Monthly Money Check: Rich Increased Net Worth By $200K in 2 Years And Bought A Car Online — August 2017

We bought this car online. It’s Mrs. Rich’s Mini Countryman, AWD. It’s cool.

Dear Penny,

First of all, you’re having another baby — congrats! We do have a lot to catch up on, obviously! But I will never catch you in terms of babies. We got the buy-one-get-one-free deal with twins and that’s plenty for us.

I have some stories to tell you about flying across the country with 2 crazy boys and a cat. And buying a car online. And a thousand different moving expenses. These will need to wait as I get back in the blogging groove. I should be able to start writing more again now that we’ve moved.

It’s time for the monthly money check.

AUGUST

Overall, I’m happy with August. A net worth gain of $19,530 in a month is nothing to sneeze at. We are currently ahead of the pace (to reach my goal of $1MM at age 45) by $26,735.

August was a good month mostly because we got paid 3 times. And we had a nice vacation at the beach. September will be interesting, and expensive, because of moving expenses, which I will detail soon. But I’ve got a nice buffer to work with.

Here are some highlights by category.

Cash: $15,832, decrease of $6,384

  • We bought a car! Online. Through Carvana. It was so easy. I’ll never go to a lot again.
  • The car purchase is net worth neutral because I’ll be adding back the car value under investments.

Debt: -$9,400, paid off $200

  • Nothing to see here. I’m waiting until we get settled in the US to decide whether to aggressively pay this or roll it to another 0% offer.

Investments: $230,919, increase of $16,815

  • As mentioned, the only real change here is the value of our new (used) car. We’re drawing down some alternative investments simply because they aren’t very tax efficient. The LLC value isn’t updated monthly.

Retirement: $419,354, increase of $8,899

NET WORTH CHECK

Here’s a chart showing my progress for the full 2 years we lived overseas. The blue line shows actual results, while the red line shows the pace required to meet my goal.

Click on image to enlarge.

I like that.

In 2 years, we were able to increase our family net worth by 44%, more than $200,000. This without a strict budget or a high allocation in stocks.

I have no idea how the next year will go. Back in the US, we have a huge rent expense (around $48,000 per year). However, we won’t be paying for preschool (which was $30,000 per year), so I’m optimistic we can at least maintain the pace for my goal.

More soon!

Rich

 

Monthly Money Check: A Sunny Summer Update Of Rich’s Net Worth, Full Of Money Porn And Eye Candy … But BUDGETARY WINTER IS COMING — July 2017

Dear Penny,

This post will be full of detailed numbers (money porn) and cool graphics (eye candy) — because it’s summer, and summer is fun and bright and cheery. July was a sunny month for you and for us as well. Clear skies, no turbulence. As you can see, my net worth jumped by a happy $10,559.

Click on image to enlarge.

BUT … BUDGETARY WINTER IS COMING.

(SHUDDER. OMINOUS MUSIC. CLOSE UP OF NIGHT KING’S EYE.)

We’re moving back to the US in August, and our expenses will be going up faster than you can say “Littlefinger is a creepy douchebag.”

I’m not sure if you get these references to Game of Thrones, Penny. If you don’t watch it, you might consider it after your tech hiatus. You could binge during a free trial of HBO on Amazon Prime!

Readers, start your free trial of HBO by clicking above — no cost to you, a few pennies for the blog.  Full disclaimer on affiliate links here. 

Anyway, before I dump the cold reality on you, here’s a recap of July.

JULY

Cash: We’re building cash to buy a car in August. We’ve been living on one car overseas but we’ll need two in the US. My philosophy on cars is to pay cash. I look for cars that are 3 years old (or so) with under 50,000 miles. The “new” car will be for Mrs. R, and I’ll keep driving my 2006 Rav4 with 120,000 miles on it and deep stains from kid snacks.

Debt: This is 0% debt. I’d like to pay it, but I want to wait until we get settled back in the US. We always pay our debts.

Investments: I didn’t add new money to taxable investments, but I adjusted the value of my LLC holdings upward by $1,730 after doing a detailed breakdown on the blog.

Related Post: How Rich’s LLC Turned $30,000 into $200,000 — A Story About Brothers, Bubbles, and Prairie Dogs.

Retirement: Maxing out 401k and IRA accounts is really the key to our low risk ride to $1MM. This alone will probably ensure a decent sized nest egg in 15 years or so. We won’t need to rely on BINGO.

Related Post: Rich’s Retirement Plan: Playing BINGO Will Not Be A Source Of Income. (Part of the #DrawdownStrategy chain)

What I like about July’s report: A 5 figure net worth gain is nothing to sneeze at, even if you have allergies.

