Where is the money, Lebowski?!
Alright, the moment of truth. How are we doing against our plan?
Starting point – 2001 – 2015. I did not track in this detail but at least I have records of income for every single year.
End of 2015
- Assets: Guesstimate $250k (ish)
- 529 balance(s): Around $5k
- Expenses: Over $100k per year
- Income (Pre tax): $188k (Year by year income info for last 15+ years, here).
- Debt: $185k (mortgage, solar panels and gasp ‘new’ car!).
2015 dumbest financial mistake: Buying a new car. Yes, I know…At least it is zero percent for 7 years and we enjoy the great mileage for our long travel trips by car.
2015 best financial move: Maxing 401k for the first time (one of us) and paying off student loans. Yay!
June – Dec 2016 (cumulative):
*Income is post-tax and post 401k, HSA and medical deductions. Expenses include mortgage and car payment. Assets are liquid only, they exclude home value (about $275k), 529 accounts are combined (we have one for each child), and debt includes mortgage (15 year, 11 to go, 3.75%) and car (zero % interest, 6 years to go).
2016 highlights – Got a promotion in Q2 (yay!), maxed one 401k already (but sadly match will then come via true-up next year).
July 2016 gave us a jump of $16k in assets and $8.5k on 529s, with a combination of market appreciation and savings. Woot! This month was particularly good because I got 3 paychecks, so we contributed $6,225 towards assets (pre and post tax), and $9,775 came from market gains. As for 529s we added $8k towards our accounts, with about $500 dollars market gains. Reminder, for the 529s we are super funding until the end of the year then easing up significantly and focusing on post-tax accounts instead.
Our expenses were pretty controlled as well for us ($5.5k), which is nice, but we are doing some traveling in September so I am bracing for that month’s final numbers.
August 2016 was pretty solid. The income side of the equation helped a lot ($14.9), as one of us received an extra paycheck and a significantly larger amount of over time than usual. We don’t expect any more of that through the rest of the year, rather the opposite as November and December usually bring in some unpaid time.
Our assets grew by $12.5k ($9.4 were adds, $3.1 market gains) and 0ur 529 accounts grew by $5.1, where $100 of that amount was gains vs $5k of additions.
Expenses were pretty decent ($5.4) considering we had to pay car taxes and inspection and extra activities for kids before starting school. We kept groceries under $500, and restaurants about our usual $240, not bad for us. This expense level should keep us on track for the under $80k goal by end of year even though September will come in high due to travel plans. Most importantly, this is helping us slowly adapt to spending levels that are more aligned with our lower, future goals without feeling like we are making any drastic life changes.
September 2016 was a little scary for a bit in the market but then bounced back (so far!). I am bracing myself for more crazy in the coming months. A huge highlight this month is that we maxed out our other 401k, woot!
Our assets grew by $9.4k while expenses came in at $5.8k (very good considering our trip that took about $1.5k of that! creating habits is REALLY working!). Our college funds grew a bit less than normal as I contributed only $2,650, and the earnings stayed pretty flat otherwise.
Debt is getting there, I contributed a few extra hundred bucks, but is still not making as much progress as other areas, and that is ok as it is by design.
All in all – three months to go, almost at goal in some areas, very exciting!
On track for EOY goal. Final goal details, here.
October 2016 Our income is going as expected, also, we are actually getting in better spending habits and feel very comfortable and confident that we will be able to go under $80k by the end of the year. Also, we remain on track for putting $50k on our kids 529s (combined) though we may end with a little lower balance as who knows what the market will bring to close the year, and, since we have over a decade to go, we have it in pretty aggressive investments. Regardless, we are done putting money there by end of year. Similarly, our debt repayment is on track, what we like to see!
For the not so good news, for the first time since starting this blog our assets are lower than the previous month despite adding quite a bit of money in there. That is ok though – it was expected AND we did increase our cash holdings to about $7.5k of that money (we had virtually zero before that) and we are still on track to hit that $360k by year end unless something dramatic happens.
November 2016 Incredible month. We are OVER our asset goals for the year with one month to go.
I am most excited about our expenses. Even though we bought a bunch of Christmas stuff, we still spent about $4.8, which is quite good for us. Our income was $15.2 this month, and we added a healthy amount to our 529. I made a small extra payment to debt so we will likely end up the year a couple hundred dollars under (positive for us) our original goal for debt balance. Woot.
December 2016 We did it! We met and even surpassed every single one of our financial goals. It has been a remarkable journey already and the realization that with a little focus things can really change dramatically. While I am impressed with all our metrics, the one that stands out for me is the expenses. Sure $74k is a lot of money to spend for a lot of people, but we were at the 100k+ when we started this journey in yearly spending, so that is a pretty big deal for us. For 2017, we aim to keep a similar spending limit, and hope that it feels extremely comfortable now that we have gotten a few months of practice at this spending level.
It is also relieving to have met out 529 goals for our kids. Since we were heavily front-loading there, we will now be able to turn our focus on maximizing our savings for our post tax and retirement accounts, towards our FIRE goal. It is so encouraging to start seeing fast progress, despite knowing that a lot of this was due to a crazy market which may correct at any point. That said, we are in for the long term and have created habits that we think will get us to our goals, as long as we don’t have any major set backs in our income category or unexpected expenses.
Hope you all had a successful 2016 also and that 2017 brings more growth on all fronts!
2016 Lessons Learned and Plan Forward.