Saturday, April 1, 2023

Reader Case Research: Is Having a Keep-At-Residence Dad or mum Financially Possible for the Longterm?

Holly, Josh and their youngsters on a hike

Holly is a music therapist dwelling in Virginia together with her husband, Josh, their three younger youngsters, two guinea pigs and one canine. They love mountain climbing and spending time collectively as a household. Josh is a stay-at-home dad, which fits their household completely. Holly’s query is whether or not or not that is sustainable from a monetary perspective. They’re naturally frugal and don’t spend a lot, however marvel in the event that they’re saving and planning effectively sufficient for retirement. Be a part of me as we dive into Holly and Josh’s funds to see what recommendation we’d have the ability to supply!

What’s a Reader Case Research?

Case Research deal with monetary and life dilemmas that readers of Frugalwoods ship in requesting recommendation. Then, we (that’d be me and YOU, pricey reader) learn by means of their scenario and supply recommendation, encouragement, perception and suggestions within the feedback part.

For an instance, try the final case research. Case Research are up to date by individuals (on the finish of the put up) a number of months after the Case is featured. Go to this web page for hyperlinks to all up to date Case Research.

Can I Be A Reader Case Research?

There are 4 choices for people thinking about receiving a holistic Frugalwoods monetary session:

  1. Apply to be an on-the-blog Case Research topic right here.
  2. Rent me for a personal monetary session right here.
  3. Schedule an hourlong name with me right here.
  4. Schedule a 30 minute name with me right here.

To study extra about one-on-one consultations with me, test this out.

Please observe that area is proscribed for all the above and most particularly for on-the-blog Case Research. I do my greatest to accommodate everybody who applies, however there are a restricted variety of slots accessible every month.

The Aim Of Reader Case Research

Carson in some leaves

Reader Case Research spotlight a various vary of monetary conditions, ages, ethnicities, places, targets, careers, incomes, household compositions and extra!

The Case Research collection started in 2016 and, up to now, there’ve been 93 Case Research. I’ve featured people with annual incomes starting from $17k to $200k+ and web worths starting from -$300k to $2.9M+.

I’ve featured single, married, partnered, divorced, child-filled and child-free households. I’ve featured homosexual, straight, queer, bisexual and polyamorous folks. I’ve featured girls, non-binary people and males. I’ve featured transgender and cisgender folks. I’ve had cat folks and canine folks. I’ve featured people from the US, Australia, Canada, England, South Africa, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands, Germany and France. I’ve featured folks with PhDs and other people with highschool diplomas. I’ve featured folks of their early 20’s and other people of their late 60’s. I’ve featured people who stay on farms and folk who stay in New York Metropolis.

Reader Case Research Pointers

I most likely don’t have to say the next since you all are the kindest, most well mannered commenters on the web, however please observe that Frugalwoods is a judgement-free zone the place we endeavor to assist each other, not condemn.

There’s no room for rudeness right here. The aim is to create a supportive setting the place all of us acknowledge we’re human, we’re flawed, however we select to be right here collectively, workshopping our cash and our lives with optimistic, proactive solutions and concepts.

And a disclaimer that I’m not a educated monetary skilled and I encourage folks to not make severe monetary selections based mostly solely on what one individual on the web advises. 

I encourage everybody to do their very own analysis to find out the most effective plan of action for his or her funds. I’m not a monetary advisor and I’m not your monetary advisor.

With that I’ll let Holly, at the moment’s Case Research topic, take it from right here!

Holly’s Story

Josh and Holly at their wedding ceremony in 2012

Hello Frugalwoods, I’m Holly, age 33, a cheerful hiker dwelling in Roanoke, Virginia with my husband of 10 years, our 3 younger youngsters, 1 canine, and a pair of guinea pigs. I work as a music therapist in a state psychiatric hospital. I’m very proud of my profession selection as a music therapist as a result of it permits me to assist others, play music all day, and work common, daytime hours with advantages.

My husband Josh (age 32) has a level in Greek and Latin however by no means fairly found out what he needs to be when he grows up, so for now he’s doing an important work of staying house to take care of our three youngsters, who’re ages 3, 6, and eight. He additionally works part-time in the summertime as an usher for our native minor league baseball workforce and as a pet-sitter/dog-walker intermittently all year long.

