Author Topic: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?  (Read 28346 times)

COlady

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #50 on: November 11, 2015, 10:54:24 AM »
I'm a bit surprised that you've had such a hard time finding a job in accounting. I'm in accounting and I live in the Denver metro area and accounting is booming, even entry level. I talked to one of my friends that is a hiring manager the other day, she is with a small firm, and they're paying entry level people $52,000.  PWC is starting grads off at $55,000.  I started at $38,000 out of school in 2006 (holy cow I'm approaching 10 years).  I think you're grossly underpaid. Hopefully you're getting good experience? What kind of work have you been doing? Did you get decent grades? I would keep looking for better paying jobs.

Also, are you planning on taking the CPA exam? If you can pass the exam that will drastically increase your earning potential and open doors for you.

Runrooster

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #51 on: November 11, 2015, 10:57:47 AM »
Im failing at the quote function, but now is open enrollment time to assess your health plan for the new year.  Im not sure if you can switch in time to deposit into the hsa in December, but for next year that will help.

I also crossposted (edit) with you, that I can see why the loan interest is currently low but that doesn't have to stop you from paying more of it this year to lower your agi.  I would do that before raising the 401k. Note you still need to contribute 2000 since the savers credit is a 50% match.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2015, 12:19:42 PM by Runrooster »

Easye418

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #52 on: November 11, 2015, 10:58:42 AM »
Holy shit.... I have $63k in Student Loan debt as well between myself and my wife, but we bring home 3 TIMES your income.  I feel like its hard to breathe, you must feel like you are DROWNING.

I would start snowballing debt (smallest loan to pay off) and living to the absolute bare bones.  When you feel small victories, you will feel better about yourself.

Also, fine ways to earn more money or raise your income.  From what I remember, Accountants should make at least $40-$50k a year.  Sounds like you are making slightly less?

Good luck, I feel your pain.

AmandaS1989

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #53 on: November 11, 2015, 12:18:28 PM »
I'm a bit surprised that you've had such a hard time finding a job in accounting. I'm in accounting and I live in the Denver metro area and accounting is booming, even entry level. I talked to one of my friends that is a hiring manager the other day, she is with a small firm, and they're paying entry level people $52,000.  PWC is starting grads off at $55,000.  I started at $38,000 out of school in 2006 (holy cow I'm approaching 10 years).  I think you're grossly underpaid. Hopefully you're getting good experience? What kind of work have you been doing? Did you get decent grades? I would keep looking for better paying jobs.

Also, are you planning on taking the CPA exam? If you can pass the exam that will drastically increase your earning potential and open doors for you.

I am from a town of around ~20k people and live close to larger cities. I was also surprised it was so hard to find an accounting job. But then again, it seemed like every one I applied to had a bunch of applicants. And the economy in our area wasn't very good during much of this time either. I know I'm probably grossly underpaid, but it was my only option. I did not want to be stuck at Lowe's for the rest of my life.

I feel like I am getting good experience though. I do bookkeeping and payroll and will be trained on corporate tax returns, 1099s, and property tax returns when the next tax season pops up. My grades were pretty decent. I did have some Cs in some of my accounting classes but I am more of a learn by doing and my teachers were all 'read the book and you'll figure it out' types. I did have above a 3.1 overall when I graduated though.

I would love to pass the CPA exam. I attempted the BEC section once, got a 65. Then tried AUD twice and got a 72 and 68. I had to stop though, as I was putting the costs of tests and study materials on a CC since I didn't have the money to pay out of pocket. I would like to have a nice cash reserve set aside for just that before I get started again. But I found the NINJA system from Jeff Elliot and it is VERY cheap and good so the materials won't be as expensive.


Holy shit.... I have $63k in Student Loan debt as well between myself and my wife, but we bring home 3 TIMES your income.  I feel like its hard to breathe, you must feel like you are DROWNING.

I would start snowballing debt (smallest loan to pay off) and living to the absolute bare bones.  When you feel small victories, you will feel better about yourself.

Also, fine ways to earn more money or raise your income.  From what I remember, Accountants should make at least $40-$50k a year.  Sounds like you are making slightly less?

Good luck, I feel your pain.

I know 63k is bad but I know someone who graduated with 125k so every time I think of my student loans and go 'oh God 63k!' I think about that dude and breathe a sigh of relief that mine are half that.

COlady

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #54 on: November 11, 2015, 12:42:58 PM »
You might consider asking your firm to pay for you to take the CPA exam and pay for Becker review courses. Make sure you study adequately before taking the exams so that you pass. It takes so much time and dedication but I promise you that it's worth it.

AmandaS1989

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #55 on: November 11, 2015, 12:46:56 PM »
You might consider asking your firm to pay for you to take the CPA exam and pay for Becker review courses. Make sure you study adequately before taking the exams so that you pass. It takes so much time and dedication but I promise you that it's worth it.

Yeah I don't think that's gonna happen. I asked about that in my interview and he said it wasn't a possibility. Oh well, a lot of firms make you stay on a certain period of time after they pay that for you so screw it, I'll do it myself.

COlady

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #56 on: November 11, 2015, 01:15:52 PM »
I think your loan payoff and monthly fees have been well covered, and now your pay should be addressed with your boss.  You currently make $17/hour.  Do you know how much the firm charges for your time?  Knowing this will show you how much they value you.  Obviously they have overhead costs, but if they are charging $60-$80 per hour for your time, you should be getting more than $17.  Women tend to undervalue themselves, and assume that if we deserve more money, it will be offered.  It will not.  Ever.  You can request a salary review at 6 months or a year, but it has to be you requesting it.  If you are a workhorse, doing a good job and getting the jobs done in an accurate and timely manner, they should have no reason to deny your value. 

If not, get your year of experience, look back at the companies that you had issues with when you didn't have the experience, verify the non-compete does not apply, and get the heck out of there. 



We're not an hourly rate firm. We charge our clients a monthly fee that covers our services such as bookkeeping and payroll. In May is when I have my yearly review so I am hoping for a raise then if things go well. If not, then I might start looking around. My Dad doesn't believe I should expect a raise after just a year. But then again, he's only ever worked in factories, not in a professional setting.

Amanda, this is great advice provided above. Others have provided great advice too. Many of us are in this field and are telling you you're very underpaid. Don't you want to be paid what you are worth AND get experience? This is why you went to school! So you don't have to pay your dues as long...you still have to pay your dues but you know what I mean. I gross the equivalent of $133k a year in salary now and I didn't get to where I'm at by being a nice, young, compliant girl. I've had to learn to be a young, respectful, forward woman. You've got to change your mindset.

