Last Trip for Work

The rest of this week will be a little bittersweet for me – I’ll be taking my last trip for this job.  I’m going to Peru, so it’s not a “boring” trip by any means – just long flights.  I’ve been traveling for this job since 2005, and as a friend commented to me the other day, I have “more stamps in my passport than a post office has”.  I’ve flown all over the world – literally – over the last 9 years, and I’ve enjoyed it.  I’ve been to 6 continents, about 20 countries (and will be adding two this trip!), and according to TripIt, 288,157 miles since April 2008 when I started using it.

When Daughter Person was born, I started collecting dolls from each of the countries I visit – something preferably in the native dress of that area.  My father had created a similar collection for my aunt when he was in the Navy that ended up being mine, and I passed it on to a cousin – and it was damaged in a flood :(  Hopefully, I can take Daughter Person to see the world when she’s old enough to appreciate it and she can pick out her own dolls.

I’m not going to be making airline status in the future – not via actually flying anyway. I should have Silver status at least for next year, but after that, I’ll be on my own.  I’ll have to collect my points the “new” way of churning credit cards – after we’ve gotten our new mortgage!

Expected Budget Changes from Moving

I’ve talked about the benefits to us moving in general, but what are the real budget changes we’re expecting once we move?  I know the first few months will be all over the map on how much we spend because we’ll still be settling in, fixing things in a new house, etc.  But I have a pretty good idea of how much extra we’ll be saving.  This isn’t all of our budget, but the items I think will be changing.  The rest, like how much we spend on clothes or groceries might change a little, but not really drastically.    Our income isn’t changing significantly (I’m getting $2000 less per year – about $150/mth), and Dad’s is staying exactly the same.

Overall, we’ll be spending a little less in food and clothing purchases because of Pittsburgh/Allegheny county sales tax (0% clothes and basic food vs the 6% on clothes and 2.55% on food in VA).  We’ll also theoretically be paying less in income taxes,  VA has a 6% on Federal AGI tax, but PA taxes ~3% of all income (very few deductions), and 0.5-1% local income tax – depending on where we live.  We shelter a lot of income from the feds (and therefore VA), and it won’t be sheltered from PA income tax, so I don’t know how the raw numbers will work out. I don’t *think* we have enough sheltered to make up the 3% difference, but we might.

Bills that will go up:

VA PA Difference
Auto insurance 75 110 -35

Bills that will go down:

VA PA Difference
Mortgage (including property taxes & insurance) 2700 1700 1000
Daycare 1300 500 800

Just among those three things, we will be able to save an extra $1765 per month beyond what we’re saving now.

Definitely looking forward to seeing how all the expenses play out.  We are also likely to save more in fuel as I’m planning on taking the bus to work on a regular basis (and I get a free bus pass as a perk of employment, but I have to pay for a parking pass).  That’s a decision that hasn’t been made yet though, so we’ll see how it plays out.

We’re also going to have at least one month with no mortgage – just as part of the buying and selling process (and we’re living with my mom during that time).

Update July 21: I just found out that I’m also getting an $80 “communication allowance” per month to pay for cell and Internet service.  That’s about 90% of our entire family cell phone bill – an “extra” $80 per month :)

Have you ever made a significant move to lower your expenses?

We Have Too Much Stuff!

As we start to pack our life into tiny boxes for moving, I’m starting to realize how much “stuff” we actually have. And how much of it wasn’t being used much (if at all). Some stuff we have to keep for a prescribed period of time (like old tax returns), other stuff, we just need to get rid of. Moving is as good of an excuse as any. I’m more concerned that I don’t have time to seriously go through the stuff and separate between keep and donate before it needs to end up in a box for moving.

I still have a huge monster suitcase that my parents gave me when I graduated high school – that I’ve used maybe 3 times in the last 20 years – and at least the last time, I wish I hadn’t brought such a large one with me. I haven’t carried anything larger than my medium sized one for the last 8 years – and that was for 3 weeks of work clothes! It’s listed on freecycle, but no bites yet :)

I already have a rather large pile of things that are going to donation. The charity does pickups and they’re coming by today to take that away. Then we start a new set of boxes for donation, because I’m sure there will be more!

There is the pile of things that I would like to sell before moving, but it might have to wait until after we’ve moved: like our exercise bike and treadmill. No bites on the bike on craigslist, and the treadmill has stuff sitting on it so it hasn’t even gone up on craigslist yet.

Finally, there is the “trash” pile. As much as I hate throwing things out, there are just some things that aren’t worth donating or even giving away.

The Realtor came by last night to sign the listing paperwork, and we went over what should and shouldn’t get packed. All the stuff we really don’t use that often, like tchotchkes, that would be easy for us to pack up, are the things he wants us to leave unpacked for the stager to use. We’ll just have a *lot* of extra packing to do between going under contract and closing :(

Why is it that moving spurs you to get rid of things that haven’t bothered you for the last 5 years?