Holly & Josh’s Hobbies

Josh and I like to hike and it’s a giant a part of why we moved to Virginia from the Midwest. We spend as a lot of our free time as attainable exploring the mountains and are constantly in awe of God’s superb creation.

We’re additionally very energetic in our church. I play the piano and organ, Josh is on the council, and we each sing within the church choir. Our older youngsters go to the native public faculty, and our 3-year-old goes to a personal preschool three mornings per week. Our life might sound easy (boring?) to some, however for us it’s good.

The Easy, Good Life

As a baby, my household moved from one condominium to a different each few years as my super-strong and resilient single mother did a tremendous job discovering locations she may afford. Now that I’ve my circle of relatives, I really feel so blessed that my youngsters have a home to name house in a pleasant neighborhood good for every day walks with our beagle. We redid our deck final yr and added a small balcony off of our bed room.

There’s nothing I like greater than sneaking out onto the deck to do yoga or get pleasure from a number of quiet moments sitting on the deck furnishings my husband rescued from the aspect of the street. Josh and I are each naturally frugal, and he does an unbelievable job managing our funds. I’ve principally no concept what our payments are (significantly, a photo voltaic salesman requested me about our electrical invoice and I couldn’t even give him a ballpark guess) or how he makes our small funds work, however I’m eternally grateful that he does.

What feels most urgent proper now? What brings you to submit a Case Research?

Latte and Pam the piggies being petted

My major cause for submitting a case research is to search out out if what we’re doing is definitely working. When Josh first began staying house with our youngsters three years in the past, it was as a result of we had been shifting throughout the nation and knew they’d want additional (short-term) assist for the transition. Then, when our funds remained balanced and we realized how way more easily our house may run with him at house, we selected to proceed.

The Questions:

As our youngest baby approaches kindergarten in a yr and a half, we marvel if Josh ought to proceed staying house (earlier than and after faculty care remains to be costly) or if he ought to have a look at re-entering the work pressure in a extra full time-ish method. If that’s the case, what ought to he do? He beforehand labored within the library and loved that work, he additionally labored for a few years as a retail supervisor and didn’t love that work.

Neither of our dad and mom paid for our faculty educations. I used to be fortunate sufficient to earn massive scholarships to my small faculty and paid the remainder out of pocket. Josh had scholar loans that we paid off 4 years in the past. I’m not tremendous inclined to save lots of a ton of our cash for our youngsters’s educations as a result of I consider that college students make investments their time and power the place they make investments their cash and since I don’t wish to stress them into attending faculty if they’re thinking about a special profession path. Is that this silly? Ought to we be saving extra for this anyway?

There’s additionally a tiny a part of me that is aware of that the monetary assist I obtained as a result of my mother didn’t have some huge cash is a giant a part of why I used to be capable of pay for college out of pocket. I’d hate to save lots of a bunch of cash for my youngsters’ educations and have that lead to them having to pay extra (already inflated) cash for his or her educations.

What ought to we be doing with our funds that we’re not? I respect the recommendation I’ve learn on Frugalwoods that it’s usually higher to save cash than to repay mortgage debt faster, nevertheless it’s so onerous to not need that fee to go away sooner.

What’s the most effective a part of your present way of life/routine?

The entire time our household will get to spend collectively. I’ve beneficiant advantages as a state worker they usually permit me go away time to attend faculty applications, keep house to assist when the children are sick, and revel in tenting journeys in the summertime or lengthy street journeys to see our household.

What’s the worst a part of your present way of life/routine?

As an optimist, I wrestle to establish a worst half. I fear that possibly sometime I’ll burn out in my work and need I’d gone to grad faculty, however largely I can’t justify the time away from our household or the monetary funding proper now.

Apart from that, I generally marvel if we’re attempting too onerous to save cash and may simply spend extra now on fancier experiences for our youngsters or holidays or one thing? However as a naturally frugal individual, I wrestle to do something that’s “not a great deal.” Even when I knew for certain that I had extra disposable earnings, it will be a problem for me to eliminate it.

