August 2015 Early Retirement Progress

We contributed $4,844.74 this month to our retirement accounts, and we lost $25,029.45 in investment value this month (not including September 1 :( ).

Holy volatility!  We’re down almost 10k for the year, despite putting in over 45k, so we’ve “lost” 55k just this year.  This money is for long term use, so it’s not that concerning to me, but I still don’t like to see my balances drop that much!  It does make our numbers look bad, but we’re not touching this money for at least 15 years – I’m confident that we’ll make it back up in that time.

My immediate concern is that the balance in my Roth IRA has dropped below the 10k needed for the Fidelity Advanage class fund, so I might end up back in the Investor class fund paying slightly more in management fees.  I’m pretty sure we’ll be under the MAGI for a Roth this year, but I don’t want to add more money into the account until I’ve done our taxes to make sure :( That won’t be until about February/March.

I’m trying to rework our budget to add more money into retirement accounts while the market is “on sale”, but it’s not really happening.  The regular contributions are still going on, but we want to get out of the cash flow problem first, so taxable contributions have stopped other than the cash back from my Fidelity Visa.

We can only control how much we contribute, so that’s what I’m focusing on.  Have your investments done as poorly (or as well) as ours?


2015 Totals

In 2015, so far, we’ve contributed $45,650.04 (65.21% of our goal of 70k), and we’ve lost $9483.22 in investment value (-39.72% of our planned total).

First DIY Building – Ever – Starting Our Swing Set


The slide and all – aka “the kit”

Having just moved into a brand new house, there’s not much to repair/improve on yet (There’s a large list of wants though!).  But, we now have a nice large yard, big enough to have both a deck and a swingset with some grass left over.  We’re saving up to build the deck next summer/fall, but we’re working on the swingset.  I got a ready-to-build kit (minus the wood) from Plan it Play for $879 (delivered!).  It provides the plans and all of the hardware for the swingset, as well as the swings, slide, rocks and rope ladder.  I’m sure I could have gotten the parts cheaper, but the slides are pretty darn expensive by themselves, and I really have no clue what I’m doing when it comes to a structural building that I’m going to trust my daughter’s life on.  I’ll pay a little more for vetted plans!

The parts arrived last week, and last weekend, I convinced my little brother to borrow his boss’ truck to haul 12′ long lumber from Home Depot (totally legit – he’s allowed to borrow it as long as he puts gas in it).

Hauling wood

Hauling wood – my brother loves my daughter!

Home Depot didn’t have exactly what we needed for all of the wood, so we paid a little more for ground contact pressure-treated pine when we didn’t need to in some cases. They also didn’t have one of the sizes I needed in ground contact PT pine, so I picked up the last pieces of  wood with the RAV on my way home from work at 84 lumber (only need 70″ lengths, they only have 8ft lengths, but I fit them in RAV, so paid a little more there as well because of the waste).  About $410 in wood later, plus $130 for tools I didn’t have, like a hand router and roundover bit, we’re ready to begin building the swingset.  I’m going to be prepping the wood between now and Labor day weekend, and then several friends will be arriving that Saturday to help assemble it.  The plans estimate 15-16 hours of work, but I’m hoping I can cut that down on the weekend by pre-cutting, pre-rounding, and pre-drilling the bolt holes.

Most of the wood - ready to go

Most of the wood – ready to start pre-work

(Recycling only comes every two weeks, the packaging for the kit is waiting until this upcoming week to be broken down and recycled.)

We’ve never built anything structural or weight bearing before, so this will be our “practice” for the deck next summer.

Wish us luck!

Surgery with a High Deductible Plan – Part 2

We’ve now (finally) gotten all of the bills from Daughter Person’s surgery and followup.  Total damage: $2,562.97, not including the first two appointments with the specialist to determine and confirm she’ll be getting tubes (those two together were $508.90 out of our pocket) – those were in the health insurance’s estimated cost of $2600.  She’ll also be having followups every 6 months until the tubes fall out on their own, or we have to pay for another surgery to have them removed.  The first 6 month followup will be in December 2015, and will include a hearing test, so it’ll be approximately $400 (based on the previous appointment she had with a hearing test).

Despite having a high deductible, we still get the “benefits” of the health plan negotiations with the doctor and hospital – not sure it’s really worth the premiums we’re paying, if you pay cash and negotiate yourself, you can probably get similar “discounts”.  Below, you’ll see what the “actual” charge was, and then what we have to pay.  The charges from top to bottom in the image are: the 3 week followup appointment with the ENT, the hospital, the anesthesiologist, and the surgeon/doctor’s fee for surgery.

