The Move

The Move is officially complete and I’m publishing this post from the Midwest. The last month has felt like a blur. With a bachelor party, grabbing dinner and drinks with friends/coworkers in the city before I left, actual work, cleaning my apartment, throwing junk away, donating clothing, and selling furniture (I ended up selling basically all of my furniture and netted about 440 bucks which I was pumped about), I’ve been quite busy.

Figuring out how to get myself and my stuff to the Midwest was stressful to say the least. I learned that moving companies price their one-way truck rentals based on supply and demand of each location. The big name truck rental companies wanted about $1,200 for a one way truck rental. I almost spit out my coffee when that popped up on my computer screen multiple times. Apparently they need trucks in the Northeast and don’t need them in the Midwest. If I wanted to drive a truck from Atlanta to NYC, it would of only been around $200. Renting a truck quickly fell off my list of ways to move.

So then the wheels started spinning in my head of what to do. I could rent a bigger car or SUV and drive it to the Midwest with my stuff. But then I would have to sell all my furniture. I ran into the same pricing issues with driving the truck rental one way. I’m way too frugal to spend an arm and a leg on a car rental to move my not-that-valuable crap to the Midwest.

Then the best plan of them all came. My sister volunteered to drive her SUV the 2.5 hours to my apartment in Manhattan and help me load it up and bring it to my parents’ house. I thought this was great idea, because it would really force me to pair down my stuff and then I could find a cheap flight to the Midwest and call it a move. I’ve been trying to welcome more minimalist qualities so this ensured that I would have to sell my furniture, donate a ton of clothes, and throw away stuff I didn’t use. This option was a win on all accounts.

This plan worked to perfection. I paid my sister for her gas and troubles, and took her out to lunch. I then booked a $150 flight out to my girlfriends’ in the Midwest (I also got upgraded to first class and was able to check three bags for free, that has to be a good omen for the move and relationship right?). The approximately $200 in moving costs definitely trumped the driving time and potential $1,200 plus gas I would have had to spend on a truck rental or $500 plus gas I would have had to spend on a car/SUV rental.

My parents are doing me a big one by letting me store a bunch of stuff at their house. I luckily (or unluckily, depending on how you look at it) have to come back to the Northeast about a half a dozen times this year for weddings and other events, and will fill a big suitcase every time I swing by my parents. Aren’t parents great?

The stress of the process was a pain, but I’m very happy the move is finally over and that it went according to plan. Now I can concentrate on living the Midwestern life, my girlfriend, and my FIRE goals.

Other happenings

On a side note, some of you saw my tweet a week ago about how an email saved me $2,000. Without going too far into the weeds, when I moved to NYC work loaned me $2,000 with the expectation that I’d pay them back when I moved out. Well that time came and HR emailed me to start figuring out my repayment plan. I obviously would rather keep the $2,000 for myself so I replied to the email noting that I didn’t think it was necessary for me to repay the amount for XYZ personal situation reasons. I didn’t hear back for about a week and then I got an email noting that forgiveness of the loan was approved and it’ll be treated as income, but they’ll foot the tax bill as well! It never hurts to ask people

My boss, who I discussed in my last post, took a group of us out to dinner for my farewell. It was a great time. The core group of guys I work with are the reason I haven’t left my company, even though I could make more elsewhere. We enjoyed a great dinner at a nice restaurant, with a few bottles of red. I felt appreciated which was nice and these types of events funded by work are something I’ll definitely miss when I leave.

I’ve had a string of good fortunes lately which I cannot deny. I hope I don’t revert back to the mean anytime soon with a string of bad luck. I hope everyone’s Mays are off to as good of a start as mine.

Any big life changes on the horizon? Anyone moving to another state?

Attaining A Remote Work Arrangement

In my last post I shared how although my job is in NYC, I will be working remotely for six months and moving in with my girlfriend in the Midwest. It is an exciting time, of which I spend a lot of figuring out the logistics of the move (which will take place in May) and what to do with all my stuff. I am currently in the process of going through my belongings and donating, throwing away, and selling things (cha-ching!).

Let’s take a step back and talk about how I was able to convince my employer to allow me to do this. I’m going to be fully transparent when I say it took a little bit of skill and a lot of luck to make this happen. To be considered for a remote work arrangement, I think you and your job need to meet certain criteria.

Do a majority of your work from a laptop. In my line of work I spend 95% of my time staring at my laptop. We even do conference calls from out laptops now and don’t even have to pick up the phone! If you’re a plumber, carpenter, or high school teacher, it is very highly unlikely for you to get a remote work arrangement for this reason. In my line of work I travel once a month on average and this will allow me to catch up with coworkers on a regular basis to ensure they know I’m still around. If work or clients don’t sponsor trips like this, it can be harder to have real life face-time with your coworkers and bosses.

