Financial Freedom Sneaks Into Every Conversation

Gentle Readers,

Once you start noticing an idea, you’re going to see it everywhere. My recent trips to visit family included many conversations about retirement planning that I was not anticipating. I’m glad that folks are thinking about this. I’m still planning on engaging in stealth wealth, but I am happy for the tides of knowledge to lift all of our ships.

I spent one night in the woods at my aunt’s house. We touched on all sorts of topics and enjoyed the serenity of no cell-service. The transformer blew out 10 minutes before we arrived; we really got the middle of nowhere feel. Before I left in the morning to visit the hospital again, my uncle turned to me and began asking if I have a retirement account or savings. I’m so glad that my answer to that question is now in the affirmative. He was happy that I do, even though I did not start it until I was 31. I still have time. He is almost unreasonably proud of me, and I will take it. Encouragement from a good man is always appreciated.

The more interesting conversation happened with my 21-year-old relative, Bill. Bill does not have parents. Bill has chosen to wait for college until he can get better scholarship options. Bill is living way beneath his means and saving most of his earnings. Bill did not learn this from his parents. Bill figured this out on his own.

Bill is a good man to emulate.

Bill brought up that he wants to retire to Mexico by the time he is 40. Naturally, that got me asking questions. Do you have an IRA? Are you considering starting a business? What do you envision this retirement looking like?

He does not have an IRA yet, but wants to start one. I told him about mine, and the minimums my company requires to open the one I preferred. His savings is not quite there yet, but I told him I would do a little research to see if he had good options available.

Of course he does.

Schwab is my personal preferred vehicle, but Vanguard is also wonderful. They both have options that do not require a $5000 opening balance.

At Schwab, the minimum is $1000, but you can only access that if you enroll in auto-transfer of $100 each month. Vanguard has similar limited selections for people who cannot make the higher minimum.

I do not know if Bill is able to afford a $100 autopay each month, but I am going to tell him about it. That extra decade of returns will matter so much.

I’m impressed that he is working so hard and saving everything. His parents were not good examples, and he is doing right by himself anyway. He also brought up on his own that he wants to retire by 40. I did not put that idea in his head. We have many interesting conversations to look forward to. I must keep researching so that I can keep ahead of his knowledge. We’ll both benefit.

I told Bill that I would send him the presents I bought for the other relative’s graduation. Bill is far more likely to read them and implement the ideas that appeal to his personal choices. Each one teach one.

Were you ever surprised by a family member’s insight into retirement planning?

Net Worth Week 7 – Huge Wins Edition

Gentle Readers,

This week was full of surprises, but I ended up way ahead for the time being. Nearly 3% change in my negative net worth – in the right direction!

I had quite a few unanticipated expenses (a hotel and uber trips to the hospital and paying for Lifelock because of shenanigans at work). The Lifelock has now been reimbursed. The biggest unanticipated boon was finally receiving my tax refunds. One was dedicated to stocking my Emergency Fund. The other paid into my IRA.

My gig finally ended, which meant that I only worked 2 days this week for a W2 employer. It appears that I have a gig next week, but you cannot count chickens before they hatch. I have not applied to work at other gigs yet, which means I feel secure.

I’ve enjoyed my days off. I visited with friends and their baby. Ran some errands. Visited with an out-of-town friend. Worked on developing the skill to double my income. Lastly, I also worked at my LLC and enjoyed rest. It was a great position to be in. I could enjoy the time off and not worry about covering my bills. This would have been true without the tax refunds. I’m starting to get the hang of my finances and it feels wonderful.

The percent change was very different due to the tax refund. It felt great to stock up my Emergency Fund again!

Date 5/6/16 5/13/2016 5/20/2016 5/27/2016
Joy 1098 1098 1098  1098
Travel 322 322 322 322
Down Payment  18 18 18 18
retirement  21 21 21 21
health  45 45 45 45
Moving  31 31 31 31
EF  9 9 9 2597
Business  1 1 1 1
Bed  .29 0.29 0.29 0.29
Life  1526 2004 1716  2765
IRA  7346 7315 7295  8359
Brokerage  218 219 218  222
CC (largest)  0 0 0 0
CC (longest)  0 0 0 0
Rewards Card  -3426 -3718 -3890  -3998
SL 1  -102222  -102014 -102130 -102245
SL 2  -45102  -44988 -45024 -45059
Earnest  -9632 -9653 -9673 -9696
–$149746 -$149289 -$149942 -$145518
  .99% change .99% change -1.0% change  2.95% change

Do you remember the first time you had a big percentage change in your net worth?

Treat Your Employees Well – The Easiest Investment

Gentle Readers,

My full-time gig has been up to some shenanigans lately, and that is directly impacting me. They’ve compounded their errors. They’ve made themselves bad employers. They will lose a good employee.