What I don’t like: If I were paying $4k in rent, my gain would only be $6,500, which is not quite enough to stay on pace for my goal.

THE COLD REALITY

When we move back to the US, we will start paying out the nose for rent and parking. As in $4,000 per month. I’m not complaining, we’re happy to spend more so we can live in a walkable city neighborhood rather than commuting from the burbs.

Related Post: Rich Is Preparing To Move. He Enjoys Moving. Wait … He’s Paying HOW MUCH On Rent???

Additionally, we’re going to need some odds and ends like beds for our boys, a couple other pieces of furniture, work clothes, and that car.  

Here’s my list of upcoming expenses; I might be estimating low. 

Click on image to enlarge.

By the end of August, I’ll have enough cash to cover most of this. Besides, we won’t buy everything at once. That said, I expect the budget to be tighter the rest of the year. I don’t follow a strict budget, but with such drastic changes coming up, I wanted a rough idea of what our spending should look like. This is what I came up with.

Get ready for a bunch of graphical eye candy:

Click on image to enlarge.

Some of the items, like the HSA, won’t kick in until the new year. What do you think of this budget? I rather like it. So colorful and symmetrical. No idea yet if it’s realistic.

Here’s what it will look like for a complete year.

Click on image to enlarge.

So what does this mean for my savings and my net worth goal? 

Continue reading “Monthly Money Check: A Sunny Summer Update Of Rich’s Net Worth, Full Of Money Porn And Eye Candy … But BUDGETARY WINTER IS COMING — July 2017”

How Rich’s LLC Turned $30,000 into $200,000 — A Story About Brothers, Bubbles, and Prairie Dogs.

Dear Penny (and Mr. Othalafehu and Mr. Retirement Manifesto),

After my Retirement Plan post, Mr. O, specifically, asked about my LLC holdings. Happy to oblige. Here’s the story of how a $30,000 investment in farmland turned into more than $200,000. There are bunch of graphics and some stories from my neck of the woods.

Note: This page has affiliate links to good products we endorse. Full disclaimer. 

BROTHERS LLC

I’m going to start this story at the end, and then talk about the beginning, and then return full circle to the very end, like one of those annoying historical fiction novels that jumps between the past and the present. I’ll try to do this without being annoying. Go read or watch Julie and Julia for a barometer of this approach. If you can stomach it.

Careful readers of my Retirement Plan, like Mr. Manifesto, noticed that around 30% of my Net Worth is currently tied up in what we will call Brothers LLC (Limited Liability Company). Here’s my net worth pie chart, updated:

Rich’s Net Worth Pie. Click on image to enlarge.

Brothers LLC is like an investment club I’m in with my 2 brothers. More accurately, it’s me and Mrs. Rich and my brothers and their spouses. We all own our shares through our respective family living trusts (which I highly recommend for estate planning — more on this in a future post).

My brothers and I each bring unique contributions to our company.

  1. Brother 1 is a former doc and a visionary. He can afford to be a visionary because he made huge money as a doc. He owns 55%. The LLC was his idea, and most of our holdings have come through his connections.
  2. Brother 2 is a banker, he’s our numbers guy. He also makes big money, but he’s fairly conservative, as bankers can be. If he doesn’t like a deal, we usually pass. He owns 20%.
  3. Brother 3 is me. I’m the youngest. I bring creativity and comic relief and the occasional flash of insight. I own 25%.

The foundation of Brothers LLC is farmland. None of us are farmers anymore, but we farmed growing up and we come from a long line of wheat farmers. My ancestors worked the land in France before immigrating to Canada and the northern Midwest, USA. It’s here that I must introduce a seedy character named Grandpa Jack. Get it? Seedy?

That’s not his real name, but people called him that. And now, we go back.

Related: Rich’s Financial Origin Story: From Farm Boy To Theology Student To High Income Professional

GRANDPA JACK, NORTHERN MINNESOTA HILLBILLY

Grandpa Jack was a farmer who didn’t graduate from the 8th grade because, as he told the story, he was afraid of my grandmother. I didn’t get it, but I nodded when he told the story.

His whole life, he worked on the farm. Even in his 70s he would be fiddling around, fixing up old trucks, cussing about broken parts. His favorite was “Damnitalltohell” — properly said as one extended compound word. Honestly, I was afraid of the guy. Later on in high school, I told him I was going to start traveling to help people in other countries. His only question was, “When will you be back to the farm to work?” My grandma slipped me a card with $50 inside, and she wrote: “For your trip. Don’t tell Grandpa.”

