There is a money management philosophy that I like to live by.

“Make Money. Spend Less Than That Amount. Save and Invest the Difference.”

I’ve covered (and will continue to cover) these topics in the blog going forward, and I’ve talked about “making money” and how I’ve optimized my income over the years. I’ve also talked, at length, about how I regularly invest and save money. I want to turn my attention to “spend less than that amount.” Specifically, I want to talk about how you can easily reduce your expenses, so that you always earn more than you spend.

I think I’ve done a great job of reducing my expenses over the years. In my adult life, I’ve never had a month where I’ve spent more than I’ve earned. This feat is not the result of luck, nor is it an accident. I’ve worked hard to make sure my expenses are low, even as my income has doubled over the past five years.

fun coupons

While this is not an exhaustive list, I think there are 3 easy ways to immediately reduce your expenses.

Cut Cable

Four years ago I was spending $100 a month on cable/satellite (Dish). We canceled out cable subscription in favor of using Netflix and Hulu ($21.98 per/month). Just simply giving up cable has saved me $936.24 per/year, or $3744.96 total over the course of this endeavor.  Cutting cable is probably the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to trimming expenses.

Shop at the Right Grocery Store

Everybody has to buy groceries. Often, people will go to the the local grocery store, or big box store, regardless of price. Here is a piece of advice. Buy your groceries at Aldi. Aldi, by far, is the most cost efficient way to purchase food. I’ve been shopping at Aldi for the past few years, and It’s saved me hundreds/thousands of dollars. Here is an example. Strawberries at Aldi are $2.00. Strawberries at the local grocery store are $5.99 for the exact same size container of strawberries. Everything is more expensive at the local grocery store. Recent experiments done with Aldi suggest that it can save around 20% off of your grocery bill. If you spend $100 a week on groceries, you can save over $1,000 annually by shopping at Aldi.

Cook at Home

For the first time in history, Americans are spending more money on restaurants than on groceries. Research shows that if people were to simply cook at home, they would save about $9 per meal. The person consumes 21 meals a week (breakfast, lunch, dinner each day). Let’s say that you eat 1/2 of those meals at a restaurant during the week (e.g., Starbucks for breakfast, lunch with colleagues, dinner out on weekends…etc.). If you were to cook those meals at home, instead, you would save $94.50 per week (10.5 meals * $9 in savings). That would equate to $1,134 of savings per year.

Final Thoughts

Don’t wait to begin reducing your expenses. There are simple things that you can begin doing immediately that could ultimately save you thousands of dollars each year. Do you need the 500 channel satellite package, or can you live with using Netflix and Hulu ? Do you need organic bananas, or can you live with the $0.49 bananas at Aldi ? Finally, can you manage to cook more at home, in lieu of eating out most meals ? If so, these simple lifestyle decisions that can help you down the path of financial security.

 

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Starting A Blog - Lessons Learned After 2 Months

While I’m still new to the blogging world, I’d assume that the first few months are always the hardest. Many new bloggers loose motivation, let their sites sit dormant, and ultimately give up. Luckily, I’ve just finished my second full month of posting here at FirebyForty, and I’m still feel inspired.

Month 2 was significant in that I secured my first guest post, entitled “How I Doubled My Income in 5 years,” which was featured on MillennialMoneyMan.com. This guest post led to the most page views (159) that FirebyForty has ever received in one day!

Month 2 was, by all accounts, successful, even though my pace was interrupted by moving to a new house. I feel like I continue to lay a great foundation for future success, and I have a few things in the pipeline that I hope will help move this blog to the next level.

Blog Posts This Month

I’ve completed 12 posts (including this one) during my second month (see my first month, where I completed 15 posts !). While my pace has slowed down (15 in month 1 v. 12 in month 2), I still think I’m on a great pace, posting just about every other day. The slow down can really be attributed to being offline for about a week, due to my move.

  1. Moving is Expensive: How I Spent $4,000 in One Week on the New House
  2. My 403B Contributions, Asset Allocation, & Growth
  3. Striking a Balance Between Spending and Saving
  4. My Co-Worker Is Terrible With Money
  5. How Much Life Insurance is Enough ?
  6. How I Doubled My Income in 5 Years
  7. Net Worth: January 2017
  8. My Mind on My Money and My Money on My Mind
  9. Moving Day Has Arrived !
  10. The Impending Retirement Crisis
  11. How Would You Spend an Extra $30,000 ?

Creating posts, though, is still only half of the equation. It’s great to have an outlet to discuss what I’m doing with money, but I want to extend my reach. So, I’ve continued to work on building up my viewership and social media network.

