Author Topic: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!  (Read 5750 times)

johndoe

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Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« on: March 19, 2016, 01:52:03 PM »
Life Situation: Single, no other deductions.  28 year old male.  Bought house summer '15.
Gross Salary/Wages: $55,000
Pre-tax deductions: N/A
Other Ordinary Income: N/A
Qualified Dividends & Long Term Capital Gains: <$100
Rental Income, Actual Expenses, and Depreciation: N/A
Adjusted Gross Income: $55,000
Taxes:
   Federal- $7,000
   state/local- $2,150
   FICA- $4,200 (?)

Current monthly expenses: (percentage is of take home pay of $3,600)
   Mortgage- $580 ($280 in P&Int, $300 in T&Ins) - 16%
   Groceries- $310 - 9%
   Restaurants- $225 – 6%
   Deferred Comp. - $200 – 5%
   Utilities - $200 - 5%
   Automotive- $180 - 5%   
   “other”- $125 – 3%
   Travel/Entertainment- $100 - 3%
   Auto Insurance- $80 – 2%
   Shopping- $70 – 2%
   Life Insurance- $15 - 0%

Expected ER expenses: (?)

Assets:
   Emergency Funds:
      Online Savings Account (1% APY) - $7,000
      5-year CD (2% APY) - $15,100 (actually split into 3 CD)
   Checking Account (negligible interest) - $6,000
   Home (still paying off) – (hopefully worth at least...) $160,000
   Cars - (hopefully worth at least...) $8,000
   Roth IRA - $10,300
   Deferred Comp. - $6,000
   Misc. stocks given in childhood - $1,000

Liabilities:
   Mortgage - $46,000 left, minimum monthly payment of $580 ($280 in P&Int, $300 in T&Ins).  30 year loan (matures 6-1-15), i= 3.75%.

Specific Question(s):
-I would like to get suggestions from fresh sets of eyes.  While I would consider myself moderately frugal, I lack the mustache that some of you possess.  I bet there are areas I could improve.  I'm leaving this intentionally vague, but would like to ensure comfortable retirement and then focus on the present.
-My employer's retirement benefit is a “pension” calculated as: 0.017*years of service*highest salary.  If I retire when first eligible, I'll be 52 and collect $1,800 monthly (assuming I get no raises/COLA in the next 23 years)
-I averaged credit card statements from the last two years for the monthly expenses section.  In the middle of last year I started the mortgage, so some of those values are a little inflated.  The “other” column is primarily hockey costs, which I will not be cutting =)
-As the stock market has fluctuated I have gone through the common dilemma of mortgage payoff vs investments.  Now that a good portion of the house is paid off, I'm starting to lean toward increasing my deferred comp. contributions instead of doubling the minimum mortgage (as I've been doing).

I'm open to any suggestions you may have.  If I've missed anything please let me know, thanks!

thedayisbrave

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2016, 03:24:26 PM »
You're doing pretty well. 

Is the money in the CD earmarked for something specifically? If not, that's a pretty nice chunk of money that could be invested... cause right now it's barely keeping up with inflation.

I definitely would be diverting money to investments rather than equity pay down.

Your budget seems reasonable, but you do spend a lot of money on food - between groceries and restaurant expenses, that's almost $550.  I'm at $250/mo for both categories and I thought that was high.  Though you are a young single male so maybe some of that is going on dates... no clue.  But I'd take a harder look at those lines and see if there's anything you can cut.

Utilities could probably be optimized too, though that's not outrageous.

Really though you're on the right track, just keep it up and don't take on any other major debt and you'll be golden :)

Chrissy

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2016, 03:25:37 PM »
You're in excellent shape.  Don't pay down the mortgage, you're too young and should be more aggressive.  Go for investments; historically, you'd make ~7%, way more than 3.75% you get paying down the house.  If the recent pullback has you spooked, you need to change your thinking.  As a newb, you want to buy stocks when they're on sale!  Now is the perfect time.

You only need ~$13k as a 6mo emergency fund, so you're $15k too heavy in cash.  Move the online savings account to an index fund posthaste, hopefully $5k of it as your 2016 ROTH contribution.  If you've already made this year's contribution, then start a taxable account. 

Is that "cars," plural?  If so, get rid of one.

MDM

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2016, 04:01:03 PM »
Pre-tax deductions: N/A  Why not?  Does your employer offer a 401k?

   FICA- $4,200 (?) Looks accurate - what is the question?

   Deferred Comp. - $200 – 5% What is this?  A Roth 401k?  Something else?

   “other”- $125 – 3% Between this and "Shopping", you have >10% of your non-mortgage expenses.  If you split out hockey, how much is left?  A little more categorization might be worthwhile.