Grandpa Jack had a falling out with my Dad, for various reasons, including the fact that when he retired he didn’t give Dad the land as he had promised. He made my Dad buy it in sections, full price.

In 2005, Grandpa Jack died, and true to form, he did not leave any land to my Dad, even though Dad had worked it for 40 years. Grandpa left land to his daughters (my aunts) and to a grandson (Brother 1). Other grandchildren received silver bars that Grandpa Jack had hidden in a woodpile in his backyard. I’m not kidding.

This is real farmland.

AUNTIE JUNE, NORTHERN MINNESOTA HILLBILLY

In 2008, my Auntie June, a chip off Jack’s block who had inherited 80 acres of land, was looking to sell. I have no idea why. Auntie June is a total mystery to me and I can’t believe we are related.

I just finished reading the excellent book Hillbilly Elegy (that you recommended, Penny). Grandpa Jack and Auntie June remind me of characters from that book. I’m not sure we have a good name for these people in Minnesota, rural folk who drink terrible beer and tell dirty jokes, and also shovel the sidewalk and wave to everyone they see. Imagine crossing a hillbilly with a character in the movie Fargo and stick them in Little House On The Prairie, and there you go.

Could we call them Prairie Dogs? I mean that with all respect.

Auntie June smokes like a chimney and carries dice in her purse, just in case anyone wants to gamble for quarters. And if you see Auntie June, you’re going to gamble for quarters. I’m guessing this habit has something to do with why she wanted to sell the land.

BROTHERLY VISION AND A DECISION

Like I said, Brother 1 is a visionary. After he inherited the farmland (151.5 acres), he immediately began pestering us to form a company and use the land as the basis for more investments. He could’ve done this himself, but he wanted the land to be a family asset and he also wanted to decrease his own risk. We ignored him at first.

But then he heard Auntie June was selling. So Brother 1 proposed that we pool our money to buy Auntie June’s land, and he would add it to his own land and give us a discount in the process. We would then have 231.5 acres to work with in an LLC.

The total cost to me would be $30,000 for a 20% share of the total. $30,000 was a lot of money to me in 2008. I was newly married, we were paying of Mrs. Rich’s student loans (totaling $30,000) and we were thinking of saving for a house.

We had to decide: house or LLC?

It was philosophical. Conventional wisdom says own a home. But we liked the idea of growing our investments and renting our residence. And I liked the idea of starting a family business with my brothers. So we scrapped together the money and BROTHERS LLC was born — from the ashes of Grandpa Jack’s grave and Auntie June’s cigarettes.

Chart reflects Iowa prices, but this is an example of farmland mania. Click on image to enlarge.

THE GREAT RECESSION AND THE FARMLAND BUBBLE

With my brother’s discount, our $30,000 was immediately worth $50,000. And much to our surprise, we had bought farmland just before land prices skyrocketed. In 2008, our land was worth around $1,150 per acre and rental prices were around $65 per acre, per year. A decent ROI of 5% or so. Then the Great Recession caused the Fed to lower interest rates, causing wheat and land prices to go nuts. Land prices tripled and rent prices doubled.

In 2010 and 2011, I started seeing articles about farmland in the NYT, WSJ, and USA Today. Not normal. By 2012, I was pounding the table with my brothers, telling them that we may never see prices like this again. Even my Dad, who loves to say, “God ain’t making more farmland,” was convinced to sell a section of land. That said, we didn’t want to sell ALL of it — it’s our family heritage and a unique asset. So Brothers LLC decided to sell the 80 acres we bought from Auntie June. And that’s how my $30,000 investment jumped to $186,000 in a flash.

As you can see on this chart, the value of our land went up 220% in 4 years and my investment went up right with it. In rural Minnesota, you just don’t see moves like this. It’s not New York, it’s the Prairie!

Rich’s share of the LLC from 2008-2012. Click on image to enlarge.

There was a bidding war and we got a great price. I think my profit after taxes and fees from the land sale was around $39,500. Instead of pocketing all the cash, I used $30k to purchase an additional 5% in the LLC from Brother 1. So, now I own 25%

DIVERSIFICATION AND LEVERAGE

The story of BROTHERS LLC after that is mostly a story about diversification and leverage.

Continue reading “How Rich’s LLC Turned $30,000 into $200,000 — A Story About Brothers, Bubbles, and Prairie Dogs.”

The Best Of Penny And Rich So Far — 6 Months Of Conversations Across The Income Divide

Dear Cousin Penny,

We’ve been at this blog for around 6 months, so I thought it’d be a good time to go over some highlights. This article will contain numerous links to some of our best posts. Of course, a complete list can be found via the Posts tab.