How I’m Using Social Media to Grow this Blog

Social media is still the primary driver of traffic to my site (primarily Twitter). Although, referral traffic is staring to pick up. This is due to having my first guest post (featured on MillennialMoneyMan.com) and being listed in the directory at RockStar Finance.

month 2 referral

One of the first things I did when I started this site was set up a Twitter account and Facebook account. I knew it wasn’t going to be enough to just set these sites up, I’d have to be active on both.

Twitter

I’ve still been using Buffer to automate tweets. With Buffer, I schedule tweets in 30 minute increments throughout the day. Then, in the evenings, I try to be a little more active so that the site doesn’t have an “automated” feel to it.

I doubled my followers from 321 followers at the end of month 1 to 697 at the end of month 2. This has probably been the most significant thing I’ve done to build my brand online. I’m thinking about trying to begin using Pinterest, also. I read that Pinterest can be a pretty big driver of traffic.

Blog Traffic After 2 Months

People are still reading the blog, which is a pretty positive thing, right ? 70% of my total page views (1,015 of 1,430) have come in the past month. No question, my second month has been significantly more successful in terms of page views and users accessing and reading my site.

I’ve also learned about the power of guest posting. I had a huge spike in page views the day my guest post, entitled, “How I Doubled My Income in 5 years,” was featured on MillennialMoneyMan.com. I’m going to continue to try and secure guest posts going forward.

month 2_analytics

Most Viewed Posts For Past 30 Days

  1. Why I Love My Health Savings Account (94 views)
  2. Net Worth: December 2016 (84 views)
  3. How I’m Going to Retire at Age 40 (77 views)
  4. Large Emergency Funds Are Worthless (55 views)
  5. How I Doubled My Income in 5 Years (36 views)

Final Thoughts

Overall, month 2 was pretty good. I published 12 posts and more than Twitter followers. My page views also more than doubled, which was helped by securing my first guest post. Let’s hope the upward trend continues !

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To complete the full cycle of moving to a new house, we closed on our first house last week, after living there for almost five years. While it was a bit sad to leave our first home, there was one thing to look forward to – we would be getting a $30,434.36 check at closing.

money snowman

Financial on First Home

Purchase Price: $136,500 (March, 2012)

Coming out of the recession, 2012 was actually where the real estate market bottomed out in the St. Louis metro area. Lucky for us, we bought our house at the right time ! Over the past five years, we added a full bath and over 200 square feet in living space (we finished a small area of the basement). So, in addition to buying at the bottom, we added a lot of value in order to raise the value of the home.

Mortgage: $108,000 (February, 2017)

30 year mortgages don’t pay off over $20,000 in principal in under five years. We got to this point by paying extra. No, we didn’t have PMI. Yes, you could try and argue with me that we would have been better off investing the money. I paid extra as a forced savings account for a downpayment on a new house. In all, I paid about $12,000 in extra principal over the course of the past two years, all in an attempt to beef up our new house downpayment (and not be tempted to spend the money on other things).

Sale Price: $150,400 (February, 2017)

After deducting closing costs and other expenses, we walked away with a check for $30,434.36 !

What would you do with an extra $30,000 ?

After realizing we would walk away with $30k, we had to decide what to do with that money. We are debt free, our new mortgage is manageable, and we save about 50% of our income. To help decide how to use this money, I, consulted my 2017 financial goals.

Account Jan 1st, 2017  2017 Goal
Cash $14,904.00  $17,500
Retirement $108,039  $155,000
Home $160,000.00  $275,000
Cars $29,750.00  $27,500
HSA $3,496.00  $7,000
Stocks $3,067.00  $23,000
 529 Plan $5,467.00  $7,500

I decided to do the logical thing and just begin knocking off these goals with this extra money. Here is how I split out the money.

Cash + $17,145.34 

Quite a large amount to just keep in cash, right ? I do have plans for it all, though.

  • $4,354.93 replenishes my emergency fund back to $7,500
  • $10,000 is set aside to pay for a new car (for me) in cash in the next few years
  • $2,790.41 is for a new lawnmower

My goal of having $17,500 in cash by the end of the year will be complete ($7,500 emergency fund, $10,000 car fund).

Stocks +$10,000

I decided to put $10,000 into my Vanguard account (Total Stock Market Index Fund). This will put me $10,000 away from reaching my goal of $23,000 in Vanguard by the end of the year. That’s still a stretch goal, but I think I can reach it.

529 Plan $2,500

I usually wait until my son’s birthday (May) to contribute the annual $2,500 into his 529. Since we had the money, though, I figured I may as well make my contribution now. My goal of having $7,500 in a 529 plan by the end of the year will now be complete.