   Life Insurance- $15 - 0% Why anything >$0?  You have no dependents, correct?

Expected ER expenses: (?)  In other words, do you expect your spending to go up, stay the same, or decrease after you retire.

   Misc. stocks given in childhood - $1,000 If you can reduce your taxable income enough (e.g., maximum tIRA and 401k) you may be able to sell these and pay 0% on any capital gains.

Specific Question(s):
-I would like to get suggestions from fresh sets of eyes.  While I would consider myself moderately frugal, I lack the mustache that some of you possess.  I bet there are areas I could improve.  I'm leaving this intentionally vague, but would like to ensure comfortable retirement and then focus on the present.

See comments above.  See also the 'Investment Order' tab in the case study spreadsheet.

Good luck!

johndoe

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2016, 03:31:47 PM »
Thanks for the input so far.  Added thoughts below in green:
-Is the money in the CD earmarked for something specifically? Emergency fund
-you do spend a lot of money on food - between groceries and restaurant expenses, that's almost $550.  I'm at $250/mo for both categories and I thought that was high.  Though you are a young single male so maybe some of that is going on dates... no clue.  But I'd take a harder look at those lines and see if there's anything you can cut. This is something I've been working on, 2014 was especially bad for restaurants.  The Chase system does record everything from Walmart as groceries, so I'm sure that number is a little high.  I'll continue to work on this, I saw a nice article on MMM about groceries.  Anyone seen articles on this directed at active single males?

-you want to buy stocks when they're on sale!  Now is the perfect time. As long as I don't buy immediately before the sale begins; I don't think the store has a 90 day price-match guarantee =) My fear is that I'll make mistakes with investments choices (I'll add more detail below)
-You only need ~$13k as a 6mo emergency fund, so you're $15k too heavy in cash.  Move the online savings account to an index fund posthaste, hopefully $5k of it as your 2016 ROTH contribution.  If you've already made this year's contribution, then start a taxable account.  The $15k you mention includes $6k from checking account.  I'm curious how close to cut this; how much of a buffer would you recommend on a checking account?  But yes, I've just made full RIRA '16 contribution.
-Is that "cars," plural?  If so, get rid of one. But I really like my Miata =)  How does the auto insurance ($80/month) seem compared to other members' budgets?

-Pre-tax deductions: N/A  Why not?  Does your employer offer a 401k? They offer non-matched 457, all my contributions are post-tax though
-FICA- $4,200 (?) Looks accurate - what is the question? just confirming
-Deferred Comp. - $200 – 5% What is this?  A Roth 401k?  Something else? non-matched Roth 457
-“other”- $125 – 3% Between this and "Shopping", you have >10% of your non-mortgage expenses.  If you split out hockey, how much is left?  A little more categorization might be worthwhile.Good point.  Looking at the statements, it looks like everything there is in order.  I never should have fallen in love with hockey.
-Life Insurance- $15 - 0% Why anything >$0?  You have no dependents, correct?my parents set this up a while back and I was led to believe if I stop paying I sort of "lose" it.  I'll research more.  Parents are the beneficiaries.
-Expected ER expenses: (?)  In other words, do you expect your spending to go up, stay the same, or decrease after you retire.That's a tough one, but I'd guess similar spending habits
-Misc. stocks given in childhood - $1,000 If you can reduce your taxable income enough (e.g., maximum tIRA and 401k) you may be able to sell these and pay 0% on any capital gains. Are you talking about doing so in the short-term?  What's the goal of getting out of these investments?
-See also the 'Investment Order' tab in the case study spreadsheet.I saw this previously and was curious about the HSA portion.  I'm totally in the dark on what a typical "healthy" 28 year old should be contributing.  My employer just started offering HSA this year.

As I start increasing investments, I'm scared I'll make mistakes (even though I'll stick to index funds).  I currently have TDAmeritrade accounts (since that's where my SDBA through the 457 plan is).  Does anyone have experience receiving advice from them?

Chrissy

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #5 on: March 20, 2016, 09:37:42 PM »
Quote
The $15k you mention includes $6k from checking account.  I'm curious how close to cut this; how much of a buffer would you recommend on a checking account?  But yes, I've just made full RIRA '16 contribution.

You list $28k in cash between chequing, savings & CDs. 
-Move $7k from online savings to investments now.
-If I were you, I'd move another $3k from chequing, which leaves you with 1.5mo of expenses in the account.  If that makes you nervous, you still have money coming in, you can break your CDs, and you'll retain access to the $10k you just invested because you're NOT putting it in a tax-advantaged account.  So, plenty of money could be accessed in an emergency.
-Move an additional $5k when the first CD comes due.  I assume each is $5k and in a ladder.