$40,000 per year would be more reasonable per http://www.indeed.com/salary?q1=Staff+Accountant&l1=Winston-Salem%2C+NC


COlady

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #57 on: November 11, 2015, 01:19:53 PM »
AND the worst thing your boss can say is, "sorry I'm not able to give you a raise right now". At least hen he knows you're thinking about money and with be looking for a raise or possibly looking for a new job.

AmandaS1989

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #58 on: November 11, 2015, 01:23:28 PM »
Thank you COlady. I do want to be paid what I'm worth. But I'm so afraid that I might get let go if I ask for more. My boss has two sons finishing up accounting degrees. My Dad is afraid he might let me go and hire them instead. So I am afraid to kind of shake up the status quo. Maybe in another year or so once I get some actual tax prep experience I can start looking.

jwright

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #59 on: November 11, 2015, 01:25:06 PM »
So, bookkeeping and payroll doesn't pay as well as tax/audit/consulting in the accounting world.  However, if you are making $29,000 this year as a full time worker, that's more like $14 per hour.  And if the firm won't help defer costs of the CPA exam (a standard industry perk), they don't have an interest in your professional development. 

If you didn't have a 3.0 GPA, you probably aren't going to get in with a Big 4, unfortunately.  My old firm was not interviewing anyone with less than 3.4.  BUT - I can look on Craiglist right now and find 10 jobs for bookkeepers paying $19-$20 per hour, and I think I am in lower cost of living than you.  I worked at a four person firm and they would have paid more than that.  You worked hard for a degree; please value yourself appropriately! 

COlady

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #60 on: November 11, 2015, 01:34:32 PM »
Thank you COlady. I do want to be paid what I'm worth. But I'm so afraid that I might get let go if I ask for more. My boss has two sons finishing up accounting degrees. My Dad is afraid he might let me go and hire them instead. So I am afraid to kind of shake up the status quo. Maybe in another year or so once I get some actual tax prep experience I can start looking.

Do your parents rely on you for meeting their day to day living expenses? And yes, I agree with you, once you have some real tax prep experience under your belt other firms will look a you closer. Passing the CPA exam is another mark on your resume that hiring managers will look for. Who doesn't want to hire someone that is obviously a hard worker if they'll study for the CPA exam while working full time. Are you paid on an hourly or salary basis? It sounds like salary. That hourly rate is going to go down real quick come tax season assuming you're salary....

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #61 on: November 11, 2015, 01:38:33 PM »
Thank you COlady. I do want to be paid what I'm worth. But I'm so afraid that I might get let go if I ask for more.

I think this is really unlikely if it's done respectfully.

Quote
My boss has two sons finishing up accounting degrees. My Dad is afraid he might let me go and hire them instead. So I am afraid to kind of shake up the status quo.

In that case you should be applying for jobs all the time.

(Edit: quote tags.)
« Last Edit: November 11, 2015, 02:15:16 PM by ShoulderThingThatGoesUp »

AmandaS1989

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #62 on: November 11, 2015, 01:44:21 PM »
They only rely on me for three weeks of groceries, household supplies, and mom's medicines. Dad pays everything else. I would like to have at least a year or two of experience and at least two sections of the CPA exam passed before I go looking for something else. I am salary, but the others who work here said they didn't put in more than 45 or 50 hours a week during the busiest part of the season. So that's not bad at all. And during the summer we're only open til 12 on Fridays but only one of us has to be here. I maybe worked 5 or 6 Fridays between mid May and the end of September. So there are some perks. Gotta look on the bright side for now.

Genevieve

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #63 on: November 11, 2015, 02:48:37 PM »
Non-compete agreements that say you can't work for anyone else for three years are are not enforceable as they are too stringent. If you read the language again, I bet it says something less stringent.

If you like the mentorship you are getting at the firm, that might be worth the lower salary. (But you can probably find a place that pays more and has a good boss.) If it's a lifestyle choice, that's OK too, though there is a price.

But don't let silly reasons hold you back from getting a raise, as it seems like you are underpaid. An extra $10k or $15k a year would be life changing for you.

Kaikou

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #64 on: November 11, 2015, 05:50:55 PM »
For the love of [deity of your choice], combine trips! And get a free checking account with unlimited checks instead of driving to get a money order.



I do have a free checking account and I walk to get the money order. I might order some checks though.

Sounds like another reason to drop this life insurance that you don't need. At the very least, switch to a normal company that operates in the 21st century and then also drop it to a smaller amount as nobody needs to pay your student loans if you die because they should forgiven. As others have already mentioned, a big part of getting started with paying off huge loans and turning your life around is to start optimizing where you can. This is an easy place to optimize!

I do have the day off on the 25th. I might just see about switching life insurance companies and dropping the insured amount by half.

So I worked on the debt calculator spread sheet.

http://www.vertex42.com/Calculators/debt-reduction-calculator.html

I kept your minimum payments & assumed you had an extra $500 per month to put towards the debt.  I think you can probably find another 100 to 200 with some of the suggested budget changes but $500 was my starting point.

The Great news is that you can have the PLUS, lending club and CC all paid off by April 2016.

This was assuming a $2000 tax refund that I put on the second page of the spread sheet in April 2016.
(Without that refund they are all still paid off by July)

Focus on those because of the high interest and low value.

You can run a few scenarios.

Snowball (lowest balance first) Total interest $18,949.28  last debt paid 8 years 1 month
Avalanche (lowest interest first)  Total interest $15,645 last debt paid in 7 years 8 months

Custom  (a mix of lowest value and interest) Total interest $15,746  last debt paid in 7 years 8 months

You can also run a horrific scenario with no extra payments and it will take over 22 years to climb out of debt.

Here is how I entered the custom data.

Lending Club    2,650.00    10.98%    83.27    2
PLUS                 1,808.65    8.50%    105.53    1
Perkins     10,557.95    5.00%    120.00    8
AES Safford    3,462.35    6.80%    50.00    4
CC no interest    827.14    0.00%    25.00    3
A                       4,546.57    6.00%    -      6
B+D+F 4499.81    30,018.83    6.80%    -      5
C                      5,553.12    5.60%    -      7
E                      5,542.68    4.50%    -      9
G                      4,000.00    3.40%    -      10

The last column shows the custom pay off order.  I had to group all your 6.8% loans together

I am not savvy with the tax implications of paying one before the other so you can change the "custom" order to be more tax advantaged.

I hope that helps.  I will try to send the spread sheet in a PM.




Thank you for running that for me. Actually I've run some numbers and gotten an estimated tax refund amount of 4000. So hopefully that's the amount I get. I can really pay some stuff off then.

You've gotten lots of good advice (even if it wasn't all identical) but I have one suggestion that I'm not sure has been touched on.  On your 0% cc set payments so the entire balance is paid off the month before the 0% period is up.  No need to pay it off earlier, but you don't want to end up paying several months interest at 14%. Also keep an eye out for other 0% cc offers.  Just be sure to not transfer more than you can pay off in the teaser period.