The remaining $789.02 went to pay off some credit card charges I’d racked up with the move. This was the first time I had used the credit card in about 18 months (I always pay it off in full every month).

After distributing the money, our 2017 goals are all almost complete.

2017 Financial Goals

Account  2017 Goal Progress
Cash $17,500  Complete
Retirement $155,000  ~$119,000
Home (value) $275,000  Complete
Cars $27,500  $25,000
HSA $7,000  $4,250
Stocks $23,000  ~$13,000
 529 Plan $7,500  Complete
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The Impending Retirement Crisis

andweareback_fallon

After moving this past week, and going without Wifi until two days ago, I’m finally back online and ready to get back to posting regularly on FirebyForty. It has been an exhausting 6 days, but I’m finally back into a decent schedule, and I have big plans going forward for this site. I’m sure I’ll update everyone on the house stuff soon, but what I really want to talk about is the pending retirement crisis facing the United States.

The Impending Retirement Crisis

Simply put, the United States faces a retirement crisis because the average worker doesn’t save enough.

According to recent reports, the average U.S. family has only $95,776 saved for retirement. Since this includes all working adults, you would probably expect the number for those nearing retirement to be significantly higher. However, the average family, aged 56 – 61, only has only $163,577 saved for retirement (excluding home equity). If you follow the 4% rule, this would equal an annual retirement income of only $6,543.08, or $545.26 per month.

To make matters worse, these numbers are the average (weighed heavily by families that have a lot saved). If you look in more detail at the numbers, you’ll find the following:

  • 41% of 55-64 year olds have $0 in retirement savings
  • 20% of 55-64 year olds have between $1 – $50,000 in retirement savings
  • = 61% who have less than $50,000 in savings

So, what do most people do ? They rely on social security, of course.

Here is the problem, though. Social security is only designed to replace about 40% of your income, which was adequate, of course, 30 years ago when most workers received a defined benefit pension (only 16% do today). The only guaranteed income the average person receives today is the $1,315 in monthly social security income ($15,780 annually per person OR $31,560 per couple).

This leaves very little “wiggle” room for any emergencies in retirement. Simply paying for health care in retirement, which averages $260,000 for a couple, would be impossible with social security and the average person’s anemic retirement savings.

How to Fix the “Crisis”

The solution to this problem is simple – save more money.

The problem with that advice, though, is that it clearly hasn’t been a solution embraced by the average American. Recent reports indicate that only 18% of working adults actively contribute to an IRA.

Those people should just save more money and this crisis will be averted, right ? That’s true, except that 56% of working adults live paycheck to paycheck, with less than $1,000 in savings. Even worse, 25% of those living paycheck to paycheck have less than $100 in savings.

If you happen to be part of the 56% living paycheck to paycheck, the answer to that problem comes in two parts.

  1. Optimize your income
  2. Decrease expenses

How Much Should You Save ?

Once you find yourself able to save regularly, you’ll want to figure out how much of your income you’ll need to set-aside each year in order to have a successful retirement. The math here becomes quite simple. In order to have a successful retirement, you should save between 15% – 17% of your income across your entire working career. More, of course, is better. Any less than 15%($7,500 annually on a $50,000 per year income), and you run the risk of not having enough money set aside for the future.

Then, once you accumulate 25x your expenses in retirement accounts (the amount you’ll need to safely withdraw 4% annually to live off of), you can retire ! For example, if you live off of $40,000 per year, you’ll need $1,000,000 in retirement savings. The 4% withdraw rate would be safe, given that stocks will return 7% on average, but 3% will be eroded by inflation.

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Moving Day Has Arrived

This past month has been a blur. We bought a new house on Christmas Eve and sold our house within 24 hours of listing it a few days later. We’ve spent the last month packing, cleaning, and preparing to move our family 1.5 miles down the road to a new neighborhood.

new house

Our New House !

Staying Organized When Moving

The most important thing to do when moving is staying organized. We’ve tried to stay as organized (as possible) given we are preparing to move with a 21 month old. The good thing is that in addition to being minimalists, our current house is extremely small. So, we don’t really have a lot of stuff. This is almost everything we own, minus big furniture (beds, dressers, couches…etc).

Packing the Garage

I wish I could say that we have this great system figured out for packing, or that we’ve unlocked the secrets to moving. The truth, though, is that we really haven’t. We’ve simply tried to do a little bit of work each day/night. In doing so, we are pretty well prepared for the move and everything is ready. It also doesn’t hurt that we will have three full days where we own both houses, so there won’t be a huge rush.

