Author Topic: Reader Case Study - What to tackle first?  (Read 5876 times)

cheeseburger

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Reader Case Study - What to tackle first?
« on: March 05, 2014, 11:58:59 AM »
Hi. I appreciate all input/suggestions/face punches you can throw at me.

Me: 36
Spouse: 36

Monthly Net Income:
April-November: 7750 /  December-March: 5118
Daycare reimbursement: 416
(Above includes deductions for health insurance, 10% to my 401k (also 7.5% employer match), Health FSA, Daycare FSA, my train fare, and 2% to ESPP)

Total Income:
April-Nov: $8166
Dec-Mar: $5534


Monthly Expenses:
Mortgage (PITI): $1820
Daycare: $412 Dec-Mar; $1368 Apr-Nov
Groceries/Take out pizza on Friday/Alcohol: $700
Transportation (Gas/Public Transport): $100 Dec-Mar; $600 Apr-Nov
Gas/Water/Electric: $350 (on avg)
Cable/Internet: $101.49 (plan to cancel cable in June after promotion runs out, but with internet and hulu/netflix, I think we'll net at about around $100 anyway)
Cell Phones: $40
Student Loans: $225
Gas conversion loan: $300
Car/Life/Umbrella Insurance: $150
Everything Else: $300 (hair cuts/kids clothes/home purchases/gifts)
Save to Spend: $300 (car taxes/maintenance/vet bills/medical/more gifts)
Roth IRAs: $658
529: $50
Total Expenses: $5506 Dec-Mar
                               $6827 Apr-Nov


Remainder: $28 Dec-Mar
                       $1339 Apr-Nov


Assets:
Efund: $5000
Other Savings: $1700 (earmarked for future purchases - like a car, fence, and sadly many other things that cost way more than $1700)
Total cash savings: $6700

Company stock: $1386 (purchased with ESPP)
401k: $50,600
Rollover IRAS: $105,300
Roths: $80,400
Total Investments: $237,686

Other:
House: $300,000 (appraisal value in 2013)
2003 Ford Focus: $4000

Liabilities:
Oil to Gas Conversion Loan: $14,600 @ 4.49% (5 year loan - payments start in June)
Student Loan 1: $3752 @3.38%
Student Loan 2: $12068 @3.13%
Mortgage: $256,051 @3.25%

Because of our tax refund (approx. $1900) and a large-ish check coming our way thanks to a freelance gig my husband picked up last month, we should be able to throw another $4K into our e-fund.

Here's my question.  What are we supposed to do next? Seriously.  I have Suze Orman on one shoulder (build up efund!!!) and Dave Ramsey on the other (pay off debt!!!).  At the same time, we do have some big expenses coming down the pipeline (like saving to get a roomier car, installing a fence - not to mention other house expenses that might pop up, like the death of an appliance).  Do you split our leftover money among the 3 or tackle one before taking on the other? 

And are you going to yell at me for how much we spend on food? :-)

Thanks for any suggestions or comments!

swick

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Re: Reader Case Study - What to tackle first?
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2014, 12:15:55 PM »
I'll let someone else Facepunch you about the food...but seriously, take a look at some of the gauntlet threads, you need it!

Otherwise, if you don't already do it, and you do budget your money (probably a good idea for you because it looks like you have a bit of a fluctuating income) You should have monthly categories for replacements  - car - fence - appliances. Figure out when you estimate you will need to replace them and then how much a month you will need to save. This is a HUGE weight off and makes sure that your emergency fund doesn't get depleted, or you go into debt for expenses you should have known were coming up.

nereo

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Re: Reader Case Study - What to tackle first?
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2014, 12:18:39 PM »

Monthly Net Income:
April-November: 7750 /  December-March: 5118
Daycare reimbursement: 416
(Above includes deductions for health insurance, 10% to my 401k (also 7.5% employer match), Health FSA, Daycare FSA, my train fare, and 2% to ESPP)

