Author Topic: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor  (Read 7013 times)

betsbillabong

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Topic Title: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor

Life Situation: Filing single and head of household, one 2yo daughter (Iím her only parent), new job as professor at CU Boulder

Gross Salary/Wages: $72.5K starting in August.

Pre-tax deductions: Thereís a GREAT match (10% to my 5%) so will definitely contribute at least 5% ($3625) for a $10875 savings; Health insurance will be about $120.

Other Ordinary Income: I give lectures and do art/music commissions occasionally; I usually earn about $5000 a year at this.

Adjusted Gross Income: $84,750.

Taxes: Federal tax will be on 54,875 after head of household/child credit/401K/student loan interest; unsure about others. If I buy a house, obviously knock off at least another 10K per year on interest to calculate my taxable income.

Projected monthly expenses:
Rent: $1000-1700 (??)
Childcare: $1100
Groceries: $300
Student loans: $300
Coffee/Restaurants: $150
Medical: $50
Utilities: $100
Life insurance: $60
Cellphone: $100 (T-mobile iphone)
Driving costs including insurance: $150 (one tank of gas, insurance)
Miscellaneous: $200
Travel: $200
TOTAL: $2710

Assets:
Roth IRA: $32K (2/3 VWELX (Vanguard balanced fund), 1/3 global small cap fund)
Promised down payment/emergency fund from parents: $60K
2009 Volvo XC70 station wagon, fully paid for with only 47K miles on it. I generally only drive about 3K miles a year and anticipate it lasting about 15 years.

I should also mention that my family is super supportive and has some means, so in a true emergency I would definitely have backup. Also, although I hope this is decades away as theyíre in their early 70s, I should have a fairly significant ($1-2M) inheritance eventually coming my way; but of course, I can't rely on that.

Liabilities:
Citibank Visa: $14K, currently at 0% and paying the minimum till I start earning salary. Thinking about paying it completely with my emergency fund, now that I have a job.
Various student loans: $22K, at 5-6.8%, all currently in deferral, but I will start paying them back when I start work; minimum payments are about $250/month.

Specific Question(s):
I am a 50 year old single parent (donor kid, no co-parent) of a 2 year old with a PhD, and I have *finally* obtained a really sweet tenure track job as a professor at the University of Colorado, so off to Boulder I go. Note for those unfamiliar with academia: this is essentially a Ďforeverí job; after six years I will go through a tenure review, and as long as I have kept up my creative work, I will get tenure and cannot be fired unless I, you know, embezzle or something. So the chances of my staying in Boulder forever are very, very high, unless I receive a much better offer elsewhere.

This is super exciting, and what a great place to end up ó however, I have sticker shock from the cost of living. I knew it had gotten pricy, but didnít realize just how pricy. Right now I live in Providence, RI, where I live in a wonderful neighborhood walkable to pretty much everything but groceries (and even that is only a couple of miles away), and I walk/bike/bus to work. I drive about once a week. Childcare is five blocks away. I want to replicate this life in my new town! However, living in a Ďniceí walkable district in Boulder seems to mean pretty much living near Pearl Street, or moving to Louisville or Lafayette. I really donít want to commute from as far away from Longmont if I can help it, though the prices are MUCH better there. I have close friends in Denver.

Also, the university has a fantastic housing assistance program where they will either (a) loan you a down payment of up to 25%/$80K, whichever is less, at 50 basis points under prime, or (b) give you the down payment, and then when you sell the house, they get the appreciation on that amount. You have to apply for this program, with preference given to more junior faculty. Given this, the ways in which Boulder County home prices AND RENT are skyrocketing, I think I would like to buy as soon as possible, even though I still have some student loan debt. Hereís a link to the program:

http://www.cu.edu/sites/default/files/fhap_prog-description.pdf

Right now I am adjuncting and living pretty hand to mouth, but I have enough to make it through the summer till I start this new job. Iím not as interested in advice on my current situation as I am in how to build my new life/budget. I feel pretty good about my plan going forward ó I am used to living on an extreme budget and many of my purchases, like computers or books or media, will now be covered by my research fund at work. But housing is such a big part of this picture.

