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Starting small - need (a lot) of advice!
Old 03-20-2014, 08:56 PM   #1
Confused about dryer sheets
 
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Starting small - need (a lot) of advice!

Let me start out by saying that I am very intimidated by some of the posts in this forum as in some cases my net worth is a single digit percentage of other posters! I am hoping for some direction from some of the (clearly!) Successful investors on this site!

Here goes:

I am 27 (28 in a month) and am finally realizing I need to get a grasp on my spending and start investing so that I'm not working at 87. I work for a local county government and make $41k/year. The county has a pension that costs $70/month. I gross $3100 and net $2150 a month, $2600 after the $450 I collect from my live in girlfriend.

The bad: I have a 2012 mustang gt (great investment, right?) That is worth roughly $23k and I owe 13k (3 yrs left) on the original 5 yr note (0.9% so I pay the minimum payment of $390).
I spent the 35k I had in cash buying my house in 2010 (20k down). Purchase price was 123k, and I spent 15k in rehabbing it. Sadly the house is only worth ~125k but my refinance in 2011 is now a 5 yr note @ 2.5% (640/month but I pay 700) and has a balance of 90k. (12 years left at the rate I'm going)
My property taxes are not escrow'd and are 4k annually. I put 350/month in a savings account with which I pay the tax note annually.
My monthly spending ends up being pretty close to what I bring in trying to keep up with the Jones' (all my 6 figure friends) which has to change. I would like to invest 10% a month into retirement to start with am considering doing 20%.(see below for options i have through work) as the extra money mostly gets spent on entertainment, alcohol, eating out and other cash-drainers.

The small amount of good:
I have 12k in cash in the bank
I have a Pekin annuity worth 7.5k (typically nets $350/year) my dad started ~10 years ago and I have never touched it (should I move it I to something else?)
When I turn 30 I will receive my portion of my grandmother's inheritance from a trust fund which will be roughly 40k. I am going to invest this money in its entirety (Roth Ira? Pay down house?)
I have a motorcycle worth 5-6k, and an Atv worth about 4k, both of which I own outright. I also own about 3-4k worth of firearms. These items I am planning to keep but may sell off the atv I am planning to sell to put up a desperately needed new fence in my yard.
No credit card debt, no student loans.

I have to be a slave to the county for 10 years in order to be vested (2.5 in so far). At the rate I am going if I retire at 65 the retirement fund shows I will receive $3000 /month until I croak, assuming I retain this current position/pay.I can draw on it earlier than 65 but of course would receive less per month.

There are two options to invest at work: should I put 10% in each?
--Two 457 options (nationwide or ICMA-RC) both of which I believe offer IRA options.
--As well as VAC (voluntary additional contribution) to the IMRF pension which I can put up to a max additional 10% of my gross pay into. The current return is a guaranteed 7% (and has been the last two years). If I leave the county before I am vested, 7.5 years away, I can withdraw the invested money WITH the interest it has earned. If I become vested, the money is untouchable until I start drawing my pension. If I invest the full 10%, the calculator the pension spokesperson has (probably bogus) said I would receive an additional ~3500/month until I die OR there is a.cash option which mine would supposedly be ~ 600k based on current income (so 600k + my 3500/month from regular pension) I have NO idea if these numbers are relaistic, it's simply what I was told.

I am going back to.school for my MBA (so I have the option to go Into business and make REAL MONEY) which my county pays for 70% of. In the mean time, I may be offered a promotion which would pay 50-53k which I need to think long and hard if staying at the county for this pension is worthwhile @ 50k vs leaving for something else (with MBA In hand, in 3-5 years)


One more note, myself and a buddy are considering buying a local house as an investment property (in the 40-70k range, putting 20% down) which will hopefully generate 1k/month while occupied (split two ways, minus insurance and taxes would be $400/month each before paying down my portion of a 36-54k loan). Decent idea or too risky/ not enough return?

Sorry for writing a book but I don't feel like I have a place to turn for investment advice. The county finance dept is worthless as far as advice and the banks I work with just want to throw everything in mutual funds (with whatever fees they have) so I feel like the advice is jaded by their desire to have me as a customer.

