2017 – That’s a Wrap!

I was listening to a Mad Fientist episode the other day and was thrilled to hear the guest, Chris Hutchins, speaking about a habit I too have formed for myself over the years.  He was saying that each month he does one thing significant so he can look back on his life and know that he made the best of it.  He can pinpoint exactly what he was doing at the time – whether it be learning a new task, breaking a bad habit, or volunteering on a project.  I too have adopted this idea throughout the years, I just never wrote it down…until last year.

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2018 – A Fresh Start! (FYI  this picture was taken at 10am…NO SUN!!!)

At the start of 2017 I took a normal size calendar ($1 at Dollar Tree), cut all the months apart, and pinned them to our bedroom wall (very romantic – in hindsight the kitchen would have been better) – 3 across, 4 down.  In a few minutes, I had a giant wall size calendar to keep track of our crazy lives.  My work trips, my boyfriends (John) work trips, Dr appointments for us and the boys, birthdays, anniversaries, sleepover’s (for the kids, not us), vacations, dog walkers – everything went on the calendar.  Important things were highlighted and slowly, one by one, the days were crossed off.  This method made it super easy to see everything at a glance and make sure I was accomplishing all of the things that I had set out to do.

I won’t bore you with the details, but a few of my highlights from 2017 are as follows:

  • Multiple meetups hosted by yours truly via the Rockstar Finance Forum – heck, I even crashed one in MSP!
  • Travels abroad to Cuba, Budapest, and Prague
  • The almost purchase of a caboose (more on that soon)
  • Community-based events like Camp Mustache, Lola Retreat, and FinCon
  • More charitable donations than ever before including Houston Food Bank, Red Cross, Ronald McDonald House and PAWS (you know I can’t forget the pups!).
  • A last-minute opportunity to attend Tony Robbins’ seminar Unleash the Power Within (UPW)… (also, more on that soon!)
  • And taking my mom on a day trip to NY to do a crown tour of the Statue of Liberty

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I also had the opportunity to meet several friends during overnights from work.  Anyone care to guess who is responsible for this madness?? Continue reading “2017 – That’s a Wrap!”

Forget the Fluffy Recap, Here’s the Real Dirt on FinCon17…

FnCon – Where Money & Media Meet.  Pretty catchy tagline for the personal finance blogging community.  But let’s take a second to break it down for my non-blogging friends.  Basically, FinCon is a convention where financial media of all types meet to geek out over everything from new apps, monetizing, SEO, creating fabulous content, and all sorts of other stuff.  But that’s not all it’s about.  It’s also about the community itself.  Meeting people you have been talking to online for months (years for some) and deepening those relationships and the bonds that tie us together which, in this case, is money.  This is the facet of FinCon that I explored the most and that in itself was well worth the price of admission.

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So, what can I say that hasn’t already been said?  Nothing.  Instead, let’s skip the traditional FinCon recap post that my dear friends have already done (you can see a whole bunch of them on Physician On Fire’s round-up).  I’m here to spill the dirt.  What happened, what didn’t, and how to prepare if you are ever in attendance at any multi-day conference surrounded by people (and strangers) that you adore.

Swingers Convention??

First off, ignore the rumors.  Night one I was told that FinCon of yesteryear was a swingers convention of sorts.  #NoJudgement, but so so curious…  I was poorly disappointed to find that this is no longer the case (or was it ever?).  My disappointment stemmed not from a FOMO standpoint but out of pure curiosity of how one gets indoctrinated into such a club.  Was there a key bowl involved?  Would it show up at an after party?  On the table of the FIRE panel?  Would it be mentioned in the Newcomers Session??  Nope.  And believe me, I looked.  I looked for all sorts of signs that the rumors were true…and a couple of times I got close.

First, when I ran into a very popular blogger in the bar on night one.  While making introductions, I noticed he had something written on his hand.  When my eyes finally made focus I saw what was written was his room number accompanied by which elevator would take you there.  Interesting…  Naturally, I had to ask if he was aware of the swingers rumor to which he laughed and said he was not.  He explained his handwritten message (presumably in his own writing if he is a righty) was so that HE could remember his own room…  Hmmm – somewhat suspect but still a valid explanation. 😉 The Sheraton was HUGE y’all, and I did actually get lost myself at one point.  Right floor, wrong room – it can totally happen!

The second time came when The WoW’s and I were mistaken for a thriplette What?!  To be fair, we were all standing in a row getting pitched by some company when the rep looked down and noticed our name tags had Mr, Mrs, and Miss prominently displayed.  What other possible conclusions could there be??  Of course, we graciously giggled and Mrs. WoW and I played along like good sister wives do then quickly found our out in the form of Ally cookies at the next booth over.  I mean seriously, here I was the one conducting the research when all suspicion was turned our way due to our name badges.  Note to self – change my first name for next year’s event to “Monogamous”.

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In the end, I saw no hints of couples swinging.  Rumors are usually built on a grain of truth so my guess is that whomever I was talking to was looking for some partners to play with.  Actually, the person who mentioned it also happened to be staying in a lovely Airbnb with another couple.  Perhaps they found their match after all??  I’ll have to keep an eye on them for next year… Continue reading “Forget the Fluffy Recap, Here’s the Real Dirt on FinCon17…”

Early Retirement: Roadblocks & Contemplations

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I never thought I would be the type of gal who stays up late reading about taxes, 401k’s and Summary Plan Descriptions (SDC), yet here I am and I blame my friend Fritz

After-Tax 401k Contributions

Last week, during an early morning van ride to the airport in Tucson, I popped in my earbuds to listen to Fritz wax poetic about his retirement plans on the Choose FI podcast.  During his interview, Fritz mentioned a not so commonly known way to pad your retirement with After-Tax 401k contributions.  You can read all about the method and its pros and cons HERE, but the main issue is whether or not your company allows it.  My employer, I have come to find, sadly does not.  Roadblock #1.