Monthly Expenses:
Mortgage (PITI): $1820
Daycare: $412 Dec-Mar; $1368 Apr-Nov
Groceries/Take out pizza on Friday/Alcohol: $700
Transportation (Gas/Public Transport): $100 Dec-Mar; $600 Apr-Nov
Gas/Water/Electric: $350 (on avg)
Cable/Internet: $101.49 (plan to cancel cable in June after promotion runs out, but with internet and hulu/netflix, I think we'll net at about around $100 anyway)
Cell Phones: $40
Student Loans: $225
Gas conversion loan: $300
Car/Life/Umbrella Insurance: $150
Everything Else: $300 (hair cuts/kids clothes/home purchases/gifts)
Save to Spend: $300 (car taxes/maintenance/vet bills/medical/more gifts)
Roth IRAs: $658
529: $50
Total Expenses: $5506 Dec-Mar
     
And are you going to yell at me for how much we spend on food? :-)
I don't yell; I calmly make suggestions :-)

All of your loans have fairly low interest rates, so I personally don't see accelerating payments to them to be a huge priority.  I would do two things in the next few months: 1) bulk up your E-fund, and 2) start to reduce your monthly expenses.  Yes, $700 is high for food for a family of four.  Also, gas/water/electric at $350/mo average seems very high.  I'm guessing you are in New England?  Your biggest expenses though seem to be day-care.  I don't have kids so I won't comment too heavily, but I would invest some mental energy and shoe-leather into looking for more affordable options, *especially* april-nov when it is costing you $1368/month (?!)  Or maybe I'm misreading that. If that's right you are spending over $9,500 on daycare for just seven months.
you mentioned a "bigger car" - make sure it's an affordable, older one. Almost all 'compact' cars will tote around a family of four just fine.

Cromacster

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Re: Reader Case Study - What to tackle first?
« Reply #3 on: March 05, 2014, 12:28:25 PM »
I stray from what the previous poster and Suze.

You already 5,000 in an efund, and a substantial amount accessible in a roth.  If there were ever a shit hits the fan situation, you should be covered.  Granted efunds are not for building fences.

There are plenty of areas that you can trim.  Food, clothes, haircuts, Cable, gifts.

I would up debt payments and also start saving money that is earmarked for the projects you want to get done.

nereo

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Re: Reader Case Study - What to tackle first?
« Reply #4 on: March 05, 2014, 12:37:55 PM »
I stray from what the previous poster and Suze.

You already 5,000 in an efund, and a substantial amount accessible in a roth.  If there were ever a shit hits the fan situation, you should be covered.  Granted efunds are not for building fences.
well my friend, you and I shall have to agree to disagree.  With monthly expenses exceeding $6k (even after retirement contributions are eliminated) I wouldn't feel comfortable with only $5k in my eFund.... but that's just me. 
Definitely work to reduce expenses, on that point we agree.  With all the other loans <4% (except the gas-converstion at 4.5% which hasn't started yet) I think her money can be put to better use bulking up funds and saving for upcoming expenses over paying down debt right now.

On a positive note; almost a quarter million in savings isn't a bad start for two people in their mid 30s!  Change the spending part of the equation and FI should be attainable by your early 40s!

MDM

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Re: Reader Case Study - What to tackle first?
« Reply #5 on: March 05, 2014, 12:48:14 PM »
Monthly Net Income:
April-November: 7750 /  December-March: 5118
Daycare reimbursement: 416
(Above includes deductions for health insurance, 10% to my 401k (also 7.5% employer match), Health FSA, Daycare FSA, my train fare, and 2% to ESPP)

Total Income:
April-Nov: $8166
Dec-Mar: $5534


Monthly Expenses:
Mortgage (PITI): $1820
Daycare: $412 Dec-Mar; $1368 Apr-Nov

Not sure I'm following correctly: please clarify whether "net" "includes" (or does not include) the items you mention.  Have some ideas but would like to understand better before commenting.
Also, no problem if "it's personal", but just curious otherwise: why the April-Nov vs. Dec-Mar difference?