I've got enough in my savings account that I can pay it off if I need to. I check it at least once a week (to make sure no one's stolen my info and charged anything on it). I also have the date marked for 1 week before it goes up to 14%.

Thank you for all your suggestions everyone. You've definitely given me some things to think about. I do believe I will shop around for some better life insurance.

Haven't read the whole thread, so maybe someone brought this up already... There is a cost to checking and rechecking to make sure that there is no unseen charges on your account, to getting a money order, to wasting time going here and there when you can combine trips. Your time is money and you are using it inefficiently. Please pick up the book Your money Your life. I have just started reading it, but I flipped through and it goes through the time cost analysis and walks you through to calculating how much money your really make when you take away the cost of time commuting, gas, errands etc. I feel like that would be a real eye opener for you.

As someone else mentioned Dave Ramsey is perfect for someone like you. You are hesitant to make the first step and you have an excuse for every reason to do more or different. Just something to think about. TIME IS MONEY!

How much do you value your time and resources?

Kaikou

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #65 on: November 11, 2015, 05:57:50 PM »
Not trying to burst your bubble but few professionals know the ins and outs of your tax situation.  That is, the average paying client won't be eligible for the retirement savings credit or eitc.  It's also, you know, better to read up on it yourself. I'm not sure when you finished school but if you were full-time for the spring (5 months) you can't take the savers credit.  If you have been out of school for more than a year, I'm baffled by your salary.  $17 sounds like what I'd expect a college intern to make, or a college grad untested employee.  If they've put a year of training into you, they should value you enough to pay better.

My initial thoughts: changing Roth to traditional will lower your agi, as will hsa contribution, which can be done pretty late in the year.  Isnt student loan interest also above the line, up to 2500?  Since you're already doing $2700, you only need another $1000 to get under $27k. The savings is not exactly $1000, because you will get $200 at a higher agi, or $400 at an in between, but $600 match on $1000 is worth grabbing.  Crunch some numbers to see if the hsa makes more sense.

Eta: if you can do a pretax hsa and then use it for premiums, that makes more sense to me than the IRA or extra 401k over $2000.  I would focus on the loans first and max out 401k later. I'm guessing you filed taxes last year, how much has actually changed?

I graduated in May 2012 but couldn't find an accounting firm willing to hire me until this past May. So I've only been at this job for 6 months. I tried and tried after I graduated to find an accounting firm willing to hire me, but always got beat out by someone with experience or the positions all required at least one year or more. I got hired on at Lowe's as a cashier in September '13 and still kept hunting for an accounting job. I finally found the firm I'm at now and got hired this past May. The $17/hr I'm getting isn't a lot for an accountant but its better than the $10 I was getting at Lowe's.

I'm not eligible for an HSA unfortunately. I have around $335 of student loan interest though. Might be around $400 by the end of the year.

My income last year was just $15960. This year's looks to be close to $29,100. Can't quite remember off the top of my head and my calculation sheet's at home.

This comes back to sales & negotiation skills.  I have been hired twice since college - on the spot both times, never had to show a resume.  That wasn't luck or an accident.  I wasn't born this way.  I learned the skills through reading books, listening to CD's, practicing, selling door to door (which sucked), getting rejected thousands of times in my younger years before figuring out how to appeal to people.  I did all of this due to a burning desire not to be poor.  I started out like you. Age 23 w/ $45k in loans and a $32k salary.  And now I'm 30, the investments just surpassed 250k & the momentum is on my side.  DW is quite shy.  She has stepped way out of her comfort zone to learn and implement these skills & she is now pulling down close to $100k at 28 yrs old.  She works in the pricing department of a smallish company - not a job you'd think pays very well.  She probably earns double the salary of some of her co-workers who do the same thing because she has figured out how to navigate through the management politics, demonstrate her value, play the right card at the right time & get big raises.  It is so doable, and even more so in a smaller company where the salary policy isn't so rigid.  You just need the confidence & skills.  And that's on you to develop and learn.

When a person is destitute, it's easy to get trapped in the mindset that there is a huge scarcity of money in the world.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Bank accounts in the US alone hold $3 trillion & that money changes hands 6 times per year.  So roughly $18 trillion dollars will slosh around in the US this year.  And the next, and the next.  Going from $30k salary to $60k or $600k is nothing in relation to the amount of money up for grabs.  You just have to figure out how to use your brain to capture a teeny tiny fraction of that money.  The stakes are high, and it's on you to figure it out.  Just know that it IS possible.

What books or cds or whatever do you recommend to develop this skill?

AmandaS1989

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #66 on: November 11, 2015, 07:08:26 PM »
Well I just made this month's payment on the PLUS loan. I put an extra $50 on it for this month. I'm hoping to put an extra $400 on it next month.

Gizsuat2

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #67 on: November 11, 2015, 10:56:56 PM »
A slightly different take, having just paid off $79K in three years.  I chose a number for our checking account, $5000.  I decided that, every single time I logged into our bank account and the balance was any amount over $5000, I would transfer the difference to my student loans immediately.

The psychological trickle down effect of that got the whole lot paid off.

Good luck!

Trifele

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #68 on: November 12, 2015, 05:41:27 AM »
Amanda -- just want to second what another poster said about your non-compete.  A three year blanket non-compete -- if that's what it is -- is not enforceable for someone in your position.  I would not worry about it.  In your position I would be looking around for other work.  Network, meet people, make connections.  All it takes is that one acquaintance who knows of a job opening . . .   Is there a young professionals group in your area?  Check out your local chamber of commerce -- they frequently have events, seminars and mixers. 

 
« Last Edit: August 11, 2017, 01:58:41 PM by Trifele »

AmandaS1989

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #69 on: November 12, 2015, 06:07:42 AM »
Thank you for your kind words and encouragement Trifele. It's always nice to know there are other people who know your struggle. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one struggling since I see people I graduated with paying off their loans, getting married, getting their first home. Sometimes I feel like I'm falling behind. But then I kind of shake myself off and remember that I will never be happy if I judge my life and my accomplishments against someone else's. Old habits just die hard I guess. I don't think the non-compete is a blanket one. The language says 'Staff Accountant shall not compete with the business of Owner or its successors or assigns' and 'the term non-compete means the Staff Accountant shall not directly or indirectly own, be employed by, or work on behalf of any firm engaged in a business that is substantially similar and/or competitive with Owner in whole or in part'. Those are the clauses that spook me a little.

Networking events? I think the AICPA has those Young CPA events from time to time. I might look into those. Problem is I couldn't do any through the week since I have to get up early.

Gizsuat2 that is an interesting idea. I might have to modify that though. Maybe I can look at whatever I have left over at the end of the month and put that towards my student loans. And paying off 79k in three years! Wow. I'm hoping I can get mine paid off in 7 or 8. As long as I'm not paying these loans off after the age of 36 I'll be content. If I could pay them off in 5 I'd be so stoked.

