Author Archives: Mom

About Mom

A family of three living in the Pittsburgh area. We both work full-time and work on raising our daughter.

Deck is Done

We had our final inspection yesterday and passed with flying colors – even got a few compliments on how well we did things. We’re still doing some last minute cosmetic cleanup before it’s completely done, but that includes things like painting over where the temporary railing was across the sliding glass door, attaching the post-caps to the post covers, and installing the LED lights on the Sunsetter.

The total cost is somewhere in the 16k range – I need to settle up with my friend who’d stop by Lowe’s on his way over and buy a small thing or two that we needed. Not bad for a very well made deck, not a single nail in it, and includes the Sunsetter (which was $3300 at Costco). We chose high quality screws and fasteners and wood, so we raised the cost on it a bit there (the footings between the wood posts and the concrete are $55 each!)

We’re working on arranging our furniture on it, as it’s smaller than our deck was in Virginia, but we still have the same furniture. I will be buying a new dining table though, as the one we have will not survive the winter winds here.  I’m waiting for the one we want to go on sale “out of season”.

Panoramic of deck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fancy lights are from Dekor, their Holly rail light in white, and their pyramid post caps.

 

 

 

 

The Sunsetter is the largest one available, and it’s quite nice – has all the bells and whistles.  The pattern isn’t my favorite, but it’s growing on me.  Because we have blues and grays on the house, Sunsetter only had three colors that would “go”, and the other two were midnight blue and charcoal.  Since we’re going with this to provide shade, to keep cool, the darker colors weren’t acceptable to us, so we ended up with “Sky blue” (aka French Bistro as our friends refer to it).  Where I’m standing to take this picture is the direction afternoon sun comes into the house.  We have the Sunsetter weather breakers to provide more vertical shading.

I’m looking forward to having my weekends back – just in time for our exchange student to arrive!

Q2 2017 Early Retirement Progress

This quarter, we contributed $15,780.11 to our retirement accounts, and have gained $21,516.55 in investment value.  That averages out to just under $5,300 per month on the contributions, and just over $7,100 per month on investment value.

We’ve survived Daughter Person’s tonsillectomy and adenoid removal, and she’s doing great now – she can breathe at night so much easier.  The total cost there was about $2900, and we met our deductible, so our health care for the rest of the year is 10% of the insurance cost unless we meet our out of pocket amount (I doubt we would).  We’re taking advantage of that for any delayed/elective visits for the next six months.

We’ve made the almost final purchases on our deck materials – the railing and the decking at least.  I suspect we may need to buy some smaller items like more screws or a lag bolt or two, but the major purchases are done – and we’ve gotten the cash back from some of it (one of the charges cleared after the closing date of our credit card, so we haven’t seen the cash back from it yet.

We’re also on track to contribute 11k to our Roths at the beginning of next year if we’re able.  I’m putting aside $917/mth in a cash account for now, and it will either go to our Roths or to our taxable account once I know if we can contribute to the Roths.  I’m not counting that money in our contributions yet however.

Things are looking good for fully retiring in 2025/2026!

2017 Totals

In 2017 we contributed $31,346.44 (44.78% of our goal of 70k), and we gained $51,246.68 in investment value (81.57% of our planned total).

Building a Deck – There is Light at the End of the Tunnel

All spring, and so far this summer has been all deck work all the time.  We’re making serious progress at this point though.  I just dropped about $4500 on the decking and railing, which will be delivered in the next week.   Here are a few in-progress pictures to review.  We’ve done a lot of work, and all that remains is the larger staircase and guard rail posts from a substructure perspective, and the decking and railing from the finishing perspective.

After putting up one ledger board, we’ve conceded that we’re just going to use a sunsetter for shade for now.  Those are a PITA to put up, and fastening it into the house was difficult enough when we had access to the framing in the unfinished basement.