For any new readers, I’ll quickly reiterate our premise. We’re cousins from a small Midwestern town. One summer, around age 10 or so, I think we played together every day for 80 straight days. Good times.

Our adult lives diverged but we kept in touch, often writing long emails to each other about life and happiness and money — which is essentially the genesis of this blog.

You got married young, you have 4 kids, and your husband went from teacher to chiropractor. Along the way you gathered a boat load of debt, but you have no regrets. Low income doesn’t seem to bug you.

As for me, I went from the farm to theology school to French language study in Paris. Much to my own surprise, I landed a high income career, married a woman with similar career goals, and had twin boys. High income agrees with me. Why wouldn’t it?

Our full origin stories can be found here:

RICH’S GOALS

Click on image to see the details of Rich’s plan.

What’s a personal finance blog without goals? My goal is to reach a $1 Million net worth sometime during my 45th year of life. And after that I want to build a generational family legacy (um, in 3 easy steps!).

I admit, since starting this blog, the goal has become less important than the journey, the process … life. As I’ve thought about my philosophy of life, it’s become clear that it’s really not about the money. It’s about relationships, growth, and freedom — these are the keys to happiness, incidentally.

I have also become keenly aware of how lucky I am. I don’t want to be a selfish materialistic hedonist; I want to be a generous squirrel. I never thought I’d write a parable about squirrels, but this is modern blogging. Animals can talk.

So, I hope I can meet my goal the right way. Since we started the blog, I’ve been able to keep pace.

Click on image to enlarge. My actual pace is the blue line, the pace I need is the red line.

So far so good!

But, again, I’m much more concerned about happiness than money.

PENNY’S GOALS

Click on image to see the details of Penny’s goal.

Now to your goals, Penny. You have enough student loan debt ($173,000 at the start of the blog) to make Dave Ramsey drop a dadgum mess in his britches. You’d love to pay it off, and you’re making good progress. I’m not sure how much you have left right now, but I think you’ve already lopped off $20k of debt in a few short months.

I’m continually amazed at how frugal you are when I read your monthly money checks.

But, like me, you know money is not the key to happiness. You spend very little because you just don’t value things that need to be bought. Even with low income, you feel the need to give more than the need to get out of debt faster. In addition to giving, you’ve learned the art of receiving.

THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING CONVERSATIONS ACROSS THE DIVIDE OF INCOME INEQUALITY

Penny, sometimes I think we agree on a whole bunch of topics and sometimes I think we couldn’t be more different. But what I really appreciate is that no matter the topic, we can have an honest conversation, even if there are points of disagreement.

Continue reading “The Best Of Penny And Rich So Far — 6 Months Of Conversations Across The Income Divide”

Are The Rich Hoarding The American Dream? An Examination Of Penny And Rich’s Path To Income Inequality.

Penny,

On Father’s Day weekend I spent a lot of time thinking about income inequality. We’ve touched on this topic in the past, and I’d like to spell out some thoughts a little more extensively. You and I are income inequal, as it happens, so this could be an interesting forum to have this conversation, even if you may be delayed in responding due to your technology hiatus.

What got me started on this were a couple articles in the NYT and in The Atlantic. They were highlighting a new book coming out by Richard Reeves called Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do about It. I’ll try to state his case as well as I can from the articles, although I have not yet read the full book. Any mistakes are my own.

This page has affiliate links to good products we endorse. Full disclaimer. 

THE DREAM HOARDING THESIS

The upper middle class in the US, defined as the top 20% by income, is pulling away from the middle class and increasingly preventing upward social mobility for others. We all know about the top 1% — the ultra-rich — but the rest of the top 20% wields just as much influence, to the detriment of everyone else. You could even say they are rigging the system. They live in exclusive communities that middle class people can’t afford, and they are helped by deducting the interest on their huge mortgages; they send their kids to the best schools and colleges, the latter being paid for by tax exempt 529 plans; the kids then get the best internships (and jobs) due to the family’s affluent social network.

From start to finish, people in the upper middle class have the advantage, and they delude themselves in thinking they’ve earned it by merit. They don’t see their own luck and privilege, nor do they admit they’re rich. What’s worse, they support policies that will keep them elevated and oppose policies that might create a more even playing field for the lower classes. It’s time to raise awareness and rethink policies that only favor the rich. Most of all, it’s time for the rich to admit that they are the problem.

This thesis seems to be pointed directly at me. Am I really a problem within society? Am I a Dream Hoarder?

Before disputing this, there are certain facts that I’m happy to grant.

