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Financial Goal Checkup: My very own basketball court

Financial Goal Checkup: My very own basketball court

About 9 years ago I posted a kind of an unique financial goal on this blog – I wanted my very own full court basketball court.

In roughly 5 years time I want to have enough money put away so that I can build a house out in the country with a full court outdoor sportcourt basketball/volleyball/tennis/etc court. — MFJ 2007

Well I am here to report on the progress of this not often mentioned financial goal I had for myself. Well the good news is that I saved quite a bit of money for that house out in the country starting in 2007. In fact I ended up saving $180k+ in cash for our move to the country, new house, and of course basketball court.

The bad news is it took us a lot longer to find the perfect land out in the country and we didn’t actually build until 2016. This also happened to be one of the greatest times to invest in the market in my lifetime so that $180k probably cost me double that, but the good news is that I can now report that we have secured 15 acres out in the country, built our dream house, and if you open the oversized garage you will find my very own basketball court.

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Now in my original post I had always envisioned an outdoor sport court type basketball court, but given the fact that I live in WI I figured the bigger bang for buck would be to move it indoors so that I can use it year round and cost constraints ended up making it a half court, but I am still very happy with how it turned out. Our garage is nearly 1500 ft and it is a great spot for the kids to play regardless of the weather.

The best part is I was able to pull this off while still accumulating a sizable nestegg despite having only one income and raising 5 young kids. I’m sure many people will view this as an extravagant expenditure that set my early retirement back years. And it is! It’s totally unnecessary and so is our mansion in the country, but it is also something that I have wanted for a long time (blog post in 2007) and something our family will enjoy for years to come. Life is about balance and we have put ourselves in great financial shape where we can afford anything we want, just not everything we want 🙂

We have five young kids and while I could have amassed a much larger nestegg or achieved Financial Independence much earlier if we had continued to live the status quo – it likely would have come at the expense of our memories we get to create with our children in the short period of time they are in our house. No sense in becoming financially independent eating rice and beans and try to get the kids to come over and play basketball with when they are 25 and I am 50 🙂

The biggest thing is we set ourselves on a very solid foundation in our early years where as I’ve said before that by setting and reaching goals in our 20s we put ourselves in such a good situation that it will be hard for us to wreck ourselves financially by wanton spending in our older years (30s & 40s). We still are spending money on things that bring us value and happiness and minimizing spending on things that do not. I still drive a typical MFJ pimp ride (wife’s used car we bought 13 years ago) and we are still saving a good portion of our income and on the path to financial independence in our early 40s. We just happen to have a basketball court in our garage 🙂

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The path forward to two commas ($1M by age 40)

The path forward to two commas ($1M by age 40)

I’m sure I’m not unique and I’m sure every financially savvy person has contemplated the day when their net worth / account balance will surpass the magical $1,000,000 mark. When I started this blog in 2005 I put together a goal of having saved $100,000 in money for retirement by age 30, because as we all know saving the money while you are young allows compound interest to kick some butt on your behalf.

Well in August 2009 the deadline for my $100,000 by Age 30 goal came and while I fell just short I had put myself in a great shape financially going forward. I immediately did the smart thing and laid out the next goal $1,000,000 by age 43 and even put a nice little tracker on my blog with the (post coming) and then proceeded to never sit down and write the post

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Even before I started this blog at age 26 I had created excel spreadsheets forecasting my savings into the future and estimated returns and always seemed to come up with age 42 or 43 as to when I would cross the 1 million dollar mark. In my heart I always wanted to hit it by 40, but I never seemed to get the math to work with my then 21 year old brain which if you know a 21 year old probably wasn’t all that sharp.

Ironically when I created my little tracker for when I would hit $1M I relied on the calculations I had done even before I got my first job instead of doing the simple math and probably realizing with a little hard work $1M by 40 was probably attainable. So I probably set the bar too low and then I compounded that mistake by not putting together any meaningful plan as to how to achieve it and just figured by just using the status quo of me randomly living frugal and saving money by chance I would hit that mark.

Well today I’m going to actually look do the math and see where that status quo puts me and see what it will take for me to hit $1M by age 40.