Investing.  Start with the Stock Series at jlcollinsnh.com.  It's a lot, so I suggest skimming the headings and reading about your most burning questions first.  Also, given your fear of buying before stocks go on sale, look up "dollar cost averaging" sometimes abbreviated as DCA.

Cars.  Are you serious about the Miada?  Because my husband often suggests one as our second car!  (Maybe someday when we can afford that sort of hedonic adaptation!)  We're a 1-car household, and you're doing better than our $103/mo for car insurance.  BUT, if I had a whole car I could cut, I would.

HSA.  You want to contribute the max.  See below from http://www.madfientist.com/ultimate-retirement-account/

I can hear you saying, well what if I put all this money into my HSA but I don’t have any health issues…how will I ever get my money out?

In this case, the account will simply act like a Traditional IRA with an increased distribution age (65 instead of 59.5 for a Traditional IRA). Like a Traditional IRA, your contributions to the HSA are pre-tax contributions and your contributions are allowed to grow tax free. If you don’t use your HSA funds for medical expenses, you can begin withdrawing money from your HSA account for any expenses after you turn 65
[emphasis mine], without penalty. Like a Traditional IRA, you’ll have to pay income tax on any distributions that aren’t for qualified medical expenses but you won’t incur any additional penalties or fees. Therefore, after the age of 65, an HSA is nearly identical to a Traditional IRA!

MDM

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #6 on: March 20, 2016, 10:47:34 PM »
-you want to buy stocks when they're on sale!  Now is the perfect time. As long as I don't buy immediately before the sale begins; I don't think the store has a 90 day price-match guarantee =) My fear is that I'll make mistakes with investments choices (I'll add more detail below)
See http://www.schwab.com/public/schwab/nn/articles/Does-Market-Timing-Work and http://awealthofcommonsense.com/2014/02/worlds-worst-market-timer/.


-Pre-tax deductions: N/A  Why not?  Does your employer offer a 401k? They offer non-matched 457, all my contributions are post-tax though
-Deferred Comp. - $200 – 5% What is this?  A Roth 401k?  Something else? non-matched Roth 457
Consider contributing to the pre-tax option on the 457, at least until you drop out of the 25% bracket for federal tax.

Quote
-Misc. stocks given in childhood - $1,000 If you can reduce your taxable income enough (e.g., maximum tIRA and 401k) you may be able to sell these and pay 0% on any capital gains. Are you talking about doing so in the short-term?  What's the goal of getting out of these investments?
Tax Gain Harvesting: taking your capital gains at a time in your career when you pay no tax on them.  You could sell them and immediately repurchase the same amount of shares if you wish.

Quote
See also the 'Investment Order' tab in the case study spreadsheet.I saw this previously and was curious about the HSA portion.  I'm totally in the dark on what a typical "healthy" 28 year old should be contributing.  My employer just started offering HSA this year.
The healthier you are now, the more you should consider the HDHP/HSA combination.

Quote
As I start increasing investments, I'm scared I'll make mistakes (even though I'll stick to index funds).
A reasonable concern.  See the "Bob" story linked above.  Also read http://jlcollinsnh.com/stock-series/ and http://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/Category:Getting_started.

ooeei

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #7 on: March 21, 2016, 06:33:56 AM »

Tax Gain Harvesting: taking your capital gains at a time in your career when you pay no tax on them.  You could sell them and immediately repurchase the same amount of shares if you wish.

I thought you had to buy something different than the original investment?  I've always been under the impression that selling and re-buying the exact same stock is not allowed for tax loss/gain harvesting.  That's why people pay the big companies to do it for them.

thedayisbrave

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #8 on: March 21, 2016, 07:22:44 AM »

Tax Gain Harvesting: taking your capital gains at a time in your career when you pay no tax on them.  You could sell them and immediately repurchase the same amount of shares if you wish.

I thought you had to buy something different than the original investment?  I've always been under the impression that selling and re-buying the exact same stock is not allowed for tax loss/gain harvesting.  That's why people pay the big companies to do it for them.

You can immediately repurchase if what you buy is not 'substantially similar' to the original investment.  i.e. if you sell an S&P500 fund, you should not buy into another S&P500 fund.  Or you can go to cash for 31 days and then repurchase your original investment.