I filed my taxes on May 17th. I run a small business and have investments in a friend’s small business, and an IRA, but the problem came from one of my 3 W2 employers last year.

Agency X never sent my W2 to me. I informed them as soon as it was reasonable. I gave them time for mailing. They ignored my email. I emailed every week until May 17th to force them to fix their error.

In the middle of last year I had moved jurisdictions and they never updated. They mailed my Personally Identifiable Information to a stranger. Then ignored me. They took my taxes out for the wrong jurisdiction, and ignored my emails.

I had to file for an extension when they finally believed me that they were in error. I had to repeatedly ask them how they were going to handle the breach of my security. Finally, after the filing deadline, they agreed that I could pay for Lifelock and they would reimburse me.

No apologies for messing up my taxes. No apologies for ignoring me. And now I have to wait for their accounts payable to handle my receipt.

Then, last week their contractor informed me that I needed to perform work tasks for no pay. I asked my Agency how this could be legal. They ignored me.

They continue to ignore me. I decided to wait to see how the family emergency went before telling my agency to take me off this project. Honestly, I expected them to acknowledge my email informing them that I did not know when I would return due to the nature of the emergency.

Nada. Zilch. Nothing.

A simple, standard, “I hope you are ok, and let us know when you’ll return,” would have made an enormous difference.

It is now Monday, and I have heard nothing. I sent them the Lifelock bill. I’ll show up to work tomorrow, but I will not do work for which I am not paid. I am not currently planning on sending another email to let them know that I do not perform work for free. I will just continue performing the work for which I am paid until they tell me to stop.

There are other gigs. There are gigs that treat you decently. I am a good worker. I take my jobs seriously. It will be difficult to consider working for this agency ever again. This is just too many errors. The biggest error being the failure to communicate.

They will waste a month getting someone to replace me. A bad choice, when paying me the 2 or 3 hours to perform the work would ensure that they can finish their project on time.

Have you ever waited to be fired after having done everything right?

Having Savings Makes Emergencies Manageable

Gentle Readers,

What was supposed to be a vacation to celebrate a graduation turned into a Family Medical emergency  and it is ongoing. Thankfully, my savings has made this fraught time easier to navigate.

I did not quit as planned before I left for the airport, but I am even more concerned about my employer’s behavior. I informed them of the emergency and let them know that my return is up in the air. I have heard nothing. Not even the standard, “I hope you are well.” I still have heard nothing about being told to work for no pay. I still am refusing to donate my time to this corporation. They have not fired me. Nor have I quit. We’ll see what develops.

Meanwhile, I am currently at a hotel. Not an expense I anticipated when originally planning this trip, but I found something near the hospital that allows me to Uber to it. This gives me some more freedom in this state that does not believe in public transportation or non-car-based-infrastructure. This expense won’t really harm me, even if I lose my job, because I have enough cushion right now. This expense allows me to be near my loved-one so that I can advocate on his behalf. This expense allows me to know what is going on.

Today I do not know if I need to stay in this place. Today I do not know if my job will be there when I return, but my savings is working for me. I am not stressed about money. This is freeing.

Tomorrow, we contact the lawyer to make sure the Power of Attorney exists with the person we think it does. Tomorrow, we see that the directive includes information about what level of assisted living is desired. Tomorrow, we find out what next steps are inevitable. Tomorrow, we’ll show up for the people we love and do the things they need.

Net Worth Week 6

Gentle Readers,

I’m on a small vacation again, but this time for my graduating relative. Work was ridiculous, and the result is indeterminate, because a family medical emergency was discovered as a result of my travel. I do not know when I will return to work at this point.

The market has taken some value out of my IRA, but volatility is just fierce when you are at a 92% stock allocation.

My family is an interesting bunch, and showing up physically is a thing I’m striving to improve within my own terms. It is not easy for me. I do not drive and some of them live in a place that requires a car. This makes traveling to them difficult. They also are not necessarily the best communicators, which involves extra emotional labor on my part. I want my young relatives to know that they have me in their lives and I want them to have memories with me. Showing up helps with that. If I buy a place that they can visit easily, there could be improvement that way, too. This is even more important after discovering the newest medical emergency.

The percent change returned to -1.0%, but I knew that I worked less last week and spent money on vacation. Not a huge loss.