Scenario 1 – Do nothing and let the market do the work for me.
I very recently had my retirement nest egg cross the the $600,000 mark and I have 3 years until my 40th birthday. In my last annual report I decided to include another $60,000 of private stock I own. If I were to never put another penny into the market I would need to have annualized returns of 14.86% over the next three years for my accounts to hit $1,000,000.

Odds of Success: 10%
Commentary: This would be a rather poor approach as it relies 100% on things out of my control and would rely on very unrealistic and uncharacteristic returns by the market as a whole or me to do something even more stupid and take on a idiotic amount of risk that would likely result in me putting together a new $100,000 by Age 45 post than it would welcoming me into the double comma club.

Scenario 2 – Average market returns – plus ho hum contributions.
If I expected annual returns of 10% I would need to contribute $38,000 to my retirement each of the next 3 years in order to hit the $1 million dollar mark.

Odds of Success: 40%
Commentary: The first problem with this plan is that it requires 10% annualized returns – which while that is historically an average return, the market is anything but a constant and almost never returns anything near 10% for a single year and is often much higher or lower than that.

Scenario 3 – Continue contributing as planned and hope for strong market returns
I currently have budgeted that I will contribute about 50k a year to our retirement accounts. I feel like this is very doable going forward as my 401k and employer matching account for about $29,000 per year. If I max out mine and my wife’s Roth IRAs that is another $11k and then I need to put $10k into a taxable account that will help the transition into early retirement by giving me an account with less strings attached to the money. If I were to do this I would need to achieve about 8.73% annualized returns from my investments.

Odds of Success: 60%
Commentary: I feel like this is probably the most well balanced plan. It is also ironically the path forward that I was already taking, but it gives me a little assurance that the math kind of works out.

The big question mark is what the market will do the next three years – which as anyone with any sense will tell you is that they have absolutely no idea. The market could be down all three years or it could be up significantly. Historical market average is around 10%, but almost never during a 1 year period will the average return be anywhere close to that and it doesn’t get a whole lot better in a short period of time like three years.

Ultimately this is the reason my $100,000 by 30 goal was all about contributions as it was entirely in my control, but that ship has sailed and going forward the whims of the market will be what is controlling my ship versus what I am doing.

The other item to factor in is my ability to put way $50k per year into my retirement accounts. The last two years I averaged $45k and while I’m already close to $60k this year that included a $25,000 boost from my cash savings that was a one time thing.

It certainly is possible for me to save that much money but we currently built some extravagant mansion out in the country with a $300,000 mortgage, have 5 kids, and a million home improvement projects lined up for the house so it may come down to a choice of spending like drunken sailors or hitting the $1M mark or finding ways to bring in additional income.

One wildcard with this scenario is that my wife does not currently have an income producing job as she is raising our five kids could theoretically land a teaching job in the next year or two or come up with other ways to make money which would definitely help on the income part and increase our odds.

Conclusion
It appears I am definitely on the right path and I have a couple of plausible scenarios to get me to my goal. I obviously will be targeting Scenario #3 which has the highest odds of success, but it is also apparent to me that this goal is very much out of my hands at this point. It reinforces that the real power to have drastic affect on your future wealth is achieved at a young age many years in the past. This sets the foundation and you are able to just plow through the choppy market waters and keep moving forward.

Once enough time has passed and your nest egg has grown to sufficient size you are a captain on a large ship with a tiny rudder and you are able to make less of an impact than you could 5 or 10 years ago. The only caveat to that statement is that your rudder right now is much larger than it will be 5 to 10 years down the road so while your saving habits certainly have less affect overall than they did in the past they certainly have much more than they will down the road. Which is fine because hopefully at that point I am just on the ship enjoying the view.

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Interim Retirement Nestegg Report – I broke $500,000

Interim Retirement Nestegg Report – I broke $500,000

Well it took a little longer than last time, but compound interest is still working its magic with my retirement nestegg. Today I officially broke through the $500,000 mark for the first time. This milestone came 14 months after the $400k milestone which was actually slower than it took to go from $300k to $400k, but this market is not exactly the magical market that existed in 2013.

