March 28, 2008

Anti-frugal item : $35 movie tickets

From the Seattle Times: Posh Redmond theater to charge $35 a ticket

Talk about NOT being frugal.

The article says: "Exclusivity is key. Each of the eight auditoriums will have wide screens but no more than 40 seats arranged in pairs with ample legroom. The theater's restaurant and lounge will be open only to moviegoers. An online booking service will enable people to choose their seats; valets will park their cars"

Sounds nice but not nice enough to get my $35. I can't really swallow paying $35 a ticket for a movie, no matter how comfortable the seats are.

Regular movie ticket prices are already high enough. I paid over $6 a ticket for the so called bargain matinee rate the last time we went and regular adult tickets are $9 each. I still do enjoy going to the movies occasionally for the experience even at the $6-7 rate cause sometimes you just have to 'go out'. But normally I'm happy watching DVDs or movies on cable at home.

March 27, 2008

Good tax news and bad tax news

Good news: I'm not going to have to pay AMT this year. I used the AMT tax estimator for 2007 that I found out about from this Get Rich Slowly page

Bad news: I'm not going to get the Economic Stimulus Payment from the government. I used the calculator at the IRS page that I found out about from the Five Cent Nickel article They phase out the checks after $75k for single people and above $87k its down to nothing. Fortunately for me I make more than that.

March 25, 2008

Amazon filler, HD DVD rebate and laundry detergent caps

A few blog articles I've found that I thought were worth a mention:

  • The Amazon Filler Item FInder: was mentioned on WiseBread article Filler strategies for Amazon’s Free Super Saver Shipping It lists low priced items on Amazon that can be used to make sure your order exceeds the $25 minimum required to qualify for Amazon's free super saver shipping rate.
  • Consumerism Commentary has an article on a rebate offer for HD DVD units from Best Buy. If you bought a HD DVD player from Bestbuy then they'll send you a $50 gift card. And even if you didn't buy one from BestBuy they have a tradin offer. I checked the quote on my Toshiba HD DVD unit and 5 HD DVD movies and it was a little over $49. Not quite enough to entice me to give up the 5 movies and the player to watch them on.
  • I also heard from Consumerism Commentary about an article posted by No Credit Needed about measurement lines on laundry detergent caps. The point is that it might be worth checking the line you fill up your detergent cap to. Some of us may be using too much detergent and may not even realize it. I'll have to check that myself.

March 24, 2008

My retirement funds

At work I have retirement money in two accounts. There is some money in a 401k from a period of a few years that I contributed and money in my companies pension fund. The pension fund is administered by the company and I control my 401k. I'm 100% vested in both. Currently I am not contributing in my 401k since my employeer does not match my contribution.

401k total = $25,296, invested in:

American Funds EuroPacific Growth Fund Class R5 : ytd= -8.2% = $8886
1 year 10.36%, 3yr 16.93%, 5yr 23.08%, life 14.71%
Fidelity Growth Company Fund : ytd= -13.6% = $8016
1 year 7.03%, 3yr 11.22%, 5yr 16.5%, life 13.8%
Brandywine Blue : ytd= -12.67% = $8393
1 year 9.26%, 3yr 9.8%, 5yr 15.79%, life 13.39%

Pension plan total = $86,708

Employeer contribution for 2007 = $6328
1 year 9%, 3yr 10%, 5yr 13.6%, life 11%

Retirement total = $112,004

March 21, 2008

Save money with the Priceprotectr website

I came across this website called PriceProtectr a while back. Its a pretty handy service that can end up saving you some extra money on your purchases.

They summarize the service:

"There are lots of stores out there that offer price protection policies -- when the price drops on an item you've purchased, they'll refund you the difference. But there's a catch... it's up to you to watch prices. Price Protectr makes it simple to keep track of your purchases and get your money back. It's free. It's easy. It's free and easy money. How often do you get that offer? "

So it works like this, you buy something with one of the supported stores, then you tell Price Protectr what you bought and give them your email. If the price changes and the price guarantee for the store would entitle you to a refund you then get a notice from Price Protectr about the price change so you can then contact the store for a refund.