The two “ledger” boards.  One has the joist hangars, the other is only bolted to the house for about 10 ft, then sticks out the rest of the way as a kind of ledger/joist.  We used it to measure what the height of the far beam should be (with a slight drop for water runoff).

 

 

 

All of the beams up, with joists as needed for blocking to support the cross-bracing required by our municipality.  Those sticks were removed when we had the permanent cross-bracing up.

 

 

 

 

 

All of the joists up looking out from the house (the screen door we’ll use to walk out onto the deck).  It was less hard to get the joists up than I expected – and a lot harder to get the beams up (they’re joined beams – and lifting a 2x12x16′ piece of wood directly over your head sucks).

 

 

 

 

This past weekend we completed the landing.  The landing needs to be complete and decked so that the upper set of stairs (the big ones) will have some place to rest on – and be fastened to.

 

 

 

We can see the end coming – definitely looking forward to having my weekends back, and not working on the deck in super hot conditions.  We did most of the work from January through now, and we’re guesstimating 4-5 more weekends of work to complete it.

Q1 2017 Early Retirement Progress

 

Let’s make this easier, a quarterly report (although I’m still recording it monthly for my own records).

This quarter, we contributed $15,566.33 to our retirement accounts, and have gained $29,730.13 in investment value.  That averages out to just over $5,100 per month.

Next month will see an uptick in contributions, all because of cash back from our recent spending, and I suspect the following two months will as well.  We spent quite a bit on the deck wood – the framing is almost complete.  We should finish the joists this weekend.  Then we get to build the stairs.

 

 

We also made another large purchase.  Not completely unexpected, but not 100% planned for, but the opportunity arose, and we took it.  $6300 for a baby grand piano.  It’s a 1982 Sojin (Daewoo), reconditioned, and beautiful.  And, yes that is the easy piano edition of the Hamilton Soundtrack.  It was an anniversary gift from Dad.  We had been looking at “real” pianos to replace our digital piano, as it was starting to get in the way of our progress.  Unfortunately, the way our house is designed, an upright will literally not fit anywhere without blocking a door, window, (built-in) bookcase or fireplace.  So, I demanded that we get a baby grand, and it couldn’t be shiny ebony (black).  We visited Rick Jones Pianos in the DC area while we were visiting, and they had this beauty.  Met all of my aesthetic requirements, and met all of Dad’s playability requirements.  So, we bought it.  The price we paid included the piano, bench, a humidity system to protect it and delivery to our house near Pittsburgh.  It also came with one free tuning, and as long as we maintain it, we can trade it in for what we paid for it towards another piano – that’s likely to be a very long time away.

At the end of this month, Daughter Person is getting her tonsils and adenoids out, and we’re paying for that – definitely meeting our deductible this year, but taking advantage of the cash back!

2017 Totals

In 2017 we contributed $15,566.33 (22.24% of our goal of 70k), and we gained $29,730.13 in investment value (81.57% of our planned total).

Detailed Financial Picture – March 2017

January’s Numbers

As of March 1, 2017, we are $299,544.21 in debt with a mortgage.  We currently have $1,073,633.00 in assets.  Our investment accounts are at $651,159.34. Our Net Worth is $774,088.79,  up from $736,973.30 in January (5.04% increase).

We were able to contribute the full amount we set aside to our Roths and since I had set aside an additional $1834 between January and February (intended for 2017), I contributed that as well – who knows how much we’ll be able to contribute next year – we were literally $400 under the lower contribution AGI limit.  We are on track to have 11k set aside for that purpose next year though, so we’ll see after next year’s taxes.

I’ve ordered the wood for our deck – $2666 of just wood – then we have to buy the decking and the railing (the decking will end up being about $2400, but the railing is looking like $3500 or more)  We’re going with composite and vinyl to save on maintenance costs, but I’m really looking forward to starting on the wood and getting a deck to enjoy this spring and summer.