POINTS OF AGREEMENT: I’M RICH AND I’M LUCKY AND I’D LIKE TO KEEP IT THAT WAY

Fact 1: I’m in the upper middle class, and the US upper middle class is rich.

Here’s where my household ranks in the US.

  • Income: $260,000. Within top 2%.
  • Net Worth: $630,000 (and growing). Within top 15%.

By the measure of income, the top 20% starts at $112,000. One could argue that six figures goes further in Fargo than in Chicago, but by and large I won’t dispute that a person should be comfortable with this salary. I’ll also grant the more controversial claim that this makes a person RICH. One won’t “feel” rich on $112K in Chicago (or NYC, etc), but feeling rich is subject to lifestyle choices. Objectively speaking, to make more than $112K is to have one of the highest incomes in the richest country with the highest standard of living in the history of the world. It’s silly to deny that, so I won’t.

Fact 2: It takes some luck to get into the upper middle class.

I recently got into a virtual tussle with ThinkSaveRetire about luck. He was arguing that if a person doesn’t meet his/her goals (like early retirement), it’s all their fault. I disagree. Practically speaking, I don’t live my life as if it depends on luck. But, I acknowledge that everyone is lucky (or unlucky) to some degree by being born with a genetic inheritance in a particular time and place with a family / culture / society that supports (or doesn’t support) their ability to make choices. The reality is that anyone who is reading this blog has had an incredible amount of luck — living in the West in 2017 with internet access puts them almost automatically in the top 1% of human history in terms of wealth (hat tip to Make Wealth Simple’s article: “You are richer than you think.”)

My own luck can be seen in my origin story. I wasn’t born as rich as Ivanka Trump or as genetically gifted as Einstein or Michael Jordan, but there wasn’t anything holding me back, per se.

Fact 3: Mortgage interest deductions and 529 plans disproportionately favor the rich.

Agree. This is simple math. The rich take on bigger mortgages and have extra money to save for college, so these policies lean toward the wealthy. Also, it goes without saying that if one pays more taxes in a higher tax bracket, then any tax break will result in a bigger benefit. The progressive tax system by definition incentivizes the rich to be cognizant of tax breaks. This is easy to see when comparing our tax bills, Penny.

I should note there’s strange sort of circular reasoning for one to quibble with the upper middle class about taxes. According to Forbes, those who make over $100k pay 80% of all income taxes. So complaining about tax breaks for the people who pay most of the taxes is like complaining about frequent flyer miles for those who frequently fly. You can’t have one without the other.

Fact 4: Upper middle class advantages can be self-reinforcing across generations.

If a family’s income is high, it’s quite likely that the next generation in that family will have a financial advantage and be able to maintain higher levels of wealth. They are starting from a more secure place, more inoculated to tragedy or bad luck. Many rich families have financial security as a goal. I admit this. I want to build a family legacy through financial security, education, and smart estate planning. 

I’ve ceded a lot of ground here. There are some basic facts that the Dream Hoarding thesis points to, even if I disagree with the implications. So where, exactly, do I disagree with this idea of Dream Hoarding?

IS THE AMERICAN DREAM AN OUTCOME OR AN OPPORTUNITY?

If I had to describe the American Dream to an alien life form, basically I would say that it’s about opportunity. Not exactly equal opportunity (ref. Michael Jordan — I don’t have the opportunity to dunk a basketball, I’m too short), but the opportunity for basic improvement. A person in America should have the opportunity to work toward a better situation in life. But opportunity doesn’t guarantee a particular outcome in a particular timeframe. It will always take a bit of luck to attain a favorable outcome. That’s life.

The system can’t control luck or genetics, but it should strive to be fair to most people most of the time. Over time, perhaps over generations, a person’s family should be able to increase their standard of living to a “middle class” existence, which, as I’ve mentioned, is pretty darn good in the richest country in the history of the world. A place to live, a job, food, and the freedom to pursue happiness. That’s the desired outcome. It’s not guaranteed, but as you’ve shown, Penny, you don’t need to make a lot of money to achieve this in the US. (And good news — your family income has been on an upward trajectory.)

But what shall we make of our inequality? Using rough data from our origin stories, check out our respective household incomes.

Penny and Rich’s Income Inequality. Click on image to enlarge.

I know this is only a specific case of 2 cousins, but it’s worth asking: Was there some dream hoarding going on here? Is our inequality due to luck or choices or both?

The way I see it, a person is born with a certain amount of luck. You can’t change the circumstances of your birth or your genetic makeup. After that, your life outcome will be determined by 2 factors:

  1. More luck (health, key life events, etc).
  2. Choices (education, career choice, who you marry, etc).

Continue reading “Are The Rich Hoarding The American Dream? An Examination Of Penny And Rich’s Path To Income Inequality.”

