Author Topic: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?  (Read 5797 times)

marioarm2

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Topic Title: Trying to grow a mustache and become FI – Impossible if I stay at my current job w/ possible pension and commute 96.6 miles RT every day?

Life Situation: Hello, I’m a single 25 year old currently living at home in Toms River, NJ and commuting approx. 100 miles RT to a state job as an Accountant in Trenton, NJ. I have no dependents and have recently moved back home in order to live rent-free (thanks Dad).

The original plan was to move closer to my job, but I’m not sure it’s feasible considering my current financial position. My main priorities are to pay off my debts, and start working towards FI and early retirement. Finances aside, I’m not too excited of the prospect of living anywhere near the Trenton area, but I also must continue to reside in NJ in order to keep working for NJ. 

Conventional wisdom has taught me to be obsessed with the thought of having a pension through a gov’t job, but we all know conventional wisdom leads to a conventional life! I’m only 3 months in and it’s a minimum of at least 10 years in order to receive a cut of the pension come retirement.
Mustachians, is it impossible to become FI and retire early if I continue to stay at my current job with nearly a 100 MI RT commute? Is a pension so valuable that I should stick in out in a state gov’t job regardless of distance, morale, and job location? Or am I fooling myself and should get a different job closer to home even if it means no pension?

Gross Salary/Wages: $41,072.20. Set to increase to $43,094.21 in March 2017, to $45,053.25 in September 2017, and an annual increase of $2,053.82 every September after that.

Pre-tax deductions:  Not sure which are exactly Pre-tax or not, but here’s a list of all the deductions coming out each paycheck. Please note that come May 2017, I will need to get health insurance.
•   Federal Income Tax - $137.18
•   FICA - $97.38
•   NJ Income Tax - $30.76
•   Medicare - @22.77
•   Pension (7.2%) – $113.74
•   Pension Back Deduction (only 2 more pay periods remaining for this) - $113.31
•   Unemployment Insurance - $6.71
•   Temporary Disability Ins. – $3.16
•   Dental Plan – $9.03
•   Deferred Comp – $67.63
•   Family Leave Ins. - $1.26
•   Contributory Ins. – $14.37
•   Union Dues - $18.23
•   TOTAL DEDUCTIONS - $635.53

Monthly Income - $450 (from parents towards loans) + approx. $2050 paychecks = $2,500

Current expenses/budget:
•   Student Loans - $910
•   Lease Payment - $243
•   Car Insurance - $160
•   Gas - $150
•   Tolls - $25
•   Netflix - $11
•   Pet Supplies/Vet - $50
•   Groceries/Cleaning Supplies/Personal Care Supplies - $300
•   Clothes (work/casual) - $75
•   Restaurants/Entertainment/Fun - $50
•   Transfer for Savings Acct - $75
Total Monthly Spending - $2,049

$2,500 - $2,049 = $451 leftover (some to be put to CC minimum payments – currently unknown since it’s a new CC)
 
Assets: $7,169 (Savings Acct - $150; Prudential 457 - $234; TIAA CREF 403(b) - $6,785)

Liabilities:
1.   Student Loans (All fixed interest rates):
a.   37,104 @ 4.55%
b.   16,910 @ 2.875%
c.   15,266 @ 2.875%
d.   7,141 @ 6.8%
e.   5,550 @3.4%
f.   5,525 @ 5.41%
g.   5,458 @ 3.4%
h.   2,345 @ 6.8%
i.   2,238 @ 4.5%
j.   2,210 @ 6.8%
k.   1,736 @ 4.29%
l.   1,252 @ 6.8%
Total Student Loans - $97,210

2.   Car Lease: 2015 VW Jetta S w/ Technology for 30k miles – Currently at 25k miles w/ 11 months remaining on lease
•   9 Payments of $242.77 remaining = $2,184.93
•   Residual Value = $12,061.10
•   KBB Value = $8,415

Another Reader

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2016, 12:40:23 PM »
Assuming you have an accounting degree, you should be able to find much higher paying work.  Here in Silly Valley, the County pays accounting clerks and technicians as much or more than you make.  I also would not drive that many miles round trip unless the job had a huge salary and benefits that could not be duplicated.