FIREby35

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #70 on: November 12, 2015, 07:35:27 AM »
I just want to throw my two cents in on how to start earning more money. I am a lawyer and I see many similarities between the two professions. At the end of the day, to earn money and be in control in your profession you will have to have your own clients. If you are working on someone else's clients they will always pay you a low amount. Think about it, you are easily replaceable (it took you how long to find a job?) and if you are paid too much then the partner doesn't make any money. Why would they deal with the hassle of an employee if they are not going to make money? Answer: They wouldn't. You should start paying attention to the economics of the situation. I work on "X" cases that bill "Y" in total fees. I am paid "Z%" of the total fees I generate. Is this fair? As a general rule in my business, an employee needs to generate 3X their salary to be worth the time.

Now, being in a small firm is actually a good thing. Usually that means there is less bureaucracy for decision making. To ramp up your income I would try to make a deal with your owners. If you bring in a client you want a percentage of the money. You will continue to do all their work on the agreed terms but also search out additional business. Any new business you bring in for them is "gravy" as you will be doing the client development and work. It is a "win-win" for the firm they get paid for business that doesn't currently exist and they don't have to do anything to get it. Just watch out for getting business from the places they get business. When I was working in a smaller law firm, I got 75% of the fee for clients I brought in. That was a pretty good deal.

Getting clients is the part that will increase your pay and give you control of your earnings. It really is not that hard. You just start going to community activities and telling people what you do. I'm on multiple board of directors, I started a scholarship and a free legal clinic. It can really be anything. If you go to community events over an extended period of time you actually just become friends with everyone and it doesn't feel like forced "networking." Once you become part of this community the referrals start flowing and your income will shoot through the roof. This is probably what the owners of your firm are doing.

In my community there are lots of places where they have entrepreneurship clinics. Most small business owners don't have a clue when they start out. If you go to those types of places and offer basic, easy advice (Register an LLC, Elect S-Corp, pay distribution to avoid 15.3% FICA tax or "now that you own a business don't forget to save for taxes there is no "boss" taking them out of your paycheck) you will start meeting clients. Offer the advice for free and, if they want you to do the paperwork then charge them a modest fee. Get them on the hook and when their business takes off, your business will take off. You service has lots of value and, when you show them how much you can save them in taxes, it will be a no-brainer to hire you. I always say the check I write to my CPA at the end of the year is my favorite because it earned me 10X in saved taxes.

Lastly, you don't have to have all the answers when you start. If you start talking with clients then they will start asking questions. If you don't know, you say, "That is a good question, what is your contact information. I am going to do some research and get back to you." Don't charge anything and get back with the answer. If they don't hire you, it doesn't matter. You will get asked that question a million times over your career and you just got the opportunity to have the answer ready next time. Your clients will teach you about the service they need if you just listen.

StacheInAFlash

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #71 on: November 12, 2015, 08:33:14 AM »
My Dad doesn't believe I should expect a raise after just a year.
...

My Dad is afraid he might let me go and hire them instead.

As you figure out your life, something tells me you should start listening to your dad with a grain of salt. These couple of blurbs of yours just really resonated with me, so I just wanted to offer some quick advice. I have a similar dad, always the pessimist, who truly means well but just constantly spews negativity and bad advice towards me. He thinks that the way the world worked for him is how it works for everybody and nothing will convince him otherwise despite the fact that our jobs/education backgrounds and lives are polar opposites. Sadly, I actually have an unspoken rule of almost always doing the exact opposite of what he says, as I know that his advice is completely wrong. So...don't let your well-intentioned, presumably lovely dad poison your mind and make you fearful to go after what you deserve. You don't need that right now, or ever. Given the fact that you are partially subsidizing their life should also make you think twice before listening to him...

asiljoy

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #72 on: November 12, 2015, 08:37:15 AM »
Networking events? I think the AICPA has those Young CPA events from time to time. I might look into those. Problem is I couldn't do any through the week since I have to get up early.

You should always been networking even if you're not looking for a job. Yes, it builds contacts so that you may be able to find a job quickly if you need to, but it also keeps you up to date on trends, gives you a feel for what's going on elsewhere/how other people do things, and gives you a place to bounce questions as far as simple as "Is this reasonable?" to people who understand where you're coming from because they work on the same kind of thing you do/have had to jump the same hurdles.

Getting little sleep really sucks, but hustling to those meetings and binge drinking coffee will pay dividends in the long run.

zephyr911

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #73 on: November 12, 2015, 08:38:28 AM »
How do you eat an elephant? ;)

AmandaS1989

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #74 on: November 12, 2015, 08:44:57 AM »
How do you eat an elephant? ;)

One bite at a time ;)

Trifele

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #75 on: November 12, 2015, 09:20:56 AM »
Hi Amanda

Re: your comment -- "I don't think the non-compete is a blanket one. The language says 'Staff Accountant shall not compete with the business of Owner or its successors or assigns' and 'the term non-compete means the Staff Accountant shall not directly or indirectly own, be employed by, or work on behalf of any firm engaged in a business that is substantially similar and/or competitive with Owner in whole or in part'. Those are the clauses that spook me a little."

That is what I would call a blanket non-compete -- it purports to limit you from working as a staff accountant for any company that competes with your employer, with no geographical limitations.  Not enforceable.  I did a brief check of North Carolina case law on non-compete clauses, and the courts there severely frown on anything longer than two years.  In addition, the courts frown on companies trying to use them for 'regular' (not key, high-ranking) employees.  Third, there are no geographical limitations, which a court is going to find unreasonable as well. 

If you were to get another job in the same town working as an accountant, your company might try to complain about it, but I seriously doubt it would go any further.  What lawyer is going to advise them to sue based on something non-enforceable? 



AmandaS1989

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #76 on: November 12, 2015, 09:23:44 AM »
Thank you for clearing that up for me Trifele. Honestly, that was weighing on my mind a bit. Now if I get a better offer I won't have to worry about getting sued.

Can you give me the link to where you found this info?
« Last Edit: November 12, 2015, 09:31:49 AM by AmandaS1989 »

Bracken_Joy

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #77 on: November 12, 2015, 10:12:38 AM »
Thank you for clearing that up for me Trifele. Honestly, that was weighing on my mind a bit. Now if I get a better offer I won't have to worry about getting sued.

Can you give me the link to where you found this info?

That's not to say you won't get sued, just that they won't win.

=)

AmandaS1989

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #78 on: November 12, 2015, 01:04:11 PM »
So I'm meeting with my boss tomorrow to see if he can help me with some tax planning. I'm hoping to do a mock tax return for 2015 tonight and see if he can check my figures tomorrow. Especially with this ACA advance tax credit stuff. I'm really hoping that if I do have to pay something back that it's not a lot.