Monthly Money Check: Rich’s Low Risk Ride To $1 Million — June 2017

This page has affiliate links to good products we endorse. Full disclaimer. 

Dear Pennifer,

Before I begin this monthly money check, I want to briefly revisit why I’m writing these updates. Quite simply, my purpose is to track my financial progress and think through how I’m doing with regard to my goals, perhaps clarifying my goals along the way. My purpose is not to brag about finances or elevate money to supreme importance. Human happiness isn’t about money (although money well spent, arguably, can help). I’m also not trying to be an example for anyone. Everyone’s situation is different. This blog is mostly for me, and secondarily for you.

As you know, my goal is to reach a $1 Million Net Worth sometime during my 45th year of life. I gave myself the whole year for the margin of error. I didn’t set this goal for my 45th birthday because, frankly, I didn’t think I’d make it. I’ll be 45 in 39 months, approximately, and I still have nearly $400k to go. It’s a tall order.

However, I’m starting to think it’ll be close. The month of June is an example of why I think this.

JUNE NUMBERS

From May 31 to June 30, our net worth jumped by $14,885. This is encouraging because there was nothing incredibly unusual about the month. Income was normal, with a little extra for overtime.

What’s more, there were no abnormal investment returns or risky market returns inflating my results. My largest investment — ownership of an LLC along with my brothers that primarily holds farmland and commercial real estate — was flat on the month.

It may sound strange to say that I’m encouraged by a lack of returns, but to me this shows that my financial goals are not dependent on any short term risks. As I’ve noted, I hate the broad stock market right now. I think it’s a bubble and I refuse to buy shares at these valuations. (Actually, I might buy some individual stocks opportunistically, like Nintendo before Christmas season, but I’m not buying the broad S&P 500 index here and now). The beauty of it is, I don’t need stocks. Investing, to me, is about risk and reward and meeting goals. If I can meet my goals without undue risk, I will.

Anyway, financially speaking this was a normal month, and it was a good month. When we move back to the US, we’ll need to pay a whopping $4,000 per month in rent, but even with that expense this would still have been a good month.

2017 NUMBERS

Widening the lens, I can’t believe half the year is gone! Let’s see how 2017 is going, with some observations by category.

OVERALL

Net worth is up by $72,837 in 2017. More than half of this is in retirement, so it’s not money we’ll be touching anytime soon. The next largest portion is from debt destruction. It’ll be nice to get that completely out of the way. After that, a bit of cash and investment gains.

Continue reading “Monthly Money Check: Rich’s Low Risk Ride To $1 Million — June 2017”

Monthly Happiness Report: Rich Is Part Of The Global Elite And His Quality Of Life Is An Oppressive Symbol Of Class Warfare. Pass The Quinoa Crackers. –June 2017

This page has affiliate links to good products we endorse. Full disclaimer. 

Penny,

I’m going to take my happiness report in a different direction this month. I’d like to respond to an article that popped up regarding the way “the rich” spend their money. I saw it on BBC, entitled “The New, Subtle Ways the Rich Signal Their Wealth.” Originally it was written for Aeon and entitled “Conspicuous Consumption is Over. It’s All About Intangibles Now.” By any title, this article represents what I perceive as a growing resentment toward the rich. Toward me, in other words.

I encourage you to read the article, but I’ll summarize it here.

The rich are getting sneaky. They used to separate themselves with the conspicuous consumption of luxury goods for all to see — fancy TVs, cars, and handbags. But now, luxury items are widely available to the masses. So, to set themselves apart, the rich are increasingly spending on inconspicuous social and cultural status symbols: education, health, and retirement.

This kind of privileged spending activity is subtle but “pernicious,” benefitting rich families while excluding the middle class.

And here’s the concluding paragraph: “Inconspicuous consumption – whether breastfeeding or education – is a means to a better quality of life and improved social mobility for one’s own children, whereas conspicuous consumption is merely an end in itself – simply ostentation. For today’s aspirational class, inconspicuous consumption choices secure and preserve social status, even if they do not necessarily display it.”

End summary.

So Penny, you might be wondering why I’m talking about this in my happiness report. Here’s why. We have a high household income ($260,000), and I’ll grant that we are more or less rich. I’ve written extensively about how I prioritize my spending, both for optimal happiness according to my values and for the benefit of my family’s financial security (in 3 easy steps!). The above article is essentially saying that my way of spending is harmful (“pernicious” was an interesting word choice) as a form of class warfare and social privilege.

In short, I’m part of the problem.