Closing Dates

Our closing date for the new house is tomorrow (Tuesday, February 7th). We’ll close on our current house on Friday (February, 10th). Knowing this, we’ll have a pretty hectic week. I may not post as much this week as we get settled, especially given that I won’t have wi-fi at the new house for a few days.

It’s unfortunate that we are stuck moving during the middle of the week. It wasn’t supposed to be that way. We were supposed to close on the new house last Friday (February 3rd) and the old house this Friday (February 10th). However, since our new house was delayed a few days due to ceiling lights being back ordered, our closing date was pushed back few days.

Luckily, despite our unfortunate mid-week move, we’ll have plenty of help. My family is pitching in (big time !), brining their trucks and helping hands for the move tomorrow. I think we’ll be able to get everything over to the new house in one, or two, trips.

House Upgrades

Moving has turned into a bit of an expensive endeavor, as I’ve talked in the past about house upgrades that we’ve done We spent some BIG money (to us) over the past month in on these upgrades, which have come at a relatively high out-of-pocket expenses.

These are our current out-of-pocket expenses since agreeing to purchase the house.

  1. $1,907.40 to do hardwood floors in entire house (eliminated carpet in bedrooms).
  2. $963.49 in out-of-pocket expenses for appliances (we did great on this !)
  3. $70.22 in out-of-pocket expenses for lighting (this was our total cost for lighting !)
  4. $1,578.70 to do a full granite backsplash (well worth the upgrade)

Total Out-of-Pocket Expenses: $4,519.81

Yes, that’s a lot of money to go out of pocket for upgrades. We did the hardwood floors because my son and I both have allergies. The granite backsplash (which turned out awesome -see below), was done for convenience. Now, I don’t have to spend time putting up a tile backsplash and/or painting the wall.

Of course, none of this will include various house items we’ll need to purchase (window shades ($500 ?), lawn mower ($3,000)…etc.) over the next few months.

As expensive as moving has turned out to be, I think it’s been worth it, especially after seeing how the kitchen turned out with our upgraded granite backsplash.

Before Granite

Moving - Kitchen_Jan 2017

After Granite

moving - New Kitchen

Another After shot.

Moving - Granite Backsplash

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My Mind on My Money and My Money on My Mind

One’s mindset is perhaps the greatest predictor to success. It’s obvious to most that goals are much more difficult to achieve if focus and determination are lacking, which is why it’s not often that people just stumble onto success. In most cases, you don’t hear stories about multimillionaires or CEO’s who didn’t work hard to get where they are today. One of my favorite quotes demonstrating the importance of mindset comes from Yogi Berra, the famous New York Yankee, who once said:

“Baseball is 90% mental, the other half physical.”

Bottom line, if your head isn’t in the game, you aren’t going to win. The same logic applies to money. If you don’t put thought into your investments, spending habits, and earning potential, then you will struggle to find success in personal finance.

i eat success for breakfast

Take, for example, the $21,000 I’ve received in merit based raises over the past three years. Yes, I received those raises, in part, because I simply asked for them. If you look a little deeper, though, I also received them because my head was in the “game.” I knew what I needed to do in order to achieve my income goals. I worked toward those goals and it payed off. I could have easily just coasted by, earned my $43,000 salary (plus 2% raises ever year) and been happy. After all, that’s a reasonable salary for a 20-something year old. My focus and determination, though, was on raising my income, and I now make $67,500 per year.

Even after receiving excellent merit based raises, which increased my income from $43,000 to $67,500 within five years, I could have been happy. That could have been enough. It would be for most people. However, I also had been working on my side hustle, which I grew from $0 to over $15,000 per year in a three year time frame. I was able to do this because I was focused on my income and earning potential. Opportunities came my way, and I took advantage. I knew that if I could earn that first $3,000, I could turn it into $6,000 (and then $9,000, $12,000…etc.).

It’s all about mindset. Mindset makes the difference between reaching your financial goals and struggling to get by. In my experience, there are a few things everyone can work toward to get into the right mindset.

How to Get into the Right Mindset

It’s difficult to get your mind in the right place without first knowing what you hope to accomplish in the future. So, it’s essential that you have a financial plan in place. Personally, I spend a lot of time thinking about my financial goals. In doing so, I map out my plan in 5 year increments (then adjust annually, as needed). I know that I want to retire at 40, so If i work myself backward from that date (11/06/27), I can begin to map out what I need to reach my goals.