Kaikou

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #79 on: November 12, 2015, 03:13:23 PM »
I just want to throw my two cents in on how to start earning more money. I am a lawyer and I see many similarities between the two professions. At the end of the day, to earn money and be in control in your profession you will have to have your own clients. If you are working on someone else's clients they will always pay you a low amount. Think about it, you are easily replaceable (it took you how long to find a job?) and if you are paid too much then the partner doesn't make any money. Why would they deal with the hassle of an employee if they are not going to make money? Answer: They wouldn't. You should start paying attention to the economics of the situation. I work on "X" cases that bill "Y" in total fees. I am paid "Z%" of the total fees I generate. Is this fair? As a general rule in my business, an employee needs to generate 3X their salary to be worth the time.

Now, being in a small firm is actually a good thing. Usually that means there is less bureaucracy for decision making. To ramp up your income I would try to make a deal with your owners. If you bring in a client you want a percentage of the money. You will continue to do all their work on the agreed terms but also search out additional business. Any new business you bring in for them is "gravy" as you will be doing the client development and work. It is a "win-win" for the firm they get paid for business that doesn't currently exist and they don't have to do anything to get it. Just watch out for getting business from the places they get business. When I was working in a smaller law firm, I got 75% of the fee for clients I brought in. That was a pretty good deal.

Getting clients is the part that will increase your pay and give you control of your earnings. It really is not that hard. You just start going to community activities and telling people what you do. I'm on multiple board of directors, I started a scholarship and a free legal clinic. It can really be anything. If you go to community events over an extended period of time you actually just become friends with everyone and it doesn't feel like forced "networking." Once you become part of this community the referrals start flowing and your income will shoot through the roof. This is probably what the owners of your firm are doing.

In my community there are lots of places where they have entrepreneurship clinics. Most small business owners don't have a clue when they start out. If you go to those types of places and offer basic, easy advice (Register an LLC, Elect S-Corp, pay distribution to avoid 15.3% FICA tax or "now that you own a business don't forget to save for taxes there is no "boss" taking them out of your paycheck) you will start meeting clients. Offer the advice for free and, if they want you to do the paperwork then charge them a modest fee. Get them on the hook and when their business takes off, your business will take off. You service has lots of value and, when you show them how much you can save them in taxes, it will be a no-brainer to hire you. I always say the check I write to my CPA at the end of the year is my favorite because it earned me 10X in saved taxes.

Lastly, you don't have to have all the answers when you start. If you start talking with clients then they will start asking questions. If you don't know, you say, "That is a good question, what is your contact information. I am going to do some research and get back to you." Don't charge anything and get back with the answer. If they don't hire you, it doesn't matter. You will get asked that question a million times over your career and you just got the opportunity to have the answer ready next time. Your clients will teach you about the service they need if you just listen.

i like this

MDM

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #80 on: November 12, 2015, 06:18:17 PM »
So I'm meeting with my boss tomorrow to see if he can help me with some tax planning. I'm hoping to do a mock tax return for 2015 tonight and see if he can check my figures tomorrow. Especially with this ACA advance tax credit stuff. I'm really hoping that if I do have to pay something back that it's not a lot.
It will be interesting to see how that goes.

The usual rules of thumb would have you in Roth accounts, not traditional.  In your specific situation, however, it appears the opposite is true.  The numbers immediately below are guesses at your current situation from numbers in the OP.  In short, you invest $1,340 in your 401k, pay $1,007 in federal + state tax, and have $28,590 for expenses/loans/etc.

CategoryMonthly
Comments
Annual
Salary/Wages for earner #1$2,792$33,500
401(k) / 403(b) / TSP / etc.$112Room to increase?$1,340
Employer Match$112$1,340
Income subject to IRS tax$2,680$32,160
Federal Total Income$2,680$32,160
Federal tax$172015 rates, HOH,stand. ded., 2 exempt.$200
State/City tax$67Guess, using 5.75% * Fed. Taxable$807
Soc. Sec.$173Assumes 1 earner paying$2,077
Medicare$40$486
Total income taxes$298$3,570
Income before other expenses  $2,382$28,590


Filing Status31=S, 2=MFJ, 3=HOH
# Exempt.2
# Children for EIC1
Earner #1Earner #2
Ages260
# of earners1
Total Income$32,160
Std. Deduct.$9,250
Act. Deduct.$9,250
Exemption$8,000
SL int. (approx.)$871
AGI$31,289
MAGI$32,160
Taxable$14,039
1040 Tax$1,448
Saver's credit$134
Tax after n-r credit$1,314
Child Tax Cred.$0
EIC$1,114
Net Tax$200
Monthly$17
State tax$8075.75%
VersionV7.02

Loans:Orig. Prin.Orig. LengthCurr. Prin.Yrs leftRate
Student Loan$1,8091.528$1,80928.500%
Student Loan$10,5589.4126$10,5589.41265.000%
Student Loan$3,4627.35$3,4627.356.800%


The numbers below here are a "what if?" you put $5,256 (again, assuming all other numbers are correct) into your 401k plan.  In short, you invest $5,256 in your 401k, get a refund of $1,146 from federal + state tax, and have $26,827 for expenses/loans/etc.

The extra $3,916 invested changes your annual take home pay by only $1,763 due to the increased credits.  That seems a much better deal than paying off 8.5% loans.

You may not be able to divert that much into your 401k in the time remaining in 2015.  You could put that much into a traditional IRA.  That may still be a great deal due to the saver's credit, although not as great a deal as using the 401k due to the EIC.  Doing the calculations for the tIRA is, as the saying goes, "an exercise left to the student." ;)

And it 's also possible that all of this is wrong due to errors in assumptions or spreadsheet calculations.  Again, it will be interesting to see what your boss says tomorrow - good luck!

CategoryMonthly
Comments
Annual
Salary/Wages for earner #1$2,792$33,500
401(k) / 403(b) / TSP / etc.$438Room to increase?$5,256
Employer Match$112$1,340
Income subject to IRS tax$2,354$28,244
Federal Total Income$2,354$28,244
Federal tax-$1442015 rates, HOH,stand. ded., 2 exempt.-$1,728
State/City tax$49Guess, using 5.75% * Fed. Taxable$582
Soc. Sec.$173Assumes 1 earner paying$2,077
Medicare$40$486
Total income taxes$118$1,417
Income before other expenses  $2,236$26,827


Filing Status31=S, 2=MFJ, 3=HOH
# Exempt.2
# Children for EIC1
Earner #1Earner #2
Ages260
# of earners1
Total Income$28,244
Std. Deduct.$9,250
Act. Deduct.$9,250
Exemption$8,000
SL int. (approx.)$871
AGI$27,373
MAGI$28,244
Taxable$10,123
1040 Tax$1,012
Saver's credit$1,000
Tax after n-r credit$12
Child Tax Cred.$0
EIC$1,740
Net Tax-$1,728
Monthly-$144
State tax$5825.75%

« Last Edit: November 12, 2015, 11:02:41 PM by MDM »

AmandaS1989

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #81 on: November 13, 2015, 06:38:21 AM »
So I'm meeting with my boss tomorrow to see if he can help me with some tax planning. I'm hoping to do a mock tax return for 2015 tonight and see if he can check my figures tomorrow. Especially with this ACA advance tax credit stuff. I'm really hoping that if I do have to pay something back that it's not a lot.
It will be interesting to see how that goes.

