Author Topic: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?  (Read 6730 times)

rozsi

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Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« on: February 19, 2016, 05:54:12 PM »
I'm new to the MMM forum so thank you all so much in advance for your help, and I'm sorry if this topic has already been addressed.

So here are my stats:
-27, work full-time as an archaeologist/environmental scientist
-Likely baby on the way by the end of 2016
-Partner is a full-time graduate student with a small amount of income--due to graduate in Fall 2016 (also an archaeologist)

-Student Loan debt: $32,000
-Savings: $10,000
-401k: $6,000
-No other debts

Income: 58k before taxes (until 2014 was closer to $25k/year (archaeology=lowest pay for most education input: thanks, grad school!)

Costs
-Rent: $1050/month (sometimes split with partner)
-Utilities: ~$120/month (sometimes split with partner)
-Car insurance: ~$60/month
-Health insurance: $68/month
-Phone: $15-20/month (switched to Republic thanks to MMM!)

I currently work full-time, but I am struggling to determine how I should handle that income in light of near-future goals. Until this point I have been trying to aggressively pay off my student loan debt paying a minimum of $600/month and up to $1000/month for the past several years (I started off at $55k  4 years ago). Now my partner and I want to start a family. Assuming that happens in the next year, I want to cut down my hours to part-time after the baby comes and stay home with the kid. And to be honest, I have no real intention of going back to full-time work after that. This means that I have approximately one year left of working at this income level. I assume my partner will get a full-time job when he finishes grad school, but it will likely not be high-paying if it's in the archaeology sector. We keep our finances separate at this point in time, but would come together on a down payment.

At the same time, I would like to move next year and get our own property, if possible. My idea of early retirement is working hard on a small, diversified farm, while continuing to work part-time remotely at my current job. And of course I want to make that small farm thing profitable.

I realize that having a baby, going down to part-time and starting a small farm may not be the smartest move, financially. But be that as it may, what's the best way to approach this situation financially? Should we continue renting for as long as possible until I pay down my student loans--I'm assuming I would have to lessen my payments after going down to part-time? Or is it reasonable to maintain the $600/month payments on students loans but use those extra few hundred dollars a month to start saving for a down payment.

I realize this whole issue is not articulately worded, but I'd appreciate your input! Please let me know if I should post additional information or if you need any more details to give your lovely, informed advice. Cheers

GrowingTheGreen

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2016, 08:48:49 AM »
You're off to a pretty good start.  What is the interest rate on your loan?

rozsi

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2016, 10:33:03 AM »
Thanks for your response. I've attached a summary.
The loans range from 5.35% to 7.65% -- I've been trying to focus any extra money I have towards the highest interest one.

Bucksandreds

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2016, 10:53:01 AM »
Thanks for your response. I've attached a summary.
The loans range from 5.35% to 7.65% -- I've been trying to focus any extra money I have towards the highest interest one.

Pay off the student loan. FHA loans require just a few percent down and have better interest rates than your student loans.

former player

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2016, 11:12:38 AM »
What is your partner's financial position?  Does he have student loans?  Does he have good contacts for a job?  Where are his jobs likely to be - near where you are at the moment, or will he have to move?  I wouldn't be planning to have kids and pull out of my career unless I had satisfactory answers to all those questions.

Personally, I would put everything you've got to paying off your student loans.  If you can start your life as a parent without your student loans hanging over you, you will be in a much better position to manage when you are either staying at home or have only a part-time income.  At 27, you are young enough that waiting a couple of years until you have a baby is not going to be a health or fertility issue.   If in the meantime you can finance the loans to lower interest rates that would speed up paying them off, as less of your payments would be going to interest.

I'm not sure why you are in such a hurry to buy a property.  What is the advantage, financially or otherwise?  Paying off the student loan and having a baby both seem as though they would be more worthwhile to you at the moment, particularly as I'm guessing whatever property you bought would presumably not be your dream farm.

rozsi

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2016, 11:23:30 AM »
Thank you all for the advise.

My partner does not have any student loan debt. He has no debt from his undergraduate degree. His parents have helped him out to the tune of $8k for his graduate degree--but that's a pay some back in the future when you can situation with no interest attached. He has savings of about $6k.

He does have good job contacts. Luckily, the job doesn't change much region to region. We are both flexible about moving somewhere with a lower cost of living (currently living in the Portland OR metro area where rent and housing prices have spiked). I will likely be able to work part-time remotely with my current job regardless of where/if we move.

