Tag Archives: retirement

Close Call on Debt Free Anniversary


Love those cute readers

Well, it seemed like a definite possibility that I was going to lose my job today on the ol’ debt-free anniversary.  Sobering!

Yesterday I got an email inviting the 4 people in the the school district that have my position to a meeting with the HR director and Finance director.  Never good.  Especially a meeting with no agenda.  We suspected there was a 70% chance they would reduce the hours (again) and 30% chance I would be gone altogether in the next school year.

It turned out that they are going to reclassify the position which will take away vacation pay and some of the holiday pay.  I can live with that.  I am relieved because I love my library job and the kids.  My husband is relieved because he is really eyeing up retirement at 57, and a comparable job would be hard to find for me in the current education climate.  I am not ready to give up summers off because of DD’s age.

So, debt-free day will close with massive gratitude and relief.  Underlying these feelings is motivation to “make hay while the sun shines” and keep saving for both a UK vacation and retirement to make my husband’s early retirement a reality (he has over 10 years to go).

Have you had an employment wake-up call like this?  In education it’s become dicey every single year.




Caviar Dreams, Star-Kist Budget?

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This summer the New York Times ran an article called ‘For Would-Be Retirees, A Million-Dollar Illusion.’  The gist of the article was that increasing inflation and low returns on bonds can create a situation for retirees where they could run through a $ 1 million dollar nest egg before they die.   A million ain’t what it once was!  I’m not near retirement and I don’t have a nest egg that size,  but I found the end of the article to be very thought-provoking:

“When you are in your 50s… you can try to save as much as you can and try not to get accustomed to a lifestyle that you won’t be able to afford later on”

If a retiree is drawing conservatively from a $1 million portfolio and taking Social Security, that might look like $61,000 per year.  Nice, sure, but not the kind of cash that will have Robin Leach calling you to be on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”.   Cranking up the “lifestyle” too high during your working years and you might find retirement to be a rude awakening.  If you are used to saving, and living a comfortable yet not opulent lifestyle, your retirement income might feel a whole lot like what you have been used to.

It seems one of the big barriers to creating wealth (aside from debt) is what goes on in our own heads.  Or, as the article implies, what lifestyle we think we deserve to be living.  It might sound like:  Someone with my income wouldn’t drive a used car… I have a full-time job, so if I want Starbucks, I am darn well going to have it…. My family doesn’t ‘do’ leftovers… All my neighbors have a cleaning service…    I think that we already live a fairly modest lifestyle, with the exception of vacations.  This summer, though, a number of bloggers have opened my eyes to some areas where I have been unaware of my own lifestyle beliefs.  If you haven’t met them yet, check out Creative Savv and The Prudent Homemaker.  They are both showing me ways to create a healthy, frugal and less wasteful lifestyle … and I’m tuning out my inner brat who demands “Champagne wishes and Caviar Dreams.”  Now I am off to pick (more) zucchini for dinner tonight, inspired to save a little more towards the things that really matter to me.

Have you ever given yourself a lifestyle adjustment?

Under the Spell of Retirement

I’ve come back from our trip to Santa Fe with renewed vision and focus on planning and saving for retirement.  Santa Fe turned out to be a place where we could really see ourselves spending time in retirement.  Our commitment to being debt-free comes first, so the only thing standing between us and a retirement of our choosing is having the savings we need.

Condo on the Plaza in Santa Fe - works for me

Condo on the Plaza in Santa Fe – works for me!

‘You can’t take a loan for your retirement’ – Mr. Saver

Mr. Saver is eligible for retirement in his mid-50s, approximately 15 short years from now.   This will occur just after our daughter would finish college.   We are saving as though he will retire in his 50s so that when the time comes that option is available to us.  I find myself running through a mental to-do list of items to put my attention on so that we are prepared:

  1. Remain debt free.  Interest on home, cars, and credit cards is money that isn’t available for savings.   “Rather to go to bed hungry than to rise in debt” – Ben Franklin.
  2. Budget money to maintain the things we already own, like home and cars, so that they last.
  3. Roth IRA – we should have a goal to fully fund both of our Roth IRAs every year from here on out.  For more on this, see my prior post.
  4. It’s all about the weekly meal-plan… keep planning meals at home based on sales and what pantry items are available.  Maximize veggies and beans, which are cheap and nourishing.
  5. Weekly budget meetings so that we are on the same page about where money should be allocated based on what expenses are coming up.  It’s July, so now is the time to think about saving for holiday expenses, and so on.
  6. Practice contentment.  We do not have the fanciest clothes, cars or house, but right now I value doing what we can to become financially independent so my husband can be in charge of when he retires.  Contentment helps keep me out of the mall!

It’s a lot of moving parts to keep an eye on!  What the trip to Santa Fe did for me, among other things, is enhance my vision of what we could create in our future.  Having a vision of what you want is one of the most important steps to take when you have a goal that requires sacrifice.    You can read more on creating a vision in my post “Imagining The Future.”