The usual rules of thumb would have you in Roth accounts, not traditional.  In your specific situation, however, it appears the opposite is true. 


So what you're saying is a Traditional IRA might make more sense instead of a Roth IRA. I'm going to see what my take-home pay would be if I were to change my 401k contribution to 6%. I am kind of afraid to change my withholding because if my brother gets a job during 2016 I'd have to change my withholding status back to single to have enough tax withheld right? I really don't wanna owe the IRS any money when I do my 2016 return.

Proud Foot

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #82 on: November 13, 2015, 09:24:37 AM »
Amanda,

As others have said, you are definitely underpaid for what you are doing.  I had similar grades as you when I graduated college and was able to get a job doing audits for a regional firm where I lived. You mentioned the AICPA but you should really look at your state society of CPA's.  I was able to get a membership while I was taking the exams and it was only $50 per year. They put on multiple networking opportunities for young professionals and I was also able to access the job postings on the society website where only members were able to access.  Many of the smaller firms in my area only posted jobs there and did not do much advertising elsewhere.  You can also use the society to find a list of firms who have offices in your area.

AmandaS1989

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #83 on: November 13, 2015, 10:27:15 AM »
Thank you Proud Foot. I will have to look into the membership costs then.

I met with my boss and got some good info. I was actually calculating the amount of withholding I had wrong. I was including my FICA with my FIT. Oops. But we did a mock tax return for me and he advised me to definitely file HoH and claim my brother as I would owe the state money if I filed single. I also asked what my take-home pay would be if I upped my 401k contribution to 6% instead of 4 and he will get back to me with that number later today.

As for my withholding amounts and status I think I will leave it where it is for now. I'd rather be safe than sorry. But if I want to change it anytime next year he says he can do that for me no problem. The mock tax return also stated I'd get around $3000 back for 2015 so I'm pretty happy about that. That amount was before SL interest, 401k, and education expenses deductions too so hopefully it'll be higher.

EDIT: Also, would anyone be willing to give me some advice on my 401k? I picked the funds right when I started, and back in June I had no idea about how much fees could cost me in the long run so I'm pretty sure I need to take a second look at what I'm investing in. I can post the funds available vs what I'm invested in later tonight or tomorrow.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2015, 01:27:00 PM by AmandaS1989 »

MDM

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #84 on: November 13, 2015, 01:27:12 PM »
So what you're saying is a Traditional IRA might make more sense instead of a Roth IRA. I'm going to see what my take-home pay would be if I were to change my 401k contribution to 6%. I am kind of afraid to change my withholding because if my brother gets a job during 2016 I'd have to change my withholding status back to single to have enough tax withheld right? I really don't wanna owe the IRS any money when I do my 2016 return.
I also asked what my take-home pay would be if I upped my 401k contribution to 6% instead of 4 and he will get back to me with that number later today.

As for my withholding amounts and status I think I will leave it where it is for now. I'd rather be safe than sorry. But if I want to change it anytime next year he says he can do that for me no problem. The mock tax return also stated I'd get around $3000 back for 2015 so I'm pretty happy about that.

Your filing status (HoH w/ your brother as a dependent vs. single) will make a huge difference to your federal taxes.  The earlier you can know this for 2016 the better for your tax planning.

As your mock tax return results are consistent with what the case study spreadsheet (have you tried it?) calculated, I'll assume it will also be correct for filing single. 

The difference between the two (HoH vs. single) for 2015 is ~$2500.  How your brother's employment situation affects your overall cash flow (e.g., amount of money you can put toward loan payoff) is another issue.

You might benefit from some advice I received in a situation similar to yours.  A few months after I started with this company, I did some calculations, took them to a senior person, and asked who could check them.  He said, "Nobody is going to check them.  We expect that you are doing professional work and doing it correctly."  Now this wasn't for something critical - if it had been, his response would have been different - but it was a good message for me to hear.  I did go back, double checked, assured myself I had done it correctly, and eventually that was confirmed in practice.  You are 26 years old, have a degree in accounting, and people will be paying you to help with their taxes.  You can do this yourself!

For example, you shouldn't need your boss to tell you how much your semi-monthly paycheck will change if you go from 4% to 6% 401k contribution.  At the very least you should do this yourself and compare your answer to his.

All the above is background to the response to your sentence quoted at the top of this post (emphasis added): "...a Traditional IRA might make more sense...".  You need to understand whether it does or not, and why.  You should also understand why the same contribution amount in your 401k vs. a traditional IRA may have different effects on your federal taxes (maybe the state taxes also).

Working at an accounting firm, I'd expect you have access to professional tax software.  If not you could buy TaxAct for ~$25 or less.  When it comes to your actual tax returns, you should either do your own calculations or use software with a warranty.  For strategy exploration, however, a spreadsheet can be helpful. 

The graphs below show federal taxes vs. two different things for your HoH filing status:
1) Gross income, with 4% 401k contributions
2) 401k contributions, with constant $33.5K gross income

These look much different for single filing status.





AmandaS1989

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #85 on: November 13, 2015, 01:48:06 PM »
The only difference I can see between a 401k and an IRA is that you can sock away $18k instead of $5.5k. I know if I increase my 401k to 6% then that will be $83.75 deducted pre-tax. I did a calculation with an online calculator for what my take-home pay might be but I think it's wrong as the FIT goes up. That can't be right. If I increased my 401k contribution, my taxable income would go down, so in theory my FIT should go down too. Here's my results from the calculator:

Semi-monthly Gross Pay

$1,395.83
Federal Withholding

$175.78
Social Security

$86.54
Medicare

$20.24
North Carolina

$62.00
401k

$83.75
 

Net Pay

$967.52

Calculation Based On

Tax Year
2015
Gross Pay
$1,395.83
Pay Frequency
Semi-monthly
Federal Filing Status
Single
# of Federal Exemptions
0
Additional Federal W/H
$0.00
State
North Carolina
Filing status
Single
Allowances
0
Additional State W/H
$0.00
401k
6%

MDM

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #86 on: November 13, 2015, 04:12:19 PM »
The only difference I can see between a 401k and an IRA is that you can sock away $18k instead of $5.5k.
There is also a difference in how these affect the EIC.  The 401k amount is contributed by your company and never appears as part of any entry on Form 1040, so it is not included in your income for EIC purposes.  Doing your own tax return by hand (or at least with the help of a spreadsheet you do yourself) for a few years should be very worthwhile for you, both personally and professionally.