I would not count on a State of New Jersey pension in 30 or 40 years.  State and local governments are dumping their pension obligations as fast as they can.  Instead I would look for a much higher paying job near where you live and stock up the 401(k) and the IRA while paying off those loans.  Also, you may want to look into refinancing those loans if they are eligible.

intirb

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2016, 01:14:00 PM »
it’s a minimum of at least 10 years in order to receive a cut of the pension come retirement.

What are the details of this pension and the payout you'd receive in 10 years?  With your income and debt level, you'd be thinking of at least 10-15 years of working without drastic changes for FI, so the cut you'd get from the pension is relevant.

•   Lease Payment - $243
•   Car Insurance - $160
•   Gas - $150
•   Tolls - $25

Can you get an apartment within biking distance of your work for less than $600?  Then you'd break even, money-wise, and free up at least 90 minutes of your day..  And are you sure this monthly gas spending is correct? Edit: alternatively, can you get a job in biking distance of where you live within $7k of your current salary?  However, do the numbers with the loan forgiveness (below) and pension to make sure this approach makes sense.

$2,500 - $2,049 = $451 leftover (some to be put to CC minimum payments – currently unknown since it’s a new CC)

How much do you owe in credit card debt?

Total Student Loans - $97,210

What percentage of these loans are eligible for public service loan forgiveness?  Does your job (it's a government job, right?) qualify?  What about IBR?
« Last Edit: December 15, 2016, 01:23:24 PM by intirb »

DebtFreeinPhilly

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #3 on: December 15, 2016, 01:33:10 PM »
As a fellow gov't employee, I understand your desire to keep the pension. However, since you are just starting out, I would forget about the pension for right now. Focus on more important things about the job: quality of work life, time spent at the office, co-workers, etc. If you remove the pension from the equation and you still don't like the job all that much, leave. Government jobs are meat grinders...IMHO.

Here is what I would do...
1) Find another job closer to where you live.
2) I would get out of the lease as quickly as possible. Buy a $3000 beater of a car for commuting purposes. 
3) Consolidate your loans into a lower monthly payment or dedicate all extra payments towards paying them off asap.

It should take you about 2 years or so to pay off all of your debts. Stop using your credit card if you can't pay it off each month. Once debts are paid off, start your FI Journey in earnest. Also, keep in mind, you're 25, eventually you will want to move out of your parents basement and get a place of your own so start planning for that too. You have time on your side.

intirb

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #4 on: December 15, 2016, 01:37:49 PM »
It should take you about 2 years or so to pay off all of your debts.

Are you assuming a substantial increase in pay?  Right now, OP's debts are more than 2 years worth of salary.

AZDude

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #5 on: December 15, 2016, 04:05:28 PM »
Quote
$2,500 - $2,049 = $451 leftover (some to be put to CC minimum payments – currently unknown since it’s a new CC)

What does this mean?

Other than that, you should be making a much higher salary. Accountant in NJ making $41K? That seems like a very shitty paying gov't job. As a former gov't employee, I want to scream at you to LEAVE AS SOON AS YOU FIND SOMETHING ELSE!

No pension is worth the frustration faced at a government job. If you want FI and ER, then the pension won't do you much good anyway.

And union dues at a government accounting job? Ha! Move to a right to work state. I'd cut off an arm before I paid dues to some nebulous government employees union that managed to get an accountant with $97K in student loans a whopping $41K job.

marioarm2

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #6 on: December 15, 2016, 04:40:04 PM »
Assuming you have an accounting degree, you should be able to find much higher paying work.  Here in Silly Valley, the County pays accounting clerks and technicians as much or more than you make.  I also would not drive that many miles round trip unless the job had a huge salary and benefits that could not be duplicated.

I would not count on a State of New Jersey pension in 30 or 40 years.  State and local governments are dumping their pension obligations as fast as they can.  Instead I would look for a much higher paying job near where you live and stock up the 401(k) and the IRA while paying off those loans.  Also, you may want to look into refinancing those loans if they are eligible.