Thanks so much in advance for any help!
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Old 03-20-2014, 09:54 PM   #2
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Welcome to the board! You have a lot going on to think about but you're thinking about it and that's good. While you have some significant debt it's not as bad as you seem to think. You have a lot going for you and time is on your side.

Others smarter than me will be along to give their thoughts.

These are mine:

No cc debt is great! That is the financial "death of a thousand cuts". No student loans is great too!

10% to put in retirement is good, but you do want to get that to 20%, perhaps when the car is paid off you can put half of that to retirement and half to a fund for your next car. That Mustang ain't gonna last forever.

First question - is the pension COLA'd? If so, that is something not to walk away from lightly, although with the caveat that it can change.

Guaranteed return of 7% on the VAC? Wow, grab that! Even with perhaps some higher expenses than Vangard or others that is probably still a deal. But look at expenses - if it's something silly like 2.5% then that takes the allure away.

Re the expected inheritance from the trust fund, I recommend investing that in it's entirety in low-cost Vanguard index funds and leave it there. Given the low interest rate on your house loan the investment will do much better over time.

I looked briefly at the ICMA-RC site and the expenses - .71% - for a target date fund are high. Vanguard's is a third or less of that. Does the County offer matching funds for it? If so that is still a good deal otherwise it is so-so.

It depends on the county's stability of course but while the grass may be greener in private industry the roads are filled with gotchas that can (and have) been the ruin of many. If you like your job, and that counts for a lot, then there's much to be said for a steady paycheck and being virtually immune from layoffs and the ups and downs of business.

Anyway, that is what the 63-year-old (64 in a month) retired County employee would tell the 27-year-old me.

BTW, at in 1977, at 27, I was living pretty much paycheck-to-paycheck, rented an apartment and was making payments on an airplane. You're way ahead of me at that age.
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Old 03-20-2014, 10:17 PM   #3
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Welcome!

My question is simple: What are you saving for? Retirement, certainly -- but do you want to retire at regular retirement age, or earlier? What do you want to do between now and then? (You mention graduate school -- are there other things you'd like to do?). Do you plan to have kids? Do you want to travel extensively, or even a little? What type of life would you like to have in retirement? What is your tolerance for financial risk?

Your answers to these questions will help drive your decision-making and investment process. If you don't have a plan, then anything can seem like a good idea at the time.

There is a LOT of good information here on the boards and in the archives. I also find it all overwhelming (I've been in and out of the boards for years). It's OK. We all start somewhere.

Good luck!
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Old 03-20-2014, 10:23 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by fz1911
Let me start out by saying that I am very intimidated by some of the posts in this forum as in some cases my net worth is a single digit percentage of other posters!
No need to be intimidated. At your age, I was still in school!

Welcome to the forum and congrats on the early start on your road to financial independence.
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Old 03-21-2014, 02:30 PM   #5
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Thanks for the warm welcome and the input thus far!

Walt34: I was not actually sure if the pension was COLA'd but found this article in my google search:
http://www.imrf.org/pubs/retiree_pub.../retv29no1.pdf
which makes me think that it is, as it mentions the fact that the IMRF is protected from the pension reform the rest of the state has seen recently.

On the VAC, I will email my finance person and see if she knows what the fee system is on the VAC. Assuming its not astronomical, I assume I should put a full (max allowable) 10% into that? I am considering starting with 10% now and giving myself a couple of months to adjust to the lifestyle before I bump it to 15-20%.

The county does not contribute/match at all to the 457 plans.

Payments on an airplane? That sounds exciting and scary (the note) haha. I guess the mustang is not horrible...The sticker price was 31k and between rebates and my negotiating I paid 25.5k (put down 3k so the note is 22k). I ride the motorcycle 3 days a week to work (20 miles round trip) which 40 mpg> 17 MPG which helps.