MDM

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #9 on: March 21, 2016, 08:47:40 AM »
I thought you had to buy something different than the original investment?  I've always been under the impression that selling and re-buying the exact same stock is not allowed for tax loss/gain harvesting.  That's why people pay the big companies to do it for them.
You can immediately repurchase if what you buy is not 'substantially similar' to the original investment.  i.e. if you sell an S&P500 fund, you should not buy into another S&P500 fund.  Or you can go to cash for 31 days and then repurchase your original investment.

With the edit in the quote, you are both correct.

When you have only gains, you may buy and sell whatever you want and the IRS won't interfere as long as you report the gains.  The point of Tax Gain Harvesting is to have gains without having to pay tax on them (by virtue of being in the 0% bracket for LTCG/QD).

johndoe

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #10 on: March 24, 2016, 09:57:19 PM »
Thanks again everyone.  Here's a different question:
-As someone mentioned before my emergency fund levels are excessive, and I'm looking to move approximately $10k.
-I have just funded 2016 rIRA, and it occurred to me that if I stick the $10k in similar funds I would not be doing a very good job of dollar cost averaging.  I understand the desire to invest as quickly as possible (thanks MDM for the links), but I'm concerned if the market should flounder ...I know I know =) 
-Here's another option: use the $10k to pay down mortgage and recast loan (only a $50 fee).  I could then increase cash flow (for 457 contributions and perhaps start and individual account).  If my calculations are correct, my P&I would go from about $280/month to $165/month.  Do you think gaining this extra $115/month is a worthwhile way to avoid the risk of investing $15k nearly simultaneously in the markets?

johndoe

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #11 on: June 30, 2017, 04:41:00 PM »
Bit of a bump here...been working on my budget recently.  I tried to split income and spending into annual/monthly values for quick reference.  I also wanted to think of them as percentages of net & gross.  Can you think of things to improve it, etc?  Does anything stick out in my spending?
« Last Edit: June 30, 2017, 04:44:45 PM by johndoe »

MDM

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #12 on: June 30, 2017, 05:50:56 PM »
Bit of a bump here...been working on my budget recently.  I tried to split income and spending into annual/monthly values for quick reference.  I also wanted to think of them as percentages of net & gross.  Can you think of things to improve it, etc?  Does anything stick out in my spending?
Nice work on the federal and FICA taxes - spot on.

How are you deciding between traditional and Roth for your IRA and your employer-run account?  Might not be a clear cut decision for you, so just wondering about your approach.

johndoe

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #13 on: July 01, 2017, 06:10:07 AM »
How are you deciding between traditional and Roth for your IRA and your employer-run account?  Might not be a clear cut decision for you, so just wondering about your approach.
This is something I need to research more; I've scratched the surface on the Roth pipeline but haven't acted on it yet.  (I'm 30 right now if this makes any difference) I think my reasons for paying tax on both now are (a) assuming tax rates will be higher in the future (b) assuming I may take another job and make more money (due to pension) in the future and (c) having some peace of mind about already having paid taxes...the total amount in those accounts is "mine" .  I'm sure it's possible that zero of these things end up true though!  I guess I also want to keep the accounts somewhat simple (avoid some pre and post tax amounts) to avoid future accounting errors.  Don't know if that's a valid concern...  what are your thoughts?

johndoe

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #14 on: June 30, 2018, 07:11:18 AM »
Here's another bump exactly a year later.  The $18k worth of 401k was switched from Roth to traditional.  HSA is now maxed.  I think some of you may be interested to see the change in the "mandatory"category...nearly halved.



Again if anything sticks out let me know.  I found it interesting that my saving is approximately double my voluntary spending which is approximately double my mandatory spending.

Chrissy

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #15 on: June 30, 2018, 08:01:30 AM »
Looks great.  Do you get a 401k match or employer HSA contribution?  If so, that should go under "saving". 

Would you give us an update on your Assets/Liabilities?  I'm SO curious to see how things have changed for you in 2 years.

terran

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #16 on: June 30, 2018, 09:43:25 AM »
Here's another bump exactly a year later.  The $18k worth of 401k was switched from Roth to traditional.  HSA is now maxed.  I think some of you may be interested to see the change in the "mandatory"category...nearly halved.

Again if anything sticks out let me know.  I found it interesting that my saving is approximately double my voluntary spending which is approximately double my mandatory spending.

One thing to note: the 401k limit is up from $18k to $18.5k this year, so if it's in your budget you should increase your withholding a bit. Looks like you've got a pretty locked down budget, but it seemed notable that you're saving last years limit, so if that was what you were shooting for, it's a bit higher this year.

Also, the HSA limit is $3450, but maybe your employer puts some in, which would explain why you're contributing less.

johndoe

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #17 on: June 30, 2018, 06:36:59 PM »
Do you get a 401k match or employer HSA contribution?  If so, that should go under "saving". 
I get a relatively small HSA match, I could add that to make the sheet more accurate.  Good idea.