MicroRN

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Re: Reader Case Study - What to tackle first?
« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2014, 12:49:21 PM »
I don't yell; I calmly make suggestions :-)

All of your loans have fairly low interest rates, so I personally don't see accelerating payments to them to be a huge priority.  I would do two things in the next few months: 1) bulk up your E-fund, and 2) start to reduce your monthly expenses.  Yes, $700 is high for food for a family of four.  Also, gas/water/electric at $350/mo average seems very high.  I'm guessing you are in New England?  Your biggest expenses though seem to be day-care.  I don't have kids so I won't comment too heavily, but I would invest some mental energy and shoe-leather into looking for more affordable options, *especially* april-nov when it is costing you $1368/month (?!)  Or maybe I'm misreading that. If that's right you are spending over $9,500 on daycare for just seven months.
you mentioned a "bigger car" - make sure it's an affordable, older one. Almost all 'compact' cars will tote around a family of four just fine.

Assuming it's for 2 kids, that's actually really reasonable for daycare.  In a lot of areas, daycare for 2 would be $2200+, unless you lucked out and found an inexpensive in-home place.

OP, what is your kid situation?  You mentioned a roomier car.  Even 3 in carseats can fit in a small sedan if you pick the right style.  Groceries will also depend on kiddo ages, but you should definitely be able to go well under $700/mo.  Will the daycare be short term or longer term for you?         

cheeseburger

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Re: Reader Case Study - What to tackle first?
« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2014, 01:27:57 PM »
Thanks for all the input and questions so far! Let me see if I can cover everything in an order that makes sense.

1. Income/Job explanation - My husband is a freelancer. He works at a steady, seasonal gig from April through Thanksgiving and is technically unemployed from December-March.  When he works full time, we have full time daycare expenses and he has to pay for public transportation (which is ridiculous at about $500/month). He sometimes picks up freelance income in the off-season, but we don't rely on it. Also, there's always the chance that this gig doesn't come back at all. I make 2/3 of our income and if we cut back to absolute bare bones (and pull DS out of daycare completely) we can survive if he were to lose his job.  If I lost my job, we'd be hurting since I also bring in our insurance. My job is very secure though (famous last words).  This all makes a strong argument for building an emergency fund.

2. Kids - We just have one (but would love to have two if we can swing it). Daycare is outrageous in our area and we're paying for a daycare that (down the road) will pick up DS from school and that's open until 6:30pm (necessary since my commute doesn't get me to him until 6:10. Most other area daycares close much earlier than that).  Good news is that when he moves up to the 3 year old room in May, that expense should go down some.

3. I will absolutely work on the food.  We already drink boxed wine, so we're already like halfway there. Ha. I've been researching/reading threads on budget recipes and making tons of notes.  I meal plan/make grocery lists, but I'm notorious for going off list. So that's on me and I will be better about it.

4. @swick Funny. Earlier today, I made a spreadsheet estimating all the fence/appliance replacement/roof, costs, had a baby heart attack, and that spurred me turning to you guys for input.

5. We are in New England and are having a crappy winter.  We turned our thermostat down to 66 last month thinking we'd see  a huge decrease in our heating costs, and our bill still went up $75.  This weekend we weather-stripped our doors to see if that will help.  In the summer, our gas bill will go down but we'll pay a little more in electric to run our ACs.  So it all evens out.  Water is about $80 every 3 months.

6. We can make our compact car work. It's a great little car with only 90K miles.  It only becomes a problem when we travel. At Christmas, we were piled in like a clown car with all of us, a cat, and our stuff. If we want another kid, the cat will have to ride on the roof.  I told my husband that we can always rent a car for these road trips. We still need to think down the road though and start putting money away for an eventual purchase.

