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.

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.

November 2016 Early Retirement Progress

We contributed $4,968.94 this month to our retirement accounts, and we gained $11,616.97 in investment value this month.

I’ve been remiss in posting, but between Girl Scouts and working on our deck, I haven’t had much time in the evenings to make posts.  We have our concrete poured and almost ready to accept posts.  We need to wait at least 2 weeks, preferably 3 before putting the weight of the wood on the concrete, so we’re taking a short break over the holidays.  Girl Scouts have started the “behind the scenes” stuff that happens for cookie sales, so that’s been taking a lot of my time.  Even though the girls can’t sell until January 6!

We’re on track for putting our 70k in “retirement” accounts this year, and setting up to do so next year as well.  Dad’s company has (finally) announced their health plans for next year, and for $60/mth we get a family HDHP with a $1500 individual/$3000 family deductible plus $1500 into our HSA.  I was wavering on whether to go with he HSA again in 2017, but with the changes, we’re *definitely* doing it.   It’s nice working for a (primarily) European company!

2016 Totals

In 2016 we contributed $59,251.63 (84.65% of our goal of 70k), and gained $35,963.17 in investment value. (the $6500 set aside for Roths isn’t counted in this total)

October 2016 Early Retirement Progress

We contributed $4,964.78 this month to our retirement accounts, and we lost $12,774.09 in investment value this month.

October was not a good time to be in the markets – but a great time to add money!  We added a lot this month, and we’re at a relatively stable situation.  The only variance in our contributions now is how much cash back we get on our Fidelity card as that goes straight into our taxable investment account.  And I plan on getting quite a bit in the next month or so as I pay for wood and materials with my cash back credit card.

We’re on track to contribute our 70k this year.  We have $6500 sitting in a savings account waiting on whether we put it into our Roths (the desired place) or our taxable account if we can’t contribute to our Roths.  This year had a few too many changes in income and deductions that I’m not positive what our AGI will be (my back of the envelope calculation says we’ll be able to contribute to our Roths).


2016 Totals

In 2016 we contributed $54,282.69 (77.55% of our goal of 70k), and gained $24,346.24 in investment value.

Detailed Financial Picture – October 2016

August’s Numbers (because it’s too late to bother with September)

As of October 10, 2016, we are $306,612.08 in debt with a mortgage.  We currently have $996,855.00 in assets.  Our investment accounts are at $575,673.22. Our Net Worth is $690,272.92, up from $678,032.86 in August (1.8% increase)

It’s now almost mid-October, so I’m just going to combine September and October’s numbers.  Nothing interesting has happened on paying down debt – most of our money has gone to the deck and retirement accounts. We’re on track to pay off our RAV in December, then we may or may not pay down the Camry faster – probably not.

I’m likely to build up a good sized emergency fund (6 months) next.  We only have about two months available right now, so I’d like to build that up.  We can survive on one salary, and we have access to our taxable and a good bit of our Roth funds, so I’m not concerned, but I’d like a little more cushion.  Once you’re done paying down debt, there’s a lot more choices of what to do with your money, so I’m having a hard time deciding what exactly to do with it!

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

  • Car loan – RAV4 (0%): $1,794.66 (-1,794.66)
  • Car loan 2 – Camry (0%): $19,768.50 (-878.60)
  • Mortgage (3.875%): $285,048.92 (-1,004.48)

Total paid off in August and September:  $3,677.74

September 2016 Early Retirement Progress

We contributed $4,958.33 this month to our retirement accounts, and we gained $1240.00 in investment value this month.

September was a very busy month for us.  We tried to start the deck (and failed miserably), I got a killer sinus infection that had me down for two weeks, and Girl Scouts started.

The markets were relatively flat, and most of our increase was from contributions.  We have 4k set aside for possibly a Roth contribution (depending on if we can contribute), and that money is not being “counted” as it’s not in a specific account yet, just hanging out in our checking/savings until I decide if it’s going to the Roth or to the taxable account.  Ideally, I put 5.5k of it in Dad’s Roth so that we can get out of ETFs and into a mutual fund in his account.  The rest (planned 1.5k) will top off my Roth, which already has over 10k in it.

Other than saving money, I haven’t really done any progress on the deck.  We tried to drill holes, but the auger we rented wasn’t powerful enough and we were told (after the fact) that homeowners can’t rent the equipment we’d need – so I called a few places for quotes, but it’s such a small job, a lot of companies just don’t want to take it on.  Now that I’m not sick or catching up from being sick, I need to make more phone calls to find someone to dig said holes.

2016 Totals

In 2016 we contributed $49,317.91 (70.45% of our goal of 70k), and gained $37,120.33 in investment value.

August 2016 Early Retirement Progress

We contributed $4,965.54 this month to our retirement accounts, and we gained all of $373.99 in investment value this month.

Can you believe it’s September already!

We’re well on-track to hopefully invest our full 70k this year.  I have 3k sitting in a checking account waiting to see if it’s going to go into a Roth or into our taxable account, and I’m not counting that in our values until it ends up in whichever account is appropriate.  I also have about $1500 in Dad’s “new” HSA sitting just earning interest because the investment options are so bad (an S&P 500 index for .45%).  I’m going to do a rollover at the end of the year to our “old” HSA, which offers Vanguard funds for .05% fees.  It’s still up in the air whether we’re going to continue with the HSA account or move back to a more traditional PPO next year (the PPO is not significantly more expensive than the HDHP option at least this year, but I need to investigate more).

I have a permit for our deck, and we’re breaking ground on Saturday – we’re renting a two-person auger to “dig” the 14 holes necessary (10 big ones – 2″ diameter, 36″ deep – for the deck, 4 12″ diameter, 36″ deep ones for the landing).  I’m putting together the final “bill of materials” for the wood and going to call around for the best price (including delivery).  I also have to get 8000 lbs of concrete delivered to fill those holes with (once they’re inspected) – this is really happening, and the expensive parts are starting.

2016 Totals

In 2016 we contributed $44,359.58 (63.37% of our goal of 70k), and gained $35,880.33 in investment value.