The place Holly Needs To Be In 10 Years:

Daisy and Holly kayaking

1)    Funds:

  • Identical place?
  • We should always have our mortgage midway paid off by then.
    • It will be enjoyable to have it totally paid off, however that appears unrealistic.

2)    Way of life:

  • Identical place?
  • I can’t consider something I personally wish to change aside from getting my youngsters out on greater mountain climbing trails since they’ll be prepared to try this.

3)    Profession:

  • Unknown.
  • Proper now I like what I do, and I want to stick with the state for 2 extra years to vest my Virginia Retirement System. After that, I may doubtlessly work in a special setting, however I don’t really feel like I’ve to essentially.
  • In 10 years, Josh wish to be working in his dream job, and he wants assist determining what his dream job is.

Holly & Josh’s Funds


Merchandise Month-to-month Gross Earnings
 (complete BEFORE all deductions)
Deductions & Quantity Month-to-month Web Earnings
(complete AFTER all deductions are taken out, corresponding to healthcare, taxes, worker parking, 401k, and so on.)
Holly’s Music Remedy earnings $4,158 Well being and dental insurance coverage: $61
Retirement contributions: $454
Taxes: $626
Josh’s MiLB Usher earnings (6 mo/yr) $175 Taxes: $25 $150
Josh’s Canine Care earnings $150 $150
Holly’s Organ Enjoying earnings $80 $80
Month-to-month subtotal: $3,397
Annual complete: $40,764

Mortgage Particulars

Merchandise Excellent mortgage steadiness Curiosity Charge Mortgage Interval and Phrases Fairness Buy worth and yr
Mortgage on major residence $146,882 3.13% 30-year fixed-rate mortgage $121,118 $183k; bought in 2019

Money owed: $0


Merchandise Quantity Notes Curiosity/kind of securities held/Inventory ticker Title of financial institution/brokerage Expense Ratio
403(b)- Holly $28,798 Former Job Empower Retirement
401(ok)- Josh $20,081 Former Job Merrill Lynch
VRS Hybrid Plan- Holly $19,354 Present Job Virginia Retirement System
Roth IRA- Josh $19,025 $100/mo. Betterment
Roth IRA- Holly $12,456 Betterment
Chase Checking $6,456 Predominant Account Chase
Roth IRA- Holly $6,139 Began with Former Job, $133/mo. Touchstone Investments 0.24%
Emergency Fund $5,538 $50/mo. Earns 3.10% curiosity SmartyPig
Member One Financial savings $1,665 Secondary Native Account, money entry “Earns” .10% dividend MemberOne
Automotive Insurance coverage Pre-pay $236 Pre-pay financial savings acct. to cowl subsequent invoice, $60/mo. Earns 3.10% curiosity SmartyPig
Member One Checking $234 Secondary Native Account, money entry MemberOne
Telephone Invoice Pre-pay $121 Pre-pay financial savings acct. to cowl subsequent invoice, $30/mo. Earns 3.10% curiosity SmartyPig
Complete: $120,103


Car make, mannequin, yr Valued at Mileage Paid off?
2014 Honda Odyssey $13,000 80,000 Sure
2008 Honda Civic $2,700 170,000 Sure
Complete: $13,500


Merchandise Quantity Notes
Mortgage $980 ~$80 additional/mo. to make 1 extra fee per yr
Groceries $370 Used Credit score Card spending classes
Church Choices $300
Purchasing $292 Used Credit score Card spending classes
Automotive $288 Used Credit score Card spending classes
Fuel $280 Used Credit score Card spending classes
Eating places $237 Used Credit score Card spending classes
Preschool $150
Electrical Invoice $100
Automotive Insurance coverage-Allstate $86 Saved forward in SmartyPig to pay upcoming 6 mo. premium
Leisure $85 Used Credit score Card spending classes
Mortgage (annual extra fee) $75 Yearly, one time extra fee, normally after tax return
Animal Provides/Payments $60
Water Invoice $51
Web $40
Journey $40 Used Credit score Card spending classes
Well being & Wellness $33 Used Credit score Card spending classes
Cell Telephones $30 We pay for two strains on a household plan with Holly’s mother, saved forward in SmartyPig
Month-to-month subtotal: $3,497
Annual complete: $41,964