The site is free and simple to use. I already used it myself to get a $20 rebate on a HD DVD player I bought last year on Amazon. Right now I"m also using it to watch the price of HD DVD movies that I'm interested in buying and hoping the prices will drop as they liquidate them.

Price Protectr is a great site and did I mention it is free? :)

March 20, 2008

Promotion and pay raise

This week I got a pay grade promotion and a raise. My base pay went up +14% and my bonus went up +2-3%. So my pay is going up +16-17%. After taxes I'll be netting over $7,000 more take home per year.

Old base pay: $84,500
Old bonus: ~$6,000
Old stock: ~$3,400
TOTAL = $93,900

New base pay: $96,400
New bonus: ~$7,500
New stock: ~$3,600
TOTAL = $107,500

This makes saving towards my retirement goals that much easier.

March 18, 2008

Lazy investing

I found this idea from the aritcle Beat the Market with Lazy Portfolios on the GetRichSlowly blog.

The idea is to invest in a portfolio of simple index funds. These simple investment portfolios have been outperforming the S&P for the past 6 years.

The guy that wrote about them first is Paul Farrell and his latest update on them is posted in the article

'Lazy Portfolios' annual update for recession '08!

I'm interested in the simple 3 fund portfolio named 'Margaritaville Portfolio'. Its made of 33% each of Vanguard Inflation-Protected Securities, Vanguard Total International Stock Index VGTSX and Vanguard Total Stock Market Index. The returns have been 1yr = 10.87%, 3yr = 10.93% and 5yr = 14.45%.

March 17, 2008

NetworthIQ account

I setup an account under NetworthIQ and I'm showing the graph on the left column of my blog. You can see it over there on the left. Right now its showing a net worth of $467,814. That is everything including the equity in my house and retirement funds. In my retirement plan however I'm excluding my home value from my figures and goal.

What do children cost?

I currently have no children. But in the near future I plan to start a family. This raises the question for me of : What will the expenses related to raising children be?

In the past I've seen article headlines that say things like that it costs $180,000 total to raise a child. So that kind of number averages out to $10,000 per year for 18 years of childhood. I personally can't really see there being $10k / year in expenses for a child. But I'm admittedly pretty ignorant on the costs related to raising children. So I decided to do some quick research.

I hit Google and did a search with keywords "cost of raising children" and fittingly the first hit was this MSN article The Cost of Raising Children It presents a table showing average expenditures for children of varying ages and comparing households of differing income ranges. It has costs for individual expense categories of housing, food, transportation, clothing, health, childcare/education and miscellaneous. They get these figures based on an expenditure survey from the USDA so this is from statistical real world averages. Annually the costs range from low end of around $6,000 to high end of over $14,000. So thats the answer to the posts question, it costs $6k to 14k per year to raise a child.

Looking at the figures a little closer I'll see how I'll have to adjust my budget. I think I can ignore some of these categories altogether and others I've already partially accounted for.

Housing is accounted for and costs in the range of $2,000 to 5,0000 annually per child. This probably accounts for the fact that a single person can live in a 1 bedroom but a family of 4 generally needs 3 bedrooms and the 3 bedroom costs more than the 1 bedroom. But for me housing is a sunk cost [simply put something I've already spent/bought] and individual children will not raise my housing costs. Transportation is another figure that is probably based on increased driving and travel for additional people. I've figured generous gas costs in my retirement budget plus a family vacation budget so I don't honestly see significant increased travel spending otherwise. Housing & Transportation net change = $0

Food is an obvious expense that I've already accounted for. The tables show food costing around $900 to 2500 per year for a child. I've budgeted $1560 in groceries annually so I've got this one covered already. Food net change = $0

Clothing is shown as costing $300 to 1000 per year. I had a family budget of $500 per year for clothing and if I think I might have that I low balled that number a bit. But I don't know what clothes for kids cost so I did some looking over at just to see. I found 5 pairs of Levis @$17.5 each, 5 shirts for $30 total and then some socks and underwear for $30. This totals out to $147.5 and its most of a weeks worth of clothing. So I think $300 per year would be a pretty healthy budget for children clothing. Clothing net change = +$175