Claims Summary for Insurance

Claims Summary for Insurance

This is the first full year we’ve had a high deductible plan, and this will likely be a year that we meet our deductible.  Dad has some elective outpatient surgery he needs to take care of, so he’s scheduling that this year.  I’m making sure that any outstanding medical issues we’ve been putting off are being taken care of this year because we’re so close to the deductible.

We have over 4k in our HSA, but at this point, I’m just paying with my cash back card and adding up the amounts I’ll be able to withdraw in the future.

The best part (not really): the surgery may have not been necessary.  When they did it, they didn’t find any fluid behind her ear drums.  So, we paid almost 3k to prevent ear infections that could be resolved with a $54 doctor visit and $4 in antibiotics.  That’s over 40 ear infections. I get that doctors are cautious with kids and so on, but I’m still rather pissed about it – *he* didn’t pay 3k for basically nothing (granted, he didn’t get most of the money from it either).

Do you have a high deductible plan?  How do you handle “major” medical issues with it?

July 2015 Early Retirement Progress

We contributed $6,117.65 this month to our retirement accounts, and we gained $6762.49 in investment value this month.

July was a three paycheck month for Dad, so we contributed more than most months.  I also got an increase in my salary – $18.34 more to my retirement accounts from the University  (whoohoo!) and $7.19 more from me per month (which will reduce December’s contribution).   December is also a three paycheck month for Dad as well, so we’ll have a slightly higher contribution there.

The markets were nicer this month than last, but still relatively flat.  It’s looking like the markets might not make the historical average of 6% annual increase this year. No biggie, we had a huge increase last year to ride off.

We’re getting into a cash crunch with new house stuff and the car, so I’m reducing my taxable contributions for a bit until we get back to living on last month’s income.  It’ll mean that we likely won’t make the 70k goal contributions, but we’ll be pretty close.  Considering that last year’s goal was to contribute 40k, and we ultimately contributed about 45k, I think we’ve really improved our situation.

We’re feeling a little cash crunched in general, although some of it’s going to accounts where we can pull the money from if needed (HSA and taxable).  I felt like we had more money while paying off debt, and we sort of did – because we were prioritizing paying off debt rather than retirement savings.  Now that we’re prioritizing retirement savings, we (obviously) have less money to pay off our 0% loans, so it feels like they’re taking forever to pay off.

How are your contribution goals going for this year?

2015 Totals

In 2015, so far, we’ve contributed $40,766.65 (58.24% of our goal of 70k), and we’ve gained $15,546.23 in investment value (65.11% of our planned total).

Detailed Financial Picture – August 2015

July’s Numbers

As of August 3, 2014, we are $328,104.11 in debt with a mortgage.  We currently have $907,352.89 in assets.  Our investment accounts are at $482,118.58. Our Net Worth is $579,248.78, up from $570,236.46, last month (1.58% increase).

Normally, I’d do our early retirement progress first, but Fidelity’s NetBenefits pages are borked, so I can’t get definitive statement data – maybe tomorrow.

We’ve had our first Net Worth increase in a few months, despite buying a new car and taking on a loan for it.  The markets were very nice to us this month.  I am getting about $128 more per month in net salary, and about $30 more per month to my 403(b) – both my contributions and my “match”.  I’ll have a slightly decreased contribution in December to true up with the IRS limits.

We have a new car – a Camry Hybrid LE and are loving it.  It’s the new “family” car.  We picked it up finally on July 17, and we’ve had to fill it up once (and it’s still mostly full).  The “estimated miles to empty” indicator starts at 617 miles with a full tank.  Dad’s driving it until we get to winter, then he’ll be driving our RAV since he’s the primary transportation for Daughter Person, and the RAV does better in the snow.  I get to drive it on the weekends though :) We’ll be putting it through it’s paces in August with two long car trips planned: one to Sesame Place outside of Philly and one to Baltimore to see Dad’s family.

I made a reduced payment on the RAV this month due to cash flow issues.  We put Daughter Person’s ear surgery on the credit card, it’s due this month, and I’m trying to survive without pulling it out from our HSA investments, so cash is a little tight this month – I paid just over the minimum needed on the RAV for the month to give us some cash cushion until we can get back to living on last month’s income.

We’re finally stabilizing in the new house and have unpacked everything except the basement.  We can even fit both cars in the garage!  With Daughter Person’s surgery over, we should be spending a lot less in August.  I’m not focusing on the debt repayment until we can build up a good buffer and emergency fund, after all, everything except the mortgage is 0%.