Yes, I have a BS in Accounting, but I do not have my CPA.. I also thought I should be able to make more, but it seems as if entry level accounting positions are only starting around $40k in my area. I have been trying to avoid Philadelphia and NYC since those commutes are even worse than going to the state capital.

Thanks for your advice. I actually just refinanced some of the loans into the $37k loan, but it looks like the gov't ones were not applied properly and left all the 6.8% interest loans outstanding. I'm calling to get this sorted out later tonight.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2016, 04:49:56 PM by marioarm2 »

mm1970

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2016, 04:45:12 PM »
It should take you about 2 years or so to pay off all of your debts.

Are you assuming a substantial increase in pay?  Right now, OP's debts are more than 2 years worth of salary.

Well, there was the "or so", and perhaps the suggestion to get a second job or a better paying one.

Certainly I'd not stay in a job where I only got a $2k a year raise "forever".

marioarm2

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #8 on: December 15, 2016, 05:00:45 PM »
it’s a minimum of at least 10 years in order to receive a cut of the pension come retirement.

What are the details of this pension and the payout you'd receive in 10 years?  With your income and debt level, you'd be thinking of at least 10-15 years of working without drastic changes for FI, so the cut you'd get from the pension is relevant.

•   Lease Payment - $243
•   Car Insurance - $160
•   Gas - $150
•   Tolls - $25

Can you get an apartment within biking distance of your work for less than $600?  Then you'd break even, money-wise, and free up at least 90 minutes of your day..  And are you sure this monthly gas spending is correct? Edit: alternatively, can you get a job in biking distance of where you live within $7k of your current salary?  However, do the numbers with the loan forgiveness (below) and pension to make sure this approach makes sense.

$2,500 - $2,049 = $451 leftover (some to be put to CC minimum payments – currently unknown since it’s a new CC)

How much do you owe in credit card debt?

Total Student Loans - $97,210

What percentage of these loans are eligible for public service loan forgiveness?  Does your job (it's a government job, right?) qualify?  What about IBR?

Here's a little more in regards to the pension payout:
Years of Service * Final Average Salary = Annual Retirement Allowance

Final avg. salary is calculated by the 5 years immediately preceding your retirement. The pension starts at Age 65. The only way I can receive it early is if I put in 30 years of service, and in that case the benefit is reduced by 3% per year for each year I'm under 65.

My credit card debt is currently $6,700 @ 0% APR for 21 months.

I think the rent would probably come out closer to $700-800/month if I split an apartment with a craigslist roommate. Less so if I found 2 craigslist roommates. Chances are slim to find an accounting gig so close to home, but it's certainly not impossible!

As for the student loans, they are already on IBR and PSLF. The payments owed through IBR would have them all paid off before PSLF could even happen.

marioarm2

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2016, 05:03:29 PM »
Quote
$2,500 - $2,049 = $451 leftover (some to be put to CC minimum payments – currently unknown since it’s a new CC)

What does this mean?

Other than that, you should be making a much higher salary. Accountant in NJ making $41K? That seems like a very shitty paying gov't job. As a former gov't employee, I want to scream at you to LEAVE AS SOON AS YOU FIND SOMETHING ELSE!

No pension is worth the frustration faced at a government job. If you want FI and ER, then the pension won't do you much good anyway.

And union dues at a government accounting job? Ha! Move to a right to work state. I'd cut off an arm before I paid dues to some nebulous government employees union that managed to get an accountant with $97K in student loans a whopping $41K job.

That is my monthly leftover income if I follow my budget to a T.

Union dues are frustrating.. the only benefit I've seen is 1 free ticket to a Christmas party. Hardly worth the money in dues! The job is also frustratingly boring at times.. I'm not saying I want to work to death, but I can see how gov't employees get a rep for being slow and lazy!

marioarm2

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2016, 05:05:41 PM »
It should take you about 2 years or so to pay off all of your debts.

Are you assuming a substantial increase in pay?  Right now, OP's debts are more than 2 years worth of salary.

