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Reader Case Research: Is Having a Keep-At-Dwelling Father or mother Financially Possible for the Longterm?

Holly, Josh and their children on a hike

Holly is a music therapist residing in Virginia together with her husband, Josh, their three younger youngsters, two guinea pigs and one canine. They love mountaineering 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 part of me as we dive into Holly and Josh’s funds to see what recommendation we’d be capable of provide!

What’s a Reader Case Research?

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

For an instance, take a look at the final case examine. Case Research are up to date by members (on the finish of the submit) 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 all in favour of receiving a holistic Frugalwoods monetary session:

  1. Apply to be an on-the-blog Case Research topic right here.
  2. Rent me for a non-public 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 word that house 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 out there every month.

The Objective Of Reader Case Research

Carson in some leaves

Reader Case Research spotlight a various vary of monetary conditions, ages, ethnicities, places, objectives, 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 internet 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 individuals. I’ve featured girls, non-binary people and males. I’ve featured transgender and cisgender individuals. I’ve had cat individuals and canine individuals. I’ve featured people from the US, Australia, Canada, England, South Africa, Spain, Finland, the Netherlands, Germany and France. I’ve featured individuals with PhDs and folks with highschool diplomas. I’ve featured individuals of their early 20’s and folks of their late 60’s. I’ve featured people who dwell on farms and people who dwell in New York Metropolis.

Reader Case Research Pointers

I in all probability don’t have to say the next since you all are the kindest, most well mannered commenters on the web, however please word 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 ideas and concepts.

And a disclaimer that I’m not a educated monetary skilled and I encourage individuals to not make severe monetary selections primarily based 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, in the present day’s Case Research topic, take it from right here!

Holly’s Story

Josh and Holly at their marriage ceremony in 2012

Hello Frugalwoods, I’m Holly, age 33, a cheerful hiker residing in Roanoke, Virginia with my husband of 10 years, our 3 younger children, 1 canine, and a couple of guinea pigs. I work as a music therapist in a state psychiatric hospital. I’m very proud of my profession alternative 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 discovered what he must be when he grows up, so for now he’s doing an important work of staying house to look after 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 an enormous a part of why we moved to Virginia from the Midwest. We spend as a lot of our free time as potential exploring the mountains and are persistently in awe of God’s wonderful creation.

We’re additionally very lively in our church. I play the piano and organ, Josh is on the council, and we each sing within the church choir. Our older children go to the native public faculty, and our 3-year-old goes to a non-public 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 12 months and added a small balcony off of our bed room.

There may be nothing I like greater than sneaking out onto the deck to do yoga or take pleasure in just a few quiet moments sitting on the deck furnishings my husband rescued from the aspect of the highway. Josh and I are each naturally frugal, and he does an unimaginable 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 price range 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 purpose for submitting a case examine is to search out out if what we’re doing is definitely working. When Josh first began staying house with our children three years in the past, it was as a result of we have been transferring throughout the nation and knew they’d want additional (short-term) help for the transition. Then, when our funds remained balanced and we realized how far more easily our house may run with him at house, we selected to proceed.

The Questions:

As our youngest baby approaches kindergarten in a 12 months 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 drive in a extra full time-ish manner. 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 mother and father paid for our school educations. I used to be fortunate sufficient to earn giant scholarships to my small faculty and paid the remainder out of pocket. Josh had pupil 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 kids’s educations as a result of I imagine that college students make investments their time and vitality the place they make investments their cash and since I don’t need to strain them into attending school if they’re all in favour of a distinct 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 acquired as a result of my mother didn’t have some huge cash is an enormous a part of why I used to be in a position to pay for college out of pocket. I’d hate to save lots of a bunch of cash for my children’ educations and have that end in 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 typically higher to economize than to repay mortgage debt faster, but it surely’s so laborious to not need that cost 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 luxuriate in tenting journeys in the summertime or lengthy highway journeys to see our household.

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

As an optimist, I battle to determine a worst half. I fear that possibly sometime I’ll burn out in my work and need I’d gone to grad faculty, however principally 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 laborious to economize and may simply spend extra now on fancier experiences for our children or holidays or one thing? However as a naturally frugal individual, I battle to do something that’s “not a superb deal.” Even when I knew for positive that I had extra disposable earnings, it might be a problem for me to get rid of 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 could be enjoyable to have it absolutely paid off, however that appears unrealistic.

2)    Way of life:

  • Identical place?
  • I can’t consider something I personally need to change aside from getting my children out on greater mountaineering trails since they’ll be prepared to do 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 distinct setting, however I don’t really feel like I’ve to essentially.
  • In 10 years, Josh want 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
 (whole BEFORE all deductions)
Deductions & Quantity Month-to-month Internet Earnings
(whole AFTER all deductions are taken out, equivalent 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 whole: $40,764

Mortgage Particulars

Merchandise Excellent mortgage steadiness Curiosity Price Mortgage Interval and Phrases Fairness Buy worth and 12 months
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/sort 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 Essential 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
Automobile 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
Cellphone Invoice Pre-pay $121 Pre-pay financial savings acct. to cowl subsequent invoice, $30/mo. Earns 3.10% curiosity SmartyPig
Whole: $120,103


Automobile make, mannequin, 12 months Valued at Mileage Paid off?
2014 Honda Odyssey $13,000 80,000 Sure
2008 Honda Civic $2,700 170,000 Sure
Whole: $13,500


Merchandise Quantity Notes
Mortgage $980 ~$80 additional/mo. to make 1 extra cost per 12 months
Groceries $370 Used Credit score Card spending classes
Church Choices $300
Buying $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
Automobile 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 cost) $75 Yearly, one time extra cost, 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 traces on a household plan with Holly’s mother, saved forward in SmartyPig
Month-to-month subtotal: $3,497
Annual whole: $41,964

Credit score Card Technique

Card Title Rewards Kind? 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 children’ school?