7. Our net income is after all those listed items are taken out (i.e., my train fare, 401k, FSA's, etc.).

8. Back to the expenses/efund.  I've done the math, and our bare bones expenses are $4500/month. 

I'm more than happy to cut expenses and appreciate all the input there.  However, I have a hard time prioritizing where to throw the extra money. I see the arguments for both (beef up savings; kill debt) and love to hear what other suggest.

swick

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Re: Reader Case Study - What to tackle first?
« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2014, 01:45:17 PM »
4. @swick Funny. Earlier today, I made a spreadsheet estimating all the fence/appliance replacement/roof, costs, had a baby heart attack, and that spurred me turning to you guys for input.
As recent first time home buyers, who have to build a fence this summer and replace most of the appliances we know this very well. It really does feel better knowing you have a plan and the money is going to be there when you need it.

There are some great threads for grocery spending:

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/throw-down-the-gauntlet/eat-all-the-food-in-your-house/
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/throw-down-the-gauntlet/track-and-categorize-grocery-spending-all-march!/
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/throw-down-the-gauntlet/fire-drill!-skip-this-week%27s-grocery-shop/

Plus the totally awesome recipe index:
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/off-topic/mustachian-recipes-8326/

« Last Edit: March 05, 2014, 01:47:27 PM by swick »

cheeseburger

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Re: Reader Case Study - What to tackle first?
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2014, 02:17:25 PM »
4. @swick Funny. Earlier today, I made a spreadsheet estimating all the fence/appliance replacement/roof, costs, had a baby heart attack, and that spurred me turning to you guys for input.
As recent first time home buyers, who have to build a fence this summer and replace most of the appliances we know this very well. It really does feel better knowing you have a plan and the money is going to be there when you need it.

There are some great threads for grocery spending:

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/throw-down-the-gauntlet/eat-all-the-food-in-your-house/
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/throw-down-the-gauntlet/track-and-categorize-grocery-spending-all-march!/
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/throw-down-the-gauntlet/fire-drill!-skip-this-week%27s-grocery-shop/

Plus the totally awesome recipe index:
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/off-topic/mustachian-recipes-8326/

This is awesome. Thanks!

MicroRN

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Re: Reader Case Study - What to tackle first?
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2014, 02:24:12 PM »
As to the debts vs savings, since all of your debts are low interest rates and no credit cards, I'd probably bulk up savings first.  You know you have some major expenses coming up, and especially with your DH having freelance and seasonal work, more money to savings is a sensible idea.  Once you have a solid cushion, you can go after the debts.

The grocery bill is low-hanging fruit.  You're two adults and a toddler, correct?  Careful shopping and planning could cut that by more than half while still eating a balanced diet and enjoying some treats.  One easy change is to buy frozen pizzas to do your Friday pizza night.  We won't spend more than $4 on a frozen pizza, and generally buy Tombstone at $2.50 or whatever is on sale.  I'll be honest and say our grocery budget is usually higher than I plan, but for years I lived on $100-$150/mo for a single adult, with a shoebox size freezer and no storage space for buying in bulk.         

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Reader Case Study - What to tackle first?
« Reply #11 on: March 05, 2014, 02:41:12 PM »
Your monthly spending looks a lot like mine. I was spending about $1,000 a month on groceries and the dreaded "misc" category. I have cut this to $500 with 3 kids (4,6,7) and that includes a very luxurious alcohol budget, about $75.

For 3 people, $300 for EVERYTHING is doable. Switch to vinegar for cleaning. Potty train the toddler ASAP. Don't buy produce because it's on the list, only buy what's on sale/a good price and build from there. Buy very little meat. Even with meat and diapers, $400 would be doable.

Is there a cheaper way for DH to get to his gig?

Avoid the roomier car. If it's just for vacations, either rent a bigger car then or install a hitch and add a luggage rack behind it.

GregO

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Re: Reader Case Study - What to tackle first?
« Reply #12 on: March 05, 2014, 02:52:53 PM »
However, I have a hard time prioritizing where to throw the extra money. I see the arguments for both (beef up savings; kill debt) and love to hear what other suggest.