Ok, honestly, I am not all that upset about it.  I mean, I don’t like knowing I can’t do something (I have never been great with authority), but until a week ago I never even considered doing an after-tax contribution so it’s easy for me to let this one fly.  The next roadblock, however, I am not taking so lightly…

In-Service Rollovers

While I had my retirement provider on the line, I figured it was as good a time as any to confirm another huge (for me) early retirement factor, In-Service Rollovers.  An in-service rollover means taking money from your 401k and rolling it to an IRA while you still maintain employment at your company.  Why would anyone want to do this?  Easy – more diversity, better investment options, and increased control over the future of those funds.  What kind of control you ask??  For me, early retirement control via the Roth IRA conversion ladder.  Let’s dissect this a bit…

Have you heard of the Roth IRA conversion ladder?  If not, here is an overly simplified explanation:

  1. Contribute max to traditional 401k (18k pretax as of 2017)
  2. Quit job, roll 401k to a Traditional IRA
  3. Roll a portion of your Traditional IRA into Roth IRA (yes, taking a tax hit on the conversion but skipping the 10% early withdrawal penalty)
  4. Let it season for 5 years
  5. Withdraw the rolled portion from the Roth IRA free and clear of taxes and penalties

Further reading can be found by these dudes who can explain it far better than I…

So back to the phone conversation with my retirement provider.  Turns out… Continue reading “Early Retirement: Roadblocks & Contemplations”

Lola, Landlording, & Life

It’s been a while, ladies, and gents!!  Let me give you a quick catch up before we can move on to the latest…

AUGUST

  1. PORTLAND – Far Away Friends, Couchsurfing, & Lola Retreat!

Have I mentioned how much I LOVE the Pacific Northwest?  I DO!!  Many moons ago I lived in Ashland OR and, looking back over the years, I still consider it one of those magical times in my life where my surroundings had the ability to refresh and energize me.  The trees, mountains, and clean air (compared to city life, that is) were a true delight.  Every time I am back, I feel right at home…

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Born Treehugger

I arrived in Portland a day before Lola Retreat so I could meet up with my friend, Angela.  Angela and I met in 2013 while hiking the first ever European Peace Walk (EPW).   The hike itself was tough, but the friendships made on that trip were solidified by an unspoken bond that only happens when you hike painfully long days in excruciating heat across 6 countries with little-to-no route information.  Such a BLAST!!  🙂 Since then, I have met several of my US-based EPW buddies on work overnights, some met me in Spain to hike, and last year while on vacation, I met Angela in her hometown of Dublin.  It was only proper that I meet her when she visited the states.

We made our plans a week before Lola but when I checked for accommodations I realized the downside of our timing – the fucking solar eclipse!  NOOOOOOOO!!!  As awesome a sight for many, this “once in a lifetime” event put a damper on our plans…until we consulted Couchsurfing.  Now, I have stayed in a ton of random places during my travels (barns, old classrooms, churches, monasteries), but I have never Couchsurfed for fear of being murdered in my sleep.  I am happy to say that fear is now gone…and it was so easy!  Not only were our hosts super accommodating, they were also very informative (all for $0!!!).  They told us about a local hike called the 4-T Trail.

Continue reading “Lola, Landlording, & Life”

An Aha Moment… Reverse Engineering FI

This post was featured by Rockstar Finance. If you clicked over from there, THANK YOU, and I hope you enjoy the read. If you just happened to wander over here and are interested in all things Personal Finance or FIRE (Financial Independence/Early Retirement), I highly recommend you hop over to Rockstar Finance to check out their site and all the awesome bloggers they host weekly.  Oh, and don’t forget to check out the Rockstar Finance Forum where you can chat PF to your heart’s content. Thanks for stopping by and I hope you will follow along on my long and winding road to FI!

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It occurred to me last week that I have been looking at this whole FI thing the wrong way.  Building your wealth is a long process and it takes time…1,979 more days in my case but who’s counting?!  In an effort to not feel overwhelmed, I decided to flip the script.  What if I started looking at FI from what I have already saved?  What if I start looking at it with an attitude of abundance and not destitute (a tad dramatic but I love the striking opposition it induces 😉 ).

The basic formula for FI is 25 x yearly expenses.  Whatever that number equates to is considered safe to use a 4% rate of withdrawal.  If all these numbers are true, we can instead flip it around to calculate how much I would receive each month if I quit working today based on what I have already saved!  Here’s a semi-random example:

Bianca has $333,000 in assets.  Divide that number by 25 and you’ll get $13320 per year which is equal to $1110 per month.

$1110 per month.  That is how much all my years of work combined have afforded me to live.  For reference, I have been working and earning a W2 since 1993 when I was 14.  That’s 24 years of working for the man and all those years of labor have afforded me 1110 dollars per month of FREEDOM.  Isn’t that incredible?!  Not from a high or low standpoint but just that it is actually calculable?!  Isn’t it strange to compare your future life’s enjoyment based on the number of hours you worked to earn such jubilee?  It’s hard to wrap my brain around!

So the question is, forgetting all tax implications, could you live off $1110 per month?  If forced to do so, I’m fairly certain my answer would be yes.  I’ve crafted my life in such a way that I have few responsibilities which result in my cost of living being lower than most.  Granted, my studio is paid for and I would likely have to stay there, I’d have to remove all travel from my agenda, sell my car in favor of my bike, eat a shit ton of beans and rice (which I do anyway), and never get sick.  Pretty risky with some of those variables but I could probably make it work, and many people do.* Continue reading “An Aha Moment… Reverse Engineering FI”