We’re now paying $324 and some change “extra” on our mortgage, and starting to see the number go down – it will still be a while before there’s any *real* progress on it, and I don’t know how quickly we’ll end up paying it down – we know we’re not going to be retiring in this house (taxes are too high!).

 

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

  • Car loan – Camry (0%): $17,572.00 (-878.60)
  • Mortgage (3.875%): $281,972.21 (-1,579.06)

Total paid off in January and February:  $2,457.66

Growing our Family – Temporarily

No, no pregnancies or anything like that, but we’ve registered and applied to be a host family for a high school foreign exchange student next school year.  We’re looking at being matched with a young woman from Slovakia for an entire school year.  There’s still red tape and paperwork to get through, but luckily, we both already have our clearances thanks to Girl Scouts, so we shouldn’t have any trouble with that part.  Then the young woman gets to read our family and home description and decide if she’s willing to stay with us.

We’re looking forward to sharing our family and neighborhood with a foreign student and at the same time, hoping she can share information and tidbits about her culture with us.  We think it’s an excellent opportunity for cultural exchange, and especially for Daughter Person – she’s already asking us when her “big sister” is coming.  I’ve heard both great and not so great stories about hosting, but most have been either great or ambivalent, and we can survive almost anything for 10 months.  The program has a lot of support if we need it, both emergency and help figuring out solutions to issues, and we’re comfortable with the local coordinator’s ability to match students with host families that generally work together.

From a financial standpoint, we’ll be paying extra for food and gas (transportation), but the students come with $150-$250/mth of spending money, and their own health insurance.  We’ll also get to deduct $50/mth on our taxes as a charitable donation. Feeding a teenager may be more than the extra $100/mth we’re planning, but we’ll approach that as we come to it!

Detailed Financial Picture – January 2017

December’s Numbers

As of January 11, 2017, we are $302,001.87 in debt with a mortgage.  We currently have $1,038,975.17 in assets.  Our investment accounts are at $614,131.46. Our Net Worth is $736,973.30,  up from $721,133.15 in December (2.2% increase).

We’re slowing down on the debt paying, although we are increasing the “extra” principal that goes to our mortgage by a few hundred dollars per month.  The rest of the money is going to investments, college, and our deck.

I sort of did our taxes based on our final paychecks, and it’s looking like we might have a reduced Roth contribution this year, so I’m going to wait until we get our *real* W-2s and 1099-DIVs to make our contribution. The downside is that I tend to not get one of my 1099-DIV forms until the very last possible minute (mid-late Feb)  On the plus side, it’s also looking like we’ll be getting about 2k back from the Feds.  I had my withholding set to “married, but withhold at higher single rate” the entire year, and never bothered to reduce it to “married” mid-year, so a bit more than was needed was taken out.

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

  • Car loan – RAV4 (0%): $0 
  • Car loan 2 – Camry (0%): $18,450.60 (-439.30)
  • Mortgage (3.875%): $283,551.27 (-486.68)

Total paid off in December:  $925.98

December 2016 Early Retirement Progress

We contributed $10,864.10 this month to our retirement accounts, and we gained $11,645.82 in investment value this month.  $6500 of that is still in a savings account waiting to see if we can contribute it to a Roth or our taxable account (I’m picking up TurboTax on my way home from work today to get started).

2016 was a lot nicer to us in investment gains, but doesn’t quite make up for 2015’s losses, although we’re only about 10k lower than our planned account balance at the end of the year.

We made our goals this year, thanks to a lot of cash back on our Fidelity card.  We lost Dad’s awesome match and HSA contribution in May, and are down to a 4% match, and $500 HSA contribution (last year).  This year, his company is contributing $1500 to our HSA, spaced out over 12 months.  And our insurance is even better ($30/mth to cover all three of us with a HDHP!), with a lower deductible.