June 2014 Early Retirement Progress

We contributed $3,304.33 this month to our retirement accounts – my contribution was “left over” from my May paycheck, which didn’t get deposited until mid-June. We “made” $7,565.24 in interest this month.

My “new” job has an 8% contribution to a 403(b) plan – it’s not a match, but it’s contributed whether I contribute or not. I have to wait 3 years until it’s vested, but that’s OK. Depending on how difficult it is to change my contribution levels, I might start with 8% contribution for the first month or two until we sort out the moving expenses and anything we borrowed to move. Then I’ll contribute 20% from then on (which will bring me up to the legal max). Or, if it’s difficult to change, I’ll just start with 20% right off the bat.

Dad will continue working for the same company, so he’ll be able to completely vest in his 403(b). Things are looking good for being able to contribute our planned 40k this year – and possibly 50-55k next year. And with a $1000 less for mortgage payments, we should be able to contribute that to our taxable account (or maybe a Roth?).

2014 Totals

So far, for 2014, we’ve contributed $19,806.43 (49.52% of the new goal of 40k), and we’ve gained $22,398.62 in investment gains (110.55% of our planned total).

Detailed Financial Picture – July 2014

June’s Numbers

As of July 7, 2014, we are $430,877.74 in debt (that includes the mortgage).  Without the mortgage, we’re at $16,500 in debt.  That’s our auto loan.  We currently have $1,057,463.16 in assets (including our house).  Our retirement accounts are at $397,055.28. Our Net Worth is $626,585.42 (includes house and mortgage), up from $608,588.72 last month (2.96% increase).

The markets did really well for us this month – a 4.48% increase from last month.  I still don’t have the money from my paid out vacation.  I got the “pay stub” for it, but not the check.  A co-worker has gotten his check, so I should be getting it shortly – ~$7900, almost all of which is going to the emergency fund.   That’s not counted in our assets yet (since it’s not in the bank account).  I still haven’t been able to close out my 401(k) and roll it over to Fidelity – starting to get a little pissy about that actually.  I’d rather not be paying high expense ratios longer than I need to.

We’re expecting to spend down the e-fund again over the next few months (and/or probably borrow from our line of credit) as we get our house ready to sell and actually move.  We have two realtors (referred by USAA) coming by the house this week to “interview” for selling our place.  We’re hoping we can get at least 100k out of it after all the taxes, fees, etc are paid.  The sale will bring our net worth down because of the selling fees, but that’s OK – it’ll realign itself with “reality” as far as our house is worth and what we owe on it.

All debt except our car loan (at 0%) is gone – I paid a bit extra to it this month to make the numbers nice ($610 vs $490), but we won’t be paying much extra to it over the next few months.  Once we settle down with our new mortgage payment, we’ll re-evaluate what we can pay towards it every month.   We’re hoping to find a place where the mortgage payment is at least $1,000 less per month than we pay now – and it’s looking like that won’t be a problem.

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

  • Line of credit (8.75%): $0.00
  • Chase (4.99% for life): $ 0.00 
  • Student loans (aggregated 4.21%):  $0.00 
  • Car loan (0%): $16,500 (-610.00)
  • Mortgage (4.125%): $ 414,377.74 (-709.86)

Total paid off in June: $1,319.86

Federal Security Clearances – No Thanks!

I’ve (luckily) never had one – and after this week, never plan to either.  I was asked to complete the SF86 form to get a secret clearance for a company that liked my resume, but didn’t have any active work – and anything they had would require at least a secret clearance.  So, without being employed by them, they started the process of getting me a clearance.

I have now met the SF86 form, and I will not have a federal clearance for at least 7 years.  Why?  There’s one annoying question on it that makes my life practically impossible: “Have you provided support to a foreign group or organization in the last 7 years that was not listed as a previous employer?” (Or something along those lines).  Of course, I have – I am a consultant.  I have provided a *lot* of support and time to foreign companies – it’s kinda what I do for a living.  But trying to remember each contract and each contact at the company that I helped?  Not so much.

Almost all of our direct clients are US-based companies, but they do business with foreign companies that I’ve assessed, and some of them have offices in other countries (or have acquired a foreign company).  According to the security officer I was working with, I’d have to list all of those – over the last 7 years.  My best guess is that over the last 7 years, I have visited and advised at least 200 foreign contacts at foreign (and US-based) companies.  I could probably name the companies, but not the individuals at each companies.

While it severely limits me in the job search (especially in the DC area), I will not be taking any position that requires a clearance.  There are some things that are just not worth it.

We’re Moving!

I got a job offer in Pittsburgh yesterday.  It’s conditional on me passing a background check, which I don’t see as an issue, so really, I have an offer. I’ve verbally agreed to it this morning to start the background check process.

It’s a *very* good offer too – $2k less/year than I make here in DC, but with *much* better benefits and a lower cost of living area.  I’m basically getting a 20-30% raise given the cost of living difference.  There’s only a small stipend available for moving expenses ($1,500) – not near enough to cover what it’ll cost, but it’s something – and I can deduct the rest on my taxes.