The more I update those tables below the more I question why I used a stupid metric like the DOW as an indicator, I think the only reason I chose it was because of the nice symmetry for when I first broke through $100k and the DOW also being at exactly 10,000 – anyway you get the idea that my nestegg is growing faster than the ridiculously dumb and outdated DOW index 🙂

I also broke through another milestone this month – my wife and I had our 5th kid! While this certainly won’t help me financially I think it carries some weight to the fact that you can’t use kids as an excuse as to why you are not achieving your financial goals/dreams. 5 kids and 1 income have worked out just fine for me to reach $500k in retirement assets at age 35 – and I am hardly hardcore when it comes to being frugal – though I’m also not a moron generally when it comes to spending money either. So it’s been a nice balance I’ve been able to work out.

Taxable Account – $17,678.94
Traditional Rollover IRA – $37,561.08
My Roth IRA – $133,790.44
Wife Roth IRA – $77,432.67
Traditional 401k – $236,145.41

Total Retirement Nestegg – $502,617.54

$100,000 NestEgg Milestones

Date DOW Jones Value MFJ Nestegg
Oct 2008 10,000 $ 69,300
Oct 2009 10,000 (+0%) $100,000 (+44%)
Feb 2012 13,000 (+30%) $200,000 (+100%)
Jul 2013 15,423 (+19%) $300,000 (+50%)
Feb 2014 16,395.88 (+6.3%) $400,000 (+33%)
April 2015 18,084.48 (+10.30%) $500,000 (+25%)
What am I saving money for?

What am I saving money for?

This seems like kind of a horse after the cart type of moment, but I’ve more recently started to wonder what I am saving all of this money for. My retirement nestegg has grown exponentially and overall I think I have done a pretty decent job of saving a significant portion of my income for retirement.

I’ve set goals and have met them and I have toyed with setting new goals for myself. For example I set that $1M for 40 goal 2-3 years ago and never wrote a post as to what, why, or how I was going to do that. Part of the reason was that I didn’t know really the why and well the how part really relied on my investment returns which as we no tend to not be a linear/stable thing you can project over a short period of time like five years.

So take a step back – ever since I was in high school I knew that I wanted to live below my means and let compound interest work its magic. I am sure in high school I was leaning more towards the man if he let this money compound for 50+ years would have many millions of dollars at his disposal at 70 years old.

Then as I left college and began my working career and contemplated a family I knew that the idea of retiring early would definitely appeal to me. In fact my wife was going to school for teaching and shortly after graduation I was seriously considering going and getting a masters degree in teaching so that I could have summers off with my wife and our future family.

Then I realized teachers don’t make much dough so maybe it would be better for me to stay in a high paying field like computer science, get my MBA instead, save like crazy when I was young, and then when I was older and money didn’t matter that much maybe pursue that teaching thing as an early retirement.

In my MBA classes we had a class where you basically figure out what you want from life and what you want your career to be – in the end somehow I settled on college professor. Again I would have summers off, flexible schedule, and well the money was better than teaching high school, but then there is that whole PHD thing.

So while I never had a solid plan one recurring theme was having summers off with the family and saving money early on in my life to give me the freedom to pursue other options where the schedule was great and maybe the pay was not so great.

Well here I sit I am 34.5 years old and have accumulated 4 children that I have grown fond of. I have a retirement nestegg of nearly $370k, another $170k+ in cash savings, and a few other assets. I still have my mortgage $110k+ and some student loans of about $40k. So right now I have a liquid net worth of $400k+, though most of that is tied up in retirement plans that aren’t easily touched before age 59.5.

My career is going very good and I am able to save support my family of six while saving a significant amount of cash each year. I could have actually made probably a lot more money in my career, but have I shunned overtures by my bosses to take on higher roles or to relocate to Europe for the sole reason that I like my current work/life balance and if anything I would like to scale it back even further rather than go the other direction with more responsibility and more money. I have more money than I can use right now and the call of more money, a fancier title with more responsibility, advancing my career, or relocating to fancy places around the world does not appeal to me at all.