Creating A Financial Plan

I created my first financial plan 5 years ago (2012), when I became really interested in personal finance. I started with a few goals in mind:

What I wanted to accomplish between 2012 – 2016

  1. Fund my emergency fund (3 to 6 months of expenses)
  2. Become debt free
  3. $100,000 in retirement investments
  4. Invest for the short/mid term (e.g., Vanguard)

Once you outline goals, it’s easy to begin working toward them in in short spurts. Instead of saying I have to pay off $40,000 in debt, I figured I needed to pay off $12,500 in year 1, $12,500 in year 2, …etc. By creating mini-goals (that also aligned with the “big picture), I was able to stay focused and maintain the right mindset. Instead of thinking about my end goal of $100,000 in retirement investments, I just needed to fund $20,000 per year. That’s simple. That’s two fully funded Roth IRA’s, my 403B contributions, and a little extra. So, I worked each year to do just that, knowing I was working toward something larger.financial plan

So, think about where you want to be in five years. Then, take it one step at a time. What do you need to do in year 1 to be on pace to reach those goals ? Then, what do you need to do in years 2, 3, 4, 5 ?

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Net Worth January 2017

The start to 2017 has been pretty insane in the FirebyForty household. We bought a new house on Christmas Even and sold our current house on New Year’s Eve. So, we’ve spent most of January preparing to move, which we will be doing so in early February (we close on the new house on Feb 7th and the old house on Feb 10th). None of that has stopped us, though, from posting our largest net worth increase, ever, this month ! Yes, the increase can be attributed to a large monetary gift (more below), but we have surpassed the $250,000 mark in under five years (I really started getting into personal finance in early 2011). Even better, my goal of having a net worth of $300,000 by my 30th birthday is a real possibility (my birthday is in November).

money_silicon valley_gif

Assets: 

Cash: $61,033 (+$46,129)

Our in-laws generously offered to gift us $50,000 for a down payment on the new house. We’ve used some of our reserve funds to purchase upgrades in the house (all hardwood floors, granite backsplash,..etc). When we close on the old house, I expect to walk away with about $30,000 from the equity we’ve built up. I’ll be using that money to top off our new car fund ($10,000) and our emergency fund ($5,000 or $7,5000). Plus, I’ll be setting aside $3,000 for a new lawn mower. Then, whatever is left will be put into our Vanguard account. January and February will both show dramatic changes in our cash holdings. Things will hopefully calm down in March, as we get settled into the new house.

529 Plan: $5,732 (+$265)

We contribute $2,500 on my son’s birthday every year (May). Our increase is simply due to market returns !

Vanguard Brokerage: $3,133 (+$65)

Total Stock Market Index fund at Vanguard. I’ll be putting about $15,000 into this account next month (see “cash” above). Right now, increases are simply due to market increases (Yay DOW 20,000 !).

Retirement Accounts: $115,108 (+$7,069)

This includes my 403B and Roth IRA, as well as my wife’s Roth IRA and vested pension. Contributions this month included $2,036.44 (403b), $375 (My Roth IRA), $375 (Wife’s Roth IRA), and $3,505.46 (Wife’s Vested Pension).  Total Contributions were $6,291.46, which means we earned $777.54 in market returns for the month.

HSA: $4,049 (+$553)

We put $520.83 into this account every month in order to max it out (my employer puts $500 into it annually – $250 in January and $250 in July). The provider who handles our HSA changed on January 1st, and I’m still waiting for everything to clear into the new account. We used to use HealthEquity (who I really liked – they had an awesome mobile app). Payflex (who I don’t like – their mobile app sucks) is the new provider. However, I noticed that they offer Vanguard funds for the investment portion of the HSA, which I’m pretty excited about. Once everything clears (probably in a few days), I’ll open an investment account and begin putting every dollar over our our deductible ($3,000) into a Vanguard fund.

Home Value: $160,000 (no change)

This is expected to increase $100,000+ in February, as our new house appraised at $278,000.

Car Values: $25,000.00 (-$4,750)

I only update the value of our cars once every three months. So, once every three months I see a huge decrease in the value of our vehicles. My car (2008 Dodge Caliber w/ 119,900 miles) decreased in value from $3,250 to $2,000, while my wife’s  car (2016 Mazda CX-5 w/ 13,100 miles) decreased in value from $26,500 to $23,000. No big deal, cars are terrible investments, and I expect the value to go down over time.

Total Assets: $374,055 (+$49,331)

Debts:

Mortgage: $108,086 (-$253)

This is REALLY going to increase next month. We purchased our new house for $267,000 and are putting 20% down ($53,400). Our new mortgage will be $213,600. Expect a $100,000+ increase next month !

