered with just t-shirt sales! How exciting is that?!

Although Q4 will be a bigger hitter with income, it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to match last year’s Q4 sales numbers despite having nearly 10x the listings on Amazon that we did last year. There are several reasons for this. Since the beginning of the year, the competition has increased exponentially. The t-shirt selling business isn’t quite the gravy train it once was (though there’s still money to be had). Amazon has also decreased royalty payments per shirt and sellers are now on the hook for returns which get deducted from our totals.

Our mortgage is currently at $9,480, but with regular mortgage payments, we just need $6,300 extra to pay it off by the end of the year. That means, with our current challenge numbers of $-970.20, we need to earn a total of $7,270.27 by the end of the year to complete our challenge.

Again, it’s possible we hit some amazing trend by the end of the year and knock it out of the park, but based on current trends, it isn’t looking likely. BUT, I haven’t given up hope. And I’m already impressed on how much progress we’ve made on this crazy challenge!

Your Thoughts: Do you think we can do it?

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