Well, there was the "or so", and perhaps the suggestion to get a second job or a better paying one.

Certainly I'd not stay in a job where I only got a $2k a year raise "forever".

I'm a bit embarrassed to ask, but what is a good annual raise? Here I was thinking $2k sounds nice! Hah

GoingConcern

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #11 on: December 15, 2016, 05:09:33 PM »
Not to come off as rude, but your salary is very low which isn't the worst thing but the raises are on the low end.

Get a CPA and apply to mid-size and/or Big 4. 

marioarm2

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #12 on: December 15, 2016, 05:14:11 PM »
As a fellow gov't employee, I understand your desire to keep the pension. However, since you are just starting out, I would forget about the pension for right now. Focus on more important things about the job: quality of work life, time spent at the office, co-workers, etc. If you remove the pension from the equation and you still don't like the job all that much, leave. Government jobs are meat grinders...IMHO.

Here is what I would do...
1) Find another job closer to where you live.
2) I would get out of the lease as quickly as possible. Buy a $3000 beater of a car for commuting purposes. 
3) Consolidate your loans into a lower monthly payment or dedicate all extra payments towards paying them off asap.

It should take you about 2 years or so to pay off all of your debts. Stop using your credit card if you can't pay it off each month. Once debts are paid off, start your FI Journey in earnest. Also, keep in mind, you're 25, eventually you will want to move out of your parents basement and get a place of your own so start planning for that too. You have time on your side.

I've already stopped using my credit card and switched to cash only. My CC debt and student loans are my #1 priority right now.. I'm dreaming of having a $0 Net Worth Haha. I'm also looking into ditching my VW and getting a beater off Craigslist.

As for the job, the coworkers are great. The office environment is eh.. Everyone and anyone can see what I'm doing at all times, so I feel like I'm on high alert and trying to look busy since there just doesn't seem to be that much work to do. Aside from looking busy 24/7, it's relatively laid back. I've pretty much always felt discontent at my jobs in one way or another, so it's hard to even trust myself when it comes to whether I like it or not. My resume is pretty rough because I usually only stay at a job for about 1.5 years.. I'm worried that is going to catch up with me soon, if it hasn't already.

marioarm2

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #13 on: December 15, 2016, 05:17:23 PM »
Not to come off as rude, but your salary is very low which isn't the worst thing but the raises are on the low end.

Get a CPA and apply to mid-size and/or Big 4.

Not rude at all! Do you think it's worth waiting until I get the years worth of experience through the state and pass a few sections along the way, or just hit the exams hard and just keep applying until a mid-size/Big 4 picks me up?

GoingConcern

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #14 on: December 15, 2016, 05:27:48 PM »
Not to come off as rude, but your salary is very low which isn't the worst thing but the raises are on the low end.

Get a CPA and apply to mid-size and/or Big 4.

Not rude at all! Do you think it's worth waiting until I get the years worth of experience through the state and pass a few sections along the way, or just hit the exams hard and just keep applying until a mid-size/Big 4 picks me up?

CPA would help a long ways but you can try to go Big 4 and/or midsize before getting the CPA.  Just realize most outside firms will not value your experience in the government sector and the longer you stay the harder it will to leave, thus, it might be difficult to leave without the CPA. You can also try to apply/transfer for other positions within the State of New Jersey.

Now I don't necessarily think government is a bad industry as long as the salary is competitive.  40 hour work weeks and competitive benefits definitely have their value but the benefits are a bit offset by your long commute.  What exactly is the maximum salary you can earn at your current position and how long would it take for you to earn it?  Also I would consider the promotion opportunities.  I would consider staying if you could make around $65-70k after 5 years and have the potential to make close to 6 figures when you retire.   But if you are looking at $2k raises a year for life then I would consider a different employer. 


marioarm2

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #15 on: December 15, 2016, 06:32:28 PM »
Not to come off as rude, but your salary is very low which isn't the worst thing but the raises are on the low end.

Get a CPA and apply to mid-size and/or Big 4.

Not rude at all! Do you think it's worth waiting until I get the years worth of experience through the state and pass a few sections along the way, or just hit the exams hard and just keep applying until a mid-size/Big 4 picks me up?