There is a tax-deferred plan with an 8% contribution and it vests in 3 years.  I don’t have to contribute a dime (although I plan to). Health insurance will cost us about $200 less per month than it is under Dad’s plan, which we’re currently under.

Dad has already talked to his boss and his boss’ boss about it, and he may continue to work at his current job, just remotely – coming down to DC once every few months or so.  They are OK with it (they like him – and there is some precedent), but they have to check with higher-ups to confirm that it’s OK within the company. That’d continue to get us his DC-level salary and he’d be able to vest in his 403(b).

I’d start mid-August, so there’s time to get everything ready, and maybe even sell the house before I start.  I haven’t told my boss yet – but he’s on vacation for the next two weeks.  If I tell him when he returns, that will be two-week’s notice.  “Hi, how was vacation? – here’s my resignation”. More notice than the 24 hours he gave us on the company sale/acquisition.

Now to turn my efforts to getting the house ready and put together for sale!

$200 Grocery Challenge Results

With today being the last day of June, how did we do on our grocery challenge to spend less than $200 this month?  Not so great, but better than most months: $246.61  We had a few things come up that we weren’t expecting, but I think we did well.  We had to buy more scoopable cat litter after our radioactive cat was no longer radioactive and we had to toss out what we had.  Costco also had a sale on rice and flour – both of which we needed, so a bulk purchase was in order.   ~$250 is better than our normal $300-$350 though!  We also fed my mom for a weekend while she was here as well.

On the plus side, we only ate out of the house on our car trips to and from Pittsburgh (reimbursed), and ordered pizza in only twice in the month – bringing our eating out final to $54.34.  *Much* better than our normal $250-$300 of eating out.  We did buy some wine, but it was limited to only drinking on the weekends, and was mostly Aldi’s house brand (at about $32 for the month)

Except for the $2000 plane tickets that I needed to front the money for (and have since been reimbursed), we spent about $2500 less this month than we normally do.  Now, a good bit of “normal” month is/was debt payment, so that’s some of the difference (about $1500 of that), but the rest is us not spending money.  Good practice for the future since I know what our new take-home pay is: about $2000 less per month!

Job Hunting and Financial Independence

These past few weeks have been a reminder to both Dad and I about how much we would like to not have to work for someone else any longer.  We’ve both been applying for jobs and interviewing (at multiple places for me).  Trying to do so while working full time has been interesting – I’ve had a lot of slightly longer than usual lunches, or picking up Daughter Person early a few times.  I’ve only applied for 5 positions – and I’ve gotten responses on all of them – phone interviews for 4 already and in person interviews for 2 after tomorrow – but no offers yet.

I’m only applying for positions that are interesting to me, which is why I’ve applied to so few.  I’ve got a well-paying job, that theoretically I like (still not bad after a month, except the whole lacking a 401k thing), so getting me to jump ship is more difficult than it would be if I didn’t have a job.  I have the “luxury” of picking and choosing which offer (if any) I take.

We don’t *have* to work, but that’s only sustainable for one month at most, then at least one of us would need to find something, so we continue to work and make excuses when we need to get away for an interview.  If we had a fully funded emergency fund, we could take off for a bit longer, and not have to work while searching.  One of the primary reasons it’s our first goal now that we’re done putting all of our extra money towards debt (we’re not debt free though). We’re shooting for 3 months of expenses at first (same rate as paying off debt), then 6 months of expenses while contributing more to investments at a 50/50 rate.

Next time something like this happens (because it’s likely), we’ll be ready to walk if we need to.

Missing the Buzz

Now that my student loans are paid off and we’re not making any extra payments this month, I find that I’m missing the little buzz of excitement I get when I make an extra payment and watch the line of total debt drop closer to zero.  We’re still paying on the car, and I can watch that amount owed drop, but since we’re in a holding pattern, that little buzz just isn’t there.

I enjoy watching our other accounts grow, but it’s not quite the same “stick it to them” feeling that came with making an extra payment.  I also look at our accounts way more than a sane person should.  I don’t touch them or buy/sell, but I look at the little “portfolio balance” chart in Personal Capital a bit too much.

I have a new goal in completing our emergency fund, but for some reason, it’s just not as exciting.  I’d love to set some more short term goals as far as savings go – like continuing to spend very little on groceries or getting our savings rate closer to 50%. But with life at a cross-roads, I don’t know what a reasonable goal is at this point.  Moving will seriously impact our savings rate as we spend money on things like deposits, down payments, and fixing up the house for sale.  We’re trying to avoid buying groceries right now – especially freezer stock up items – in case we do move.  Just the bare minimums to get us through the week – which both helps keep the grocery bill low, and increases it since we’re not buying in bulk.

One thing I am excited about is the possibility to buy a smaller house with a (much) smaller mortgage, and hopefully saving more.  We don’t know what our new salaries might be though – just what we’ve asked for, so we might not save as much as we’re expecting.  But, it lets us look for a house with a different set of priorities in mind rather than just “how big of a house can we afford”.

If you’ve finished paying off your debt, what do you do to stay excited about saving?