Credit score Card Technique

Card Title Rewards Sort? Financial institution/card firm
Chase Freedom Limitless 1.5% money again on all purchases, 3% on eating Chase Financial institution (affiliate hyperlink)

Holly’s Questions for You:

  1. From a monetary standpoint, is it possible for Josh to stay a stay-at-home dad when our youngest baby goes to kindergarten?
  2. If it’s not possible for Josh to proceed staying house, what ought to he do?
  3. If Josh continues to remain house, can I nonetheless retire sometime? After I’m 65? Sooner?
  4. Ought to we repay our mortgage extra aggressively? Save for retirement extra aggressively? Each? One thing else?
  5. Ought to we be saving for our youngsters’ faculty?

Liz Frugalwoods’ Suggestions

Holly and a cow on a hike

I like Holly’s optimism and pleasure! It shines by means of in her writing that she and Josh have created a life they love! And what’s so telling is how little they spend on this life. I discover their story inspirational and a salient reminder that “the great life” is usually a frugal, conscious life.

Holly and Josh have what so many individuals wrestle to achieve:

  • They stay in a spot they love
  • They’re grateful for his or her easy, joyful routines
  • They have interaction of their hobbies usually and with their youngsters
  • They get pleasure from an excellent work/life steadiness, which allows them to have a comparatively low-stress way of life and loads of time collectively as a household

Thanks, Holly, for reminding all of us that it’s very attainable to stay an excellent life on little or no cash. And now, let’s dive in!

Holly’s Query #1: From a monetary standpoint, is it possible for Josh to stay a stay-at-home dad when our youngest baby goes to kindergarten? 

As I see it, the first problem with Holly and Josh’s funds is that they’re spending $100 greater than Holly earns each month. Holly reviews their spending as $3,497 and their earnings as $3,397. That is, as I famous, a really low earnings for a household of 5. The truth is, they’re very almost on the Federal Poverty line, which in 2023 is an annual earnings of $35,140 for a household of 5. I say that as an instance how fantastically effectively Holly and Josh are managing on such a low earnings.

Everyone’s favourite studying chair

Their spending can also be very low; however, it’s not low sufficient. You may run a deficit for a short while, however it’s going to ultimately meet up with you while you’ve depleted your financial savings. In different phrases, it’s not a sustainable path for the longterm and it’s one thing Holly and Josh ought to work to rectify now.

To carry their spending into alignment with their earnings, Holly and Josh have three choices:

  1. Cut back their bills
  2. Enhance their earnings
  3. Do each

The choice they select is fully as much as them. Let’s begin with choice #1 and an outline of the place they may save extra money each month. To get a way for the place reductions are attainable, I first categorized all of their spending as Mounted, Reduceable or Discretionary:

  • Mounted bills are belongings you can’t change. Examples: your mortgage and debt funds.
  • Reduceable expenses are obligatory for human survival, however you management how a lot you spend on them. Examples: groceries and fuel for the vehicles.
  • Discretionary bills are issues that may be eradicated fully. Examples: journey, haircuts, consuming out.

Now that we all know which gadgets have leeway, I went by means of and assigned a “Proposed New Quantity” to every line merchandise. Solely Holly and Josh know which gadgets are priorities and which gadgets they’ll cut back, however the beneath spreadsheet will get this train began for them:

Merchandise Quantity Notes Class Proposed New Quantity Liz’s Notes
Mortgage $980 ~$80 additional/mo. to make 1 extra fee per yr Mounted/
$900 They will’t afford this additional $80 per thirty days.
Groceries $370 Used Credit score Card spending classes Reduceable $370 That is so low, I’m not going to scale back it any additional!
Church Choices $300 Discretionary $0 It is a robust one. I perceive the significance of tithing, however at this level, Holly and Josh are making a gift of cash they merely don’t have. I encourage them to contemplate decreasing this quantity and discovering different methods to provide of their time and expertise to their church. It doesn’t make sense to place your self into debt by donating cash.
Purchasing $292 Used Credit score Card spending classes Reduceable $200 I’m undecided what this class encompasses–I encourage Holly and Josh to dig in and see what’s really in there.
Automotive $288 Used Credit score Card spending classes Reduceable $288
Fuel $280 Used Credit score Card spending classes Reduceable $280
Eating places $237 Used Credit score Card spending classes Discretionary $0
Preschool $150 Mounted/Reduceable $150
Electrical Invoice $100 Mounted/Reduceable $100
Automotive Insurance coverage-Allstate $86 Saved forward in SmartyPig to pay upcoming 6 mo. premium Mounted/Reduceable $86 I encourage them to buy this round to see if there’s something cheaper.
Leisure $85 Used Credit score Card spending classes Discretionary $0
Mortgage (annual extra fee) $75 Yearly, one time extra fee, normally after tax return Discretionary $0 This isn’t one thing they’ll afford.
Animal Provides/Payments $60 Mounted $60
Water Invoice $51 Mounted $51
Web $40 Mounted $40
Journey $40 Used Credit score Card spending classes Discretionary $0
Well being & Wellness $33 Used Credit score Card spending classes Discretionary $20
Cell Telephones $30 We pay for two strains on a household plan with Holly’s mother, saved forward in SmartyPig Reduceable $30
Month-to-month subtotal: $3,497 Proposed New Month-to-month subtotal: $2,575
Annual complete: $41,964 Proposed New Annual complete: $30,900

Celebrating 1 household hike every month for a yr

As you may see, since Holly and Josh have comparatively low Mounted bills, it will be fully possible for them to carry their spending beneath their earnings. It’s a reasonably naked bones funds, however, it’s a template for what they may do if they need Josh to proceed to function stay-at-home father or mother. In the event that they adopted this funds, they’d be on observe to save lots of a further $9,864 per yr.

There’s no “proper” or “mistaken” reply right here. Fairly, it’s a query of what Holly and Josh worth most.

  • Do they worth the issues they’re at the moment spending cash on?
  • Or are they keen to chop a few of their bills as a way to facilitate the fantastic scenario of getting a stay-at-home father or mother?
  • The one mistaken reply is to proceed spending greater than they make. Except for that, it’s of their arms to determine.

Holly’s Query #2: If it’s not possible for Josh to proceed staying house, what ought to he do?

That is one thing solely Josh can reply. I believe it’s going to require a deep dialog between Holly and Josh about what they worth of their present way of life and the way that might change if he went again to work. As I simply outlined, it’s financially attainable for Josh to proceed within the necessary position of stay-at-home father or mother; however, it’s going to require an excellent larger degree of frugality than they’re at the moment practising.

The youngsters at Henry’s mountain climbing themed bday social gathering

→It’s additionally true that no determination needs to be ultimate.

Holly and Josh may attempt implementing the uber frugal funds outlined above and see the way it feels.

  • Is it cheap for them?
  • Or is it simply too restrictive?

Josh may additionally get a job they usually may asses how that feels. If Josh had been to start out working, they need to consider:

  • How a lot they’ll pay in earlier than/after faculty care
  • How they’ll deal with child sick days, faculty holidays, faculty half-days, and summer time trip
  • How a lot Josh might want to spend on fuel to commute to his job
  • Every other impacts to their funds created by Josh working.
    • For instance: will there be much less time to arrange meals and thus a rise in prices for ready meals/take-out?

One other thought is for Josh to get a job that aligns with the children’ schedules… in different phrases, a job at their faculty. Having the identical hours, commute and holidays as the children would alleviate quite a lot of the scheduling stress of getting two working dad and mom. Faculties are sometimes hiring for a spread of positions–custodians, directors, substitute academics, instructor’s aides, and naturally academics themselves. That is positively one thing to contemplate since it would allow them to take care of a lot of their present fabulous household life steadiness. Substitute educating specifically can be very versatile. Definitely not profitable, however versatile! Since Holly’s job supplies the household’s insurance coverage, Josh has the flexibleness to take a part-time place that possible wouldn’t include advantages.

Holly’s Query #3: If Josh continues to remain house, can I nonetheless retire sometime? After I’m 65? Sooner?

1) Analysis Holly’s Pension!