CPA would help a long ways but you can try to go Big 4 and/or midsize before getting the CPA.  Just realize most outside firms will not value your experience in the government sector and the longer you stay the harder it will to leave, thus, it might be difficult to leave without the CPA. You can also try to apply/transfer for other positions within the State of New Jersey.

Now I don't necessarily think government is a bad industry as long as the salary is competitive.  40 hour work weeks and competitive benefits definitely have their value but the benefits are a bit offset by your long commute.  What exactly is the maximum salary you can earn at your current position and how long would it take for you to earn it?  Also I would consider the promotion opportunities.  I would consider staying if you could make around $65-70k after 5 years and have the potential to make close to 6 figures when you retire.   But if you are looking at $2k raises a year for life then I would consider a different employer.

After 5 years, I'd be making $53.2k at my current position. It's possible I could move up to Accountant II within 5 years, but even then that position starts at $51.5k with $2.3k annual increases capped at $73k after 10 years.

What would you consider to be a good annual raise for an accountant?

GoingConcern

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #16 on: December 15, 2016, 07:09:56 PM »
Well raises depends but I would think your average accountant at the Big 4 would make close to 80k after 5 years and in 10 years we'll over 100k. Granted the work/life balance isn't there and you should expect to work 60-70 hour weeks during busy season.

But getting that type of experience will help you get other jobs in the private field.

Another Reader

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #17 on: December 15, 2016, 07:30:43 PM »
"Here's a little more in regards to the pension payout:
Years of Service * Final Average Salary = Annual Retirement Allowance

Final avg. salary is calculated by the 5 years immediately preceding your retirement. The pension starts at Age 65. The only way I can receive it early is if I put in 30 years of service, and in that case the benefit is reduced by 3% per year for each year I'm under 65."

The state of New Jersey is one of (if not the most) mismanaged states in the country.  Do you know what percentage the state pension fund is underfunded?  Do some research before you get distracted by the pension.  You will not get what you have been promised.  The pension fund cannot pay you what you have been promised and over the next decade or two your union representatives will negotiate much of your pension away. 

If you have the desire to improve your situation, start looking around.   In the world of accounting, there are two types of people.  Those that take low salary book keeping type jobs, and those that put their knowledge to work and make almost twice what you do at the same age.

marioarm2

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #18 on: December 15, 2016, 08:06:31 PM »
Well raises depends but I would think your average accountant at the Big 4 would make close to 80k after 5 years and in 10 years we'll over 100k. Granted the work/life balance isn't there and you should expect to work 60-70 hour weeks during busy season.

But getting that type of experience will help you get other jobs in the private field.

Thanks for that. I'm going to start working on my CPA right away! I'll keep my eyes peeled for other job opportunities in the meantime.

marioarm2

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #19 on: December 15, 2016, 08:08:30 PM »
The state of New Jersey is one of (if not the most) mismanaged states in the country.  Do you know what percentage the state pension fund is underfunded?  Do some research before you get distracted by the pension.  You will not get what you have been promised.  The pension fund cannot pay you what you have been promised and over the next decade or two your union representatives will negotiate much of your pension away. 

If you have the desire to improve your situation, start looking around.   In the world of accounting, there are two types of people.  Those that take low salary book keeping type jobs, and those that put their knowledge to work and make almost twice what you do at the same age.

Well my entire background in accounting has been those low salary book keeping type jobs. I've always wondered how I managed to get myself into those types of roles as opposed to the more lucrative accounting positions.

I'll also be sure to do some more research in regards to the pension's health. A lot of things can change in 10 years..

JLee

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #20 on: December 15, 2016, 11:06:55 PM »
That salary seems incredibly low for NJ. I would not be surprised if you could make at least that much in TN, AZ, GA, or some other inexpensive state, while having significantly lower taxes (not to mention all the other expenses that would likely go down, e.g. cutting your car insurance in half). Have you looked around the country at all?