Urchina: I am saving for retirement mostly. I am one year into a relationship with a woman who already has a child and we the plan is to eventually get married and then have a child of our own (she says TWO, my wallet says ONE.) I have an 1800 square foot ranch that structurally is sound and all flooring/appliances/water heater/roof were all taken care of in 2010. We are eventually considering a bigger house/different neighborhood. My plan would be to keep my current home and rent it out for $1100-1300/month with the note/taxes costing 1k, as long as the unit is occupied I would be making money. Then once the house is paid off it would be pure cash flow outside of repair/lack of occupancy. My girlfriend is in nursing school and starting salary around here is $47-53k and she is considering a specialty which would be a 10-20k increase. I am not sure I like the idea of buying another house but if the market/rates stay low it seems like it would be worthwhile. A buddy of mine just recently bought a gorgeous 2800 square foot home that was built in 2005 with a selling price in 2006 of 330k and then in 2008 sold for 360k. They paid 175k. So having access to a portion of my money would be important for expenses such as a wedding/ honey moon/ a different house.

I do enjoy what I do and if I can get the 50k + position I am heavily considering staying with the county. My position (or the 50k position) are about as secure as a job can be. I realize the possibility of making GREAT money in the private sector but I do understand the risk associated with some of those job titles. I am pursuing my MBA mostly because it is going to cost me very little money out of pocket (about $1k per class that typically costs 4k each). I enjoy business (buying/selling and overall statistics) and would consider a job in the business world only for a substantial pay increase and hopefully some sense of job security.

If at all possible I would LOVE to retire early and then do something on the side. I have always found a way to make money. I started mowing lawns at 12 and had my own mowing business at 14. I used to buy/sell things on ebay throughout high school and did pretty well doing that. I have now started buying/selling motorcycles/atv's and have turned a 2k profit on a 2600 initial purchase and then a 1k profit on a 2k purchase. I am cautious with this as I do not have a lot of capital to play around with. I have always wanted to open a food truck locally and sell food at bar close/fairs/auctions etc etc as I see an opportunity for a lot of untouched income potential. The guy who used to run the hotdog cart downtown after bar close said he would net 1-3k/month selling $3 hot dogs 3-4 nights a week.


FIREd: Thanks! I am a very research-heavy individual and am excited to focus my interest on investing in general, as well as my financial future.
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Old 03-21-2014, 03:42 PM   #6
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Welcome to the forum.

At 27 my net worth was a big negative number. I was just learning what stock and mutual funds were. Thanks to the work I did, investments were done for me. Later when Megacorp offered a 401k, the lights came on.

Your doing great.
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Old 03-21-2014, 04:00 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by fz1911 View Post
Walt34: I was not actually sure if the pension was COLA'd but found this article in my google search:
http://www.imrf.org/pubs/retiree_pub.../retv29no1.pdf
which makes me think that it is, as it mentions the fact that the IMRF is protected from the pension reform the rest of the state has seen recently.
It seems that it is COLA'd but the pdf is not clear on that. I'd suggest you go to one of the workshops they mention so you can ask questions directly.

Quote:
On the VAC, I will email my finance person and see if she knows what the fee system is on the VAC. Assuming its not astronomical, I assume I should put a full (max allowable) 10% into that? I am considering starting with 10% now and giving myself a couple of months to adjust to the lifestyle before I bump it to 15-20%.
Probably, but understand (as I read it) that once vested you can't touch that until you leave the County or retire. So you'll need to have other funds available for when "stuff happens" which it will. But absent high management fees the guaranteed 7% return has a high attraction. I don't know of anything else that can do that consistently. Where is the rest coming from?
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Old 03-21-2014, 05:56 PM   #8
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I would probably set up two parts of your life:

1. the simple save 20% each year into government retirement plans or stock mutual funds

2. All the other things cars, houses, keeping with jones, business ideas, etc,etc

Do 1 without exception and then 2 if you have extra cash.

But then again I do not drive a mustang so am probably naive.
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Old 03-21-2014, 06:09 PM   #9
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But then again I do not drive a mustang so am probably naive.
Hey, the guy was 25 when he did that. I bought an airplane when I was 25. A lot more expensive to own than a Mustang.

But I learned. This guy is way ahead of me at that age. And probably most of the others on this forum.
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Old 03-21-2014, 06:12 PM   #10
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Nothing to add, but Welcome to the forum...