See http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/turbo-tax-vs-cpa/ for discussion along these lines.

Quote
I know if I increase my 401k to 6% then that will be $83.75 deducted pre-tax.
Correct.

Quote
I did a calculation with an online calculator for what my take-home pay might be but I think it's wrong as the FIT goes up.  That can't be right.
You are right, that is wrong.  Find a different online calculator.  Which did you use?

Quote
Here's my results from the calculator:
Federal Withholding of $175.78/paycheck is way too much for you.

TaxCaster and the IRS Withholding Calculator both estimate $2,588/yr, or $107.83/paycheck, as your federal tax liability for 2015 if you
- file single
- have $33,500 gross income
- contribute $2,010 to your 401k
- have $871 in student loan interest

The MMM case study spreadsheet estimates $2,587/yr for the same inputs.  I'd believe TaxCaster and the IRS. :)

Repeat after me: ;)
"I DO NOT want a tax refund when I send in Form 1040.  That means I gave the IRS an interest-free loan, while I am stuck paying atrociously high interest rates on my loans.
I DO want to have a small amount due, maybe $100, when I send in Form 1040.  That means I was able to take the extra take-home pay and reduce the balance owed on those student loans."

Once you believe the above, adjust your W-4 accordingly.  See https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p505.pdf for the background.  For 2016 you could try the IRS Withholding Calculator linked above and compare it to your own calculations.

AmandaS1989

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #87 on: November 14, 2015, 12:55:35 PM »
Wow that Pub 505 has a LOT of good info in it. I'll probably have to go over it multiple times to absorb all of it. As to calculating my paycheck with a 6% contribution to my 401k I will probably still ask my boss to estimate what my take-home pay will be because no matter what I calculate myself the software he uses could give a different result. I know we've had to make adjustments with it on a few clients' payroll because it took out too much or too little for some people. So the only way to know for sure is to run it with the software he uses to make our checks.

I've also been looking at the funds I've invested in for my 401k and I am not very happy with the choices I made. Man some of these fees are high! Here's what I picked back in June when I knew nothing about fees or low-cost index funds:

1. Dreyfus Socially Responsible Growth Fund - Initial Shares  Fee: .84%  (Growth)
2. Fidelity VIP Contrafund Portfolio - Initial Class Fee: .63%   (Growth)
3. Franklin Income VIP Fund - Class 2  Fee: .72%  (Balanced)
4. Franklin Small-Mid Cap Growth VIP Fund - Class 2  Fee: 1.05%!  (Aggressive Growth)
5. Invesco V.I. American Franchise Fund - Series 2 Shares  Fee: 1.20%!!  (Growth)
6. Franklin US Gov't Securities VIP Fund - Class 2  Fee: .74%  (Fixed Income)
7. Templeton Global Bond VIP Fund - Class 2  Fee: .76%  (Fixed Income)

I have really got to change my elections. These fees are ridiculous. I wish my boss would go with Vanguard. The smallest fee is still at .50% and the highest is at 1.87%!!




Exhale

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #88 on: November 14, 2015, 01:20:01 PM »
I think your loan payoff and monthly fees have been well covered, and now your pay should be addressed with your boss.  You currently make $17/hour.  Do you know how much the firm charges for your time?  Knowing this will show you how much they value you.  Women tend to undervalue themselves, and assume that if we deserve more money, it will be offered.  It will not.  Ever.  You can request a salary review at 6 months or a year, but it has to be you requesting it.  If you are a workhorse, doing a good job and getting the jobs done in an accurate and timely manner, they should have no reason to deny your value. 

These resources might help:
- Ask For It: How Women Can Use Negotiation to Get What They Really Want by Babcock & Laschever
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
- https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en



MDM

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #89 on: November 14, 2015, 01:51:24 PM »
Wow that Pub 505 has a LOT of good info in it. I'll probably have to go over it multiple times to absorb all of it. As to calculating my paycheck with a 6% contribution to my 401k I will probably still ask my boss to estimate what my take-home pay will be because no matter what I calculate myself the software he uses could give a different result.
Yes, sometimes there would be as much as a nickel's difference between what our calculations and what the company would withhold.  Really annoying. ;)
In other words, you should do your own calculations to ensure you understand enough to get close, but don't worry if the payroll software differs by a few pennies from your result.

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I've also been looking at the funds I've invested in for my 401k and I am not very happy with the choices I made. Man some of these fees are high! ... These fees are ridiculous. I wish my boss would go with Vanguard.
See https://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/How_to_campaign_for_a_better_401%28k%29_plan.

AmandaS1989

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #90 on: November 14, 2015, 01:59:21 PM »
The differences were more than a nickel. They were like $15 or $20! I did get a calculation of around $121 for Fed though. Do you know any good calculators that can also do state and FICA taxes as well?

I might have to have a talk with him about the 401k. I don't think he'll want to change though. There's just five of us counting him and the others are perfectly fine with the way the plan is. But maybe when he gets back on the 23rd I can sound him out. Or better yet, talk to the payroll lady. She's worked with him for 8 years, she should be able to give me an idea on how he'd react about this.

That TED talk was good Exhale. I'd heard something about the 'power-posing' before but hadn't given it much thought. I also realized that a lot of the time at a computer I'm sitting hunched over towards my computer screen, ankles crossed and generally just curled inward. Maybe if I start sitting up straighter, and stop trying to make myself smaller, that can help me a little.

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #91 on: November 14, 2015, 05:32:42 PM »
The differences were more than a nickel. They were like $15 or $20! I did get a calculation of around $121 for Fed though. Do you know any good calculators that can also do state and FICA taxes as well?
A $20 per paycheck (aka $480/yr) difference is more than just round-off error.  There is either a mistake in someone's calculation, or different inputs or assumptions are being used.

Not familiar with the quality of state calculators, except for the commercial ones such as TaxAct, TurboTax, etc.

FICA taxes are much more straightforward.  What do you get for FICA taxes in the MMM case study spreadsheet, and how does that compare with your paycheck amounts?

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #92 on: November 14, 2015, 06:00:50 PM »
In the case study spreadsheet the FICA comes out to way more than what comes out of my paycheck. In my paycheck I have $106.77 taken out for FICA-SS and FICA-MED. But in the spreadsheet it comes out to $213.51. Why the devil am I getting such a huge difference? Is my boss not taking out enough FICA? I did enter $167.50/month (6%) as my 401k contribution but I still got the same FICA amounts as you did calculating a 4% contribution. Am I entering it wrong MDM?