Date 4/29/16 5/6/2016 5/13/2016 5/13/2016
Joy 1097 1098 1098  1098
Travel 322 322 322 322
Down Payment  18 18 18 18
retirement  21 21 21 21
health  45 45 45 45
Moving  31 31 31 31
EF  9 9 9 9
Business  1 1 1 1
Bed  .29 0.29 0.29 0.29
Life  1097 1526 2004  1716
IRA  7045 7346 7315  7295
Brokerage  219 218 219  218
CC (largest)  0 0 0 0
CC (longest)  0 0 0 0
Rewards Card  -3558 -3426 -3718  -3890
SL 1  -102123  -102222 -102014 -102130
SL 2  -45072  -45102 -44988 -45024
Earnest  -10078 -9632 -9653 -9673
–$150,079 -$149746 -$149289 -$149942
  .99% change .99% change .99% change  -1.0% change

Are you investing in your family time?

It’s Not Work If You Don’t Pay Me

Gentle Readers,

You may have seen my twitter rant. The W2 job is engaged in shenanigans that may require my departure.

I work a full-time gig in a professional capacity. This gig is one in a series of gigs that have supported me since 2012. They come and go. They largely treat us as the highly expendable contingent workers we are. It is not unusual to learn that you are unemployed by a phone call after hours telling you to not come in the next day. It is stressful, but you know this, and should prepare yourself for this as much as you can.

Current gig is with an agency I liked. The past tense is key. The contractor who asked my agency to provide them with workers is a highly dysfunctional work environment. The dysfunction usually does not directly impact me outside of my side-eyeing their behavior and wondering how these workers get through their lives.

This week was different. I was given 3 days to perform a task for work outside of work hours. I said no. In part, because my hours outside of work are fully occupied this week, but mainly because they do not intend to pay me for this work.

They are telling me that I must work for no money. I said no.

I checked in with my agency, because, surely this cannot be a reasonable request. So far, my agency has gotten me an extension to complete the contractor’s request command.

This is not enough.

I asked my agency again how I could possibly be required to complete work tasks for no money. They’ve not yet responded. The contractor has let me know that I will be fired if I do not complete their command since it is a requirement for continued employment.

If I don’t hear from my agency by noon tomorrow, I will let them know that I am prepared to leave my keys at my desk as I leave for my flight on Friday if the command to work without pay is still on the table.

My agency is not going to expect this. We are contingent workers and we are not unionized. We rarely push back against the excesses imposed upon us.

BUT

I have an emotional fuck-off fund. I have my LLC. I have concrete steps I am taking to increase my pay rate for the contingency work. I have enough savings to wait for a new gig. I do not volunteer for corporations.

I do not want to quit this gig. It pays better than many gigs on the market. But even one hour of work without pay is unacceptable.  This agency has engaged in different shenanigans I will write about later, but this egregious act required its own post, in my opinion.

Has an employer ever stolen your hours and money in this way?

 

 

Planning For a Graduate’s Future

Gentle Readers,

A family member is graduating from high school and intends to move out of his home immediately. I’ve racked my brain to come up with a suitable present for my hopes for him.

Naturally, I got him a bunch of personal finance books.

Everybody’s favorite, “The Millionaire Next Door,” because I want him to have honest examples that frugality, and choosing businesses and careers wisely will make his life different than he is accustomed to. Stealth wealth is a phrase I want in his heart. I know that he is exceptionally kind, and I want him to put on his own mask first.

Less popular among people pursuing financial freedom, but a useful framework that may appeal to him, “The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke.” I want something to reach him, and this may be the most accessible at this point in his life.

The one I’m least sure of, because I have not yet read it myself, “I Will Teach You To Be Rich.” So many people recommend it; many people whom I respect. I wish I had more time to read it, but there is only so many hours in the week.

Lastly, the most esoteric one, that just may be precisely what he could use as a life framework, “Early Retirement Extreme.” Walden knew what he was doing, and this could give my relative all the ideas he needs. I want him to grow in skills especially, but still focus on being a good person.

I chose a variety of books in the hopes that one would appeal and sink in enough to keep him on track. He’s made excellent decisions so far, but his nearby influences are not the example I want for him.

I think that traditional education is not the best current route for him. I’d love to see him gain some more skills and perhaps start a business. I also think he has what it takes and the time to learn how to buy fixer-uppers and make them lovely places to live. Real estate is still not my favorite, but I think it would work well with his personality and current and future skill-set.

What do wish you had read at 18?

Net Worth Week 5 – Vacation Style

Gentle Readers,

I’m on a small vacation, but my progress is still important to me. Not much to report here, but this is a week of spending on food and beers with friends.

As expected, this first trip has been wonderful so far. I also got to check out a small investment I have.  It’s definitely been a turbulent week in my IRA, I deposited $400 and still it dipped. That volatility is a thing to get used to, but I’m encouraged that my net worth got closer to zero again.

Seeing my friends and my friends who are business partners has been wonderful for how I’m feeling. It’s my best investment.

The percent change has remained at .99%. Trending towards zero.