Looks like you have a great start...
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Old 03-22-2014, 12:57 AM   #11
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If she says two kids and you think one, then budget for two. She will get her way. Best to learn this fact while you are young lol.
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Old 03-22-2014, 10:46 AM   #12
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Here's something I did in my recent planning, scared the crap out of me, and IMHO is even more important for someone younger with more years between now and retirement:
  1. Take your favorite spreadsheet program, start the following two columns: Age, and Expenses.
  2. In the first row, enter your current age and current monthly expenses.
  3. In the next row, enter the following formulas (assumes Age is column A, Expenses is column B): in the Age column, enter =A1+1, in the Expenses column, enter =B1+(B1*0.03)
  4. Copy the row with the formulas down until Age is sufficiently high, say, 100. With most spreadsheet programs, you can select the cells you want to copy, then drag the little box or icon in the lower right of the selection to copy the cells down, and the formulas I gave will be adjusted accordingly in each succeeding row.
  5. Regard the expenses numbers starting with your currently planned retirement age.
What you're looking at is an approximation of your expenses accounting for inflation, nominally 3%. Now, there are all sorts of assumptions made here, one being the inflation rate, another being that your current expenses reflect what you'll be spending decades later, but the point is you'll need to plan income in retirement to cover expenses as they exist then, not now.


When I started planning, I focused too much on current year costs, felt fine about what I was seeing, then I plotted the above curve. I'm not that far from retirement, but that nasty expense line rose faster than my expected income in my later years, where I'll probably croak first and leave the mess to DW...


Now, there's research, and by my observation a boatload of anecdotal evidence, that your expenses will taper off as you grow older and more immobile. This isn't accounted for in the nasty little line I made you draw earlier. But the point is still, anything you need way out there will cost more than it does now.
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Old 03-22-2014, 12:43 PM   #13
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I would probably skip the 457 and invest in a taxable account. You're currently in the 15% tax bracket so assuming that you are also in the 15% tax bracket (or more) in retirement, deferring taxes at this stage doesn't make a lot of sense to me. If/when you get promoted, that may put you in a higher tax bracket so tax-deferred savings my make sense at that point.

I'm not sure about the VAC - 7% guaranteed other than counterparty risk seems pretty good but the fact that you money is locked up once you vest makes me pause.

I would definitely stop paying extra on the 2.5% mortgage and that that $60/month and put it in taxable investments.

I would suggest that you get Quicken and spend some time playing around with Quicken Lifetime Planner. Once you have determined how much you need to save for retirement, set it up and forget it other than occasional monitoring. Spend the rest and enjoy life.

One thing I did was to take a portion of my annual raise and increase my savings.
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Old 03-25-2014, 10:02 AM   #14
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I didnt have the "receive email" button checked so I didnt realize there were responses. Thanks for the input- it is all very appreciated.

From what I gather from my finance department- its 7.5% (not 7%) on VAC and there is NO brokerage/management fee on this investment (its all paid by the dare-i-say-it....tax payers). The only caveat to all this potential is that the interest is paid out only once annually, at the beginning of the year based on the previous balance at the beginning of the year. So- if I have 1k in there at the beginning of 2015 and 2500 at the end of 2015, I will earn interest on January 1, 2016 only on the 1k amount. Then Jan 1 2017 I would earn interest based on the balance at the end of 2015 (so on the 2.5k). It will not do much for the first couple of years but after that it seems quite worthwhile.

So I will knock down my mortgage to save the $60/month. I will put 10% in the VAC and then 10%....where? Should I open an account with vanguard instead of the 457 options through work? Any reccomendations on what type of investments after I open a vanguard account?

I am planning on maintaining a 10k cash balance in my checking (which actually pays 1.75% as long as I use my debit 10 times/month) as "oh **** - my furnace broke" money.

GGbutcher: Thanks I will give that a try- I think that will help me determine just HOW old and gray I will be when I get to pull the plug from the workforce.

Walt34:The mustang was a stupid decision but I guess there is a silver lining- If I had to sell it today I could walk away with close to 10k in cash (23k value vs 13k note). I do have a 100k mile bumper to bumper warranty on it and I plan to drive it into the ground! I only drive 8-9k/year so there is a lot of life left in this vehicle, considering 2-3k will be on the bike.