Be highly rated and respected at work. Let’s face it if you’re the average worker just punching the clock, it’s less likely your boss would approve something like this. I don’t plan on my career lasting until I’m 65, so I don’t see a point in wasting my time now coasting by. I try to show that I care about work and exceed expectations. This allows me to get away with certain things that some coworkers may not. It gets me more autonomy, more paid for lunches and dinners, and apparently a six month remote work arrangement.

Convey to your boss that your performance will remain the same. Some people have a bad perception of remote work arrangements. Maybe people think you’re just going to sit on your ass all day in your pajamas and get nothing done. I actually do great work when I’m not at the office since I don’t have many distractions. I made sure to convey that my work product would not change at all. My boss did voice concern about my ability to develop those in the ranks below, but I assured that this would not be an issue.

Have a good boss or one who seems to care somewhat about your well being. I’m quite friendly with my main boss. Me working for him wasn’t exactly random. I knew I liked the guy and working on his projects, so once I had the opportunity to work for him, I made sure to do a bang-up job so that he’d keep me around and it’s definitely paid off. He’s a family man and values his time out of the office, and therefore seems to value mine as well. If I was consistently working on projects for the people who eat, sleep, and breath for working at the office, they probably wouldn’t have been as supportive. Some people think that you don’t have any control over who you report to in your career, but I’ve found out with careful planning and some effort, this can be managed to your benefit.

Get lucky! I understand this isn’t an option for everyone and realize that luck did play a role, and for that I’m very grateful.

After the fact I did some reflecting on how I actually presented this idea to my boss. In hindsight I realize I didn’t really ask permission. I had been trying to meet with him live for over a week but he was traveling, so the first thing I did when I caught him in his office was joke that I wasn’t putting in my two weeks to lighten the mood. I laid out my plan for working remotely from my girlfriend’s (he knew I was in a long distance relationship) and assured him we could make it work, that my performance would remain high, and that this was something personal I needed to do. He voiced a couple BS concerns of which I countered, and then he voiced his support. I wonder if my outcome would have been different if I walked in and asked his permission instead…

Do you work remotely? If so, how did you negotiate that arrangement? If not, what is keeping you from asking/telling your employer this is what you would like to do?

Fervent Goes West

Not to burst your bubble but I’m not financially independent and I haven’t quit working for the man to start a new exciting business. What I did do though, is attain the fabled “remote work” arrangement from my employer (for a six month period)!

I don’t delve into my personal life too much on Fervent Finance, besides my personal financial life of course, but my significant other lives in the Midwest. We have been doing the whole long distance thing for going on two years now, and it’s just getting old. We have talked about her potentially moving to NYC or perhaps us both moving to another major US city where my job has offices as well. To be blunt, I’ve had my fun in Manhattan these last two plus years and I’m ready for a change from city life. I was born and raised in a very small town in New England and kind of miss the slow pace of life. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a blast in Manhattan but I’d like to move away from a culture where people pride themselves on how much they work and how much cash they blow on brunches, bars, dinners, and rent. I’m ready to slow down a little and of course be closer to the ole GF.

Here are the quick details. In about a month I’ll be moving to a small city in the Midwest into a condo my girlfriend rents. I’ll still be based out of NYC for work and will travel as usual for work, but I won’t have to report to the office. Can anyone say Manhattan salary with a Midwest cost of living??? Geographic arbitrage for the win! After six months of this remote work arrangement my boss and I will sit down again. I’ll most likely try to squeeze some more time out of him, but he could ask me to report back to NYC at that time. I’m not worried about that yet, I’m going to enjoy my remote work arrangement and worry about that when the time comes. There are a ton of potential opportunities at that point which may include saying no and playing hardball, getting another job, just moving back to the NYC area, starting my own business, etc. Only time will tell.

Now let’s discuss what everyone has been waiting for – how the arrangement will affect my finances:

  1. Rent – Off the bat it appears my rent will go down by over two thirds and I’ll be living in a space that is more than twice as big as my current apartment. No surprise here, as Manhattan real estate is a tad on the highly priced side.
  2. Utilities – I’ll be moving to a bigger space and splitting utilities with one person instead of two, so this will naturally go up a little.
  3. Travel – Unfortunately I won’t have as many big airports nearby so personal travel will be more expensive. Luckily since my rent is decreasing, I will be able to recoup some of the extra potential cost of personal travel to fly back to the Northeast to see family and attend the multitude of weddings I have this year in that area. Why can’t eloping become the new hot thing to do? I kid, I kid.
  4. State income taxes – I’ll be moving to a state whose income tax rate will be less than half what I’ve been paying in NYC, and also has lower sales tax. One of the disadvantages of living in Manhattan is the NYC resident tax which is on top of NY state income tax if you live within the five boroughs. This is an additional ~3.5 percent tax on my income for the privilege of living in NYC.