Liz Frugalwoods’ Suggestions

Holly and a cow on a hike

I like Holly’s optimism and pleasure! It shines via 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 nice life” could be a frugal, conscious life.

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

  • They dwell in a spot they love
  • They’re grateful for his or her easy, joyful routines
  • They interact of their hobbies typically and with their youngsters
  • They take pleasure in an incredible work/life steadiness, which permits 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 potential to dwell 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 subject with Holly and Josh’s funds is that they’re spending $100 greater than Holly earns each month. Holly experiences 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 practically on the Federal Poverty line, which in 2023 is an annual earnings of $35,140 for a household of 5. I say that for example how fantastically effectively Holly and Josh are managing on such a low earnings.

All people’s favourite studying chair

Their spending can also be very low; however, it’s not low sufficient. You’ll be able to run a deficit for a short time, however it can finally meet up with you if 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 deliver their spending into alignment with their earnings, Holly and Josh have three choices:

  1. Scale back their bills
  2. Improve their earnings
  3. Do each

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

  • Mounted bills are stuff 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 automobiles.
  • 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 via and assigned a “Proposed New Quantity” to every line merchandise. Solely Holly and Josh know which gadgets are priorities and which gadgets they will cut back, however the under 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 cost per 12 months Mounted/
$900 They’ll’t afford this additional $80 per 30 days.
Groceries $370 Used Credit score Card spending classes Reduceable $370 That is so low, I’m not going to cut 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 giving freely cash they merely don’t have. I encourage them to contemplate lowering this quantity and discovering different methods to offer of their time and expertise to their church. It doesn’t make sense to place your self into debt by donating cash.
Buying $292 Used Credit score Card spending classes Reduceable $200 I’m unsure 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
Automobile 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 cost) $75 Yearly, one time extra cost, normally after tax return Discretionary $0 This isn’t one thing they will 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 traces 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 whole: $41,964 Proposed New Annual whole: $30,900

Celebrating 1 household hike every month for a 12 months

As you’ll be able to see, since Holly and Josh have comparatively low Mounted bills, it might be fully possible for them to deliver their spending below their earnings. It’s a fairly naked bones price range, however, it’s a template for what they may do if they need Josh to proceed to function stay-at-home mother or father. In the event that they adopted this price range, they’d be on observe to save lots of a further $9,864 per 12 months.

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

  • Do they worth the issues they’re presently spending cash on?
  • Or are they prepared to chop a few of their bills with a view to facilitate the great scenario of getting a stay-at-home mother or father?
  • The one mistaken reply is to proceed spending greater than they make. Apart from 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 feel 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 may change if he went again to work. As I simply outlined, it’s financially potential for Josh to proceed within the vital function of stay-at-home mother or father; however, it can require an excellent higher stage of frugality than they’re presently training.

The youngsters at Henry’s mountaineering themed bday social gathering

→It’s additionally true that no choice must be last.

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

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

Josh may additionally get a job they usually may asses how that feels. If Josh have 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 season trip
  • How a lot Josh might want to spend on fuel to commute to his job
  • Some other impacts to their price range created by Josh working.
    • For instance: will there be much less time to organize 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 a number of the scheduling stress of getting two working mother and father. Colleges are sometimes hiring for a spread of positions–custodians, directors, substitute academics, trainer’s aides, and naturally academics themselves. That is positively one thing to contemplate since it’d allow them to keep up a lot of their present fabulous household life steadiness. Substitute instructing particularly could be very versatile. Definitely not profitable, however versatile! Since Holly’s job offers the household’s insurance coverage, Josh has the flexibleness to take a part-time place that probably 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 operating in a area

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 type 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 methods can default, however state and federal pensions are usually extra dependable than non-public corporations. All that to say, Holly ought to get the handbook, ask a number of questions and work out the exact phrases of her pension.

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

2) Retirement Investments: $86,499

Between their numerous 401ks, 403bs and IRAs, Holly and Josh have socked away a formidable $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 in opposition to 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 together 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 is able to entail they proceed to maintain their bills very low.