Date 4/24/16 4/29/2016 5/6/2016 5/13/2016
Joy 1097 1097 1098 1098
Travel 322 322 322 322
Down Payment  18 18 18 18
retirement  21 21 21 21
health  45 45 45 45
Moving  31 31 31 31
EF  9 9 9 9
Business  1 1 1 1
Bed  .29 0.29 0.29 0.29
Life  963 1097 1526  2004
IRA  7100 7045 7346  7315
Brokerage  222 219 218  219
CC (largest)  0 0 0 0
CC (longest)  0 0 0 0
Rewards Card  -3060 -3558 -3426  -3718
SL 1  -102041  -102123 -102222 -102014
SL 2  -45046  -45072 -45102 -44988
Earnest  -10054 -10078 -9632 -9653
–$150,471 -$150,079 -$149746 -$149289
  -1.0% change .99% change .99% change   .99% change

Are you investing in your relationships?

Checking in on a Delicious Venture – Perks of Being a Silent Partner

Gentle Readers,

I have one investment that I do not include in my list of assets or liabilities, because I don’t know precisely how to in a way that makes sense for me, yet.

I invested in a friend’s small business last summer. I am one of under 30 shareholders. I am a silent partner. This sounds terribly foreign to me, even a year later. In part, because I am an out of state investor. I invested on the strength of his paperwork and photos and his pitch.

My friend created a food business that I understand and believe he can succeed in. I finally got to check in on that business in person as part of my vacation trip today.

(when did this become my life? It sounds terribly mature)

20160512_143807

(checking out the kitchen and the sous vide)

It tastes incredible.  Seriously, my mouth is really glad I had to check out my investment. I now understand why all of his customers are spreading the word.

I do not know if my share will make a financial return. I believe it will, based on projections. He is attracting clients rapidly. I suspect that he’ll need to do another capital infusion in the next 12-18 months, unless there is a recession, because he will need to expand to keep up with the demand. It’s a good problem to have.

I also believe that investing in my friend gave him more than money. This business is great for him and for his relationship to his career. He was floundering after leaving his former profession, and came up with an incredible idea that he was capable of executing. He just needed capital. The change in him has been incredible to see.

Even if I end up writing off this investment, my money is worth what it can do to make the world better. One person at a time.

Have you invested as a silent partner? 

 

 

 

My IRA Does Not Understand My Heart’s Goal

Gentle Readers,
As I have said, I have made a series of changes in the past six months to improve my financial situation.  Many of the things I currently must do make me miserable. If I were financially free, I could walk away from some of this. I could choose to do what serves me.
When I decided I needed to prepare myself for buying a home in the next year, I made the decision to update my IRA, which I had started at the end of 2015. Then I fully funded it before 2015 ended, because I did not realize I had until April of 2016 to do this. I’m still learning.
But I was scared.
I had not previously started my IRA because I was worried about draining my liquidity in a very uncertain job market for me. I made the jump in September, but still put in a “safeguard.” I told close to the truth about my risk aversion in my Intelligent Portfolio. I told them I was less risk averse than I truly am.
I fear risk.
This is rational in many instances, but not the best decision at this point in my retirement timeline.
Starting an IRA was terrifying. Thankfully, since September, I have continued seeking out information to make myself more comfortable with the “risks” of having so many stocks in my portfolio. The risk of not having enough stocks in my portfolio is not having enough money for my life when I age. That is a risk I am not willing to take any longer.
So, on April 16th, 2016, I signed into my Intelligent Portfolio. According to their calculations, I was on track for retirement. In September, I had stated my retirement goal as $875,000 when I turn 67.
Thirty-five years from now.
That accounts for $35,000 worth of spending a year in a 25 year retirement with the standard caveats about investing. My portfolio said I was on target to get to $880,000 in 35 years, with the average returns it expects. It predicts a worst case performance of $675,000 and a best case performance of $1,300,000.
In 2051, thirty-five years from now, I will be 67 years old.   This is not good. I want the option to retire much sooner than that. I may need to stop before then due to disability or enormous changes in the job market, because anything can happen. I want that option by 57 at the latest.
My heart is afraid to say that I want that option at 37.
On April 16th, 2016, I changed my risk profile. I assumed risk now to hopefully skip the risk later. I told the questionnaire what it needed to get me there. It is going to be a bumpy ride. Hopefully education will make it easier on my heart.
Before I adjusted my risk tolerance, my allocation was:
  • 68.08% stock
  • 16.76% fixed income
  • 5.76% commodities
  • 9.4% cash
It took a few days for the account to re-balance itself. The re-balancing says that it will be settled once it gets to 94% stocks and 6% cash and cash equivalents.
On May 9, 2016 the allocation is:
  • 91.89% stocks
  • 8.11% cash
My IRA’s swings since re-balancing have been more dramatic than I experienced in January 2016. This will take getting used to.
Have you made dramatic changes to your investments lately?