Ok, well … let’s grant for a moment that I’m unknowingly part of an elitist conspiracy to oppress common folk by eating free range chicken and saving for college. How could I take action to distance myself from such a dangerous subculture? How could I prove my desire to be on the side of fairness and equality?

Should I take my kids to McDonald’s and tell them that one day, if they live long enough on nuggets and soda, they could ignore higher education and work behind the counter? Should I blow their college money on a Porsche in the hopes that they will make a career out of filling it with gas? Would I then be regarded as a more moral and less pernicious rich person?

Chicken nuggets — a great way for rich people to champion social equality.

I have another theory. Maybe the rich are just discovering that luxury doesn’t bring happiness, and that the best way to build a stable family environment is to promote health and education. And maybe that’s a good thing.

Continue reading “Monthly Happiness Report: Rich Is Part Of The Global Elite And His Quality Of Life Is An Oppressive Symbol Of Class Warfare. Pass The Quinoa Crackers. –June 2017”

Rich Is Preparing To Move. He Enjoys Moving. Wait … He’s Paying HOW MUCH On Rent???

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Hey Pen,

Mrs. R and I are getting ready to move for the 6th time in 9 years of marriage. Even by my transient standards, that’s a lot of moves.

Some people hate moving. I’ve heard of people sticking with a crappy house or boring neighborhood just to avoid moving. The boxes! The packing! Getting everything organized! Changing your life!

True, moving is a lot of work. But I actually enjoy it.

Moving forces me to think about what I want to keep and I can do without. I’m forced to consider what I want my life to look like in terms of location, living space, and culture. In a sense, I’m choosing my destiny. And if I choose poorly, I can just move again. There’s a freedom to it. It can even be exciting.

Here’s the list of our moves:

2008 – East Coast apartment to East Coast apartment: From one apartment to another in order to get DirecTV and the NFL Sunday Ticket (needed a south-facing balcony). Yes, that’s why we moved.

2009 – East Coast to Denver, CO: Work assignment.

2012 – Denver back to East Coast: Work assignment.

2014 – East Coast rental house to East Coast apartment: We didn’t like our suburban house or our landlords after a tree almost killed me during a storm (long story).

2015 – East Coast apartment to foreign country: Work assignment.

2017 – Foreign country to East Coast apartment: Work assignment.

2020 or so – hopefully moving again!

Much of my financial planning energy right now is going toward the move. I alluded to this in my latest money check. Here’s what we’ll need to do over the next few months, along with cost estimates.

Click on image to enlarge.

Unfortunately, this means I’ll need to put a lot of my savings plans on hold until the end of the year. That’s life. No one should cry for me and I’m not complaining.

I should address the elephant in the room here, which is that rental price of $4,000 per month. How in the world is this reasonable? Well, first let me tell you a little about our area and then I’ll tell you more about our apartment.

We had a few priorities when choosing where to live. These priorities were non-negotiable.

  • Short commute. Commutes in our area can be up to an hour each way in traffic if you live in the burbs, leading to 11 hour workdays, less time with family, and general misery. Our commute will be 15 minutes.
  • Close to a good school. We will be able to walk to our kids’ public elementary school, which is Spanish-English immersion.
  • Walkable to good food and activities. We’ll be able to walk to the grocery store, to restaurants and coffee shops, and to the subway.

Right off the bat, there are only a few neighborhoods meeting all these criteria. It turns out we’re not the only ones who want to live in such a neighborhood, and this is reflected in the cost of living. I’m not going to give away where we live, but here are some data for our zip code according to Trulia:

Averages in my zip code. Click on image to enlarge.

So it looks like we’re right in line, even slightly under, the average monthly rent.

What do we get for $4,000 per month? Again, I’ll list the non-negotiables.

  • 2 Bedroom, 1200+ square feet, with a decent layout. Our apartment is a 2BR + Den clocking in at 1246 square feet. The layout uses space well. Some modern apartments have weirdly curved walls and such that make them difficult to arrange.
Our floor plan.
  • Gym and pool in the building. The pool is outdoors but will come in handy for the kids during the summer. The gym will come in handy for me.
  • Garage parking. 2 spaces will run us $175 per month. Indoor parking is great in winter.
  • Intangibles. These are not necessarily non-negotiables, but they are factors that are difficult to measure, like the culture (is it full of rowdy yuppies?), the quality of construction (are the walls paper thin?), and building management (are they responsive?). Our building scored well on these points.

There are a bunch of other amenities — like free coffee, a “cyber lounge”, convenient package and dry cleaning delivery, etc — that are also included.

I admit, $4,000 per month is a huge number. To make sure I wasn’t insane, I Googled “How much should I spend on rent?” The rule of thumb is no more than 30% of household income.