ShoulderThingThatGoesUp

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #21 on: December 16, 2016, 04:44:00 AM »
You can make that much as an accounting assistant in Philadelphia, with much better advancement prospects. Stop limiting yourself by staying in Toms River.

Cranky

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #22 on: December 16, 2016, 05:25:14 AM »
Also - don't freak out about the CPA exam. It's not that hard, and when you pass it, you start getting recruited.

trammatic

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #23 on: December 16, 2016, 08:14:21 AM »
+1 for getting the CPA, and perhaps while you're still at the gov't job.  I'd say throw your down time into CPA studies.  It shouldn't be hard to make a case for becoming a better employee while you don't have significant tasking to do.

Stash Engineer

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #24 on: December 16, 2016, 09:00:14 AM »
You have to take a multi-pronged approach here.  Absolutely go get your CPA now!  When you do get it, will that make you eligible for an immediate advancement in position or salary at your current job?  I'd still advocate looking for a better job elsewhere, but get what you can from your current employer while you're there. 

I'm not sure why you leased a car (think mileage limitations) with that long of a commute, but definitely consider ditching this lease.  You'll have to do some math and compare what it will cost to keep it vs ditching it. 

Come up with a plan to pay that $6700 CC off in 20 months.  If you can throw $450/month at it, that's 15 months.  Start paying it off in 5 months.  Use these first 5 months to start paying back that higher interest student loan debt, then switch to the CC.  You gotta get that CC done in 21 months so you don't get hit with the interest on all that. 

edited to add:  Can you opt out of the pension plan voluntarily?  If you know you aren't going to stick around long enough to get it, then don't pay into it.  Obviously I know nothing about pensions, so facepunch me if this is a stupid suggestion. 
« Last Edit: December 16, 2016, 09:02:44 AM by Stash Engineer »

Just Joe

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #25 on: December 16, 2016, 09:55:52 AM »
Can yuo reliably commute that far in NJ in the winter?

I know where I live that commute could get dicey in the winter and you'd find yourself occasionally stranded at work (get a hotel room) or unable to show up for work - don't know if that would get you reprimanded.

Looks like you need an unloved (cheap b/c it is boring) but comfortable FWD sedan to wear out rather than a car payment or lease on something interesting.

honeybbq

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #26 on: December 16, 2016, 10:15:16 AM »
Topic Title: Trying to grow a mustache and become FI – Impossible if I stay at my current job w/ possible pension and commute 96.6 miles RT every day?

Monthly Income - $450 (from parents towards loans) + approx. $2050 paychecks = $2,500

[

Can you clarify this? Your parents are letting you live rent free and helping you pay off your loans?

Sibley

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #27 on: December 16, 2016, 10:18:32 AM »
I'm a CPA, and I used to audit local governmental entities. Here's my advice. Keep in mind, this follows a common pathway, but it isn't the only one.

1. Get a job at a accounting firm doing audit if possible, but some tax is good too. Entry level, they may chew you up and spit you out after a few years, but will most likely pay for CPA exam courses/fees + possible bonus when you pass, and you'll get much more and better experience there. There's a reason why so many accountants go through public accounting.
2. While at the CPA firm (and before), work your butt off studying and taking the CPA exam. If your family, friends, and pets don't feel abandoned, you're not studying enough. Also, you can manage do any topic on the exams individually, the problem is remembering ALL of them at the same time. That's what makes it hard - the sheer quantity of material. But you got this.
3. Be aware that MANY in the accounting field have a very poor opinion of government employees, especially the accountants. In my experience, not all of them are bad, but enough of them are to justify the stereotype (as much as one can be justified). If someone only has governmental experience, I'm going to be hesitant too until you show me that you're good.
4. After 2-3 years, you should have a ton of experience, a CPA license, and you'll be better placed to go elsewhere if you want.  Having public experience and a CPA license opens a LOT of doors. For some companies, if you don't have both they just throw your resume out. Is it right? No. But I've seen it happen, and more than once. Get those things and you don't need to worry about it.