Total Debts: $108,086 (-$253)

Net Worth:

Assets – Debts: $265,969 (+$49,584)

net worth trend line_January 2017

Goals for 2017

I’m definitely on pace to achieve my 2017 financial goals (listed below).

Account Current (Start of Year)  Goal (December 31, 2017)
Cash $61,033.00  ($14,904.00)  $17,500
Retirement $115,108 ($108,039)  $155,000
Home $160,000.00  $275,000
Cars $25,000.00 ($29,750.00)  $27,500
HSA $4,049 ($3,496.00)  $7,000
Stocks $3,133.00  ($3,067.00)  $23,000
 529 Plan $5,732.00 ($5,467.00)  $7,500

Cash: Goal will be complete by end of February

Retirement: 15% complete. I’m probably at the mercy of market returns for this goal.

Home: Goal will be complete by end of February. New house is appraised at $278,000

Cars: I was WAY off on my estimate of what our cars would be worth by the end of the year. After 1 month, I’m already below that number.

HSA: Current = $4,049. 2017 Expected Contributions = $6,750. Deductible = $3,000. I should be somewhere around $7,750 by the end of the year (current + expected_contributions – deductible).

Stocks: Goal will be complete by February or March.

529 Plan: Goal will be complete in May, when I contribute $2,500 to my son’s 529 plan.

 

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How I Doubled My Income in 5 Years

*I did my first guest post, entitled “How I Doubled My Income in 5 Years,” on Millennial Money Man a few days ago (it ran on January 25th). The post was pretty successful, driving 100’s of people to my site over the course of a a few days. If you didn’t catch my guest post on Millennial Money Man, I’ve included it here. *

The spring and summer of 2011 was a busy time in my life. I was 23, and I was getting ready to graduate with my Masters degree. You could say I was nearing “true” adulthood, something I had been determined to put off as long as possible. If graduation wasn’t enough, I was also a newlywed, and I really had no plan and no real direction.

Looking back, most would probably attribute my impending success to dumb luck, and I wouldn’t necessarily disagree. You see, as my graduation neared, I had only applied for two jobs. One, at a fortune 500 investment firm and another at a local private university.

That’s it. My entire future hung in the balance, and I had only applied for two jobs. I had no back up plan if both fell through.

Lucky for me, things have a funny way of working out. While I waited to hear back from these interviews, I was doing a short internship for credit in order to finish up my degree. I was on my last day of the internship, about two hours away from being jobless and in the “real world,” when I got the call. The university I had applied to offered me a great job with a starting salary of $43,000, which I (of course) accepted without countering. I was slated to start work in July (2011), just a few days after coming back from my honeymoon.

My Income: 2011 – 2017

Starting Salary: $43,000

July, 2011 – July, 2012 

My first year went by smoothly and without incident. I was at the bottom of the totem pole in my department, but I worked hard and did what I needed to do. I started out making $43,000 a year, which to me was a lot at the time, considering I was made $800 per/month while in graduate school.  At the conclusion of my first year, the university gave out across the board 2% raises.

Salary After Year 1: $43,860

July, 2012 – July, 2013

During my second year of work, I received a great opportunity. I could apply to teach (on the side) for the university, and they’d pay me extra ! I took a chance and by September 2012, I had earned my first side income ($3,000). The university, again, gave out across the board 2% raises.

Salary After Year 2:  $44,737.2

Side Income – Year 2: $3,000

Total Income – Year 2: $47,737.20

July, 2013 – July, 2014

During my third year, I got lucky. Our department consisted of three people and one of them was leaving. This meant I would be given more responsibility, which I gladly accepted. After a few months of taking on added responsibility (we didn’t replace the person who left), I had positioned myself as critical to operations. The university really couldn’t afford to lose me. Knowing this, I asked for a $6,000 raise, which I was given. Due to the raise, I was not given the 2% across the board raise.

I also taught another class during my third year, making an additional $3,000.

Salary After Year 3: $50,737.20

Side Income – Year 3: $3,000

Total Income – Year 3: $53,737.20

July, 2014 – July, 2015

Nothing special happened during my fourth year. I continued to work hard. I taught another class on the side, which earned me $3,000 in side income. The university gave another 2% across the board raise.

Salary after Year 4: $51,751.944

Side Income – Year 4: $3,000

Total Income – Year 4: $54,751.44

July, 2015 – July, 2016

During my fifth year I received a promotion to “Director.” This new title and status allowed me to continue to demonstrate my worth and cement my status as an essential employee. In addition, I asked to teach more classes on the side, which they were happy to allow. I taught three classes on the side, netting $9,000 in side income. The university also gave across the board 2% raises.