Health cost figure is listed at about $400 to 800 per year. I expect some of this is additional health insurance premium costs but I'm not certain. There will undoubtedly be some additional health costs for children with them needing cough medicine and regular doctor visits. I had not budgeted a separate line for health costs so I'll have to add this. I'll go with a lowish figure of $500 per year. Health cost net change = +$500

Childcare and education costs are shown at anywhere from $300 to over $2000. I assume this includes daycare, babysitting, private tuition as well as any fees or other costs related to school. My fiancee and I are planning for her to stay at home with the children full time at least in their early years. So we do not expect significant daycare costs. I do not plan on private tuition so we won't have to account for that. I guess there are likely to be some misc. costs related to school and maybe an occasional babysitting bill. So I'll figure a small amount of costs here. Childcare / education costs net change = +$200

The last category and most vague is for miscellaneous expenses and they show that costing $600 to $1900 per year. Since the article doesn't say, I am not sure what kinds of expenses this figure would include. But I'm sure there are going to be some various expenses for children that are not accounted for already in the main budget categories. I'll put down a low to average number for this expense of rough guess $1000 per year. Miscellaneous costs net change +$1000

So this brings my total net change to the budget of $175, $500, $200 and $1000 = $1875 per year per child.

In order to better budget for 2 children, It looks like I'll have to raise my target retirement budget by $3750 per year.

Note that the expenses are not including college costs or anything else over the age of 18. I'll discuss saving for college in another post. Also these numbers are not perfect by any means and are still just meant as ballpark figuring and I'm sure that I'll have to tweak them in future years.

I also found a calculator How much will it cost to raise a child? on the Equifax website. Using that calculator I can zero out figures that are sunk costs or that I won't have myself. With that calculator I figured average annual costs past what I budgetted with my initial retirement budget and came out with an average figure of $1588 more per year. So now I've got two estimates using different methods with pretty big difference in result. I have high confidence that $1000 to $4000 is the right ballpark. I'll go with the larger estimate for now to have a conservative budget.

Figuring a budget for retirement planning

In order to define my retirement goals and plan I have to know how much money I'll need during retirement. To know how much money I'll need I came up with a rough budget. Below is the basic budget that I put together.

garbage$20 $240
electric$110 $1,320
phone/net$82 $984
cable$100 $1,200
netf$15 $180
car insur$100 $1,200
prop tax$2,400
fire insur$300
gas$300 $3,600
food$520 $6,240
health insur$800 $9,600
house maint$1,000
entertain$100 $1,200
eat out $300 $3,600

I should explain a few things here.

First of all this budget is meant to be a rough budget since I'm planning for years in the future. Undoubtedly some circumstances will change over time and I may or may not have all of these bills and I might have some new bills. I am also planning in general for 3% inflation over the long term so these numbers are in todays dollars, pre inflation.

The bills like utilities and insurance are based on my current spending so those are fairly straight forward. Food and eating out are combined figures that plan on four people and eating out for 1-2 meals a week plus over $4 /day per person in groceries. For gas I put in $300 which is more than I use now to give some buffer to account for rapidly inflating prices.

Health insurance is one of the largest expenditures that I expect. Health insurance cost is based off of a current rate quote for a family of four. The $800 per month is a rough estimate covering a "decent" health insurance plan with a medium size deductible. If you are interested, I just looked at the eHealthInsurance site. Note that site is just what popped of a Google search and haven't used it myself to purchase coverage. I am only using it as a reference for ballpark estimate purposes. Health insurance is one item that is likely to increase at a higher rate of inflation, so there is a risk my estimate may be too low in the coming years.

Clothes, travel and Xmas are annual expenses that I just ballparked. Those may be more or less depending but I had to pick numbers so I did so. For my car cost I put down $2500. This is just a rough guess of what I might spend. I buy used cars and keep them for years. My first car was about $7500 and lasted me 10 years and my current car cost me about $14k. I will probably not use $2500 per year on car expense in the long run. I did a guess of $1000 for house maintenance which is much less than I've spent annually so far. But I figured I should account for the large expenses that don't occur frequently like new roof or the like.