I’ll definitely miss Manhattan. I’ll miss my reasonably priced gym within walking distance of my apartment, with four squat racks. I’ll miss the farmer’s market on my block with incredible produce and very reasonable prices. I’ll miss the convenience of walking everywhere and public transportation. I’ll miss three airports within an hour’s travel which made personal travel cheap. I’ll miss the overall convenience and buzz.

I won’t miss dogs doing their business anywhere they please, tourists walking four-wide on the sidewalk, staying at the office for long hours as a badge of honor, inclement weather when I need to walk somewhere, smokers blowing their pollution at my face, among other things.

I do look forward to time with the GF, more easily accessible outdoors, new adventures, slower pace to life, and of course being in a lower cost of living area.

For those wondering how I was able to convince my employer to let me do this, I’ll share that story in my next post. Hopefully it will benefit others looking to do something similar.

Who wants to help me move? Has anyone negotiated a remote work arrangement with their employer? Personally, could you go back to working at an office after working remotely for six months?

I Have Lost My Damn Mind

On April 1st I tweeted that I had lost my damn mind. No it was not an April Fool’s joke. And no I don’t think I’ve actually lost my mind. I did turn 28 years old last month, so maybe my age has something to do with it. I haven’t owned a car for over two years now, but for whatever reason I put a deposit down on a new Tesla Model 3 expected to enter production in late 2017.

Tesla was founded by Elon Musk who also is a founder of PayPal and SpaceX. I’ve always been intrigued by Mr. Musk and a couple of months ago I read his biography written by Ashlee Vance. I’ve been hooked on Mr. Musk and his companies ever since. Mr. Vance paints an intriguing picture of Mr. Musk and his abilities to do great things. Who couldn’t like a guy whose passions include green energy and colonizing Mars?

Here is a little snapshot of what sold me on putting a deposit down on the Model 3, besides the fact that it was created by Tesla and Mr. Musk:

  1. 215 mile range on a full charge
  2. Fits 5 adults comfortably
  3. $27,500 net price tag ($35,000 minus federal tax credit of $7,500)
  4. Supercharging capable (80% charge in 30 minutes at Supercharger location – and some are even powered by solar!)

Production isn’t set to begin until late 2017. I made my reservation about eight hours after the deposit window opened, so there is a good chance I wouldn’t receive mine until 2018, which is two years away. This gives me a LONG time to decide if I want to ask Elon for my money back (my $1,000 dollar deposit is fully refundable anytime before I sign a purchase agreement). In all honesty I’ll probably let him hold onto it for a while, and then by the end of 2017, I will either ask for it back or actually go through with it (only if for some reason my net worth is WAY past my goals).

I think its fun to dream. Who didn’t want to be an astronaut when they were a kid? It’s great to see people like Elon Musk still living out those dreams well into their 40’s (and probably for the rest of his life since i don’t see him stopping anytime soon. I believe Elon Musk (along with others like Amazon found Jeff Bezos) are exactly the type of entrepreneurs we love in America. Always pushing the envelope and trying to make the world better places. Hopefully I’ll be able to help in someway, even if it is by just buying a car.

Did you hand Elon $1,000 for a deposit on a Model 3? Have I gone bat shit crazy for even considering a $35,000 car?

Photo cred

I’m Tired of Hearing How Bad Millennials Have It

I’m a millennial myself so I feel like I’m qualified to discuss this subject (and with a financial independence twist of course). I do a horrendous job of not following the news. I always catch myself on the websites of numerous online business news companies seeing what is going on. Many bloggers have written about how horrible following the media is on a day to day basis, and I totally agree, but it doesn’t mean I do a good job of blocking it out. The sad reality is that doom and gloom headlines equal clicks and views.

Lately, and I think this is partially due to it being election season, the hot topic has been Millennials. Every channel you flip to or online news article you read is how bad Millennials have it. They live at home with their parents. They are drowning in debt. They are the first generation in the U.S. worse off than their parents. They can’t afford a home. They can’t find their dream job. They are working at Starbucks. The list goes on and on.

Now are some Millennials having a tough go at it? Of course they are, I’m sure of it. But Millennials as a whole? I don’t think so.