I suppose I imagined only buying a property if monthly costs would be substantially less than our current rent/utilities. I realize that might not be realistic and this input is making me want to lean towards focusing hard-core on paying off my student loans.

little_brown_dog

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2016, 02:59:12 PM »
As someone who is a new sahm, and who is finally paying off her student loans after almost 5 years of aggressive repayment, I highly support demolishing those loans before you have a baby. You don't want those hanging over your head, and you certainly don't want to end up in the unfortunate position where you want to stay home, but can't afford to because of the loans. Attacking the loans full force before we had kids was one of our smartest financial moves to date. Once the loans are gone, then go for the house.

I would also build up your savings a bit more in preparation for pregnancy and birth. You will breathe much easier if you know that a few extra medical bills or an extended hospital stay after the birth won't completely derail your finances. If you luck out and don't need it, then that is some extra you can put towards the house.

Having big dreams is fabulous - but I would highly recommend getting your financial house in order before you get pregnant. You have time on your side at 27, and since your partner is still in school and has yet to find employment (let alone a salary generous enough to support a family of 3 and a mortgage) rushing into pregnancy could really screw you. Get those loans down, save up a bit more for emergencies, have your partner secure a decent job, and then jump on the baby train.
« Last Edit: February 20, 2016, 03:41:21 PM by little_brown_dog »

rozsi

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2016, 05:40:56 PM »
Thanks, @little_brown_dog. That's all excellent advice and I appreciate hearing from someone who is a new sahm.

tobitonic

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2016, 11:06:43 PM »
Lots of good advice, but keep in mind the number of babies you want to have. If your answer is 1 or 2, then yes, you can afford to wait a few years. If you'd like a larger family, however, your loans will wait but your body won't.

rozsi

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2016, 03:34:40 PM »
Thanks all again for the good advice. I am torn on waiting longer before TTC. I realize that I am young enough that my body can wait physically, but after 6 years together, my partner and I are emotionally tired of waiting (curse you, practicality and common sense!!)...and I'd love to have two kids and be done having them by the time my early 30s roll around...not start TTC then even though I completely agree that it makes more sense economically. Right now my health, age, and relationship are in ideal shape for trying to have a baby, it's just those pesky loans.

However, regardless of the baby question, all of this great input has convinced me to focus on paying off my student loans before thinking more seriously about buying property.

I paid off my highest interest student loan today! And my debt is down to $24k. I think if I manage my finances very carefully this year, I can either pay off, or come very close to paying off those loans by the time a baby comes around.

little_brown_dog

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2016, 03:49:06 PM »
Thanks all again for the good advice. I am torn on waiting longer before TTC. I realize that I am young enough that my body can wait physically, but after 6 years together, my partner and I are emotionally tired of waiting (curse you, practicality and common sense!!)...and I'd love to have two kids and be done having them by the time my early 30s roll around...not start TTC then even though I completely agree that it makes more sense economically. Right now my health, age, and relationship are in ideal shape for trying to have a baby, it's just those pesky loans.

However, regardless of the baby question, all of this great input has convinced me to focus on paying off my student loans before thinking more seriously about buying property.

I paid off my highest interest student loan today! And my debt is down to $24k. I think if I manage my finances very carefully this year, I can either pay off, or come very close to paying off those loans by the time a baby comes around.

Great job on the loans!  You might benefit from the motivation of setting a hard goal before you allow yourself to TTC. Something like a loan balance threshold and a savings threshold - ex: "We can start TTC when my loans are 15k and my savings is 12k". This will give you super intense motivation to get them down asap and will set you up nicely for a less stressful pregnancy/newborn experience. Then, the day those goals are met you can open a bottle of wine and celebrate ;oP
I'd recommend posting a case study of your finances if you haven't already - the forum will quickly help you identify areas where you can save.

rozsi

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #11 on: February 22, 2016, 04:01:41 PM »
Great idea :) I am definitely someone in need of deadlines and specific number motivations to meet my goals, so setting out certain savings/loan thresholds could be a very good system for me. And I will look into posting a case study. I'm so new to this forum I haven't had a chance to investigate those yet. So much to learn!

laceface

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #12 on: February 22, 2016, 04:04:27 PM »
As someone who is going through infertility with my wife - I strongly advise you not to wait. She was 30 when we started trying and has not gotten pregnant yet.

In the meantime, we paid everything off and have no debt which is freaking awesome. As you're waiting, you can just keep dumping money against that debt. :)

I hope that everything goes smoothly for you!!

rozsi

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #13 on: February 22, 2016, 04:21:56 PM »
Thanks, @laceface! And many good vibes and good baby luck to you. And congratulations on being debt free! So cool.

Yeah, hearing a friend's story of going through the emotional (and financial) wringer of fertility problems in his early 30s has had some influence on me wanting to get on with baby making sooner rather than later...

Jesstache

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #14 on: February 22, 2016, 04:38:54 PM »
I would not start TTC until your partner has defended and secured a FT job.  Once you know what his career situation looks like, you can start planning your family without all the financial responsibility/stress falling on your shoulders.  Even a few months to a year of both of you having FT jobs with decent income would probably allow you to pay off the rest of your student loans.  Personally I would want to hit that milestone before bringing a child into the picture.  My DH and I met in grad school (we're cultural anthropologists who went into the non-profit sector -- I understand the career challenges!) and we waited until we were almost a year into our first professional positions before we started TTC.  I was 32 and DH was 42 when we had #1, we were 35/45 when we had #2.

Want to move to Oregon and be friends with my husband and I?  Haha! I was 27 and a few weeks shy of 30 when we had our kids, Hubby was 42 and 45.  It's hard finding friends with similar spreads in ages.  I'm 32 now.  Most of our friends with kids are my age and my husband has a hard time relating to their husbands.  =)

To the OP, I agree with all others, I'd wait until my husband 100% had a job lined up before TTC.  That 6 months (or so) can make a huge difference in your finances but not much difference on starting your family (although I completely understand that when you decide to start trying for a baby it feel like you JUST CANNOT WAIT ANOTHER SECOND and want a baby NOW). 

Another thing to consider is insurance.  Having our first kid cost me exactly $40 out of pocket.  Second kid was about $8000 out of pocket.  Fun times.  Different companies and insurance plans.  Our individual deductibles were $3k so that's $3k for me and $3k for baby.  Of course we went over more than one plan year as well so we got to dip into the next year's plan deductible while we were at it.  We easily afforded it and knew what we were getting into (and he was worth every penny :) but it sucked to have to pay after the first one was $40. 

First time around I was also able to plan far enough ahead with signing up for short term disability (I think it was 1 year of premium payments before you could file a claim) so that I could get paid out for "maternity leave", which was not something my company itself provided.  I got 8 weeks of 80% "disability" pay, if I remember correctly.  I actually took off the FMLA max so the rest was unpaid.  Not applicable the second time around as a SAHM.  I came out way ahead on that one. 

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #15 on: February 22, 2016, 05:06:36 PM »
I really wish I had gotten my financial house more in order before having kids. I vividly remember having to make three different phone calls asking to be put on three different payment plans for the various components of a $900 hospital bill, because I didn't have it.

However, the fact that my kids were born in rental property rather than an owned house made 0 difference. None. Fancy nurseries are completely unnecessary and generally have to be disassembled anyway once the kid starts moving.

The mistake we made was actually to buy a house that was big enough for two grade-school age kids before we even got pregnant. We would have been much better off continuing to rent a smaller place. (We moved out of the area for work reasons, lost all our money on the house, and wound up renting half a duplex.)

Now that the kids are 3 and 5, I like having a fenced yard so I can send them out there. Not a necessity for a baby/young toddler!

Just to give you some more reasons for the decision you already made :-).

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #16 on: February 22, 2016, 05:13:06 PM »
Following. Rozsi, we're in a similar place- I feel like we're chasing so many goals that none of them are happening "fast enough"! Same ages roughly. Although we're both working now, but DH has 1.5 yrs left on his masters. Very hard waiting on babies! And loan payments! And wanting a house! We've been following the 'investing order' I see around the forums a lot:

Quote
WHAT
0. Establish an emergency fund to your satisfaction
1. Contribute to 401k up to any company match
2. Pay off any debts with interest rates ~5% or more above the 10-year Treasury note yield.
3. Max HSA
4. Max Roth or Traditional IRA based on income level
5. Max 401k (if 401k fees are lower than available in an IRA, swap #4 and #5)
6. Fund mega backdoor Roth if applicable
7. Pay off any debts with interest rates ~3% or more above the 10-year Treasury note yield.
8. Invest in a taxable account with any extra.

WHY
0. Give yourself at least enough buffer to avoid worries about bouncing checks
1. Company match rates are likely the highest percent return you can get on your money
2. When the guaranteed return is this high, take it.
3. HSA funds are totally tax free when used for medical expenses, making the HSA better than either traditional or Roth IRAs.
4. Rule of thumb: trad if current marginal rate is 25% or higher; Roth if 10% or lower; flip a coin in between
5. See #4 for choice of traditional or Roth for 401k
6. Applicability depends on the rules for the specific 401k
7. Again, take the risk-free return if high enough
8. Because earnings, even if taxed, are beneficial

Although we're tweaking the order a bit for 2015 since we're on the cusp of the Saver's Credit for taxes, so tIRAs before another aggressive loan payment make sense right now.