One thing to note: the 401k limit is up from $18k to $18.5k this year, so if it's in your budget you should increase your withholding a bit. Looks like you've got a pretty locked down budget, but it seemed notable that you're saving last years limit, so if that was what you were shooting for, it's a bit higher this year.  Also, the HSA limit is $3450, but maybe your employer puts some in, which would explain why you're contributing less.
Yeah I left my contributions slightly lower than the max...in the past I over-contributed and it made the tax reporting a bit more annoying!  (are employers not legally required to prevent you from over-contributing?!?)  Probably not a good reason, but that's how I'm currently justifying it to myself ha!  I actually don't really watch my spending all that much so I'm not sure I would call the budget "locked down", I guess the sheet is just a general guide.  For some reason I've never found myself thinking "oh you've spent too much on groceries this month" etc. as these things tend to vary over time (car repair, vacation, etc.) and spending has never really been a problem for me (or at least that's my impression).  I hope I'm positioned well enough to avoid worrying about every purchase.

Would you give us an update on your Assets/Liabilities?  I'm SO curious to see how things have changed for you in 2 years.

Here are two years of P.C. data.  On this site I can get bummed about my low salary but I think things are going relatively well.  I still wish P.C. gave a quick "passive income" computation so that I could feel good about how much my money is starting to work for me!

rdaneel0

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #18 on: June 30, 2018, 07:37:55 PM »
Hey! If you want help with your grocery budget I'd be happy to chime in. Can you give me an idea of what you buy at the grocery store each week and what you eat?

jlcnuke

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #19 on: July 01, 2018, 09:13:30 AM »
Always amazes me how low some people get their utility bills. I'd have to turn the HVAC off and cancel trash pickup to get my utilities that low :(

Looks like you've come a long way, keep up the good work!

johndoe

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #20 on: June 30, 2019, 08:46:20 AM »
Another year has passed, and I thought an update might be beneficial for me and others.

Budget:


Personal Capital data from last year:


Net worth over time (trying to get trendline for future estimates):


Nothing too different: I'm not sure why I'm not quite maxing the 401k (no company match).  The HSA does get an employer contribution so it's maxed.  I changed insurance companies and added an umbrella policy.  The "leftover" saving category gets sent from checking account to a standard investment account (VTI).  The net worth value jumped a little towards the beginning of this April because I manually entered the HSA data (for some reason it doesn't automatically work) to Personal Capital.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2019, 08:52:38 AM by johndoe »

mistymoney

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #21 on: June 30, 2019, 10:20:38 AM »
Great visuals! Lots of progress! well done!


noting:

I'm new here and love the updates to old threads. Since they are new to me, I get the longer story quickly, and the progress is so great to see. Gives me hope that I can have a good year later update :)

But maybe posters who don't do well, or even lose ground, don't post back?

johndoe

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #22 on: July 02, 2019, 05:37:16 AM »
maybe posters who don't do well, or even lose ground, don't post back?

Another possibility is that they are doing fine financially but just don't bother to check the boards any longer. 

For me personally, I noticed when I first arrived here I was anxious to learn and start these practices.  Now that it's second nature maybe it's not as exciting.  It also seems a large percentage of the threads on the forum rehash old topics, so it's unlike other forums where you feel like you're learning something new all the time. I am by no means an expert but hopefully I'm close to optimizing my chosen path.

Chrissy

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #23 on: July 02, 2019, 07:11:07 AM »
Well done, johndoe.  I notice your worth grows each year by nearly as much as your salary!

Yanisimo

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #24 on: July 02, 2019, 08:02:34 AM »
I see you now have a roommate. You're doing a great job. I'm curious about the salary - what is keeping you from moving to a company that offers a 401K match? In some industries, just moving to a different company can boost your income automatically.

johndoe

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Re: Case Study: Help me grow a 'stache!
« Reply #25 on: July 02, 2019, 08:46:06 PM »
I'm curious about the salary - what is keeping you from moving to a company that offers a 401K match? In some industries, just moving to a different company can boost your income automatically.

Absolutely, many of my peers have moved at least once to increase salary.  I'm in a position I really enjoy; the compensation is definitely not one of the best things about it!  But I plan on sticking around because it's a field that impacts everyone in the community, the end results are very tangible, and I enjoy the problem solving (sometimes it even involves new approaches not done elsewhere).  Other workplaces I could go probably wouldn't offer the same number of challenges or the ability to implement as many ideas.  I also enjoy working 40 hours / week (overtime is very rare).  And the pension is a plus, too =)