I guess my questions are basically:

(a) How much can I afford to pay in rent this first year while I start my career and get to know the area? I would love to save money, but I also want to kick ass in my new job the first year, and I feel like Iíd be better able to do that if I was super centrally located. It's also very important to me that I be a pleasant walking distance to a playground and library. Iím waiting to hear whether I will live in family housing on campus (which would be amazing at only $1000 for a 2BR), but otherwise Iím trying to figure out whether I should try to rent somewhere central for around $1500-1700, or suck it up and live in a tiny 1BR for a year ó which my daughter would hate, because of no backyard ó or try to find someplace in Lafayette or Louisville, even if it means a commute.

(b) Ways to keep my moving costs reasonable? I have a piano, couch, and bed to move so I will need to use movers. I think we will probably road trip, painful as it may be solo with a toddler. Shipping the car is $1200 plus our airfares. I do have quite a few miles through my Chase Sapphire card, so I could look into doing that. The university will reimburse me for up to 3K in a move, though I need to use their movers.

(c) Am I crazy to want to buy a house within a year of getting there, given the housing assistance program? I donít want to buy into a bubble, but I also lived through SF prices going up, and up, and up, and up. My gut says Boulder County is not a bubble, itís just an expensive and desirable place to live. On the other hand, the logistics of becoming a homeowner are significant, and I donít want to overwhelm myself. I really want to get started on the right foot with this job. I would get a 15-year mortgage since I donít want to hold a mortgage longer than age 65. Note that in three years, Iíll have quite a bit more income once my kid starts public school. Iíll also be getting a 2-3% raise per year, and if I get tenure should get a 5-10K bump in salary.

(d) Should I spend more time prepaying the mortgage or investing in my Roth/401k beyond the match? I am happy to invest solely in my 401k because Iím only ten years away from being able to access it.

Any thoughts as I build a new Mustachian life? Things I havenít thought about? I have spent my life as somewhat of an itinerant artist and musician, so a stable income like this seems incredible to me. Iím so excited!

Gin1984

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Re: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2016, 11:27:47 AM »
I can answer d for you.  Max out your 401k (btw are you sure it is not a 403b?) before ANYTHING else.  Also check if you have access to a 457.

Kris

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Re: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2016, 12:17:02 PM »

I am a 50 year old single parent (donor kid, no co-parent) of a 2 year old with a PhD,

This made me laugh.


betsbillabong

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Re: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2016, 12:18:35 PM »
Yeah, what can I say -- she's a prodigy!

Cognitive Miser

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Re: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor
« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2016, 01:02:21 PM »
Congrats on the new job!

And you are right, Boulder is a HCOL area.

My first thought is that $1100/mo seems a bit low for childcare.  The going rate in the Denver metro area is more like $1200 minimum, and waitlists can be months long.  If this is just a guess, I suggest you do more research (and get on some waitlists ASAP!).  If this is a verified cost and you have a spot or are on a couple waitlists, then nevermind.

I suggest you rent in whichever town you think you might purchase real estate in.  If you can't afford a centrally-located house in Boulder, then don't rent there (unless you get the sweet family housing deal).  You really want to take that first year to get to know your area.  I'm not sure I understand how the length of your commute will affect your job performance.

betsbillabong

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Re: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor
« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2016, 01:43:44 PM »
Thanks, Cognitive Miser!

Yes, I've actually been surprised that the cost of childcare in Boulder is relatively affordable (at least compared to the east and west coasts). I have a spot reserved at a place that seems wonderful (talked to a bunch of parents) which is $1000. I'm adding in another $100/month because in my line of work I'll need to have some evenings for work related stuff.