Click on image to enlarge.

It turns out, $4,000 is only 18.5% of our monthly income, so you could say we’re being frugal. Hardy hoo hoo.

You might say, “Hey Rich, with that monthly payment, you could easily buy a house!”

Sure. Let’s say I did that.

Continue reading “Rich Is Preparing To Move. He Enjoys Moving. Wait … He’s Paying HOW MUCH On Rent???”

Monthly Money Check: Rich Spent More On 4 Items Than Penny Spent On Everything — May 2017

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Dear Penny,

Your lack of spending is really astounding. As we’ve said many times, the point of making money and spending money isn’t money itself, it’s to get something of value in return. At first I thought maybe there just wasn’t much that you valued because you spend so little. I think that’s partially true. You don’t value vacations like I do, for example. You don’t value clothes at all. You don’t, in general, value many things that cost money. But when you do value something, like education, you’re willing to pony up.

Turns out I value plenty of things in life that cost at least a fair bit of money. I value travel, eating out, a short commute to work (because I value work) and so on. Even though I’m not going to detail all my expenses (waste of time), I can still sneak some money porn into the post by highlighting a few things Mrs. Rich and I specifically valued in May. To wit:

Click on image to buy on Amazon.
  • Vitamix Ascent A2300 Blender: $380.30. Because we value healthy smoothies.
  • A beach house rental for the summer: $653.22 (partial payment). Because we value family beach vacations.
  • A deposit on our new apartment: $1,100. Because we value an apartment close to school, close to work, and close to enjoyable activities.
  • A painting by a local artist: $410.88. Because we value art, and we value a beautiful reminder of our 2 years overseas.

According to many personal finance blogs, this is just craziness. We spent $2,500 on a few things and what did we get, really? A glorified blender, a painting, and some overpriced places to stay?

Yes, actually. That’s what we got. I do realize this kind of spending will prevent us from retiring early. But I don’t want to retire early if it means no smoothies.

I also realize that we spent more on these 4 items than you spent on everything in May. That does seem a bit crazy. How could we be so different? Which one of us belongs in the looney bin?

Most of all, I value going through life without worrying too much about money. I like thinking about money and managing money, but not worrying about money. I value financial security. Financial security is the basis for my goal of reaching a $1 Million net worth at age 45.

NET WORTH PROGRESS

Let’s check on that goal. Going into the month of May, I had a net worth of $603,982. Therefore, I still need $396,018 with 53 months to go. I need to average an increase of $7,472 per month. In May …

Click on image to enlarge.

… my net worth increased by $7,749. Ding! In 2017, I’m up $57,951 , or $11,590 per month. I won’t keep that up but I think I’ll stay on track for my goal. Here’s a chart showing my progress since I started tracking it in September 2015.

Click on image to enlarge.

Now, let’s look at each net worth category separately to see how I’m maintaining this upward trajectory.

Continue reading “Monthly Money Check: Rich Spent More On 4 Items Than Penny Spent On Everything — May 2017”

Monthly Money Check: Penny Just Can’t Spend Less Than $2,000 A Month

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Dear Rich,

Frickin-A. I just can’t seem to get under $2,000 a month in expenditures (not including the student loan payment)! I tell you, I will celebrate when that finally happens. I was only $61.31 away from it this month. It’s the school fees that keep creeping up on us. It’s a tuition payment in January, elementary registration fee in February, high school registration fee in March, high school supply fee in April, and now an elementary student fee in May. Blerg, again, I tell you!

Even though we’re getting financial aid, I was thinking of how much sending our kids to these private schools is costing us. With my oldest on her way to a private high school in the fall, as well as the middle two at a private elementary and middle school already, this will be our most expensive school year yet. In tuition alone, it will be $5,200. But just look at how all those other fees add up, that’s at least another $1,000. That’s around 15% of our income going to these private schools. But, as they say, where your money goes shows what you value, and we definitely do value these private schools for our kids, but… DANG!

Anywho, here’s how my numbers added up this month:

FRICK.

I had entertained the idea of re-allocating some of our charitable givings to go toward the private schools instead, but I really don’t want to do that. I want to be able to give close to 10% of our income, so we’re going to keep trying to do that.

Looking at our income for the first four months of this year, we’re at $12,979. If we keep up at that rate, that will make for a yearly total of $38,937, which is actually a little bit less than what we made last year. And now we’ll be paying roughly $3,600 more in school costs than we did last year. Hmm… I don’t like how this is adding up.

Continue reading “Monthly Money Check: Penny Just Can’t Spend Less Than $2,000 A Month”