Turboslacker: The older I get the more I realize i am always wrong

Retireage50: I am definitely going to start having everything directly withdrawn from my paycheck. When I dont see the money, its easier to not spend it!

Im oldernu & MRG : Thanks !
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Old 03-25-2014, 10:48 AM   #15
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Hey, the guy was 25 when he did that. I bought an airplane when I was 25. A lot more expensive to own than a Mustang.

But I learned. This guy is way ahead of me at that age. And probably most of the others on this forum.
+1
I had negative net worth through most of my 20s due to a late start and poor decisions. Not until my 30's did I really put together a plan and get serious about my finances. Congrats to the OP!
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Old 03-26-2014, 01:59 PM   #16
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Walt34:The mustang was a stupid decision but I guess there is a silver lining- If I had to sell it today I could walk away with close to 10k in cash (23k value vs 13k note). I do have a 100k mile bumper to bumper warranty on it and I plan to drive it into the ground! I only drive 8-9k/year so there is a lot of life left in this vehicle, considering 2-3k will be on the bike.
At this point (if you like the car) I'd say go ahead and keep the Mustang. Ya gotta have some fun. You've already taken the hit on depreciation so you might as well enjoy the car.

No point in living a life of deprivation only to get run over by a bus when you're fifty. There is that risk too by being overly conservative.

I just finished reading Your Money & Your Brain, Why Smart People Make Stupid Money Mistakes, and just started Thinking Fast and Slow. There's a lot more psychology and physiology that goes into financial decisions than most people realize. A lot of it seems to be even below conscious thought. The hard part is making it a conscious, well thought through decision, not just what "feels right". After reading the books I'm beginning to think that separating the emotional from the purely logical may not even be possible. At best it's difficult.

Given your age and resources you're doing well and are on the right track.
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Old 03-26-2014, 03:34 PM   #17
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At your age I would never stay at a job because of the pension plan. Especially for a public pension, there are no guarantees that in 5 years the plan will not be eliminated or greatly modified. Buckle down, do as well as you can and get a good quality MBA as soon as possible and then see what is out there.
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Old 03-29-2014, 08:50 PM   #18
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Great inpu, thanks everyone! I am going to look into those books now.

I am definitely doing the mba (NIU is known for its mba program) as even if I do stick with county I don't want to miss an opportunity in the private sector because I got comfortable and skipped the masters.

I do have a question...being that the IMRF VAC only pays its 7.5% once annually, does that change the value of that particular investment?
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Old 03-30-2014, 01:30 PM   #19
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...

Walt34: I was not actually sure if the pension was COLA'd but found this article in my google search:
http://www.imrf.org/pubs/retiree_pub.../retv29no1.pdf
which makes me think that it is, as it mentions the fact that the IMRF is protected from the pension reform the rest of the state has seen recently.

...
Quote:
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It seems that it is COLA'd but the pdf is not clear on that. I'd suggest you go to one of the workshops they mention so you can ask questions directly. ...
DW is under IMRF, she is not yet retired. It's a 'COLA-lite' plan, a 3% non-compounded increase each year, plus some vague ref to a '13th payment' each year that is less than the regular monthly amount (dig through the IMRF site for this info).

IMRF somehow seems to have managed to architect itself to be out of the grasp of the Illinois politicians. It is pretty well funded, and seems pretty safe and well run. But lots can happen in 20-30 years.

On other fronts, you are doing well. Your car payments and mort are low %, I wouldn't rush into pre-paying those. Since you plan to keep the car a long time, don't beat yourself up on that, it'll be fine. It's the trading a new one every few years that really eats the cash.

And you might want to plan on three kids

-ERD50
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Old 03-30-2014, 02:17 PM   #20
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If you have an option for a long term guaranteed 7% return (essentially risk free 7%) I would suggest you take as much of that as they are willing to give you. With a guaranteed return rock like that, you can invest on your own in all equities and still have an excellent asset allocation. You won't find safe returns like that anywhere.
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