January 10, 2018

A smattering of numbers

Like Military Dollar, sometimes I have a collection of thoughts that aren’t full-post worthy.

I scored 10 out of 15 on J. Money’s 15 things to do to be above average. That’s a failing grade by normal standards, but I don’t feel bad about it.

  • Build a starter emergency fund of $1,000: 1 point.
  • Organize your important financial information in a binder or eFile: 0.5 point, this is mostly done but needs more organization.
  • Develop a monthly budget habit: 0 point, we track spending but stopped budgeting traditionally.
  • Pay off all of your debts: negative points! well, 0. Damn you, new mortgage!
  • Build a mid-level emergency fund of $10,000: 1 point. I require at least a year of liquid reserves.
  • Be aware of your credit score: 1 point, I don’t check this regularly but we just applied for a mortgage so we’re in the 800s.
  • Earn extra income: 1 point, I do a bit extra but I don’t necessarily agree this should be on the list. Sometimes your primary incomes are just fine.
  • Read the top personal finance books: 0, I don’t read PF books, I read blogs.
  • Automate your savings: 1 point, YES! I DO THIS.
  • Automate your bills: 1/2 point, I automate the ones that make sense.
  • Automate investing: 1 point, retirement and 529 investing is automated, brokerage investing takes more work.
  • Write a 5 year financial plan: 0 point right now, I used to do 5 year plans but I need a new financial plan with details!
  • Start maxing out your retirement account every year: 1 point, I finally got this together.
  • Complete your emergency fund so you have at least 6 months’ expenses saved: 1 point, yes, as above, we need a year for me not to grow Baby Ulcer.


December 25, 2017

2017 Money Moves: Setting up for the new year

2017 Money Move: preparing for the new year Merry Christmas to all who celebrate, Happy nearly end of the year to everyone else!

I’m feeling pretty good about all the work I’ve put into getting our money wrapped up in 2017 and ready for 2018.

This series has been monumentally helpful to keeping me on track because my other constant feeling is being on edge with our current administration. Politics aside, the people we have in office are utterly abhorrent human beings who only believe women exist in a binary state of “would have sex with her / wouldn’t have sex with her” and it’s appalling. Then there’s all the egregiousness of Naziism and white supremacy gaining a public facing foothold, revelations of abuse of women and children over the years … it’s way too much for …

Wait. I was talking about money, wasn’t I? Sorry, got a bit off track there. Oh right, that’s because I started thinking about the tax code and all of THOSE implications. Right, back to my original train of thought here:


December 18, 2017

2017 Money Move: reviewing our tax strategy

2017 Money Move: adjusting our tax strategy Last month, I had a brief conversation with our tax person to run some numbers for our 2017 taxes, but we didn’t come up with much more we could do to become more tax efficient other than more charitable giving. Then along came Nicole and Maggie with a reminder that I hadn’t considered bunching our property taxes and I’m so glad they did.

If we don’t bunch them, our 2017 property taxes will be $8,500, $10,780 in 2018, and $10,420 in 2019.
If we do bunch them, they will be $14,020 in 2017, $5,210 in 2018, and $15,630 in 2019.

Our other relevant assumptions:

1. Expected mortgage interest for 2017: $19,865.43, approx expected morgage interest for 2018: $26,506.08
2. Drop Dad from list of dependents starting 2017
3. Drop Brother from list of dependents starting 2018
4. My W-2 income will probably be static for another year since I got a raise this year, PiC’s will probably go up about 3-5%. Stupid small companies *grouse* (more…)

December 11, 2017

2017 Money Move: Maxing out annual contributions

Filling up our savings: IRA and 529The second (missing) IRA

It’s a touch mortifying to admit that until now, I have failed utterly to start contributing to PiC’s IRA – we started to get on that, and …. I dropped the ball. I got distracted!

Plus I let myself get hung up on where his money should go. His work uses Fidelity but I use Vanguard and we all know I’m right! But for some reason, that argument holds no sway with his company. Philistines.

He had a teeny IRA somewhere long ago that we rolled over into a money market account until we had time to make a decision. Er, until I had a time to make a decision. (more…)

November 29, 2017

Cutting off my father: update 1

Stepping back from familial obligations: update 1 I knew this would be a multi-step process but who knew it’d require a Trello board of its own. I’m assuming there will be more updates after this.

My first step was to tell Dad that the support has to stop. I legitimately tried to call and speak to him like a decent human but when he didn’t pick up, I took that as a sign to just leave him a message and emotionally shift the burden. That night, I also emailed to make sure that if the voicemail wasn’t heard for some reason, he had the email, I know he checks that.

He didn’t respond for a day but I wasn’t waiting around for a confirmation.

On to step two, realizing that the move has turned our lives upside down and this was collateral damage – I can’t find my car title anywhere. ARGH. After several fruitless searches, and annoyingly finding a digital copy of the title but not the physical copy, I sent off to the DMV for a duplicate title. Waiting for it is torture but it’s given me time to strategize. (That thing is going to turn up when the duplicate arrives, I just know it.)

Third step, stop making the same mistakes. (more…)

November 27, 2017

2017 Money Move: My first mortgage recast

Today’s money fun: mortgage recasting!

I caught a tidbit about this tool a while back on my usual rounds of interesting PF blogs, and filed it away for future use. Someone somewhere said that “no knowledge is ever wasted”. While that might not be true of everything tucked up in my grey matter, like the Thundercats theme song, this one was exactly what we needed.

You may recall our monster mortgage. You may recall my stress about said monster mortgage. You may recall that I was nearly obsessive about eliminating our mortgage as fast as possible even before it turned into Godzilla because I hate debt and I hate that our monthly obligations skyrocketed with this move.

I had a plan.


November 20, 2017

2017 Money Move: Vanguard and cleaning up my holdings

Mimicking my favorite tax blogger Kay Bell’s “Moves to make” posts, I’m making some moves before the end of the year to maximize our tax efficiency, minimize our expenses, and ensure we’re saving / investing as much as we can for retirement.

Step One – examining Vanguard accounts!

My Rollover IRA has held my retirement contributions since 2007, and my personal rate of return over that time has been 10.4%, but the fund selections are really outdated.

Over the past decade, as my contributions grew, I’ve shifted from holding Investor Shares to Admiral Shares which have a much lower expense ratio but that was only true for two of my five funds:


This website and its content are copyright of A Gai Shan Life  | © A Gai Shan Life 2018. All rights reserved.

Site design by 801red