So to sum up, this is my total ballpark estimate with basic living expenses accounted for. I am going to use a 3% annual inflation expectation in my figures. I am pretty sure some circumstances will change over the years and when that happens I can tweak the budget numbers accordingly.

March 13, 2008

What I'll need to do to meet my goal

Summarizing from previous posts heres my current situation and goal:

Point A - My current situation:

I own my home and will be paid off in 10.5 years.
Net assets towards retirement plan = $319,214
Net annual savings after expenses: $29,900

Point B - My goal:
Goal: $50,000 / year income (todays dollars) from investments and my house paid off by age fifty

So how do I get from Point A to Point B?

If I assume a 3% annual inflation rate I'll need about $75,600 in annual income in 14 years. I did a little figuring and modeling in Excel and determined that if I start now with $319k and add $30k (29.9 rounded up) every year then I'd need to get about a 6% annual return on my investments in order to have a net worth to provide me the $75k annual income.

6% annual return is not too hard over the long term so I'm in pretty good shape here.

So the bottom line for my plan is:

Save $30,000 per year and make at least 6% on my investments.

My current asset & cash flow situation - March 13th

The purpose of this post is to define my starting point. The end goal of my journey is to retire at age 50 with $50k annual income. The start of my journey towards that goal is the sum total of my existing assets.

Below are my assets and cash flow situation as of March 13th at age 36. Some of the numbers below are rough and some are exact, but its close enough for planning purposes.

My assets:

Home: I own a house with approximately $140-150k in equity and $100k principal remaining on a 15 year loan @4.57%. I've had the loan for almost 5 years now so it is due to be paid off in just over 10 years. I am not going to count my home towards my retirement assets. My plan is to own my home outright and not use it for retirement income.

Rental property: I own 50% of two properties and my dad owns the other 50%. One is a 4 plex and the other is a 5 unit. They are lower value properties that my dad has been renovating. I paid $25k for the 4unit and $45k for the 5 unit. My half is now worth approximately $120k combined.

Retirement: $25,852 in a 401k and $85,108 in a company pension plan. 100% vested in both. I AM going to count my retirement account money towards my early retirement plan. Its retirement money, so if I don't use it right at 50 then I'll use it later at least.

Cash & Savings: $48,126 in ING direct, $6030 in bank, ~$400 cash, $5000 rental income owed to me by my dad

Stock: $27,588 in stock shares and $4,021 ($2,010 after tax) in exercisable options. I haven't had gains on the stock shares overall so it wouldnt' have a tax liability. But if I exercised the options I'd have to pay taxes so I will figure them at about 50% to be safe.

Net assets towards retirement plan = $319,214

Cash flow:

Base pay: $83,500
Bonuses : $6,000.
Stock incentives: $3,400
Rentals: $5,000

Gross income: $97,900
Taxes: $35,000
Medical contribution: $600
Total take home: $62,300

Mortgage : $14,400
Expenses: $18,000 (this is an estimate, I'll do a more detailed budget elsewhere)
Total expenses : $32,400

Net annual savings after expenses: $29,900

So there you have it, not bad at all in my opinion.

March 12, 2008

How much money do I need to retire?

In order to reach my goal of retiring by age fifty I will need to define what it will take to retire. Theres a couple assumptions that I can take into account. First at the age of fifty I assume that I will have two children and be married. I also assume that I will have paid off my home and own it outright. Since I'll be retired I am going to assume that I'll have to pay my own health insurance.

I've done a quick rough budget and figured that $40,000 annually would be enough to live off of comfortably. I'm going to add a about 10% buffer and account for income taxes and round up a bit and I come with a rough retirement budget of $50,000 per year.

Goal: $50,000 / year income from investments and my house paid off by age fifty

March 11, 2008

I want to be financially independent by age 50

It is my stated goal that I plan to be financially independent by age fifty. I plan to chronicle and discuss my efforts towards that goal on this blog.

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