Salary after Year 5: $52,786.97

Side Income: $9,000

Side Income + Salary: $61,786.97

July, 2016 – July, 2017

In July 2016, after five years of hard work, and continuing to cement myself as a critical employee, I asked for another raise. The university came through and gave me an additional $15,000 per year. I’ve also continued to teach more classes, with expectations to teach 6 total classes this year ($18,000 in side income).

Salary after Year 5: $67,786.97

Side Income: $18,000

Side Income + Salary: $85,786.97

How I Doubled My Income: Lessons Learned

Income_2011_2017In the span of 5 years, I doubled my income. The increase in income has allowed me to pay off $40,000 in debt in 2.5 years, max out my retirement accounts, and save for my son’s college. In addition, my dramatic increase in income has put me on a path to retire at the age of 40 !

After turning a $43,000 a year income into almost $86,000 per year, I’ve learned three important lessons

  1. Demonstrate Value

    You will never increase your income if you cannot demonstrate your value to your employer. I’m a firm believer that if you work hard and put in the effort, you will be rewarded. Yes, that’s probably a naive way to view the world. However, my experience is that if you can demonstrate your value and become an essential employee, necessary to the operations of the organization, you will receive a return on that investment. In my case, that’s what I did, and I received $21,000 in merit based raises over the course of five years. If you cannot demonstrate value, your income will not increase.

  2. Take Advantage of Opportunities

    I’ve earned $36,000 in side income over the past five years ($7,200 per year). I was able to do this because I took advantage of opportunities that came my way. In 2012, I wasn’t afraid to apply for my first side teaching gig, and I wasn’t afraid to ask for more classes when that opportunity was presented to me. If you are too afraid to put yourself out there (e.g., apply for a promotion, start a side business, switch employers, move into a new career….etc), then you cannot expect to dramatically increase your income.

  3. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for More

    In order to earn more income, you can’t be afraid to ask for what you think you are worth. Before asking for my merit based raises ($21,000 total), I did research to find out what my pay should be. When I discovered that my job title/duties didn’t reflect the income I should be earning, I presented this evidence and asked for more money. The worst thing they could have done was say no (or fire me!). You have to fight for yourself because nobody else is going to.

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How Much Life Insurance is Enough ?

Being an adult kind of sucks. You have to get a job, wake up early, shop for groceries, cook meals, and, of course, manage your own finances. Not only are you expected to manage your own finances, but you are expected to do it in a responsible manner. You see, adulthood is littered with financial milestones that you are expected to cross a certain points in your life (e.g., move out of your parents house, become financially solvent, buy a house, save for retirement, ….etc.). Another milestone, although talked about less often in the personal finance community, is buying life insurance. The purchase of life insurance is a *real* adult thing to do, and it’s something that everyone should consider, at some point in their adult life. When deciding to purchase life insurance, though, there are many factors to take into account.

buy life insurance

What is Life Insurance ?

life insurance is an contract between an insurance policy holder and an insurer. This contract dictates that, in exchange for a premium, the insurer will pay designated beneficiaries and agreed upon amount upon the insurance policy holders death.

Simply put. You pay an insurance company a fee. In exchange, the insurance company will send your family money upon your untimely death.

Life Insurance Options

There are two life insurance options.

  1. Term life – You select a “term” for the life insurance policy (10, 20, 30 years) and pay an annual premium. If you die within the term (and you are current on your premiums), the insurance company pays the selected policy amount (e.g., $250,000) to your beneficiaries. Usually, shorter terms and/or higher policy amounts would equal higher premiums.
  2. Whole life – The money you pay into the life insurance policy will pay a death benefit AND build a cash value. The cash value can be withdrawn or borrowed against at any time. Whole life typically costs about 3x as much as term life (for the same policy), and is more often utilized in more complex financial planning.

Since term life insurance is considerably cheaper than whole life, it’s what I recommend for 99.99% of people (and personally use). The cash value of whole life insurance really doesn’t make sense for the average person.

How Much Life Insurance Should You Have ?

Most financial experts agree that you should have about 10x your income in life insurance. So, if you earn $100,000 per year, you need $1 million in coverage (roughly $35 a month for 30 year term). However, there are situations where you could hold less than the 10x your income in life insurance. Similarly, there are situations where you would want more than 10x your income in life insurance. You just need to make sure that, if you die, the people who rely on your income (spouse and/or kids) can pay the bills in the absence of your paycheck.

So, If you are single, with no dependents (e.g., wife and/or kids), you don’t really need 10x your earnings in life insurance because you don’t have anyone that relies on your income to survive. In this case, you can easily hold either NO life insurance or considerable less than 10x your income. If you are single, I would recommend taking advantage of any insurance offered through your workplace (if it’s really cheap), and leave it at that.