Debt (in the order we’re paying it down):

  • Car loan – RAV4 (0%): $10,250 (-250.00)
  • Car loan 2 – Camry (0%): $25,908 (-450.00)
  • Mortgage (3.875%): $291.946.11 (-480.84)

Total paid off in July:  $1,180.84

Credit Security Freezes – and why you might want to consider one

I’ve just finished up placing security freezes on both Dad and I. We’re both victims of the latest OPM breach of background investigation data having worked for government contractors. Daughter Person is also a victim, but in our state, we’re not allowed to place a freeze on her credit report as a minor (if we were still in VA, we could). It cost us about $60 for the both of us, but for the protection it offers, I think it’s worth it. Note: If you’re already a victim of identity fraud, you can generally get a security freeze for free with a copy of the police report, but you won’t be able to do it online.

What is a Credit Security Freeze?

Brian Krebs does a better job of explaining it, but the basic gist is that the credit reporting bureaus (all 4 of them!) will not release any of our credit information without us initiating a “thaw” first. In practice, this means that no one will extend “us” credit because they can’t verify how creditworthy we are. I’m sure there are some lenders who don’t bother to check, and we’ll have to deal with those accounts on a case-by-case basis. But, basically, if anyone tries to open a credit account/loan/etc in our names or using our socials, they won’t be able to. It’s a bit of a pain for us because we have to provide a special PIN (10-digits) and $10 to each agency to “thaw” our credit reports to obtain credit – no more card churning for us.

Why did we do it?

Why did we take the (rather) drastic step of freezing our credit reports? The data that is in the OPM eQIP system (used to electronically fill out the SF-86 form) includes our social security numbers (and those of people we live with – like each other and Daughter Person), other names, our addresses for the last 7 years, employment history, citizenship, and educational information. Some financial information is also included. If you’ve ever had to answer ChoicePoint’s set of “identification questions” based on your credit report – guess what someone (China?) has? OPM is planning on offering 3 years of fraud protection and insurance assuming we actually get the letter since my file is out of date (Dad’s should be current), but this information doesn’t really change, and now that that’s been announced, anyone who stole that data is just going to wait 3 years to use it.

We just got a mortgage, and we’ve already been approved for our car loan (whenever the car actually gets to the dealer), so I went ahead and initiated the freeze this week. We shouldn’t need to have our credit checked in the near future (until the Costco AMEX goes away and I have to decide what to replace it with), and I’ll have enough time to thaw the appropriate report before we apply.

Should you Freeze your Credit?

Unless you have reason to suspect that your social security number and other identifying information (like previous addresses) have been compromised, it’s a pretty drastic step, and I wouldn’t recommend it. If you’ve just had a credit card number taken and used fraudulently – don’t bother – this won’t prevent that type of fraud. Freezing your credit only prevents new credit from being issued in your name/social, it doesn’t affect existing accounts (including potentially fraudulent ones).

If you do decide to freeze your credit, check the fees in your state, then go to all four of the credit agencies and place the freeze: Equifax, Transunion, Experian, and Innovis. I was able to place the freeze online at all 4 agencies, but others have had to do it via mail, with a photocopy of an ID document. We had one issue with Equifax not giving Dad his 10 digit PIN once we froze his account, and we’re fighting with them to not have to file for a “change of PIN” with attendant $10 fee.

Hopefully, no one else is in this situation, because it’s a PITA, but a security freeze is one of the many things you can do to protect your credit rating/score.

June 2015 Early Retirement Progress

We contributed $4,442.69 this month to our retirement accounts, and we lost $8,398.29 in investment value this month. 

Our contributions were a bit lower this month because I “subtracted” our HSA withdrawals from the contribution value.  We still contributed to our HSA, we just also withdrew more than we contributed this month.  I’m still unsure on whether we’ll be withdrawing from the HSA to cover Daughter Person’s surgery on Friday, but I’m trying to avoid doing so. (I can withdraw it at any time, so it may wait until we have a money crunch).

The markets have gone down, down, down, and I foresee that they will continue to go down until Greece is either in or out of the euro zone.  We might even end up negative for investment increases this year – as long as I average out to 6%/year, I’m a happy camper.

I got a 3% raise for the upcoming fiscal year, so based on the ADP calculator, I’ll be getting extra from the University match, and my contributions will go up until December, when they do the calculation for IRS maximum (I hope) and they’ll only let me contribute the difference.  I’m keeping my 20% contribution rate, because it’s still close enough to the max, and I don’t feel like doing the new math :)  Unlike Dad’s, there is no “take out the maximum allowed by law” button on my HR site, so I have to do the math every year.

2015 Totals

In 2015, so far, we’ve contributed $34,649.00 (49.50% of our goal of 70k), and we’ve gained $8,783.74 in investment value (36.79% of our planned total).

Detailed Financial Picture – July 2015

June’s Numbers

As of July 2, 2014, we are $302,926.95 in debt with a mortgage.  We currently have $873,163.41 in assets.  Our investment accounts are at $471459.58. Our Net Worth is $570,236.46, down from $574,404.90, last month (0.73% decrease).


