Marathoning

The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal. Long-distance running has been one of my main hobbies now for about six or seven years.  It serves as a useful endeavor because it helps me to stay dedicated to exercising and also to reduce my stress.  I was reminded again of the parallels between distance running and long-term financial planning when I completed my third marathon. Long Build Up For those that have never run a marathon, it takes some time to prepare.  The training plan that I follow is 17 weeks long.  It is one of the reasons I like running marathons.  By signing up for the race, I set a goal for which I need a significant lead time to prepare.  It takes time to build up your running distance to the point where you can tackle 26 miles.  Do too much too fast and you risk injury. Similarly in personal finance, you need to set goals.  Goals help focus your efforts, … Read more…

Time for Open-Enrollment

The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal. Once again, open-enrollment time has arrived for me. This year’s enrollment has been relatively uneventful. There were no major changes to the benefits that I currently have and no large changes in cost either. The one change that had been introduced, the 401k change, was reversed. All in all it was fairly uneventful. I will walk through my thoughts and selections in case it might help you in the future. Health Insurance This has been the area that has seen the biggest changes over the past several years. The coverage that I have elected has come down in price over the past few years. The trade-off I have made is that I am taking on more risk. This is a trade-off I have been willing to make as a result of more stability in my financial situation. This year brought no major changes to the health coverage and only a minimal change in cost. The … Read more…

Woohoo!! Another Raise!!

The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal. Recently, I let you peek in on what I did with my performance bonus for this year.  Now, I am going to let you in on what I did with my salary increase for this year.  I find out both numbers at the same time, but the bonus is paid in March and the salary increase does not begin until the first April paycheck.  This year, I received a 2% increase on my base salary.  This translated in $1,900 more per year or just over $155 a month.  The next question is what did I do with the extra money? Dividing the Extra Over the last few years, raises generally have been used to help stabilize the budget and plug any deficits there may have been.  This year was different though.  I have been actively minimizing our expenses whenever possible.  The most notable one recently was my mortgage refinancing that I wrote about.  That freed … Read more…

Bonus Time Again

The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal. One of the benefits of working for a larger company is that there usually is a defined plan for an annual bonus.  Bonus plans can go by various names, but in the end they all boil down to extra money.  It is bonus time again where I work. My Bonus History I usually try to anticipate what bonus I might get and what I would do with the extra money. This year was a little harder for figure out what I might be getting. Last year, I received a pretty big bonus of $20,000.  Our CEO had communicated a couple months back that the bonus pool would be larger this year compared with last year.  So, what did I guess?  I ran some calculations for a range of bonuses, $10,000 to $25,000.  I will admit the $25,000 was pretty optimistic, but I guy can dream, right? I received on the lower end of the range, … Read more…

Capital Allocation

The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal. I feel like I am entering a new phase financially.  I am looking at aspects of my financial life that I had not contemplated previously.  I have to say that I like it.  As I have stated recently, I am feeling more secure financially than I have ever felt.  What this has meant is that I am beginning to think more in terms of where to save my money and less about can I save money.  Now that the cushion is sufficient, I want my money working as hard for me, as I worked for it. The Current The cushion, as I like to call it, is divided between two accounts, my Vanguard brokerage account and my Capital One 360 savings account.  The savings account is where all of our savings go and I use a spreadsheet to keep track of the various things for which we allocate money.  For example, we set aside money … Read more…

My Parents versus Me

The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal. I have come to realize, as I was wrapping up my mother’s estate, that my parents probably were not the best money managers.  I mean, they took care of me, but who will take care of them?  That is not to say they I went without as a kid growing up; at least I don’t think I did.  It’s just that in comparing my finances to theirs, I realize what a precarious position they were in.  The remarkable thing is they managed to raise 3 kids on such a small income. Income Variation I do not know truly what my parents’ salaries were growing up, as personal finance was never really discussed.  I learned most of my current personal finance knowledge on my own.  I do have a pretty good guess on their income and it was probably in the $50K range.  When I think about this, I think that I should feel flush with … Read more…

Who Am I and What Do I Know About Debt?

As the name of this site implies, I am married with debt. This does not mean I am married “to” debt – actually we are getting a divorce! But seriously, I just recently turned 30, have been married for 7 years, and have two daughters (age 6 and 1.5). I am currently an overworked state employee working for my state legislature, and my wife teaches 2nd Grade in a private school. A few years ago we seemed to be on the upward mobility trajectory. Then my wife lost her well-paying job as a public school teacher, and our earnings were sharply reduced. At that point I nearly freaked out and lost my mind, preparing myself for homelessness and the soup kitchen. At that time we only had one child, yet I was absolutely terrified – we had no emergency savings and tens of thousands of dollars in debt, including a large credit card balance. We were lucky to land on our feet as my wife found a (lesser paying) job, we never missed a bill payment or did without the necessities. After the near-disaster, I began to tackle our debt. We paid off approximately $20,000 in credit card debt, but … Read more…