Generalizations:
public accounting has more PTO, longer hours, higher stress, better training, way more experience than anything else in a short time frame
private industry pays better, shorter hours, more political crap.
nonprofits are cheap and dysfunctional
government has lower pay, politics are hell, slightly better benefits, expensive health insurance, and tons of red tape. It also follows slightly different accounting rules which may trip you up at some point if you're not aware.


Other stuff:
Don't lease a car. Buy a used car with good gas mileage.
That is a long commute. Move closer to work, or find a new job, cause the drive will just kill you eventually.
This has been mentioned, but don't rely on a governmental pension. Too many entities are financially stressed, and something's gotta give. Your generation of workers is more likely to get screwed. Pensions are becoming increasingly rare, so assume you won't have one when you retire, even if you technically might.

mm1970

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #28 on: December 16, 2016, 10:49:07 AM »
It should take you about 2 years or so to pay off all of your debts.

Are you assuming a substantial increase in pay?  Right now, OP's debts are more than 2 years worth of salary.

Well, there was the "or so", and perhaps the suggestion to get a second job or a better paying one.

Certainly I'd not stay in a job where I only got a $2k a year raise "forever".

I'm a bit embarrassed to ask, but what is a good annual raise? Here I was thinking $2k sounds nice! Hah
Well, one thing you should do is go on salary.com and look up the typical salaries for people with your experience, education, job title, and location.

I cannot speak *specifically* to accounting, but here's how engineering (often) works. (Actual person, name changed to protect the innocent, 11 years ago).

We hire Jimmy right out of college. He's 22.  He's making $48,000 a year because the job market happens to be tight that year, but typical starting salaries range from $45k to 70k.

He's a good guy.  Not a superstar, but definitely above average.  He spends two years learning the ropes - not just the details of the products and processes, but also how to analyze and present results.  After about two years, he's pretty good - he can work independently, plan his own experiments, and work with minimal supervision - when given a new task - with only weekly or bi-weekly check ins on status. 

At this point he's gotten two raises - 3% and 4%.  So he's making $51,400 a year, or thereabouts.  However, if he were to "look around" at other companies - he would see a large number of companies who want to hire a relatively junior engineer who "knows the ropes".  He knows how to run the equipment, analyze results, be safe, and how processes work.  The median offer at this level is $60,000 to $65,000.  How many years would it take for Jimmy to get there, at 3-4% a year?  A LOT.  So Jimmy gets recruited.  He decides to interview because "why not".  They offer $65k.  He's hesitant...because he has a great boss (me).

Then they up the offer to $72k.  He casually mentions it to his boss (me) over the cubicle wall.  Being a person more concerned with the person than the company, I tell him to "take it".  Because I'd already gone round and round with the boss on his raises.  While *I'd* gotten a $7k raise my first year, those are few and far between and reserved for MAYBE one person a year.

So.  $2k is not a bad percentage at $42k a year, or whatever.  But if accounting is anything like engineering - 2-3 years of experience makes you MUCH more marketable to employers because you know the ropes AND presumably have a good work ethic.

JLee

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #29 on: December 16, 2016, 12:19:39 PM »
It should take you about 2 years or so to pay off all of your debts.

Are you assuming a substantial increase in pay?  Right now, OP's debts are more than 2 years worth of salary.

Well, there was the "or so", and perhaps the suggestion to get a second job or a better paying one.

Certainly I'd not stay in a job where I only got a $2k a year raise "forever".

I'm a bit embarrassed to ask, but what is a good annual raise? Here I was thinking $2k sounds nice! Hah
Well, one thing you should do is go on salary.com and look up the typical salaries for people with your experience, education, job title, and location.

I cannot speak *specifically* to accounting, but here's how engineering (often) works. (Actual person, name changed to protect the innocent, 11 years ago).

We hire Jimmy right out of college. He's 22.  He's making $48,000 a year because the job market happens to be tight that year, but typical starting salaries range from $45k to 70k.

He's a good guy.  Not a superstar, but definitely above average.  He spends two years learning the ropes - not just the details of the products and processes, but also how to analyze and present results.  After about two years, he's pretty good - he can work independently, plan his own experiments, and work with minimal supervision - when given a new task - with only weekly or bi-weekly check ins on status. 