However, If you are the sole bread winner in your household (i.e., you work and your spouse doesn’t), you may consider having more than 10x your income because your spouse (and potentially kids) are more reliant on your income than if you were a dual income household. If this is the case, you may want to have x15 or x20 your income in coverage.

life insurance image 1

If you still can’t figure out how much insurance you need, just simply follow the 10x your income rule.

How I Approach Life Insurance

My wife and I both carry term life insurance.

Myself:

  • $67,000 – 1x my income through my employer (no cost)
  • $120,000 – supplemental insurance through work. $4 per month.
  • $300,000 – Policy via Metlife. 30 year term. $414 per year.

Total: $487,000 (7.2x base income). $38.50 per month.

Wife:

  • $30,000 – supplemental via my work ($1 per month)
  • $15,000 – supplemental via wife’s work (no cost)
  • $300,000 – Policy via Prudential. 30 year term. $211 per year.

Total: $345,000 (8.5x income). $18.58 per month.

Yes, we both carry less than the recommended amount (10x income). However, since we live on about 50% of our income, I felt that 7.2x and 8.5x was more than enough in coverage.

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My Co-Worker Is Terrible With Money

I think my co-worker is terrible with money, and I have proof.

I was recently chatting with a co-worker, let’s call her Mary. We were talking about perfectly mundane things, like the weather, when the conversation turned to cars. My wife and I had recently purchased a 2016 Mazda CX-5, which I had driven to work that day (for some reason or another). Mary took notice and went on to tell that she was thinking about buying the same car for herself.

A little backstory on Mary. Two year ago she had perfectly functioning Toyota sedan and decided to upgrade into a $17,000 used SUV, which she had to finance with no downpayment beyond the trade-in. She’s been in three accidents over the past two years, which I’ve come to understand is not an anomaly in her case. Based on her position with the university, she earns between $45,000 and $50,000 per year. She buys lunch in the cafeteria almost daily, and I’ve heard her make the comment “I can’t do X this weekend because I’m trying to save money.”

Ok, back to the story. Mary then proceeded to tell me that she couldn’t upgrade to the CX-5, yet, because she owed about $6,000 more on her SUV than it was worth. However, she was going to talk to the bank to see if they would roll that difference into a new loan because she really wants a Mazda CX-5. Again, her $17,000 SUV works just fine, despite the various accidents she’s been in over the past two years.

deadpool clapping about money mistakes

I just shook my head and nodded and told her that my wife and I have enjoyed the car thus far.

Then, the conversation turned to cost, which I knew was coming. She asked (politely) how much the car cost and how much I pay per month. I told her that the car was $32,500 for the top tier CX-5 package and a couple hundred a month (I was pretty non-specific on the actual monthly cost). What I failed to mention was that my wife and I wrote a check for the car and we didn’t have a monthly payment, as I try to keep a low profile with co-workers with it comes to discussions of money (and politics, religion…etc.).

The conversation wrapped up and we both went back to work. As I went back to my office, I just shook my head at all of the financial red flags ! Does she realize who she is talking to ?

Red Flag #1: Upside Down Loan

Mary was $6,000 upside down on her current SUV loan ! If she still owed $15,000 or $16,000 on it, it was now only worth $9,000 or $10,000. Plus, the car works just fine. It’s not broken down and it barely has over 100,000 miles on it. I don’t understand why people have the desire to purchase expensive cars ?! A car is the only thing you will ever buy that is GUARANTEED to decrease in value. Why would somebody put more money into a decreasing asset than necessary ? I purchased a $10,000 car with 32,000 miles in August of 2011 and I still have that car. I’ve just reached 120,000 miles, and I plan on driving it until the car dies. Then, do you know what I’m going to do ? I’m going to take $10,000 and buy another used car. I’ll drive that car for another 7 to 10 years. Rinse and repeat.

Red Flag #2: She Wanted to Purchase a $30,000 car on a $50,000 Salary

Even if she wasn’t upside down on the loan, she was still talking about buying a $30,000 car on a $50,000 salary. That car loan would be about $500 per month. Her take home pay is probably around $2,750 per month (I would guess). That would make the car loan about 18% of her take home pay. 18% !!!first mortgage was less than 18% of my take home pay. Here is a rule of thumb to live by. A car payment should always be less than 10% of your take home pay. Any more than 10% and you run the risk of taking on more car than you can afford. For Mary, she should look for a $15,000 car, which would give her a payment of around $250 per month (less than 10% of her take-home pay).

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