Education
Let’s start with education. I graduated undergrad with about $30k of student loans. Was this more than my parents had? Yes, but that’s because they didn’t go to college! College wasn’t a “given” for our parents. Statistically speaking less than 50% of high school graduates headed off to college in 1975 (due to a variety of reasons such as war), whereas this number is about 65% today. When I was in high school I had a course to college mapped out for my by my teachers and counselor. Take these AP classes. Play a sport. Get involved in an extracurricular activity. I followed their lead and next thing you know, I was off to my school of choice with a partial scholarship.

Investing and Retirement
Our pal Jack Bogle didn’t create the index fund until 1976. If our parents wanted to invest some dough in equities, they had to do it through a broker and pick stocks, or buy expensive mutual funds with load fees and commissions. Now we have extremely cheap (or free) online brokerage accounts. I set up my Vanguard account in minutes and with a click of a button I can invest money whenever I want.

The 401k was created in about 1981 when some random guy noticed a loop-hole in the Internal Revenue Code. Before that it was much harder for workers to shield earnings from income taxes. Now you might be saying “well my parents have a pension!” Pensions are great if you have them but they are also handcuffs tying you to your employer. People notice that our parents spend decades with the same employer, that’s because people are taught to be slaves to their pensions since this will help them through their golden years. When in reality in most cases, you would of been better off socking money away in a 401k and IRA and retiring on your own terms.

Home Buying
30 year mortgage interest rates were above 10% from late 1978 to until almost 1991! Today you can get a 30 year fixed for about 3.75%. Maybe these low interest rates are inflating home values, but could you image taking out a mortgage at 12%?!? Also this community has also blogged about how owning a home is becoming less of the “American Dream.” Us millennials are okay with renting, and would rather spend money on travel and experiences instead. I may be an outlier but if I never own a home, I would be A.O.K. with that.

Employment
Unemployment currently sits below 5% which is below historical averages. The internet allows us to search for jobs all over the country and globe at the click of a button. Our parents relied on the classifieds and maybe a trade magazine when job searching (well they never really did this because they are tied to their pensions), and we can see open jobs in our field in Seattle, Boston, or Richmond instantly and submit our resume with a click. For those who are employed, inflation adjusted gas prices are below the historical average, easing the burden of commuting.

Health and Technology
This doesn’t even need an explanation. We have the internet, our parents didn’t, and the medical breakthroughs that have happened in the past 30 years have us living way longer than our parents and grandparents. Certain diseases which were death sentences 40 years ago, are easily curable today. I’m going to have to agree with our friend Warren Buffett who recently said “The babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.” I don’t believe we have it bad at all!

Do you have it worse off than your parents? Is being a millennial the pits?

Lifestyle Inflation Talks

Not everyday does something happen in my personal or professional life where I can talk about personal finance and the related topics which we so freely discuss online in this community. So obviously when the opportunity presented itself when I was riding in my boss’s car, I hopped all over it.

I know that my boss makes multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. It’s no secret in my profession. He owns a large home within commuting distance to Manhattan, and also a summer home which I visited during this trip which I’m discussing. I being nosey, Zillowed the address afterwards and was pretty shocked at how much he paid. Let’s just be honest and say you don’t get much bang for your buck when buying a beach home within driving distance to NYC.

After our trip, he gave me a ride back to the train station so I could get back to Manhattan. During the car rise we started talking about money, relationships, and how they intertwine. First thing we discussed is buying a home. My boss made a statement that millennials don’t want to purchase homes. My response was my normal rant about how a primary residence is NOT an investment. He actually agreed! And then noted that he has made money on both of his home sales in the past, but his current primary residence he has lost his shirt on and may never recuperate the costs. Basically he bought a dumpy house in a really nice neighborhood and basically had to scrap it and build again. I was pretty impressed as most people aren’t willing to share their money mistakes and admit that their primary residence is not an investment.

Next topic of conversation was relationships. He had just purchased his wife a new SUV (she stays at home) of the $40 thousand American made variety. Well they were riding with another couple one weekend, and they were in that couples’ $70 thousand foreign made SUV. My boss went on to discuss that after that night, he could sense that his wife was disappointed about her cheaper SUV after riding in luxury. I think it stung him a little because he had just shelled out 40 G’s on his wife’s car, which she now seemed to not like as much.

After the car conversation, he transitioned into explaining that he doesn’t actually live in the real world and it’s actually a little bubble. He must for his wife not to like a $40 thousand SUV and actually expect to have something more expensive. He lives in an upscale neighborhood, and he knows everyone has to make lots of money to afford homes in the area. On top of the homes that hover around low seven figures, $70 thousand cars aren’t even really a big deal. He kind of questioned how he found himself in his current situation. He was not born into this life, not by a long shot. From my observations, it’s pretty simple to figure out how he got there. He grew up lower class, wished and hoped to make it rich, busted his ass, and now he’s found himself upper class. Sad thing is… I don’t think it is as sweet as he first imagined.

