First trimester went by and we are still plowing through.

Missed in action

When I first started this blog I want it to be my accountability piece. My source of feedback and inspiration to continue my journey to Freedomville- AKA FIRE.

I had so many things in mind I wanted to write about but never had the time. I barely managed to write some of those ideas and draft them so that I can come back to them at some point…

Life threw a curve ball (Very personal here, feel free to skip this section)

My family has been through a whole lot of stresses and taking on more responsibilities.

As you know, if you have read some of my other posts, we are a big family. Two adults and four kids, plus our dog. However, last year my mother joined our family also. She came in April of 2018. She speaks no English and had never experienced winters in the Midwest.

We went through a lot! And my family life got turned upside down. Moving to a country with a different language and experiencing the polar vortex in the midst of your 70’s is not easy task. Neither it is to leave your country at the brink of complete economic collapse. I hope I never see myself in that situation. Feeling like you have worked all your life, accumulated enough wealth to live for the rest of your life and suddenly you have nothing. Just fiat currency that’s easy to weight than to count it when you are going to buy food.

Our family dynamics were thrown off balance. We had to figure out many things for her such as health insurance( More on that later) and a new purpose in life. Her stay with us made me reflect a lot on what would my life be and what I want it to be when I retire. The critical aspect of having always a purpose, which may well be a hobby, a passion or desire for learning a new skill. All these experiences made me think deeply about the importance of remaining mentally flexible as I go through different stages of my life.

Some of the challenges we faced had to do, first of all, with space. We own a 1,800 Sq Ft home, which we feel fitting for us. However, three bedrooms for my wife and I, four kids, and now grandma left little room to not feel a bit crammed or in need of a small space to have a breather. Added to that, one of our kids is in those pre-teen years, which adds energy to any sort of stress.

We were able to find a job for her with very flexible hours, in a non-stressful environment and doing something she loves- A dream come true, right?  But she was terrified to drive and so we ended with a combined round trip commute of 3 hours. My wife would drive her in he morning, go back home and I would pick her up at the end of my day. Each of us took one hour and thirty minutes each days she worked. Three hours combined added to our regular day of dealing with our kids, job, classes, etc. Most of the weeks she worked three days which became extra nine hours of driving.

All these little things also created extra expenses of gas, food, and an increase in utilities and a huge toll on our stability as a family. My wife and I were left with very little time to even talk. And when we had the opportunity to talk without kids or my mother we were so freaking tired that we would just crash. I definitely go to know personally what people refer to as “decision fatigue.”

At some point I even flirted with the idea of forgetting about our financial goals and procrastinate them. But we didn’t! We managed to have those few money conversations and to stay the course to FI.

2019 Financial Goals

As we set sails at the beginning of this year 2019 we decided that the best we could do at this point is to redirect some of the contributions we were using towards my 403B and get rid of my wife’s student loan that we have been paying now over 12 years.

We still contribute to my 403B, but instead of doing $350 per pay check, we are doing only $100 for the  time being. We took a HELOC on our rental, lowering the interest rate from 6.5% to 4.5% and we are expecting to kill it by 2020.

The student loan balance is 22K, and so far this year we have to increased our payment from $230 to $716 a month. Fourteen payments of $716 will amount to $10,024. Almost half half way there and…and…we already got three of those payments knocked out; it’s easier when you see the journey to your goal chunked down!

Tax return

We are also counting on a decent tax return. We received our 2018 return and stashed it away. We received almost 10K!!!! 5K will go to the student loan and the rest will sit in cash as a small emergency fund. So far the money is just sitting there as I scan the horizon of possible unexpected expenses, but I can’t wait to pull the trigger and put down all that punch-in-the-face money towards the loan.

Once we receive our tax refund for 2019 we will do the same again. Split it and completely pay off the loan. We will have to increase my payments a little bit to cover a small remainder. I am estimating about 2,000 left that I will have to make over in the next 10 months, which we will get taken care of one my salary goes up in August and we switch our health plan from PPO to HMO( That alone $274 savings a month).

Another, BIG FINANCIAL goal for 2019 was to max out my payment with my school district. So far I am just 3 credit hours( One more class) away. This was a $880 expense that will result in a 6K increase for next year, starting in August; not a bad deal.

Conclusion

Things are going as planned or even better. I continue using Mint as my quick snapshot but I find using spreadsheets is critical to stay the course.

We are trying to reduce debt and liability by killing the student loan and widen the gap between my income ( I am the only income and I am a teacher) and our expenses.

I am also trying to maximize my income. If things work well, by August I should be approaching the six figure milestone.

By being frugal and mindful about our spending we are plugging the leaky money holes. We tackled the ups and downs of expenses, pay for professional development that will bring more money in through my job, managed extra expenses with a new family member and we even booked our summer vacations at our favorite camping spot.

Our cash flow after glorious March and its 3 pay days is looking like this:

small budget retirement spreadsheet.
January and February were a bit tight but March was a relief. August will be the next month with 3 pay days.

As I was typing this post my oldest daughter said to me “didn’t we have more money before we moved to this house?” -We have been living at our current location for three years.

To which I responded:

“Honey, we used to live from paycheck to paycheck, and many times we had to use credit cards to cover expenses.”

NO MORE! It feels so freaking good to be out of that rabbit hole.

We still have a wonderful life. We have each other. We have health. The kids get to do their activities, and I go to work every day walking a little taller knowing that my years at my job are numbered. We have a small emergency fund, a rental and a bit invested. Couldn’t ask for more!!

I also, finally, figured out how to work my property value in Personal Capital and although my net-worth is mainly equity three years ago it was a negative.

This is how we are looking like these days:

Personal capital

This might seem small for some, but for someone who came to this country(U.S.) with only $800 in his pocket few years ago, this is incredible; at least for me.

Forever thankful to the FIRE community and all the podcasts and blogs put out. All the information given out for free.

I hope my story inspires others as I have been inspired by the so many stories I read every day.

I welcome any suggestion or take-away from your first 2019 trimester. Feel free to share your struggles and thoughts about this first quarter.

 

 

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