Holly working in a subject

What jumped out at me is that Holly is a state worker and has a pension. That is one thing for Holly to dig into and analysis ASAP. If Holly is assured a state pension after a specified variety of years of service, that dramatically improves their retirement outlook. A pension is form of just like the holy grail of retirement as a result of–with some pensions–it’s assured earnings for the remainder of your life. After all, pension techniques can default, however state and federal pensions are usually extra dependable than personal corporations. All that to say, Holly ought to get the handbook, ask quite a lot of questions and work out the exact phrases of her pension.

Setting the pension apart, Holly may additionally qualify for Social Safety. Nonetheless, that is one thing to analysis since some pensions preclude you from taking Social Safety. Holly must also examine if her employer presents every other retirement plans, corresponding to a 457.

2) Retirement Investments: $86,499

Between their numerous 401ks, 403bs and IRAs, Holly and Josh have socked away a powerful $86,499 in retirement! They need to really feel actually happy with this! Saving a lot on such a low earnings is commendable. Let’s see how this stacks up towards Constancy’s Retirement Rule of Thumb

Goal to save lots of at the least 1x your wage by 30, 3x by 40, 6x by 50, 8x by 60, and 10x by 67.

Since they’re of their early 30’s, we’ll go along with 2x their earnings, which might be $81,528 ($40,764 x 2). Woohoo! Which means Holly and Josh are proper on observe. The caveat, after all, is that this might entail they proceed to maintain their bills very low.

To reply Holly’s query, if she and Josh are snug with preserving their bills low all through their lifetime, they’ll be superb. Plus, since their earnings is so low, they’re very prone to qualify for beneficiant subsidies on issues like medical health insurance by means of the Inexpensive Care Act.

→Once more, the wild card is the pension. Understanding what that gives ought to give Holly and Josh even larger peace of thoughts. However, in the event that they’re capable of proceed investing for retirement and don’t contact that cash till they retire, they need to be simply superb.

Holly’s Query #4: Ought to we repay our mortgage extra aggressively? Save for retirement extra aggressively? Each? One thing else?

Dawn at Dragon’s Tooth

In brief, NOPE on the mortgage. Holly and Josh really have to cease paying additional on their mortgage because it’s inflicting them to spend greater than they earn every month. There’s no world through which that calculation is sensible. And I would like them to grasp that having a mortgage shouldn’t be a foul factor. It’s really a great factor for quite a few causes:

  1. In case your mortgage has a low, mounted rate of interest–which Holly and Josh’s does at 3.13%–your cash might be higher utilized elsewhere:
    • The inventory market (the place Josh and Holly’s retirement accounts are invested) returns a historic common of seven% yearly. This doesn’t imply 7% yearly, however 7% on common over time. After all previous efficiency doesn’t assure future success, however within the absence of a crystal ball, it’s all we’ve obtained to go on…
    • 7% is larger than 3.13%, which suggests their cash can be higher leveraged within the inventory market (aka of their retirement investments).
    • In different phrases, it’s a possibility value to repay a hard and fast, low rate of interest mortgage.
  2. A home is an illiquid asset:
    • In case you use your entire additional money to repay your mortgage, you’re caught with a big, immoveable asset.
    • Positive, you may promote the home, however then you might want to pay to stay some place else.
    • Bear in mind:
      • You can’t use a paid-off home to purchase groceries
      • You can’t use a paid-off home to pay medical payments
  3. Having your entire cash tied up in a home implies that your investments aren’t diversified:
    • You’re placing your entire monetary eggs in a single basket and a home shouldn’t be assured to understand.
  4. A mortgage is a superb hedge towards inflation:
    • Inflation is when cash turns into much less useful and the neat factor a few mortgage is that it’s denominated within the {dollars} you initially paid for the home and so, over time, as inflation will increase (good day, proper now!), the cash you’re utilizing to repay your mortgage is “cheaper.”
    • Look no additional than the present skyrocketing mortgage rates of interest to grasp why Holly and Josh’s 3.13% is so engaging.

→Paying off a mortgage may really feel good psychologically, nevertheless it fairly often shouldn’t be mathematically or financially prudent.

Asset Overview

Lemonade stand at a yard sale

To reply Holly’s query about what they need to do with any more money, let’s run by means of the remainder of their belongings.

Bear in mind, the #1 job for any more money is to get their bills in alignment with their earnings.