I could definitely relate (to an extent). From the time I was a kid through probably 25 years old, I aspired to live a life just like this guy. Make the big bucks, have two houses, and nice cars. My first “big boy” car purchase when I was 22 was a Cadillac for Pete’s sake. But then here I am in a car with the person I wanted to be for so long, and he was basically admitting it wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

So as you can imagine, I really enjoyed this car ride. My boss could easily retire in the next few years if he didn’t let the lifestyle inflation effect him in his bubble which he and his family lives. But I bet he’ll continue to grind, work long hours, and stress to keep up the lifestyle. He’s now got a wife and kids who are used to the life, and I bet would not be easily convinced otherwise. Honestly I don’t think he could even convince himself to “turn it off” even though he notices how crazy it all is. To each his own, but as I bet you can guess – I don’t think it’s worth it. At least not for me.

Have you ever found yourself in a riveting personal finance question with a boss or coworker? How did you handle it?

The Land of Wonky Tax Deductions

It’s tax season everyone! This is the time of year where people complain about taxes if they owe any money, or rave about their huge refunds. If they owe, they blast the government and those who run it, and if they get a refund they brag to their friends about their new vacation plans to coworkers since they showed Uncle Sam who is boss! When in reality they were just bad tax planners for the previous year. (Just as a heads up, this post is meant to be tongue-in-cheek and not political by any means)

I read A LOT of articles, blogs, and books about personal finance, financial independence, business, etc. I always love when someone from the FIRE community gets featured in a big financial news outlets, and all the comments that come with it. Sometimes when the general public catches wind of tax loss harvesting, Roth conversion ladders, or ACA subsidies they flip out and claim that people are taking advantage of or gaming “the system” and have some harsh things to say.

By no means am I trying to pick sides or say anyone is in the right or wrong, but this whole issue brought an idea to my head. As most of you know I am an accountant by trade and have done my own personal taxes since I was 15. Through my personal finance and tax reading (I’m an exciting guy) I have run into some pretty wild tax deductions out there. Many of them are allowed for people with six figure incomes as well. So what am I going to do about these wonky tax deductions? Make fun of them of course!

I believe many of these deductions have been around so long that people are so used to taking them, they don’t take a step back and think about how amusing some of them are and ask who they are benefiting. Let’s take a look at some of my favorites below! As a heads up, with regards to a majority of the deductions mentioned below, there are income limit phase outs which limit the use of these deductions as your income goes up, so not everyone can take advantage.

  1. Mortgage interest deduction – This is the probably the most common deduction people are aware of. You are able to reduce your taxable income by the amount of mortgage interest you pay. Some may think that there would be some kind of limit on the amount of interest you can deduct, because certainly you wouldn’t think a person owning a McMansion would be able to deduct all of their mortgage interest. Well you are somewhat correct. You are able to deduct all your mortgage interest on up to ONE MILLION dollars worth of debt. It doesn’t stop there, it’s not only for your primary residence, but also your secondary residence. So you’re able to deduct all the interest related to your $600k primary home mortgage along with the interest related to your $400k mortgage on the lake house. This makes me a sad renter (not).
  2. HELOC interest deduction – If deducting the interest on your primary residence and your lake house isn’t cool enough, you can also reduce your taxable income by the amount of interest you paid on your Porsche that you bought with your home equity line of credit. Have a little equity in your home? Go to the bank and take out a HELOC. You’re able to use this money on anything you want, not just making improvements to your house. So obviously you should use it to buy a Porsche! You’re able to deduct the interest you paid on up to $100 thousand of home equity debt, no matter what you spent the money on.
  3. PMI – So back in 2006, you bought your dream home. The bank was nice and didn’t make you put anything down! One problem with a no-money-down mortgage is that you have to pay private mortgage insurance. Well the government feels bad that you bought a house that you can’t afford, so they let you deduct your private mortgage insurance!
  4. Moving expenses – Live on the East coast and got a new bang up job in in Silicon Valley? Your moving expenses are tax deductible!
  5. Tuition expenses – Your rich parents make too much to take this deduction but they want to pay for your college. They’re allowed to gift you $28 thousand a year, tax-free and then you’re able to deduct $4,000 a year in tuition expenses. That’s $4,000 of your internship money, tax free, plus a free education! Not too shabby!
  6. Loss carryforward – Lost your hat in investing in that solar company that some guy at the bar pitched you? Well there is some light at the end of the tunnel. You’re allowed to deduct up to $3 thousand a year from your income for investment losses. You lost $10 thousand you say? That’s okay you can carry forward the $7 thousand you couldn’t take this year, and carry it into the following years until it is all used up.