We’re socking away money to pay for Daughter Person’s tubes this month, so I made the “minimum” payments – the minimum payment on the car is something like $283 because I’ve paid so far ahead, but I consider the minimum to be $500 (actual monthly payment is $484).

The markets were not very friendly this month, despite putting almost 5k into our accounts, we still “lost” money.  I’ll be happy when the Greece situation is settled so that the markets can go back to generally rising :)

We’re still recovering from moving, and generally just trying to not spend much at all, rebuilding a slightly larger e-fund, and since our car loan is 0%, in no rush to pay that off until we’ve “rebuilt”.

We’ve also had to come up with a down payment on a new car ($2000) with 0% financing and $1000 cash back – assuming they can get it in for us by the end of the weekend.  Dad’s Accord trade-in value is “scrap”, yet they’re giving us $500 for it – the transmission is dying, plus the SRS light = time to get a new car. We thought we wanted a Prius v, but we test drove one and really didn’t care for the handling on it, it was OK, but it was lacking some oomph.  We test drove a Camry hybrid – and were blown away with the features and how it felt to drive.  The dealer we test drove at was extremely annoying (we told them we had to leave by 4, and they kept the keys to our Accord “hostage” until 4:15 – needless to say, I don’t care what kind of price they give me, I’m not buying from them).  I went through the USAA car buying program (aka TruCar), and it’s not as good as it was 3 years ago when we went through them for the RAV, but it was decent.  We were waffling between the LE and the XLE version and the only thing that we really wanted from the XLE was the leather seats, except all of them in our region also come with navigation – $1200 I’m not paying for.  Turns out, the dealer can put aftermarket leather on the LE, which is actually nicer than the factory leather.  Too bad the dealer I ended up with sold the LE they had in stock before I got there (in the space of the 45 minutes it took me to drive to the dealer), so they’re having to get one from elsewhere.  We signed the initial paperwork and put the cash down to buy it, and they’ll be giving us a call when it gets in – hopefully this weekend.  Then, we’ll have another 0% loan to Toyota Financial, but it should be at least 7-8 years before we have to consider another car.  The final price (with taxes, title, and fee) of the LE with aftermarket leather was $3k less than the XLE  “base price” – and the only want we gave up was the moonroof, which was a nice to have anyway, and not worth 3k.

Here’s to being able to save a bit more next month!

Debt (in the order we’re paying it down):

  • Car loan (0%): $10,500 (-500.00)
  • Mortgage (3.875%): $292,426.95 (-479.30)

Total paid off in June:  $979.30

Surgery with a High Deductible Plan

We got the word yesterday that Daughter Person will be getting tubes in her ears.  The estimated cost to us out of pocket (including the followup appointment) is $2600.  Most of that is the hospital and anesthesiologist, not the doctor doing the surgery.

We’re still way under our deductible ($7500 for the family), so we’ll be paying all of it out of pocket (well, out of the HSA anyway).  Not planned, but not a huge emergency since we have about 4k in our HSA.  I would have to pull it out of investments and into the “cash” part of the HSA to use it, so I might get to play timing the market.  The surgery is on July 10, I figure we have until the end of July before the paperwork even gets through to the insurance company and we see a bill, so I’m going to try to save enough and pay it out of pocket in August without decimating our mini e-fund.  The doctor takes credit cards, so hopefully I can use this opportunity to earn some points and miles as well, and it lets me float the payment to the following month/cycle to give me more time to come up with the cash.  I’ll post an update once we have the final value.

I am grateful that we have the money available to pay for her surgery, even if it’s not in the most ideal places to pull it from.

May 2015 Early Retirement Progress

We contributed $5,400.70 this month to our retirement accounts, and we gained $2,965.63 in investment value this month. 

A good bit of the “extra” this month was redeeming my Fidelity Visa cash back award from paying a lot of stuff on the new house: $307 extra into our taxable account just for putting all of our spending on the cash back card.  We did take some money out of our HSA to pay for a rather large medical bill: Daughter Person may be getting tubes, and the first appointment with the ENT was almost $400 out of pocket.  We have another followup appointment, then the decision on whether she’ll be getting tubes or not (an estimated $3,400 bill).

The markets are slowly inching their way up, and they’re still primarily up for the year (thanks February!), but I suspect we’ll be seeing lower values over the next few months and possibly years until the uncertainty of the Fed’s interest rate hike resolves.

We’re doing well on contributions, and that’s all we can really control.

2015 Totals

In 2015, so far, we’ve contributed $30,206.31 (43.15% of our goal of 70k), and we’ve gained $17,182.03 in investment value (71.96% of our planned total).