FI Exec Family Budget 2017

We’ve never had a budget. If I had to explain our previous financial strategy, it would go something like this:

  • Max out 401k and HSA
  • Regularly contribute to 529s
  • Maintain 3-month cash emergency fund
  • Have no debt outside of mortgages
  • Buy whatever we want and always put it on a credit card
  • Never carry a credit card balance and never miss a payment
  • Move lumps of cash into after-tax brokerage accounts when excess cash available
  • Use brokerage account for future large purchases or investments

According to our financial planners, we’d be set for retirement by 65 and be able to afford each kid’s tuition (not board) at an in-state, public university. This plan no longer meets our goals, so time for a budget.

This post constitutes our annual budget planning report. We’ll do periodic updates to see how we’re doing.

Hello, You Need a Budget. Regards, 2017.

Author’s Note: Despite this post being published in September, the budgeting process and decisions made took place in March.

2017 started off great for our family, but terrible for our finances. After 6 months of the most hellacious trip planning I’ve ever experienced, we took a week-long trip to Disney World. It was an amazing trip and a place we’ll return. But the happiest place on Earth also happens to be one of the most expensive.

I’ve always passively tracked our income, investments, and spending, but I rarely did anything about it. Then in January 2017, our expenses came in at $15,837, nearly topping our highest spend month the previous year. We followed that up with a $17,864 record-breaking February, exceeding our previous year’s average monthly spend by 50% and setting a two-year record high.

Total monthly spend January 2016-February 2017

Based on our 2016 effective tax rate, if we maintained this level of spending, we would need to gross $260k annually just to pay for our cost of living. That’s $260k of pre-tax income and not being able to save a single dollar. Not good.

Motivated by the new-to-me Mad Fientist podcast and stories of those on his show, it was time to admit we had a problem.

Continue Reading “FI Exec Family Budget 2017”

Getting All On Board with the Plan to Achieve Financial Independence

In March 2017, I binge-consumed as much material on financial independence as I could find. Luckily, there are some pretty awesome people that have been covering this space for quite a while. So content was a plenty.

But our story actually begins before that. Reflecting on our decision to seriously pursue financial independence and retire early, it’s probably best to share our complete story. Why? Because convincing yourself and your spouse that you can do this is not a realization you come to over a weekend. For us, it was about two years.

Continue Reading “Getting All On Board with the Plan to Achieve Financial Independence”

The Simple Bit of Advice That Saved Our Marriage 250 Times

Around 10 years ago we received a simple bit of advice that proves to save our marriage just about every two weeks.

Leading up to our wedding, we attended premarital counseling at our local church. Pastor Mary – a wonderful woman with deep, southern roots – volunteered her time to lead us through the exercise.

Our sessions with Pastor Mary were nearing an end. She was leading us through a difficult topic of debate and disagreements in a marriage, and explaining how a healthy marriage is ultimately one where both parties recognize the need to negotiate and make concessions with each other. Through her probing questions, she sensed that she uncovered a bit of animosity between us. She dug in.

“What’s the one thing that annoys you the most about the other person?”

Wait a minute! You can’t ask me that question! How can I possibly answer that question and end up with a positive outcome?

It was a simple question that was difficult to navigate. With Pastor Mary asking the questions, no PR or interview training was going to let me turn a negative into a positive with this one. Continue Reading “The Simple Bit of Advice That Saved Our Marriage 250 Times”