My wife has been able to stay home with our children and has graciously put off using that teaching degree until our kids are all in school. Ideally it would be awesome if when she decides to go teach full-time again that I was also able to convince my work to allow me to have a similar schedule if I took a proportional paycut. I am not sure if this will fly or not. I am well respected and valued and I do work for a European company where in Europe many of my colleagues have 6 or more weeks of vacation, but I do work in the USA and my boss even in my last performance review said he was disappointed that I was looking to keep a good work/life balance and not interested in taking on higher roles with my skill-set – so me turning around and asking to reduce my workload by 25-30% more might not go over well.

I could also take another step backwards in my career and go back to consulting and just work it out with a local consulting company that I don’t work during the summers – I think this may be more doable.

Regardless I need to be in an even better financial situation where I am not so dependent upon my primary job to provide for my family. This may require me to start saving more money in taxable accounts that are more easily accessible while I am younger than age 59.5

Conclusion
So if I had to cut this very long post down to a simple conclusion it is that I am saving money so that I have the freedom to spend more time with my family while they are young – especially during the summers. I want the flexibility and freedom from not having to pursue a job that does not fit this schedule.

Whoops I saved another $100,000 and didn’t even try

Whoops I saved another $100,000 and didn’t even try

Probably one of the more popular things I’ve done on this blog was set the goal of having saved $100,000 in retirement accounts by the time I hit 30. I ended up falling just short of that goal, but overall it was a great exercise.

Since then I have really been in cruise control (probably not a great thing) and I thought I had been doing a horrible job saving for retirement as I was saving fairly aggressively for a new house – in fact that was the reason I fell short of my original goal to save $100k by age 30.

Last January I had mentioned that I had enough money in our house savings that I could pay off our mortgage entirely. A year later and my house savings has grown by over an additional $50,000. It honestly makes me sick knowing that I have that much money sitting there doing nothing for me, but given what we think we want in regards to a large chunk of land out in the country I thought it was necessary.

So here I sit I have over $175k in cash waiting to get lit on fire for a house/land purchase and I feel like the biggest bozo in the world knowing that this money could be used and should have been used to get me very much on my way to becoming financially independent and I was doing the bare minimum when it came to my retirement savings.

I decided to do the math since I completed my original $100,000 by age 30 goal less than 4.5 years ago and it turns out since then I have saved $101,691.90 or about $22,500 per year. While it’s not that impressive by itself is pretty good when combined with the amount of money we also were simultaneously saving for the new house and land.

Since I started this blog at the end of 2004 – I have saved roughly $377,000. That works out to about just under $42,000 per year.

I do not micro-manage my finances as I don’t feel the effort is worth it. I know my wife and I share a similar mindset so it doesn’t take any kind of special effort or sacrificing on our part to control our spending where as a result of our relatively modest income and supporting our 4 children we are still able to save a decent chunk of change.

So what’s next – well the reason I actually went through this exercise was to kick myself in the butt about being such a slacker when it came to saving for retirement. I also have been doing some considerable thinking with regards to what I am trying to accomplish financially here.

I set some great short term goals for myself, but the last few years I have been flying aimlessly in the wind when it came to what I was trying to accomplish next. I have some ideas as to what I want to accomplish and think I have started to piece together some visions I had for myself going all the way back to college, but wasn’t sure how I would accomplish them. I think I now know how I can do this and this excites me.

So look forward to some posts in the near future and a renewed sense of excitement as I set some new goals for myself here.

Interim Retirement Nestegg Report – I broke $300,000

Interim Retirement Nestegg Report – I broke $300,000

Taxable Account – $2,022.45
Traditional Rollover IRA – $21,071.82
My Roth IRA – $80,604.97
Wife Roth IRA – $46,118.18 149,817.42
Traditional 401k – $152,115.57

Total Retirement Nestegg – $301,932.99

Well seems like it wasn’t that long ago when I broke $200,000 and well it wasn’t. Just 16.5 months ago I broke the $200k barrier and 28 months before that I broke the $100k barrier and 5 years before that I got started investing. This is a pretty vivid example of the power of compound interest. The ball is rolling and most of the heavy lifting was done on my part by setting that initial goal to have contributed $100k to my retirement accounts by the time I reached age 30. It is also worth noting that in only 8 trading days this month my nestegg grew by over $15k.