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #93 on: November 14, 2015, 06:28:51 PM »
Spreadsheet has "monthly" and "annual" amounts.

If it was a commercial program, it might also display semi-monthly, biweekly, quarterly, or user-configurable frequencies, but.... ;)

$106.77 * 2 = $213.54.  That seems close enough to $213.51. :)

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #94 on: November 14, 2015, 06:34:08 PM »
Yep I got it now. *grins sheepishly* I realized that the amount taken out of my check is just for one check and the spreadsheet amount is for both checks. When I divide the spreadsheet amount by 2 then I get the same amount that's withheld from each check. *slaps forehead* So I figured that out but the state is off. The spreadsheet calculates around $75.50 for each check for state. When I multiply .0575 by the 2680 you got for taxable income I don't get the 67 you got I get 77. I'm not that bad at math am I?

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #95 on: November 14, 2015, 06:49:58 PM »
So I figured that out but the state is off. The spreadsheet calculates around $75.50 for each check for state. When I multiply .0575 by the 2680 you got for taxable income I don't get the 67 you got I get 77. I'm not that bad at math am I?
Your math is ok.  The difference is in the assumptions used. 

State+local taxes are estimated at some % of Federal "Taxable".     
    - Here, "Taxable" = AGI - Exemptions - Standard Deduction. 
    - You can change the % in cell H30.  If you want, you can add a formula for your state in cell G30.

See the cells that go into the calculation in this picture:


Does that make sense?
« Last Edit: November 14, 2015, 11:26:51 PM by MDM »

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #96 on: November 14, 2015, 07:19:52 PM »
Ah I see now. Thank you MDM. So in my spreadsheet I am calculating a 6% 401k contribution and a $500 SL interest deduction (I know it'll probably be more than that for 2016 but I like to guess more conservatively with these things) so I get an AGI of $30982 and a taxable income of $24682. So state tax on a yearly basis comes out to $1419 so I get a monthly amount of $82 for state. So a pretty decent tax savings there and a small one on federal. And if I am figuring this correctly then my take-home pay would be $2624 pay after 401k deduction - $565 total taxes = $2059 / 2 = %1029.50. So my take home pay would go up by a whopping .68 :) However if I increased my contribution to 7% then my take home pay would go down to 1018. So I don't want to go any higher on the contributions unless I get a raise. Although since the funds in the 401k suck I probably won't go higher than 6%. I wonder though, if he doesn't want to switch to a different 401k provider, then maybe I could set up a 401k with Vanguard and he can send my contribution and his matching part to it. Is that legal?

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #97 on: November 14, 2015, 08:50:03 PM »
...a $500 SL interest deduction (I know it'll probably be more than that for 2016 but I like to guess more conservatively with these things)
Conservative is better than overly optimistic, but not as good as reasonably accurate.  You may not know now how aggressively you will pay the SLs in 2016, but by at least ~June 2016 you probably will.  It's generally a good idea to shoot for accuracy when you are investigating possibilities - but see below about appropriate conservatism.

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so I get an AGI of $30982 and a taxable income of $24682.
You are assuming filing with single (not HoH) status, correct?  If so, there is another $4000 (actually $4050 in 2016) that you will subtract to get taxable income - see the case study spreadsheet (CSS) calculations for details.

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So state tax on a yearly basis comes out to $1419
Note that the actual NC state tax calculation may differ from the assumptions used in the CSS - you should check that.
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so I get a monthly amount of $82 for state.
Not sure how $1419/yr becomes $82/mo.

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And if I am figuring this correctly then my take-home pay would be $2624 pay after 401k deduction - $565 total taxes = $2059 / 2 = %1029.50. So my take home pay would go up by a whopping .68 :)
I get $1048.63 but that's with $871 SL interest so close enough.

Also note that the semi-monthly take home depends on your W-4 settings.  The CSS assumes you adjust the W-4 to match exactly the actual tax due.

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However if I increased my contribution to 7% then my take home pay would go down to 1018. So I don't want to go any higher on the contributions unless I get a raise.
Actually (using the $871 SL interest assumption), increasing the 401k contribution to $177/mo (or 6.34%) would increase your take home pay to $1053.18 due to a $200 saver's credit (again, assuming your W-4 is adjusted accordingly).  Here is where you would want to be somewhat conservative: the $200 saver's credit applies if your AGI is $30,500 or below.  If it is $30,501 the saver's credit is $0.

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Although since the funds in the 401k suck I probably won't go higher than 6%.
See http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/investor-alley/to-401k-or-not-to-401k-that-is-the-question-43459/

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I wonder though, if he doesn't want to switch to a different 401k provider, then maybe I could set up a 401k with Vanguard and he can send my contribution and his matching part to it. Is that legal?
Doubtful.  Pretty sure a 401k is described by a legal document and applies company-wide.

Keep at it - this will all make sense!

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #98 on: November 14, 2015, 09:34:44 PM »
I am assuming a filing status of single to see what will get taken out of my check if I increase the 401k contribution. I would like to keep my withholding at the single rate, at least for a while. If we get to June and my brother still hasn't found a job I might adjust my withholding. It is neat to see the differences filing statuses and exemptions can make though.

I got the 1419 by multiplying the 5.75% NC tax rate by the taxable income of 24682. Although I do think I calculated the monthly tax rate for state wrong. It looks like it should be ~$118.25/month or ~$59.13 per check.

It looks like if I change to HoH, 2 exemptions, 7% to 401k and 800 SL interest then I can get a take-home pay of $1166.59 if my math is correct.

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Re: CASE STUDY: Overwhelming Student Loan Debt. How would you get started?
« Reply #99 on: November 15, 2015, 12:05:49 AM »
Attached is a version of the CSS with specific calculations for NC state income tax in cell G30.  That might be of specific interest to you and any other North Carolinians.

What may be of more general interest is the chart overlaying cell J73 and thereabouts.  It is a way to analyze "what if?" options that (to me at least) fits the "picture is worth 1000 words" equation.  To make good use of it may require some familiarity with Excel data tables, but at least for this case study you may be able simply to look at it.  The main thing it shows are the locations of "step changes" in the tax code.  For your single filing status that occurs with the saver's credit.  For the HoH filing status there is the saver's credit and the EIC.

I've been assuming the entries below describe your single and HoH situations:
Cell  Single  HoH
G2       1        3
G3       1        2
G4       0        0
G5       0        1

Use it if useful, ignore it if not.  The graph is the embodiment of a vague idea I've had for a while and this case study catalyzed that work - so thanks!  The generic version has been uploaded to the Google Drive location mentioned in http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/how-to-write-a-%27case-study%27-topic/ and http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/how-to-write-a-%27case-study%27-topic/msg274228/#msg274228.