  1. Money: $14,249

Your money equals your emergency fund and your emergency fund is your buffer from debt:

  • An emergency fund ought to cowl 3 to six months’ price of your spending.
  • At Holly and Josh’s present month-to-month spend fee of $3,497, they need to goal an emergency fund of $10,491 to $20,982:
    • This implies the $14k they’ve in money is correct on course. Woohoo, effectively completed!

Your emergency fund is there for you if:

  • You unexpectedly lose your job
  • One thing horrible goes mistaken with your own home that must be mounted ASAP
  • Your automotive breaks down and have to be repaired
  • You’re hit with an sudden medical invoice
  • Your canine will get quilled by a porcupine and has to go to the emergency vet

As you may see, an emergency fund shouldn’t be for EXPECTED bills, corresponding to:

  • Routine upkeep on a automotive, corresponding to oil adjustments and brake pads
  • Anticipated house repairs, corresponding to boiler servicing/chimney sweeping
  • Deliberate medical bills

An emergency fund’s cause for existence is to forestall you from sliding into debt ought to the unexpected occur. It’s your individual private security web.

→Since an emergency fund is calibrated on what you spend each month, the much less you spend, the much less you might want to save up.

That is additionally why it’s so vital to trace your spending each month. In case you don’t know what you spend, you received’t know the way a lot you might want to save. I exploit and suggest the free expense monitoring service from Private Capital (affiliate hyperlink).

Why So Many Accounts?

Pam the piggie

My solely quibble with Holly and Josh’s money place is their SIX totally different accounts. If it’s significant to them to have this many accounts, then keep it up. However from my perspective, it’s complicated and provides quite a lot of additional admin work. If it had been me, I might transfer all $14k into one high-yield financial savings account. The truth that a few of their money isn’t incomes curiosity is untenable. They should leverage each penny they’ll to make their funds work.

For instance, as of this writing, the American Categorical Private Financial savings account earns a whopping 3.50% in curiosity (affiliate hyperlink). This implies in a single yr, their $14,249 would earn $499 in curiosity!

Credit score Card Technique

Holly and Josh get an A+ on their bank card technique. They’ve the Chase Freedom, which is a no-fee, cash-back card, which is sensible. Money-back playing cards are the best rewards to get and use as a result of you’re going to make use of money. Journey rewards are good, however not everybody travels sufficient to make the most of them totally. Most significantly, Holly and Josh pay their card off IN FULL each month. Very effectively completed right here!

Discover Your Expense Ratios

One thing lacking from Holly and Josh’s belongings spreadsheet are the expense ratios on their retirement funding accounts. It is a vital bit of knowledge that they should look into for every of their accounts. Expense ratios are the proportion you pay to the brokerage for investing your cash and, as they’re charges, you need them to be as little as attainable.

As Forbes explains:

“An expense ratio is an annual charge charged to buyers who personal mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Excessive expense ratios can drastically cut back your potential returns over the long run, making it crucial for long-term buyers to pick mutual funds and ETFs with cheap expense ratios.”

In mild of their significance to Holly and Josh’s general long-term monetary well being, I encourage them to find the expense ratios for all of their retirement investments. And, to maintain them in thoughts in the event that they ever determine to put money into taxable investments.

I’ll use Vanguard’s complete market low-fee index fund, VTSAX, for example of how one can discover an expense ratio. You’re going to love this as a result of it’s a three-step course of:

  1. Google the inventory ticker (on this case I typed in “VTSAX”)
  2. Go to the fund overview web page
  3. Have a look at the expense ratio.

Screenshot beneath for reference:

And completed! Woohoo! To provide you a way of whether or not or not your investments have cheap expense ratios, the next three funds are thought of to have low expense ratios:

  • Constancy’s Complete Market Index Fund (FSKAX) has an expense ratio of 0.015%
  • Charles Schwab’s Complete Market Index Fund (SWTSX) has an expense ratio of 0.03%
  • Vanguard’s Complete Market Index Fund (VTSAX) has an expense ratio of 0.04%

You can even use this calculator from Financial institution Charge to find out what you’ll pay in charges over the lifetime of your investments, based mostly on their expense ratios. In case you discover that your investments have excessive expense ratios, it’s WELL price your time to analyze shifting to lower-fee funds.