Re: moving to the town where I want to buy. I just don't know the area at all, so I can't say where that would be. I fear being isolated living out in a smaller town, at least before I make new friends. Also I have a strong support network in central Boulder right now -- three very old friends. I think for my first year it would be really nice to simplify my life so that all I have to do is bike to work. Ideally, I'd have childcare within walking distance too, but the only place I could find was $500 more expensive and had a 3:30 pickup.

If I can at all afford it, I think I'd like to buy a smaller place (condo/townhouse) in Boulder. It's a bummer, I would really prefer a small bungalow or something with a big backyard, but I think proximity for me will beat everything else. The $64,000 ($640K question) is: can I find something affordable -- which REALLY stretching it, would be 500K.

I can't believe I just typed that number.

minerstache

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Re: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor
« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2016, 01:55:37 PM »
I lived in Boulder for 6 years. Sold a town home in North Boulder for $455k in 2010. Housing prices there might be higher now. Look into the Boulder affordable housing program. In my old neighborhood there, they had some affordable units that were much less than mine at market value. The only difference in those and mine was the interior trim etc. There might be a waiting list; units do come up for sale time to time. Boulder requires new developers to designate a % of new units to this program.

Other areas to look at for rentals (or to purchase) would be Louisville, Longmont (home of the MMM family), and Lafayette. Of course, then you'd have a commute.

madgeylou

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Re: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor
« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2016, 02:08:54 PM »
We just rented a place in Boulder -- sounds like exactly what you are looking for but it's a couple hundred higher than your price range (we pay $1800 for 2 beds/1000 square feet and a big yard). Our neighborhood can't be beat, though. We are one block from the trail up the mountain!

There seems to be 2 kinds of places in central Boulder -- cute little houses from back in the day, and giant homes that were built on the lots that used to have cute little houses on them. We found our place on Craigslist, but there are a lot of places that just put a For Rent sign in the lawn. There's one right up the street from me, in fact -- I can grab the number for you when I'm out on my walk later today.

I would be hesitant to try to buy something quickly. Might be worth it to rent for a year and get your bearings and really take your time looking, in person. In fact, if you can visit in person before moving here, it might be a good idea. The rental market here is nutty and some places that look/sound good on Craigslist from far away turn out to be run by a terrible hippie with boundary issues ... ask me how I know!

betsbillabong

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Re: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor
« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2016, 02:27:49 PM »
Ms. Madge, exactly! I want a cute little house, not a monstrosity. Am currently very happy in 900 square feet, could even go smaller.

When I said buy quickly, I meant perhaps a year from now. I really want to get a feel for the area before buying.

I'm waiting to hear whether I got an apartment on the corner of 24th and Mapleton. Kind of cramped and carpeted inside, but a big yard and another kiddo upstairs.

And I'd love to be in touch, too, with someone else new to Boulder. Glad you found such a great spot! Where are you exactly?
I'd love to hear the phone number for the place for rent!

Betsey

My email is betseybiggsATgmailDOTcom
« Last Edit: April 19, 2016, 02:29:29 PM by betsbillabong »

madgeylou

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Re: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor
« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2016, 02:42:11 PM »
Ms. Madge, exactly! I want a cute little house, not a monstrosity. Am currently very happy in 900 square feet, could even go smaller.

When I said buy quickly, I meant perhaps a year from now. I really want to get a feel for the area before buying.

I'm waiting to hear whether I got an apartment on the corner of 24th and Mapleton. Kind of cramped and carpeted inside, but a big yard and another kiddo upstairs.

And I'd love to be in touch, too, with someone else new to Boulder. Glad you found such a great spot! Where are you exactly?
I'd love to hear the phone number for the place for rent!

Betsey

My email is betseybiggsATgmailDOTcom

Ah, that makes sense. Seems smart to get to know the place better before committing. I will drop you a line with the phone number and some more details. When you get to town we should totally take a walk and talk art and music! :D

betsbillabong

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Re: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor
« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2016, 02:55:33 PM »
Absolutely!

One of the things that's hard about this is the flipside to the job's stability; It is incredibly difficult to find a job as a professor, and so the job is very non portable. So Boulder it is, for better or worse. I love Boulder but if I was making a purely financial decision, it would not have been a great place to choose because it's so expensive. But it is what it is, and it's where I'll be living.

Another note: a HUGE benefit of living in central Boulder as a single parent is the support system I have within the neighborhood. I have friends who could pick up my daughter if I had to work late, come over to help us if we get the flu, etc etc. I also have friends in Denver who could do this.

Also wanted to note that the way it would impact my work performance to live centrally is that it will make it much easier to attend events with or without my kiddo, have dinner with folks, etc, without it being a big deal. That would be very different if I had a 30-45 minute drive.

jjcamembert

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Re: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor
« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2016, 03:22:53 PM »
I think you can save a few hundred on rent if you adjust your expectation of "pleasant walking distance" to "pleasant biking distance" in Boulder. You should get a free bus pass also as a CU faculty.

In general the "cute houses" in Boulder are upwards of $500k and probably need some remodeling work. However, if you look at some of the older townhouses or condos in north or south Boulder you can find some for less than that (or could a year ago; I was house shopping last year). IMO buying in Boulder isn't worth the premium, so I'd rent in Boulder or buy in the suburbs. But if you can utilize the Housing Assistance Program then see what you can find!

Miskatonic

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Re: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor
« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2016, 03:56:06 PM »
First of all, congratulations on the job! As someone who is familiar with both academia and performing/fine arts, I know how big a deal it is to land a TT gig. Knowing you don't have to be on the job market next year is a huge relief, isn't it??

Your cell phone bill seems high for a single person. Have you looked into other options like Ting, Republic Wireless, or Google Fi?

betsbillabong

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Re: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor
« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2016, 05:07:30 PM »
Thank you! Yes, it has been several long years of visiting and part time work. Phew!

Agreed on the phone plan -- what's the best option for an iPhone? Light calling and texting, moderate (3gb?) data?

notarealdoctor

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Re: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor
« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2016, 05:14:25 PM »
Very cool! Congrats on getting the TT job! I'm a current phd student at CU (so close to being finished, so close) and have been here for several years, and can second (or third) the craziness of the housing market currently. If most people asked me if I thought they should buy in Boulder, I'd probably say no, but as you said, the forever job really complicates that.

I don't think you're crazy for wanting to buy, but it is pretty difficult to determine what's going to happen with the Boulder housing market (like, what's going to happen when Google brings in 1,100 more jobs to its Boulder campus?). I agree that I don't think it's just a simple price bubble, but...that's a lot easier to say than to know. Renting for a year or two will be good, and you can get a better sense of the area and whether you want to commute.

I think you can save a few hundred on rent if you adjust your expectation of "pleasant walking distance" to "pleasant biking distance" in Boulder. You should get a free bus pass also as a CU faculty.

This is also a good point. I've lived in a neighborhood east of campus never more than 1-1.5 miles from my department's building, walked every day (unless I feel lazy and grab a bus), and have found it super doable even in the middle of winter. And rent is definitely lower (at per square foot) around this area than anything I've seen near Pearl st.

Whatever you choose regarding housing eventually, I'd also second the advice to focus on maxing out your retirement accounts.

DirtDiva

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Re: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor
« Reply #15 on: April 19, 2016, 05:44:43 PM »
Thank you! Yes, it has been several long years of visiting and part time work. Phew!

Agreed on the phone plan -- what's the best option for an iPhone? Light calling and texting, moderate (3gb?) data?

Another congrats on landing a TT gig (as the spouse and observer of philosophy grad students and now professors).  Good stuff.

Our son lives in Denver and gets great reception with Verizon- has a pay-by-the month plan $45.93 including taxes, unlimited calling and texting, 3 gig data if you set up an auto payment plan. 

mozar

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Re: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor
« Reply #16 on: April 19, 2016, 06:50:32 PM »
I just want to put it out there that a yard for a kid isn't a big deal, especially if you live near a park. I hear that its nice when the kids are little but by the time they are 11 they prefer the hustle and bustle of the city. Don't stretch yourself financially for a backyard. I know plenty of people who grew up without yards and turned out fine.

betsbillabong

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Re: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor
« Reply #17 on: April 20, 2016, 07:34:08 AM »
Thanks everyone! I'll look into the Verizon pay as you go plan. Sounds promising. I wonder why it's so much cheaper than a contract -- seems like it would be the other way around.

Notarealdoctor, I'll PM you -- if you're willing, I'd love to pick your brain more about neighborhoods. My kid's daycare is actually east of campus too (near Foothill and Baseline) so that would be a great area, as long as I could be walking distance to playgrounds and ideally, library and coffee.

Biking distance is totally cool for me, but my 2 year old insists on walking everywhere and is not the fastest. I would say she's not good for longer than a half mile at the outside, and that's taking a long break at our destination.

And good point re the yard. But it's not just for her! The yard is also for me, especially if we have a small place. I want a hammock, ping pong table, and outdoor table! (And someday a hot tub too!)

But I would say in terms of my priorities: #1: location, #2: yard, #3: good light, and a distant #4: size.

I'm getting curious about the Mapleton Trailer Park. Anyone know anything about it? It seems like it could be a creative way to live very centrally for a low price.

Retire in CO

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Re: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor
« Reply #18 on: April 20, 2016, 11:58:54 AM »
Regarding (c)...
I'm not sure that the Boulder area suffers real estate bubbles like many other areas. Back in 2005, Colorado led the nation in foreclosures so we started looking into buying a second home(our retirement dream). The one thing we noticed was that, although Colorado as a whole had many foreclosures to choose from, there seemed to be very few in Boulder. After the dust settled from the 2008 credit collapse, we aggressively searched for a property but noticed that, again there were few foreclosures in Boulder. The only explanations I can think of for this is...
Boulder County's OSMP which we LOVE. Forefathers created vast open space areas which limits residential development. It's difficult/expensive to obtain building permits which helps to uphold existing property values.
Boulder also has a disproportionate number of extremely wealthy, well educated people = fewer foreclosures affecting property values.

After shopping in Boulder, Golden, Louisville, and even Wash Park (Denver), we ended up buying a home in Superior in 2010. It's a great area, wonderful parks, walking trails, schools, HOA amenities, etc. Although it might be a little too "suburban" for many.

One other point of interest: our property taxes in Boulder County (more expensive home) are less than half of what they are in Tennessee...go figure! :-/

honeybbq

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Re: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor
« Reply #19 on: April 20, 2016, 12:03:59 PM »
I agree with what was mentioned before - you should bike to work and use the extensive bus system. Get a kid trolley for the bike for daycare transport.  Boulder is a GREAT place to live!

Cassie

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Re: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor
« Reply #20 on: April 20, 2016, 06:23:42 PM »
I would rent a small uhaul truck and tow your car behind it. We moved across the country with 2 small kids and it is doable.  Just plan on more frequent stops so taking a little longer. Movers cost a fortune and you will find when you get estimates that if you fly you will be better off to just sell your stuff and buy again.  Congrats on the job-I know how hard they are to get!!

FrugalFan

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Re: Starting a Mustachian Life in Boulder as a Single Parent Professor
« Reply #21 on: April 20, 2016, 07:21:24 PM »
Congrats! You will have to work hard to get tenure, but the job is very flexible in terms of when you do that work, which will be great for you with a little one at home. I don't know the Boulder real estate market, but it is not just about whether the prices are artificially inflated or not, but rather if you can afford to buy. Could you really afford a mortgage on a 500k house? In any case, I'm glad you will be renting for a year to figure things out. If you ever do decide to commute, it might be possible for you to work from home once in a while. But having a support network nearby probably trumps that.

This is not directly related to your questions, but since you are your daughter's only parent, have you got a will and guardianship set up? And do you have life insurance?