It seems like you're getting a pretty solid consensus here to use that money for emergency fund / future expenses that you have been talking about.  If you see some large expenses coming soon, then you definitely should be saving for them and unknown ones.  You don't want to have to go into debt or dig into retirement savings to pay for them.  You should also look into whether you want to continue to contribute to a Roth IRA or more to your 401(k).  I used to contribute to a Roth until I got involved in these forums, now I contribute to 401(k).  You clearly already have a lot of pre-tax contributions so it may be better for you to stick with Roth contributions, but you should look into it.

MDM

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Re: Reader Case Study - What to tackle first?
« Reply #13 on: March 05, 2014, 10:28:06 PM »
Cheeseburger, please check the table below to see if it comes close enough to reality. 
It is an attempt to capture what you have written in the OP and follow-ups, and maybe provide more food for thought.
You should be able to copy and paste into a spreadsheet - unfortunately the forum post strips all formulas.

Some specific questions:
  Are you treating daycare FSA as both a pretax expense and a post-tax income?  What about healthcare FSA?
  Any state income tax?

Thoughts
  Can you get your 401k to $17.5K for the year?  That could be even better than prepaying the loans - if the 401k fees are reasonable.  Do you know what they are?
  Seems there are "fence people" and "non-fence people" - just suggesting you may not need one.  Along that line, paying off all loans before making any "optional" capital purchases seems best.
  Agree with other comments (and your own plans) to reduce line item expenses.
  I'm voting with the "your e-fund is good enough" crowd, due to
     - crediting it with the extra $4k you mentioned
     - trusting the monthly paycheck is "safe enough"
     - you can stop the 401k, Roth, and 529 contributions if needed.

ConstantSeasonal Add'nSeasonal TotalAnnual avg.
Salary/Wages$7,000 $2,632 $9,632 $8,755
Health Insur.$384
401k$700
Health FSA$100
Daycare FSA$416
Income after pre-tax deduct'ns$5,400 $2,632 $8,032 $7,155
Train fare$142
ESPP$140
Adjusted Gross Income $5,118 $2,632 $7,750 $6,873
Daycare reimbursement$416
Income before monthly expenses$5,534 $2,632 $8,166 $7,289
Monthly Expenses:
Federal tax$660
State tax0?
Mortgage (P&I)$1,530
Prop. Tax$210
Home Ins.$80
Daycare$412 $956 $1,368 $1,049
Groceries/Alcohol$600
Dining (Pizza, etc.)$100
Gas/Public Transport$100 $500 $600 $433
Gas/Water/Electric$350
Cable$50
Internet$50
Cell Phones$40
Student Loans$225
Gas conversion loan$272
Car/Life/Umbrella Insurance$150
Miscellaneous #1$300
Miscellaneous #2$300
Roth IRAs$658
529 plan$50
Total Monthly Expense$6,137 $1,456 $7,593 $7,108
Remainder($603)$573 $181
Assets:
Efund$9,000
Other Savings$1,700
Total cash savings$6,700
Company stock$1,386
401k$50,600
Rollover IRAS$105,300
Roths$80,400
Total Investments$237,686
Other 
House$44,000 Diff btwn app & loan
2003 Ford Focus$4,000
LiabilitiesCurrentOriginal Prin.RateOrig. Length
Oil to Gas Conv. Loan$14,600 $14,600 4.49%5 year
Student Loan 1$3,752 $4,000 3.38%10 year
Student Loan 2$12,068 $13,000 3.13%10 year
Mortgage$256,051 $270,000 3.25%20 year

 

cheeseburger

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Re: Reader Case Study - What to tackle first?
« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2014, 09:08:15 AM »
Thank you all for the helpful and thoughtful replies.

My husband and I talked last night about it and he was like, I've been telling you for years we should cut grocery spending. Says the guy who has been known to be a little loose with the work lunches, but whatever. I'm not keeping score.  :-)  We spent $225 at Costco/Stop and Shop last weekend, most of it on food. So, my focus is to reign that in and spend no more than $250 on household goods and food for the rest of the month. Baby steps.