For his or her Roth IRAs, on the very least Holly will wish to transfer hers out of Touchstone Investments as 0.24% is WAY too excessive of an expense ratio. With their 401ks/403bs from former jobs, it’s going to possible take advantage of sense to roll them into IRAs in order that Holly and Josh can choose their very own brokerage and low-fee funds.

Holly’s Query #5: Ought to we be saving for our youngsters’ faculty?

A fantastic journey

Nope. At Holly and Josh’s present earnings degree, there’s simply no room for them to save lots of for school. However that’s okay. If their earnings stays low, the children ought to qualify for all types of needs-based help. Moreover, it’s essential to do not forget that this can be a “put your individual oxygen masks on first” situation. When you need to supply in your youngsters, you should present in your personal retirement.

Children can take out loans for college however you can’t take out loans for retirement. The situation you wish to keep away from is that you just pay in your youngsters’ faculty after which have to maneuver in with them in your outdated age since you didn’t save sufficient for retirement. I’m not saying that’s going to occur to Holly and Josh—that’s simply my customary cautionary story round saving for school.

And, saving into their retirement accounts received’t have an effect on their youngsters’ monetary assist prospects for school as retirement autos (401ks, IRAs, and so on) aren’t thought of by the FAFSA. So, no worries there!

→With any more money, Holly and Josh can take into account maxing out their contributions to their Roth IRAs.

A Roth IRA is:

  • A retirement account that’s post-tax
  • Which means you pay taxes on the cash you set right into a Roth IRA, however you don’t pay taxes while you withdraw the cash in retirement.
  • A Roth IRA grows tax free.
  • That you must be age 59.5 earlier than you may withdraw cash penalty-free (though there are exceptions).

In 2023, the IRS-set contribution restrict to an IRA is $6,500 ($7,500 if you happen to’re age 50 or older). Which means Holly and Josh may contribute a mixed $13,000 to their Roth IRAs every year.

Not So Quick… First, Save For A New Automotive!

Nonetheless, earlier than Holy and Josh take into account contributing extra to their Roth IRAs, they need to save up for a new-to-them automotive. Their 2008 Honda Civic specifically may not have for much longer to stay. I’d begin squirreling away cash for that now in order that they’re capable of pay money for a used automobile when the time comes.


  1. Henry and Cooper

    Evaluate the “Proposed New Quantity” expense spreadsheet to find out the place you may cut back your spending:

    • It isn’t tenable to proceed spending greater than you earn.
  2. Cease paying additional in your mortgage each month.
  3. By way of Josh getting a job exterior of the home, take into account what you worth about his position versus your bills:
    • Discover if a place on the youngsters’ faculty may present the most effective of each worlds.
    • Calculate any elevated prices related to Josh working exterior of the house.
    • Keep in mind that no determination is ultimate and you’ll check out the decreased funds first to see the way it feels.
  4. Analysis Holly’s pension ASAP and decide whether or not or not both/each of you can be eligible for Social Safety.
  5. Think about consolidating the six money accounts into one high-yield account.
  6. Begin saving for a new-to-you automotive for the reason that 2008 Honda Civic may not be lengthy for this world.
  7. Find the expense ratios for your entire retirement investments:
    • Transfer to lower-fee funds if wanted
    • Think about rolling your outdated 401ks/403bs into IRAs so to management the funds they’re invested in
    • Take a look at the guide, The Easy Path to Wealth by JL Collins, for an investing 101 primer (affiliate hyperlink)
  8. After getting your spending into alignment along with your earnings and saving up for a new-to-you automotive, take into account placing any more money into your Roth IRAs.
  9. Really feel very happy with the fantastic life you’ve created and preserve us posted on what you do subsequent!

Okay Frugalwoods nation, what recommendation do you could have for Holly? We’ll each reply to feedback, so please be at liberty to ask questions!

Would you want your individual Case Research to look right here on Frugalwoods? Apply to be an on-the-blog Case Research topic right here. Rent me for a personal monetary session right here. Schedule an hourlong or 30-minute name with me right here, refer a good friend to me right here, or electronic mail me with questions (

By no means Miss A Story

Signal as much as get new Frugalwoods tales in your electronic mail inbox.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles