I deliberately avoided formalizing any resolutions this new year. I was already in the middle of working toward the goals I had set out when lockdown first hit, and was comfortable simply acknowledging my progress toward them and moving on. And then I kept imagining things Iʼd wind up putting on the portfolio and accompanying blog Iʼd eventually be rolling out, some point between releasing the initial version(s) of the software project(s) Iʼm working on and beginning to look for work in the field. When Russ told me that he did want to do something to honour the year, it seemed like enough things were pointing us toward getting our site up and running that I should go ahead and obey the fates.
The best idea would probably be to draw up an actual plan for this—figure out how best to partition topics, the best technologies to use, how personal I want to get, all that important stuff—but Iʼm not. Iʼm just winging it. So, yʼall will be getting everything from personal musings to FIRE milestones to political manifestos; I might even nod toward this being part of my portfolio and get around to putting some programming notes here 😉. Through it all, though, I want to to emphasize a theme of taking time to appreciate the small things in life. Enough has happened in the past year. Letʼs not forget to enjoy what we can.
I donʼt believe in the taboo around peopleʼs finances; Iʼm not going to force discussion where itʼs not wanted, but you donʼt have to be here reading what I write if you donʼt like it, and you donʼt have to read everything I write even if you do like other topics here. But always keeping quiet on what you earn and what you spend seems to me like it can only prolong unfair pay gaps and prevent learning better financial literacy.
After all, almost any personal journey in our Western society will have, at its core, money. Russ and I are currently at a point where we are decidedly not able to go gallivanting off on a sailboat for a year, and so that degree of independence provides a solid ultimate goal. As it approaches, we can determine together what we would value working for, but that is still far enough in the future to just be nebulous dreaming with no noticeable effect on what we do tomorrow.
Instead, a good first goal is a positive net worth. (The first
first goal of positive cash flow is one weʼve luckily already reached.)
Yes, net worth might not be the most meaningful marker—plenty of people
might be living reasonably comfortably while still having decades on their
mortgage, and others may be stressed with millions in their accounts—but I
donʼt want us to settle for
reasonably comfortable, I want us to end
up somewhere sustainable, at the very least. I want us to be able
to take that year at sea if it strikes our fancy. And we need a certain
freedom from debt before we can think about how to develop that resiliency
Iʼve built up a lot of university debt through courses and housing (note to
students: switching from a liberal arts degree to one in the sciences, in
the final term of your junior year, will extend your time there
significantly) and just because the pandemic has put the loans into
forbearance shouldnʼt mean I act as if theyʼre gone—instead it provides a
wonderful opportunity to throw more money at paying them off since
100% of the payments go to principle at this point. I also decided to take
a step back after graduating, treating these past few years as
years before I get something that actually uses that software
engineering degree, and instead have been working a retail job that I
absolutely love. It does unfortunately come with a retail‐scale
As part of that stepping back, Iʼve moved back home with my parents to be present as my baby sisters grew up. That appreciation of small things in life? I donʼt want to be just stories to them. Besides, it allows me to pay an even $0 in rent!
Russ… is a long story for another time, but he doesnʼt currently have much of a footprint on our finances. Eventually, we hope his presence in our life grows, but for now, the division of labor is simple.
Thereʼs a thread on the
Mr. Money Mustache forums which was started for those of us in negative
net worth to track that exact goal—giving us a place to celebrate or ask
for brief support. That thread is one of the inspirations for this blog,
as my first post there proved that I canʼt keep my commentary to anything
brief. I plan to post these updates quarterly, which
should hopefully provide plenty of time for other topics to spring up
|Student loans||$99 829.24|
Seeing this finally below six digits makes me happy in itself. Might not seem like much to celebrate, but itʼs a good exercise in appreciating the little things.
|Stafford @4.231% average||$24 789.46|
|Plus @6.875%||$75 039.78|
This one is actually under my parentsʼ names, but we agreed when I took it out that Iʼd be responsible for paying it off. Unfortunately the interest doesnʼt give me any tax benefits because of that, but Iʼm not in any hurry to get it transferred unless it will continue to be eligible for things like the current forbearance, or unless I find an amazing rate on its refinancing.