- Unfortunately the train is the  most economical way for H to get to work and train fare to the city is $$$. He also isn't walking distance from the train station, so he needs to buy a monthly metro card as well. The only way to cut this cost is for him to find a job closer to home. This is his goal, but it's been a challenge given that most of the work in his field is based out of the city.

- I will do some math on Roth vs. 401k.  I can take a lot of pre-tax deductions out of my check, but DH (when he's fully employed) has none. It's definitely worth looking into.

@MDM
I'm treating my daycare FSA as a pretax expense and post-tax income.  I am not doing so for my healthcare FSA, since healthcare expenses are pretty sporadic.

We do have a state income tax and I took your handy table before and tweaked it to reflect reality. It's copied below.  You were pretty much right on, so nice work. :)

My 401k fees are pretty low, I think.  -- .02 for the index fund and .07 for the target funds.  I'd have to do some serious math to see if we could get it up to 17,500. Do you mean for me to do so in addition to our Roth contributions or in lieu of?  And would you suggest then focusing less on saving for future big purchases and more on beefing up retirement contributions?

I think I might be a fence person, but we don't NEED one.  We live on a corner lot, so it would be nice to have a little privacy and to secure the little one so that he doesn't run out into traffic.  That said, the couple we bought the house from managed to raise two kids without fencing them in.

Here's the table you made with my adjustments.  I didn't include the raise that I'll see in my paychecks starting tomorrow because I don't have any pay stubs to work with. I also took the time to average out my actual utility bills from last year, and adjusted it accordingly. 

                             Constant         Seasonal Addtl         Seasonal Total       Annual Avg
            
Salary/Wages       $8,138                    $4,168                    $12,306               $10,743
Health Insur.       $365         
401k                    $654         
Health FSA       $83         
Daycare FSA       $416         
Train Fare               $102         
Income after
pre-tax
deduct'ns         $6,518                    $4,168                     $12,306                 $9,123
ESPP               $132         
LTD                       $32         
Adjusted
Gross Income:     $6,354                    $4,168                     $10,522                $8,959
            
Daycare
reimbursement:   $416         
Income before
monthly expenses:   $6,770            $4,168                     $10,522            $9,375
            
Monthly Expenses:            
Federal tax           $655             $746.1                     $1,401                   $1,121
State tax                   $233.86             $301.6                     $535.46                   $422
Medicare/SS Tax   $210             $441.28                     $651                   $486
Mortgage (P&I)   $1,165         
PMI                           $128         
Prop. Tax                   $458         
Home Ins.           $69         
Daycare                   $412              $956                      $1,368                     $1,010
Groceries/Alcohol   $600         
Dining (Pizza, etc.)   $100         
Gas/Public Transport$100              $500                       $600                      $413
Gas/Water/Electric   $300         
Cable                   $50         
Internet                   $50         
Cell Phones           $40         
Student Loans           $225         
Gas conversion loan   $303         
Car/Life/
Umbrella Insurance   $150         
Miscellaneous #1   $300         
Miscellaneous #2   $300         
Roth IRAs             $658         
529 plan                   $50         
            
Total Monthly
Expense                   $6,556               $2,945                         $9,501                  $8,397
Remainder           $214                                            $1,021                  $852
            
Assets:            
Efund                  $9,000         
Other Savings            1,700         
Total cash savings   $10,700         
            
Company stock   $1,386         
401k                        $50,600         
Rollover IRAS           $105,300         
Roths                   $80,400         
Total Investments   $237,686         
            
Other            
House                   $44,000   Diff btwn app & loan      
2003 Ford Focus   $4,000         
            
Liabilities                             Current             Original Prin.   Rate   Orig.           Length
Oil to Gas Conv. Loan      $14,600     $14,600            4.49%              5 years (5 to go)
Student Loan 1              $3,752             $11,000             3.38%              15 years (4.5 to go)
Student Loan 2              $12,068     $22,000              3.13%               20 years (9 to go)
Mortgage                              $256,051     $259,350       3.25%              30 year (29 to go)

*Sorry I can't get the formatting right.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2014, 09:17:48 AM by cheeseburger »

MDM

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Re: Reader Case Study - What to tackle first?
« Reply #15 on: March 06, 2014, 01:45:47 PM »
Cheeseburger,

The pre-tax transportation benefit was a revelation to me (practically no public transit here).  For anyone else who could benefit from "reduc[ing] their monthly commuting expenses for transit, vanpooling and work-related parking costs...[or]...bicycle", see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Employer_transportation_benefits_in_the_United_States.