We’re planning on fully funding our Roths this year, or putting that money in our taxable account.  I’m putting aside $917/mth in our budget for that, which will get me to 11k by next December.  We’re also upping our base contribution to our taxable account to $300/mth (which will then be supplemented by our cash back), and we’re coming out about even given the loss of Dad’s matching from his old company.

We’re still shooting for a contribution of 70k, and an increase of about 6% over the year, and if we continue to make it, we can retire in 2026.

2016 Totals

In 2016 we contributed $70,115.73 (100.17% of our goal of 70k), and we gained $47,608.99 in investment value (156.59% of our planned total).

Detailed Financial Picture – December 2016

October’s Numbers (because it’s too late to bother with November, again)

As of December 8, 2016, we are $302,927.85 in debt with a mortgage.  We currently have $1,024,061.00 in assets.  Our investment accounts are at $601,841.70. Our Net Worth is $721,133.15,  up from $690,272.92 in October (4.5% increase)

Our RAV is paid off! And wonder of wonders, we got the title in less than 3 months – unlike when we moved here and it took 3 months for Toyota Financial to transfer our title to PA.   I started tracking my debt and net worth just a month after the first payment for that car was due in July 2012 – how things have changed!

November was quite a ride in the markets – up, up, up!  We’re over $1 million dollars in assets (again), and approaching a $1 million net worth.  Our net worth has increased 23.41% since January – a good bit of that is contributions, but not all of it.

Our escrow analysis came back, and we owe $200 more per month (some of that’s “make up” money), so that will affect how much our mortgage is paid off.  Starting in January though, I’m adding an extra $300, so the amount we pay down will increase a bit.  Might as well throw money towards the debt that actually has interest (unlike our car loan).  The remaining money that we’re not spending on our car loan will be used for building up a real 3-6 month emergency fund.  We have access to up to 30k if we need it which is more than 3 months of necessary expenses (it’s 3 months of income), but it is currently invested, and we’d rather not touch it.  I should probably start tracking the value of our “cash” emergency fund for some accountability – maybe then it’ll actually happen 🙂

 

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

  • Car loan – RAV4 (0%): $0 (-1,794.66)
  • Car loan 2 – Camry (0%): $18,889.90 (-878.60)
  • Mortgage (3.875%): $284,037.95 (-1010.97)

Total paid off in October and November:  $3,684.23

Building a Deck – footings

I’ve been busy putting in the footers for my deck.  This has been a long and arduous process, but finally complete!  Now, to let it all cure, and then start on the wood part of the deck.  I’m not looking forward to lifting a 2x12x18ft long piece of wood over my head (no matter how many people are helping!).

5 tons of concrete (10,600 lbs in 60lb bags) just after delivery (and it was on sale!)

Holes, ready for inspection.  Those larger ones are 20″ diameter by 36″ deep.  The smaller ones are 12″ diameter and 36″ deep (for a landing)

These holes were probably the most annoying ever – there’s 2ft of gravel around the house covering the french drain.  As we were digging, the gravel surrounding the hole kept falling into the hole.  We ended up practically excavating the entire gravel area to get the footings deep enough.  There’s a reason we used the tubes – to keep the gravel out of the holes.

The work area ready to pour concrete.  We had a mixer that holds 4 60lb bags of concrete, and each hole took between 16 and 20 bags.  Luckily, the majority of the holes were big enough to just turn the mixer into the hole.  I had to use the wheelbarrow and shovel to fill the 12″ diameter holes.

All done – the lighter concrete was done on day 1, the darker was just done that day (day 2).  The j-bolts and support bases are installed according to the plans (ie, perfectly in line with each other and spaced appropriately).  Although, we did discover that our house is not square – it’s off by about 3 degrees, we’ll have to correct for that when we put up the joists and decking.  The cardboard tubing is going to be left in place to just decompose on it’s own, but we could use a hacksaw or circular saw to cut them off at ground level and remove them.  Eventually, we’re going to put something under the deck as a patio, but we haven’t decided what yet, and there’s no rush.