Now the next item isn’t related to most individuals but I think is the craziest tax rule out there, so I figured I’d share it with you all:

Carried interest – This by far, in my opinion, is the craziest rule with regard to personal income taxes. Without getting too into the nitty gritty, partners in a hedge funds or private equity funds get compensated based on the performance of their fund. As long as their fund performs well, they get a huge fee that you read about in the news. So when Mr. Hedgefundtitan makes $200 million dollars in a year, since he’s doing such a service to the public, he’s allowed to defer his income and pay capital gains rates on that income which caps out at 20%. If he was you or I earning that money, we’d have to pay 39.6% since we aren’t partners in a hedge fund… womp womp. That’s a savings to Mr. Hedgefundtitan of almost $40 million!

In closing, there are a ton of laws and rules out there that may benefit certain individuals, and sometimes that individual may not be you. Nothing ever is going to completely make sense in terms of who is benefiting or not benefiting, so personally I like to control what I can and brush off the things that are not in my power. Oh and of course I love to poke fun at some tax laws in the process.

Will you be getting a refund or owing this year? Do you love or hate tax season?

Why I Haven’t Quit

Like many young professionals, I have a LinkedIn account. I am sure it is the same in other industries as well, but recruiters (or as I like to call them – head hunters) will reach out to me on a weekly basis at a minimum. Usually I blow these guys and gals off, but if the job actually sounds interesting I may ask for more information but the buck usually stops there. On top of the LinkedIn messages, some people who have left my company actually sell the company’s Outlook address book to recruiters, so you might even get phone calls as well!

What I have learned is if you are experienced and skilled in your trade or profession, there are plenty of opportunities to jump ship and go elsewhere (especially in a place like NYC), usually for more money. I have friends who are constantly in contact with recruiters trying to find the next best job. Maybe a little more pay, maybe a little better commute, maybe a little more pay, maybe a better boss, and finally MORE PAY! These people are unhappy in their current jobs usually because they are not fulfilled in their job and usually the feel they are not compensated at market value.

From these dealings with recruiters and other companies I know I could easily leave my job, and get a fairly substantial raise. I have considered it multiple times as I see the dollar signs scrolling across the front of my eyes. Of course more money equals higher savings rate and faster path to FI/RE! Luckily I let calmer heads prevail and usually do not go further than to ask for more information about these positions. At the end of the day I don’t hate my job. Do I love it and would do it for free? Hell no, but the reasons I don’t leave my current job have nothing to do with money.

The People – I’m currently in my third job of my career (but only second company) and I have met friends at each which I still keep close contact with to this day. Of course there is always that person in the office that you hope doesn’t stop you in the hallway to chit-chat, but for the most part I’ve made friends at work. Overall they have been great people who I share interests with and are just genuinely nice to be around.

Currently I have actually found myself in a lucky situation. I seem to get along with my coworkers AND my superiors. For the most part it seems like the two bosses I work for a majority of the time actually care (somewhat at least, better than don’t care at all) about my personal well being. They have been considerate with work load, allowing me to “sign-off” during PTO, invited me to their home, etc. Now I know others in my group at work aren’t as lucky and I’m therefore thankful. It took luck, but it also took me identifying who I really liked and pushing hard to work for them. At the end of the day, you do have more control over your work situation than you may think.

The Work – At the end of the day work is work. I know that leaving one job for another is not going to make me happier, because the grass is not always greener. I like numbers and being analytical but unfortunately I still have to report to management, charge my hours, fill out performance evaluations, etc., etc. Therefore I try to catch myself before getting overly excited over a perhaps “embellished” job description that might find its way into my inbox. Truth be told I currently don’t hate my work, and actually enjoy some parts of it. I’m not willing to take another job offer just because it pays more to learn that I like the work less than I currently do.

The Flexibility – My job is extremely flexible. I currently work in small teams and at times we are scattered all over the US. This makes working from home or another state very easy when I want to do some personal travel without taking PTO or just not change out of my sweat pants. For the most part, as long as I get my shit done, no one cares too much about where I’m doing it. Fridays good luck finding me in the office. The only time I come in on Fridays is when my boss dangles free lunch in front of my face and offers to take me out to a decent restaurant if I come in.

On the subject of PTO, I get a ton! I am in a profession where burnout is pretty regular and the company actually does a good job of allowing for a lot of PTO, which I definitely take advantage of. You’ll never see me losing PTO because “I’m too busy to take it.” I never felt bad for people who complained about being too busy to take PTO, because that just meant you are doing a very poor job of managing up and managing expectations. I really don’t know anyone else who gets as much PTO as me (maybe a teacher with summers off), so I’m sure if I left I would have to cut back on my away from work time which I don’t think I’d be too happy about.