Do you have a vision for the future that is beginning to take shape?

Summer-Time, Is the Living too Easy?

IMG_3597-privateIt is day 5 of summer vacation, and since yesterday I have been feeling the ‘Saver’ in me losing power as quickly as a teenager’s iPhone.  My daughter and I have really enjoyed the free activities at the library, taking picnic lunches to parks,  and swimming at the local pool.  In the back of my mind, though, I find myself thinking ‘Hmmm….lunch at the mall sounds good’ or ‘Maybe I should switch my meal plan this week’ or ‘Thai-iced coffee!’  I have yet to do any budget damage.

As I observe myself having these money-spending thoughts, I keep going back to one thing:  I am not working this summer.  Normally my job in a kitchen is a source of much focus, physical movement and adrenaline.  I think that focus and intensity spills over into the rest of my life when I am working and now that is gone.  It’s summer-time and the living is too easy!

I don’t plan to work this summer — being home in the summer with my daughter is a great luxury and source of joy.  Now I am aware, though, that my desire to add excitement to the day is just my brain noticing the absence of my job.  I am also realizing that when retirement comes some day, two people not working could equal two people wanting to go to the mall and get drinks at the coffee shop every day.

And that Thai-iced coffee?  I am enjoying a home-made version that vaguely resembles the real deal:  leftover coffee, chilled; add sweetener; pinch of cardamom; top off with milk of your choice and ice.

What do you do when you have the desire to spend out of boredom?

Imagining the Future: What I Did This Week to Save Money

Black bean soup - Dinner at home

Black bean soup – Dinner at home

It has been busy at work this week, and I have to admit that by Thursday night I was thinking, “I can’t believe I have to make dinner again tomorrow night!”  While we could have gone out to eat, I already had all the groceries for dinner.  I thought about how great our budget was looking this week and how nice it would be to deposit some of that money back into our savings, and I sucked it up and made dinner!

I read a study today on NBC news that a key to success in saving money is, in fact, the ability to imagine the future effects of your actions.  The study showed that the more people could imagine themselves in the future, they better they were at delaying immediate gratification.  This might look like: “Boy, I’d really like to just forget about looking through the grocery ads and dealing with sales and coupons….but it will be so great when we can save up enough cash to travel to Europe as a family. . . . ”  The article even mentioned writing a letter to your future self, which is exactly what my friend over at ‘The Debt Break-Up’ did in this blog post.

So, with a vision of an early retirement and enough money to travel we:

  • Made dinner at home
  • Had a no-drive day for me and no spend day for both of us
  • Thinned the bok choy and arugula in the garden and enjoyed the baby leaves in our salad – micro greens!
  • Planned how we would utilize our smartphones on an upcoming trip to avoid being hit with data overage charges
  • Waited until our time-of-use electricity rate kicked in to run the dehumidifier in the basement and wash/dry clothes
  • Renewed a due library book online so I could wait to return the book tomorrow when I will be driving that way anyway.  No fine, and saves on the gas for the car.

I recommend reading the full article on nbcnews.com which is linked above.  When you are trying to achieve a financial goal, do you draw strength from the vision you have for the future?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

What’s All the Saving For, Anyway?

You may have gathered from my weekly posts on ‘What I Did This Week to Save Money’ that we are very tenacious about trying to end our week with some surplus money to put back into savings, but what are we saving for, anyway?

We have two main financial goals for 2013 in addition to the usual budgeting practices of saving for kid’s college, participating in employer’s retirement program, meeting our charitable obligations, etc.

  1. Increase cash savings by 30% by the end of 2013.  We feel this is imperative.  We purchased a car with cash at the end of summer 2012 and need to replenish our savings.  We like our savings to be comprised of enough money for a major home repair or a car, plus some additional cushion.  This cushion is what keeps us from needing to borrow money.  For more thoughts on “saving like no one else”, see this post.
  2.  Fund each of our Roth IRAs up to the maximum contribution, if possible.  The Roth Individual Retirement Account allows US residents to put after-tax money into investments for retirement, and when you retire, you do not have to pay taxes on the money again (hooray! presumably your investment has grown quite a bit).  The maximum contribution is $ 5500.00 per year, per person, and you can contribute up until income taxes are due.  If we do not fully fund the Roths this year, we are OK with that because we feel the cash savings is our greatest need right now.  The Roth is only one of several ways we are saving for retirement.

So, are you going to sit around all summer saving money?

Summer Fun - The amazing T-Rex "Sue" at the Field Museum, Chicago

Summer Fun – The amazing T-Rex “Sue” at the Field Museum, Chicago

Definitely not!  We planned and began funding a vacation and other summer activities in our budget many months ago.  In terms of our budget, we are now starting to turn our attention to our money needs from August – December.  I will keep you posted monthly on how we are progressing toward our goals!