|Liquid assets||$7 995.70|
Iʼve been kind of ignoring distributing this account, but it really doesnʼt need to have even that much in here as itʼs just meant for everyday purchases and the occasional car‐breaking‐down emergency where I canʼt access the bank in time to transfer from savings.
|Scheduled withdrawal source||$2 078.21|
Target: $1 200
Aiming to keep about that much in here to cover one month of recurring expenses, once the student loans start up again; a direct deposit hit right at the end of the year, but it has since been distributed to better accounts.
|Emergency savings||$3 249.26|
Target: $3 600
Roughly three monthsʼ worth of expenses, counting those loan payments, or enough to cover a large repair or health bill—or, given the season, insufficiently‐withheld taxes. I did raid this when stocks were on sale at the beginning of may (unfortunately missed the best value at the end of march), and have been redirecting a good portion of the funds which would have built it back up into paying off the loans while I have a direct line to the principal, so this has taken a bit of time to replenish.
Most of this is in various index funds, but Iʼll be looking into bonds and other diversification eventually. Iʼm not particularly interested in individual stocks until I already have a solid investment base, but I have seen good value in picking smaller indices (emerging markets, small‐cap, looking into alternative energy) instead of the S&P 500. Letʼs see how long that market continues.
|Taxable investments||$3 736.54|
My father bought me two shares in Microsoft for what seems to
have been around $15 when I was a baby, and itʼs just grown
off of the reinvested dividends since then. Iʼm still (slowly)
working on getting it out of
|SIMPLE IRA||$6 032.66|
This will certainly be a very important account eventually.
However, I do intend to make use of the
|Net worth||$77 529.71|
|Primary income||$9 916.26|
|Salary and benefits||$9 112.26|
Thatʼs about $26 000 annually after tax. Thereʼs a reason
Iʼm not quite sure where this came from. Itʼs the right size for what we were getting over the summer when I was collecting unemployment for a month and a half, but Iʼve not touched that system since august. Well, if I hear itʼs an error, Iʼll send it back, but until then, I wonʼt complain.
Posting Q4 as the first report is a bit misleading. Most of this is from end‐of‐year dividends; the grand total for the entire rest of the year was only $40.61, probably because the only actual stock I have is MSFT. Until these grow to the point of actually making a difference, Iʼve just set it all to be automatically reinvested.
|Income tax||$1 828.54|
|Gifts and donations||$356.95|
This has probably been one of the least defensible expenses over the last year, as weʼve obviously not been going in person and weʼve been a bit spotty in catching even the streamed sermons. Itʼs still nice to help support them through this all.
|Content creator support||$66.50|
Namely, tossing a few dollars a month to (primarily) YouTubers via Patreon. Itʼs definitely more expensive than more‐traditional media subscriptions like Netflix, but I do think that we should do what we can to encourage people to stop depending on the big silos.
|Sewing and costuming||$83.12|
Halloween. The actual price of the costume was $209.92, counting the fabric I bought at the end of september. On the other hand, itʼs much higher‐quality than your typical mass‐produced, store‐bought, semi‐disposable costume, and I plan on building with the base it provides for years to come. Plus, I actually want to finish it for future holidays; I spent all of my free time in october sewing, and still only got the main robe done! Might have been nice if it was something I could work into every‐day—or at least special‐occasion—outfits, but I donʼt quite have a style that would work with long, flowing magicianʼs robes.
I do want to reduce this even further; Iʼve been bringing my own food to work much more often than I was before lockdown inspired new habits, but I still forget/am lazy roughly a third of the time.
Iʼm glad to see this is where it is. Before this year, I was bicycling everywhere, and I was afraid that the bill would be higher now that Iʼm not calling anyone to pick me up after work (thereʼs only about a month in the middle of summer when thereʼs enough time to ride home before night falls while Iʼm still on thin country roads). This is the first time Iʼve actually added up the receipts.
|Net income||$5 131.75|