I have come to the realization that if I left my job for another, it most likely wouldn’t increase my happiness. That raise wouldn’t make up for the hard work I’ve put in to build relationships and flexibility into my job. For that reason I have stayed put… so far.

What keeps you at your job? Have you jumped ship to another company recently? Could you leave for more money but choose not to?

2015 Net Worth and Expense Recap

2015 has drawn to a close. Last week I wrote about how great my year went in terms of my goals, and then discussed my 2016 financial and non-financial goals. Now I want to get into the nitty-gritty money details, since that is what everyone cares about anyways.

The last time I reported my net worth was at the end of July when my net worth crossed six figures for the first time ever. Now I’m at $120k which is about $10k higher than what I originally planned for 2015, which is great, but this also lets me know that I am bad at projecting since the equity markets were basically flat and all appreciation was due to my contributions. There are just too many variables which go into projecting your net worth that I don’t really put to much effort into the exercise. In 2016, my income WILL change, I will NOT predict equity market returns, I will NOT predict my exact savings rate, etc. And that’s just projecting 12 months out! Projecting 10 years out is just asking to be completely wrong, but I do appreciate that the exercise is educational and gives me somewhat of an idea of where I could be. But on this journey to financial independence, I’m going to concentrate on what I can control, which is mostly working hard to increase my income, monitor my expenses, and invest the difference.

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Cash – Checking account, plus savings account, minus outstanding credit card balances.
Post-tax investments – Mix of a couple individual stocks (which I’ll most likely divest from in 2016) and Vanguard index funds in brokerage accounts.
Tax advantaged accounts – Pre-tax and Roth 401k, Roth IRA, and HSA. The Roth 401k is from previous years, I know better than to contribute to something other than pre-tax now!
Pension – I have a cash balance pension plan with my current employer that I’m fully vested in. I believe if the balance remains small I can roll into an IRA when I leave, but if it gets higher I unfortunately would have to leave it alone until standard retirement age.
Student loans – Only one left at 3% and I’ll pay this off in 2016.

Let me be honest here – I don’t do a good job of tracking my expenses and I am by no means as frugal as some in this community. Personally, I’d rather spend more effort on increasing my income instead. Throughout 2015, I just made sure my average expenses each month were below $3,000 and I left it at that. As you can see below I’ve easily exceeded that goal with total 2015 expenses of $32,056.

In December I really decided to buckle down and monitor my expenses. I’m going to do an internal monthly review in 2016 and really see where my money is going. I used Personal Capital to compile the expenses below, but I’ve noticed it isn’t always right and has double counted expenses before, so this year I want to be on top of that. Therefore I created a great excel template to track my expenses in 2016. I plan on getting my expenses below $30,000, and this will definitely be doable if my remote work arrangement plan is successful.

I won’t go into too much detail about each expense category below but I’ll talk about a few of the big ones. As you can see my rent is my largest expense by far. I live in Manhattan, but actually have a pretty good deal on a place within walking distance to work that I split with two of my friends. Travel is high due to the fact I like to travel, had some weddings to attend, and am in a long distance relationship. The “other” category is something I plan on really locking down in 2016. This is basically ATM withdrawals, expenses I didn’t want to break out on their own, and other miscellaneous items.

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I don’t include student loan payments in my expenses, because the accountant in me knows that it is all balance sheet (except for a small portion of interest). But I did paid off $6,300 of student loans in 2015, and plan on paying off the last $4,200 in 2016.

2016 is going to be a year of many changes for me, but I’m hoping to use what I learned in 2015 to earn as much as possible and invest as much as possible, all while having a great time. I plan on moving out of Manhattan in 2016 which may shift my expenses dramatically, and hopefully in a good direction. I am a person who is totally comfortable with change, and am looking forward to what 2016 has in store for me!

I know I mentioned up above that I don’t really like to project my net worth, but to have some fun I’m shooting for $180k, while keeping expenses below $30k.

Did you hit your net worth and expense goals in 2015? How closely do you monitor your expenses?

2015 Year in Review & 2016 Goals

Boy did 2015 fly by! It was my first full year of living in Manhattan and my first full year of living the financial independence lifestyle, and I was busy as ever.

I did a lot of traveling and visited the following countries and states for work or personal trips: Bahamas, Grand Turk, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Louisiana, and Minnesota. I saw lots of friends and family, earned some mileage and hotel points, and ate at some really neat restaurants on work’s dime.

Now although I had a ton of fun in 2015, it did not effect my progress against my financial goals negatively. Back in July of 2015, I wrote a half year update to see how far I had progressed against my 2015 goals. Below were my seven goals for 2015 and some explanations for how I finished off the year.