Now even though I have been slacking by my standards as far as contributing more money to my retirement accounts – it really doesn’t matter as much as it used to and like I always said I can just sit back and watch and turn the spigot to other plans/goals (house savings, kids college, etc) and really I have been able to exactly that and really not miss a beat. Funny I am only 33 but 30 seems like such a long time ago 🙂

Also from a performance comparison its neat to see the various milestones compared to an index at the time.

Date DOW Jones Value MFJ Nestegg
Oct 2008 10,000 $ 69,300
Oct 2009 10,000 (+0%) $100,000 (+44%)
Feb 2012 13,000 (+30%) $200,000 (+100%)
Jul 2013 15,423 (+19%) $300,000 (+50%)

In other milestone related news I am celebrating my 10 year wedding anniversary today. I’ve been blessed with a beautiful caring wife and four great little kids over the last 10 years and I’ve got to say I don’t think things could have turned out any better for me and I am truly grateful for all I have been blessed with. The financial stuff is great, but in the end it means nothing without my family.

I hope to see you again shortly (12 months at this pace?) for my interim $400k post.

Interim Retirement Nestegg Report – I broke $200,000

Interim Retirement Nestegg Report – I broke $200,000

Traditional Rollover IRA $17,604.34
My Roth IRA $52,623.89
Wife Roth IRA $25,600.70
Current Traditional 401k $104,658.75

Total Retirement Nest Egg $200,487.68

Fell kind of dorky doing this 2 days before the end of the month but wanted to celebrate a mini milestone the day after it happened. Just 28 months ago I wrote my post celebrating that I had broken 6 figures for the first time and as of yesterday I broke $200,000 for the first time.

A couple things to point out. Just a little over three years ago the market was in turmoil and my retirement nestegg had dropped nearly in half. Everything was doom and gloom and even the most ardent long term financial advisers were second guessing the stock market. I kept my cool and stuck with my plan and now have a nestegg that has nearly quadrupled from lows just 3 years ago.

I started investing in 2004 and it took me about 5 years to grow my nestegg to $100k. It took me less than half that time to grow my next $100k, which is starting to show the power of compound interest. No longer am I doing the majority of the heavy lifting with my saving and contributions, now I have the ball rolling downhill and my money is making me money – which is such an awesome thing. Now yes the market has been going gangbusters the last three years, but its still pretty obvious that the longer you are invested the easier it is to make money. Compound interest it is your friend.

When I wrote my breaking $100k post 28 months ago the DOW had just broken through the 10,000 mark for the first time in a year. So exactly 1 year before I broke through $100k the DOW was at 10,000 and my Retirement Nestegg Report was at $69,300. 1 year later my nestegg was at $100,000 and the DOW was still at 10,000. Now 28 months later the DOW is up 30% to 13,000 and my retirement nestegg is up 100% to 200,000. So in the last 40 months the DOW has grown by 30% and my retirement nestegg has grown by 189%. Which means I am doing something right with my investments – which supercharges the compound interest power.

Kind of related to that previous point but I have been doing an absolutely crappy job saving for my retirement the last three years. I contribute the bare minimum to my 401k to get full matching and have not contributed a penny more to my 401k or our Roth IRAs. Instead we have been aggressively saving to purchase a large parcel of land out in the country and build a house. In fact our house/land savings has surpassed our existing $120k mortgage and is growing at a good rate each month.

One thing I have said in the past is I absolutely wanted to concentrate on saving for our retirement as absolutely soon as possible after I got my first job and to completely ignore other things such as our kids college savings. I knew how important it was for us to get our retirement savings on the right track to take advantage of compound interest and always said once I was sure that was on the right track I could worry about those other things such as kids savings in the future – I think the exact quote was “I could just turn my income spigot at their college education if I so chose.”

Well we aren’t worrying so much about the college savings yet but I did move the “income spigot” towards our house savings and was able to save a large amount of money in a short time and I have not seriously set back our retirement goals because I already got that ball rolling. You can never make up the lost time when savings for retirement and those first chunk of years are so vitally important when it comes to the power/value it gives you in compounding that if you just take care of that right away its really hard to mess things up in the future if you do something dumb like save for an extravagant house or your kids college education.

Anyway I hope to be here less than 28 months from now to celebrate hitting $400k and hopefully will be writing this from our dream house out in the country.