I've also come to the conclusion that waiting on a property is the right thing for us to do right now. Like frugalparagon mentioned, taking your kids home to a rental doesn't make any difference when they're that little. I'm trying to remember that! And not be too impatient =)

rozsi

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #17 on: February 22, 2016, 05:17:11 PM »
Jesstache- Insurance is definitely a big concern, and thanks for bringing that up. I actually did switch to a new insurance plan this year that has a $0 cost for pre/post-natal care, an estimated $500 cost for a routine hospital delivery and a max $1500 out of pocket.
I think I'd be in the same situation with the 80% "disability" pay for I believe 6 weeks. My company does not provide any actual maternity leave. I actually have a coworker and friend who is due to have her own baby in a couple of months so it'll be helpful to see someone else navigate those waters...
And yes, babies on the brain make it difficult to wait! I did just find out my partner got a 30 hr/week job for the next few months which will help things a bit. It's a good start and he is very motivated to finish up those grad school studies.

fugalparagon- hearing all of these real-life experiences make a world of difference as opposed to just imagining all the hypotheticals. Thanks for sharing :) I do think our current rental would work just fine for a baby. It's a little house with a nice backyard in a safe, walking-friendly area. And honestly, who needs more to clean with a little one, anyway?!

rozsi

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #18 on: February 22, 2016, 05:21:36 PM »
@Bracken_Joy - oh that's a handy list. Thanks for sharing. And good luck with all. those. goals!!

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #19 on: February 22, 2016, 05:45:59 PM »
@Bracken_Joy - oh that's a handy list. Thanks for sharing. And good luck with all. those. goals!!

I can't take credit for the list! Some brilliant Mustachian before me posted it, and I saved it. Should have saved the attribution! It's very handy.

If you start a journal or a case study, please link it back here so I don't miss it! =)

Molzy

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #20 on: February 23, 2016, 10:00:16 AM »
This post hit home for me - my fiancÚ and I graduated grad school about 2.5 years ago. We are plugging away at over $100,000 in loans, which has pushed back our wedding and children plans. We are both 28 (I'll be 29 this summer), and we are getting married in May. The (tentative) plan at this point is to start trying for kids a year after that, right before I turn 30.

Here is what we did. We graduated school, and took jobs in different states for 1.5 years. Then we both started applying for jobs near the other person and in some mutual cities. He got a job offer first near me, so moved into my rental. We ended up buying a house shortly after that, as it made more sense for us than renting. At this point we have $65,000 left in student loans. Essentially my whole paycheck goes to student loans (we are at about twice the minimum payment). We both make around $45,000. My (stretch) goal is to have all $35,000 of 6.8% loans paid off before we start trying to get pregnant, so that we have 9 months to build up our savings (we keep about $10,000 right now as we have very old furnace, AC, water heater and a car with over 270,000 miles). We also bought a house we can afford with only one paycheck, which should allow me to take the full 12 weeks FMLA, and then he can take his, so that our child will be a full 6 months prior to day care. Not sure if that plan will work (it is America, so it would be odd for him to take paternity leave, but he does work at a university in a somewhat progressive office). This also left us open to one of us being a stay at home parent - not sure we are really interested in that right now, but nice to have choices! We also may look into going to 4 day workweeks, as 3 day weekends are awesome!

You guys are obviously in a better position since you already have a job, and have been able to start stacking your loans.

Good luck with your decisions! I know when I turned 27, it's like some stupid clock started ticking and I started itching for a baby. Darn biology.

rozsi

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #21 on: February 23, 2016, 10:22:27 AM »
Will do, @ Bracken_Joy :)

@ Molzy- Biology is a crazy beast! It sounds like you guys have a plan. Which is awesome. It seems like plans put us all ahead of most folks. And it would be great if your partner has the opportunity to take advantage of some sort of leave in the future--why it's not an option for all dads, I will never understand.

Although I would eventually like to have the option of being a stay at home parent, I do at least have some flexibility with my job and foresee being able to work part-time from home for a while after having a baby--at least long enough to finish paying off those pesky student loans if they are not paid off at that point and to develop some more savings. In talking about "future goals" with my supervisor I've really emphasized wanting to focus on skills that I both enjoy and can be done remotely, and they seem supportive of that. So at least I'll have something to fall back on should my partner have any employment issues. And I'm hoping that spending more time working from home in the future can minimize childcare costs and the time I need to be away (not to mention saving that commuting money).

Anyhow, thanks for sharing your story and best of luck to you too!!