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

→Once more, the wild card is the pension. Figuring out what that gives ought to give Holly and Josh even higher peace of thoughts. However, in the event that they’re in a position to 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

Briefly, 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 during which that calculation is smart. And I need them to know that having a mortgage is just not a foul factor. It’s really a superb factor for a lot of causes:

  1. In case your mortgage has a low, fastened rate of interest–which Holly and Josh’s does at 3.13%–your cash will likely 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 bigger than 3.13%, which implies their cash could be higher leveraged within the inventory market (aka of their retirement investments).
    • In different phrases, it’s a chance value to repay a hard and fast, low rate of interest mortgage.
  2. A home is an illiquid asset:
    • If you happen to use your whole additional money to repay your mortgage, you’re caught with a big, immoveable asset.
    • Certain, you’ll be able to promote the home, however then it’s essential pay to dwell someplace else.
    • Bear in mind:
      • You can not use a paid-off home to purchase groceries
      • You can not use a paid-off home to pay medical payments
  3. Having your whole cash tied up in a home signifies that your investments should not diversified:
    • You’re placing your whole monetary eggs in a single basket and a home is just not assured to understand.
  4. A mortgage is a wonderful hedge in opposition to inflation:
    • Inflation is when cash turns into much less priceless and the neat factor a couple of 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 know why Holly and Josh’s 3.13% is so enticing.

→Paying off a mortgage would possibly really feel good psychologically, but it surely fairly often is just not 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 via 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 price 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 achieved!

Your emergency fund is there for you if:

  • You unexpectedly lose your job
  • One thing horrible goes mistaken with your home that must be fastened ASAP
  • Your automotive breaks down and should 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’ll be able to see, an emergency fund is just not for EXPECTED bills, equivalent to:

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

An emergency fund’s purpose for existence is to stop you from sliding into debt ought to the unexpected occur. It’s your personal private security internet.

→Since an emergency fund is calibrated on what you spend each month, the much less you spend, the much less it’s essential save up.

That is additionally why it’s so vital to trace your spending each month. If you happen to don’t know what you spend, you gained’t know the way a lot it’s essential save. I exploit and advocate 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 a number of additional admin work. If it have been me, I’d 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 will to make their price range work.

For instance, as of this writing, the American Specific Private Financial savings account earns a whopping 3.50% in curiosity (affiliate hyperlink). This implies in a single 12 months, 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 good. Money-back playing cards are the simplest rewards to get and use as a result of you realize you’re going to make use of money. Journey rewards are good, however not everybody travels sufficient to make the most of them absolutely. Most significantly, Holly and Josh pay their card off IN FULL each month. Very effectively achieved 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 share you pay to the brokerage for investing your cash and, as they’re charges, you need them to be as little as potential.

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 out mutual funds and ETFs with affordable expense ratios.”

In gentle 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 spend money on taxable investments.

I’ll use Vanguard’s whole market low-fee index fund, VTSAX, for example of find out how to 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. Take a look at the expense ratio.

Screenshot under for reference:

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

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

It’s also possible to use this calculator from Financial institution Price to find out what you’ll pay in charges over the lifetime of your investments, primarily based on their expense ratios. If you happen to discover that your investments have excessive expense ratios, it’s WELL price your time to analyze transferring to lower-fee funds.

For his or her Roth IRAs, on the very least Holly will need 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 can probably 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 children’ school?

A fantastic journey

Nope. At Holly and Josh’s present earnings stage, 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 keep in mind that it is a “put your personal oxygen masks on first” situation. When you need to offer to your youngsters, you should present to your personal retirement.

Children can take out loans for college however you can not take out loans for retirement. The situation you need to keep away from is that you simply pay to your children’ school 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 gained’t have an effect on their children’ monetary assist prospects for school as retirement automobiles (401ks, IRAs, and so on) aren’t thought-about 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 if you withdraw the cash in retirement.
  • A Roth IRA grows tax free.
  • That you must be age 59.5 earlier than you’ll be able to withdraw cash penalty-free (though there are exceptions).

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

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

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 particularly won’t have for much longer to dwell. I’d begin squirreling away cash for that now in order that they’re in a position to 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’ll be able to cut back your spending:

    • It’s not tenable to proceed spending greater than you earn.
  2. Cease paying additional in your mortgage each month.
  3. When it comes to Josh getting a job exterior of the home, take into account what you worth about his function versus your bills:
    • Discover if a place on the children’ faculty would possibly present the most effective of each worlds.
    • Calculate any elevated prices related to Josh working exterior of the house.
    • Do not forget that no choice is last and you’ll check out the lowered price range 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. Contemplate 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 won’t be lengthy for this world.
  7. Find the expense ratios for your whole retirement investments:
    • Transfer to lower-fee funds if wanted
    • Contemplate rolling your outdated 401ks/403bs into IRAs so as to management the funds they’re invested in
    • Try the ebook, The Easy Path to Wealth by JL Collins, for an investing 101 primer (affiliate hyperlink)
  8. After getting your spending into alignment together 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 great life you’ve created and preserve us posted on what you do subsequent!

Okay Frugalwoods nation, what recommendation do you’ve gotten for Holly? We’ll each reply to feedback, so please be happy to ask questions!

Would you want your personal Case Research to seem right here on Frugalwoods? Apply to be an on-the-blog Case Research topic right here. Rent me for a non-public monetary session right here. Schedule an hourlong or 30-minute name with me right here, refer a buddy to me right here, or e-mail me with questions (

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