At this point he's gotten two raises - 3% and 4%.  So he's making $51,400 a year, or thereabouts.  However, if he were to "look around" at other companies - he would see a large number of companies who want to hire a relatively junior engineer who "knows the ropes".  He knows how to run the equipment, analyze results, be safe, and how processes work.  The median offer at this level is $60,000 to $65,000.  How many years would it take for Jimmy to get there, at 3-4% a year?  A LOT.  So Jimmy gets recruited.  He decides to interview because "why not".  They offer $65k.  He's hesitant...because he has a great boss (me).

Then they up the offer to $72k.  He casually mentions it to his boss (me) over the cubicle wall.  Being a person more concerned with the person than the company, I tell him to "take it".  Because I'd already gone round and round with the boss on his raises.  While *I'd* gotten a $7k raise my first year, those are few and far between and reserved for MAYBE one person a year.

So.  $2k is not a bad percentage at $42k a year, or whatever.  But if accounting is anything like engineering - 2-3 years of experience makes you MUCH more marketable to employers because you know the ropes AND presumably have a good work ethic.
I have a similar story in the IT world.  I started with Company #1 at $33k/yr and learned many ropes over the next three years, landing me at $61k/yr after five promotions and some annual raises.  With my recently acquired knowledge, I then moved to a HCOL area for an offer of $97k + bonus from Company #2.

So, I agree...the best way to move up in salary is, in my experience, to change jobs every few years.  A few months after I was hired at Company #1, they hired someone into the role that I ended up holding after three years.  He walked in the door making $4k more than I did when I was promoted into that same position years later (we had the same job on the same team). I would have never caught up, because I was an internal hire forever crippled by 'this is the best we can do.'

Sibley

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #30 on: December 16, 2016, 05:46:40 PM »
Yes, in accounting you typically see people moving around to get market rates. 2-3 years in for a newbie, depending on the area and how good they are, is around what I see a lot.

csdreaming

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #31 on: December 18, 2016, 07:48:24 AM »
As others have said New Jersey's pension fund is mismanaged and will likely be cut in the future. You can withdraw your contributions with interest and roll it into an IRA when you leave or you can take out a pension if you stay long enough. Keep in mind the state can gut that pension in the future. While corporations have to go through bankruptcy to discharge pensions, states have sovereign immunity and can simply refuse to pay it.

I would see about transferring to a more local government job.

From the others comments you will be recruited if you take the CPA exam. If there are no local government jobs I would do this + plus apply to alot of places.

Do you have a local chamber of commerce? Since you are an accountant I would just head there and ask if people know anyone who needs an accountant.

Sibley

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #32 on: December 18, 2016, 10:35:33 AM »
The accounting field uses recruiters (internal & external) pretty heavily. The recruiters use Linked In pretty heavily. Make sure you've got a decent linked in profile. Doesn't have to be really fancy, but you need a professional looking picture, etc. If you'd like to see an example, PM me and I'll help you see mine. I get 2-10 contacts a week, depending on the time of year, so it clearly gets results. Keep in mind though that I have more experience (including public accounting) plus a CPA license. Those make a difference.

DebtFreeinPhilly

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #33 on: January 04, 2017, 07:26:55 AM »
It should take you about 2 years or so to pay off all of your debts.

Are you assuming a substantial increase in pay?  Right now, OP's debts are more than 2 years worth of salary.

Yes I was assuming a slight increase in pay and a reduction in other expenses (i.e. lease payment, gas for commute, etc.).

Check with your HR department about getting the gov't to pay for the CPA exam. there are programs that allow employees to take certifications if its directly related to their fields. If not, then ask to be allotted an hour every day to study for the test since it will benefit work. From what you are saying about the job, your performance won't falter because of this.

I second the idea about moving to another low cost of living area. put your resume out there and see if you get any bites. You never know.

mozar

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Re: FI impossible if I stay at my current job w/ pension & commute 96 mi RT?
« Reply #34 on: January 04, 2017, 08:48:31 AM »
I went a slightly different route.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2018, 01:54:27 PM by mozar »