Back to the main topic:
Quote
I'm treating my daycare FSA as a pretax expense and post-tax income.  I am not doing so for my healthcare FSA, since healthcare expenses are pretty sporadic.

We do have a state income tax and I took your handy table before and tweaked it to reflect reality. It's copied below.  You were pretty much right on, so nice work. :)

My 401k fees are pretty low, I think.  -- .02 for the index fund and .07 for the target funds.  I'd have to do some serious math to see if we could get it up to 17,500. Do you mean for me to do so in addition to our Roth contributions or in lieu of?  And would you suggest then focusing less on saving for future big purchases and more on beefing up retirement contributions?

- On an annual basis you expect to recoup your healthcare FSA, correct?  If so that's an extra $1K/yr cash flow toward post-tax expenses.
- The Medicare/SS line looks a little low.  For many people the SS portion is 6.2% of "income after pre-tax", and medicare is 1.45% of gross income.
- They aren't big differences, but the monthly payments listed for the 4 loans are different than what Excel's PMT function returns when using the principal, rate, and length given in the liability table.  Usually the PMT function matches the bank exactly.

- And the primary topics are "Federal tax and 401k."  First, good that you have a low cost 401k, so if you can take advantage of it...let's see how that might work.
Here'a a quick estimate of 2014 taxes, using the $8,959 average monthly AGI and assuming you itemize deductions with ~$8200 in mortgage interest plus the state and property tax amounts you show.  If correct, that's ~$200/month less than what you show.  It would be better for you to put that in your own 401k than to give it to the IRS as an interest-free loan.
AGI$107,508
Deduction$18,764
# Exempt.3
Exemption11700
Taxable77043.68
Tax10973
Monthly914.42

Now, what if you increase the 401k to $17,500/12 = $1458/mo?  That gives
AGI$97,856
Deduction$18,764
# Exempt.3
Exemption11700
Taxable67391.68
Tax9201
Monthly766.75

Most important, it keeps you cash flow positive for the year even before any expense reductions you do, and without changing your Roth and 529 contributions.  The extra cash flow can go to future big purchases - or other investments.

If I've missed something, my apologies - and you should of course run the numbers yourself - but it seems the outlook may bring more cause for optimism than heart attacks.

Thoughts?

Prairie Stash

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Re: Reader Case Study - What to tackle first?
« Reply #16 on: March 06, 2014, 07:44:01 PM »
If you pay down mortgage 16k do you eliminate PMI?

cheeseburger

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Re: Reader Case Study - What to tackle first?
« Reply #17 on: March 07, 2014, 09:34:59 AM »
@Prairie Practicality - Unfortunately, no. We only put 5% down on the house. It just so happens that it appraised higher than the purchase price. We have to pay PMI until we get to 20% equity on the purchase price, which is another $30K (or approx 6-7 years of normal payments) from now. Or we refinance, which we don't want to do given our low rate.

@MDM - You've given me a lot of food for thought.  I ran my own calculations, and if I'm right it's a close call. 17% to my 401k, plus company match, gets us contributing about 16.8% of our income to retirement.  11% to my 401k, plus company  match, plus the usual $608 to Roths has us contributing about 16.6% to retirement.  So contributions are about the same (though I know there's all sorts of complicated pre-tax vs post tax stuff once I'm FIRE that I'm not factoring into the equation).  The difference now is our take home, which would be $150-$250 a month more if we favor our tax-deferred accounts over the Roths.  So we have an additional $150-$250 to either throw at our savings accounts or into the Roths. Certainly worth considering.



BTW, we're foregoing takeout and  making our own pizza tonight.