  1. Max out pre-tax 401k – I was planning on maxing out my 401k by November, but I got antsy and decided to apply most of my bonus in September to my 401k to max it out. PASS
  2. Max out Roth IRA – I maxed out both my 2014 and 2015 Roth IRA in 2015, with my final contribution occurring in September during bonus month. PASS
  3. Max out my HSA – As of my mid-year update I wasn’t sure if I would hit this goal, and was planning on missing it by a couple hundred bucks. After I posted the mid-year update, I realized how silly it was to miss a goal by a couple hundred bucks, so I went in and changed my contribution amount, and this will max out in my final paycheck of 2015! PASS
  4. Pay off my student loans – I go back and forth with this on a monthly basis. I officially have one loan left at 3% and the math tells me to pay it slowly but my mind says get rid of the stupid thing. I paid off two other loans in 2015, way ahead of schedule, but I think I’ll pay off this last one off in 2016, so that I’m able to be completely debt free. FAIL, but on purpose.
  5. Never finance a car again – Well I’m still living in Manhattan, and still car-less so this one is a big, fat PASS.
  6. Save at least 75% of every raise and bonus – As noted above I used my bonus to max out my 401k and IRA for 2015, so I definitely saved 100% of that puppy. I’m also always looking at ways to decrease my spending, not increase, so I’ve definitely been socking away 100% of my raise as well (the portion that doesn’t go to Uncle Sam). PASS
  7. Once all tax advantaged accounts are maxed out for the year, begin funneling all savings into my after-tax brokerage account – Ever since September when I maxed out my 401k and IRA, I’ve been funneling all excess cash flow into my after-tax brokerage account like clockwork. PASS

In 2015, I hit 6 out of 7 of my finance related goals, did a ton of traveling for work and personal, and was able to find time to blog and workout. My other main interest besides travel and financial independence is lifting. I targeted getting to the gym 4x a week in 2015, but fell short and probably averaged 3x per week. I’ll discuss my progress and routine below when I get to my 2016 goals.

Here are my 2016 financial goals:

  1. Max out pre-tax 401k – I plan on doing this in September again.
  2. Max out Roth IRA – I don’t really have a time line for this but it will get done in 2015.
  3. Max out my HSA – the way my employer does my contributions, this will occur in December again.
  4. Pay off my student loans – I only have about $4k left at 3%, but I will pay this off in 2016.
  5. Save 100% of my raise and bonus – 75% was too lenient on myself, lets jack it up to 100%.
  6. Contribute to my after-tax brokerage account as much as possible – I plan on making more in 2016, while keeping my expenses at bay, and therefore these contributions will go up. Looking for a big increase year in the net worth department in 2016!

Here are my 2016 non-financial goals:

  1. Get to the gym 4x per week and hit a 315# squat, 225# bench, and 405# deadlift – I follow a powerlifting routine, and my progress is dependent on how regularly I get to the gym. 2015 was ehhhhh in this department. I tend to go on vacation for a week and not lift, or travel for work or work late for a week and not lift. These are excuses I plan on addressing and hope to get my average attendance closer to 4 times per week in 2016.
  2. Try and negotiate a remote work arrangement for at least six months – I think this is doable if I sell it well. I work for a big bureaucratic company, so usually this request would fall on deaf ears. But I work in a smaller division and we operate fairly autonomously, and my main boss seems to consider my well-being for the most part. I’ll start with a six month ask, which would span from spring to fall and then basically leave it open to working out of an office after that to sweeten the deal for them. I’m still figuring out when and how to request this, but I’ll write about my success or failure (cross your fingers for success) once I request it. My Manhattan lease isn’t up for a few months, so I have some time to plan. Can anyone say geographic arbitrage?
  3. Read more books in 2016 – I’ve definitely read more in 2015 than I have in the past. I just need to stop trying to convince myself to read fiction, as I’m a non-fiction guy. The fiction I like has to be on TV, so I’ll stick to non-fiction books related to finance and biographies as they peak my interest the most.
  4. Travel – I did a lot of this in 2015 but am planning just as much, if not more, in 2016. I have already booked a cruise for February where my girlfriend and I will visit a few places I haven’t been before such as Belize. I also have quite a few weddings, and depending on if this six month work arrangement ends up, who knows where I’ll travel to! I’m also debating if a trip to San Diego for FinCon is in the cards.

I was lucky to have a great 2015, and hope 2016 is just as great. Thanks for being part of my journey, and Happy Holidays and Happy New Year! I’m so pumped for what 2016 has in store!

How was your 2015? What do you have planned in 2016 that has you ready for the new year?