Easye418

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #22 on: February 23, 2016, 12:35:23 PM »
Similiar set up for me....  My wife turned 26 about 5 months ago and we immediately started planning for children.  We plan to start trying in May. 

We have around $64k in Student Loans (half of them around 6.8% interest rate).

Thankfully, we had a nice increase in salary so we have managed to stock away around 15% to put down on a new down payment.  New mortgage will save a few hundred a month.  I've decided to take my 401k savings down from 14% to 6% (for the match) and beat the shit out of Student Loans in the year or so we have leading up to baby time. 

We decided now is time because we know how the clock really does start ticking faster.  We would like to try for 2 children before 30 and potentially a 3rd child at 30.

formerlydivorcedmom

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #23 on: February 24, 2016, 02:48:16 PM »
We started TTC when my husband signed the full-time job offer as he was finishing up his Ph.D.  Found out I was pregnant as we house-hunted in our new location.

I was convinced I wanted to be a SAHM.  That lasted approximately 6 months, and then I started job hunting again.  As much as I loved my daughter, I realized I really needed to work.  (Also not easy: living in a new place, not knowing anyone else.)  I went back to work part-time, then, when she turned a year-old, was full time again.  I have never regretted that decision.

You and your partner aren't married.  How does he feel about supporting the whole family and/or paying down your loans if you aren't working?

rozsi

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #24 on: February 24, 2016, 03:14:57 PM »
My partner is fine with the idea of supporting the family, but we've never discussed having him pay down my loans. That's something I feel responsible for and want to take care of myself. And I do like having my own income so I'm not adverse to the idea of continuing to work at least part time for a while.

The SAHM choice ties to my wanting to have my own small farm/home-based business which brings in at least some income. I want to spend my time doing hard work outdoors which is what I really love doing. That used to be the main component of my job as archaeologist (lots of hiking and manual labor)--but as my level of responsibility has increased my work has become much more office/reporting/research-focused and way lacking in that quality outdoors fieldwork time. And having a young family while having to travel and do a lot for fieldwork is not something I want to do either--just for a little background info on where I'm coming from :)

La Bibliotecaria Feroz

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #25 on: February 24, 2016, 10:26:09 PM »
My partner is fine with the idea of supporting the family, but we've never discussed having him pay down my loans. That's something I feel responsible for and want to take care of myself. And I do like having my own income so I'm not adverse to the idea of continuing to work at least part time for a while.

I always kept a little money coming in with Leapforce and another side gig. But remember that as even a part-time SAHM, you will be adding a lot of value to your partner's life as well. I'm not paying he should pay your loans, but don't rule it out. Mr. FP paid mine (but I had accrued them during our marriage)--as a matter of fact, he sold his beloved car and used the equity to pay them off.

When my sister's third child was born, her partner because a SAHD. She took his credit cards, cut them up, and had him hand over all the statements. She wiped out his debt a little at a time, and when his car died, she bought him a new one. He is simply more valuable as a homemaker than a wage earner, so she provides the money. Everyone's arrangement is different!

rozsi

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #26 on: February 25, 2016, 11:43:32 AM »
That's a very good point, FP, and something I hadn't really considered before. I'm definitely going to put some more thought into the stay-at-home-parent-money-life balance.

nanana13

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #27 on: February 25, 2016, 07:30:29 PM »
Rozsi, I have prepared a spreadsheet for you as a humble guide in how to attack your student loans. I hope you find some use to it! Don't be creeped out - work is slow for me at the moment so I have a little time.

Edit to add more information:
The weighted average rate was used to determine which should be your priority loans, based on balance owed and interest rate. Since your balances/rates were all over the place, it's helpful to prepare a calc like this to show which, on a weighted average basis, have a higher rate. Of course, this rate will change as you pay your loans, so it's worth revisiting each time you pay a loan off or a make a huge payment on a particular loan.
The comparison tab serves as a handy comparison between my two scenarios and any other scenarios you may add based on your preferences.
« Last Edit: February 25, 2016, 07:32:41 PM by nanana13 »

rozsi

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #28 on: February 26, 2016, 08:42:30 AM »
Wow, nanana13, that's amazing and super kind of you to put together. I really appreciate it!! and will definitely put it to use. I'm not even a little creeped out :)

nanana13

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Re: Please Advise! Student Loans? Down-payment? Baby?
« Reply #29 on: March 06, 2016, 12:30:54 PM »
Wow, nanana13, that's amazing and super kind of you to put together. I really appreciate it!! and will definitely put it to use. I'm not even a little creeped out :)

You're very welcome. :)