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Reader Case Research: A Trainer, An Editor and Three Cats in Texas

A part of Tara & Rob’s cat-full residence 🙂

Tara and her husband Rob stay in Texas the place he’s a highschool instructor and she or he’s an editor with a publishing firm. They’re fortunately child-free and cat-full by selection and personal their rental. Whereas Rob enjoys educating, he anticipates needing to make a profession change sooner or later because of the stressors of being within the classroom. Tara likes her job, regardless of her considerably stagnant revenue. The couple isn’t positive if FIRE is their aim or simply extra flexibility round Rob’s job. They’ve requested for our assist with their funding technique in addition to ideas for efficiently dwelling a frugal life-style for the long-term.

What’s a Reader Case Research?

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

For an instance, try the final case examine. Case Research are up to date by contributors (on the finish of the publish) a number of months after the Case is featured. Go to this web page for hyperlinks to all up to date Case Research.

The Objective Of Reader Case Research

Reader Case Research spotlight a various vary of economic conditions, ages, ethnicities, places, objectives, careers, incomes, household compositions and extra!

Joyful hour with a pal!

The Case Research collection started in 2016 and, thus far, there’ve been 83 Case Research. I’ve featured of us with annual incomes starting from $17k to $200k+ and web 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 of us and males. I’ve featured transgender and cisgender individuals. I’ve had cat individuals and canine individuals. I’ve featured of us from the US, Australia, Canada, England, South Africa, Spain, Finland, 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 of us who stay on farms and folk who stay in New York Metropolis.

The aim is range and solely YOU may also help me obtain that by emailing me your story! In case you haven’t seen your circumstances mirrored in a Case Research, I encourage you to use to be a Case Research participant by emailing your transient story to me at

Reader Case Research Pointers

I in all probability don’t must say the next since you of us are the kindest, most well mannered commenters on the web, however please notice 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 recommendations and concepts.

A disclaimer that I’m not a skilled monetary skilled and I encourage individuals to not make critical monetary selections based mostly solely on what one individual on the web advises. 

I encourage everybody to do their very own analysis to find out one of the best 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 Tara, right now’s Case Research topic, take it from right here!

Tara’s Story

Tara’s beloved pastime

Hi there! My title is Tara. I’m 34 and married to Rob, who’s 35. We’re childless by selection, however adore our three cats. We stay in a big metropolis in Texas the place I work in publishing and Rob works as a instructor. We acquired married 9 years in the past and have lived in the identical metropolis since. We rented for a number of years after marriage and acquired a two-bedroom rental in 2017.

What feels most urgent proper now? What brings you to submit a Case Research?

We’re concerned about making a sound monetary technique that permits us to have choices for our future. Extra particularly, we like the concept of reaching monetary independence throughout the subsequent 10 to fifteen years and are questioning if that is attainable or accountable?

We aren’t positive if we’d wish to retire early, work part-time, make profession modifications, or depart jobs once they stop to be fulfilling. For instance, educating takes a toll on Rob and we aren’t positive if it’s a profession he can do long-term for the sake of his psychological well being. Rob is an introvert, and the strains of educating is probably not sustainable for him. We don’t know if our aim of reaching monetary independence is a pipe dream for 2 individuals on salaries like ours, or whether it is practical. We’re each very privileged, however don’t make a ton of cash.

We submitted our scenario as a Case Research as a result of now we have questions starting from if our present monetary setup may enable us to retire early in addition to discrete, particular methods we may save extra. We’re dedicated savers, and we wish to see how far we will go and what we could possibly be doing otherwise. We additionally wish to discover ways to successfully steadiness our financial savings with the methods we wish to deliberately spend cash, like journey.

What feels most urgent proper now could be our general trajectory and if our present behaviors will assist us obtain monetary independence, and if that’s the case, when. Our monetary future will assist us suppose by different questions on our profession, life-style, and the way we stay our day by day lives. It appears urgent that we verify we’re allocating our investments correctly. We additionally lack data about taxes and wish to set ourselves up for future monetary success.

What’s one of the best a part of your present life-style/routine?

Rob actually likes to bake

One of the best a part of our present routine is the time we spend with one another. We’re introverts by nature, so most of our free time consists of exercising, going for walks, consuming scrumptious meals Rob cooks, watching motion pictures, enjoying video games, or pursuing our hobbies. I play piano and take classes from an area instructor. This is a crucial a part of my life, and I think about it financially non-negotiable. Rob paints miniatures for tabletop video games, a pastime he began in adolescence and resumed in the course of the pandemic. This has been a terrific artistic outlet for him, and has diminished his work-related stress stage. It has additionally boosted his confidence and vanity, particularly as he has begun to do minor fee work.

We get pleasure from our freedom and discover nice companionship in one another and our pets. We get pleasure from being child-free by selection, and haven’t any plans to alter that life-style. We deliberately stay quiet lives, and now we have created an setting that fits our personalities.

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

The worst a part of our present life-style is Rob’s nerve-racking and demanding profession. Educating is a vital and noble career, and many individuals thrive within the classroom. Nevertheless it doesn’t go well with Rob. He’s quiet, prefers to work alone or in small group settings, and doesn’t reply effectively to emphasize. He’s been educating on the high-school stage for seven years. For the primary few years, we anticipated his anxiousness to ultimately dissipate as he grew to become extra acclimated to his work. This hasn’t occurred and we each suppose his present profession isn’t sustainable for him over the long-term. Rob’s job has afforded us many benefits and he makes a cushty dwelling as a instructor. In actual fact, his wages exceed the median for academics in our space. As well as, he’ll retire from educating with a pension, which is a profit far too few American employees get pleasure from. That mentioned, we each suppose he wants to start planning for a future outdoors the classroom.

I like my job and work in an incredible setting with an exquisite boss. I do business from home, which provides me the pliability I must stroll canines within the neighborhood. That is one thing I actually get pleasure from doing, each as a result of it helps out mates and neighbors and since it helps me make slightly extra cash.

The one criticism I’ve about my present work scenario pertains to my revenue. My wages have stagnated and certain won’t enhance within the close to future. This isn’t a problem with my job particularly; it’s a reality of life within the wider publishing trade. I earn a cushty revenue, however it’s disheartening to know that the one factor that might enable me to extend my wage is a radical profession change. Regardless of that, I’d hate to go away a job that serves me effectively and that I get pleasure from doing. Total, I like my work and the life-style it permits me to have.

The place Tara and Rob Need To Be in Ten Years:

The uncommon second of peace in our family


  • Near monetary independence. We aren’t positive if we wish to go full FIRE, however we definitely wish to have choices.
  • We hope to nonetheless be on the financial savings trajectory we’re at present on.

Way of life:

  • We don’t see any purpose to alter our life-style and routine. We don’t wish to buy a single-family residence and we don’t plan on transferring. We’re comfy in our present rental, and just like the peace of thoughts that homeownership brings.
  • The rental life-style is ideal for us as a result of we don’t have a yard to deal with or the opposite stresses that include a home. We even have nice neighbors and are in a great place within the metropolis. We like that our rental may present a rental revenue sometime if we selected that route.


  • Rob wants a profession change. We aren’t positive what that may appear to be. He’s artistic and prefers to work alone, and in a quiet setting. He would possibly do effectively with working from residence.
  • If we each labored from residence, nevertheless, we’d must rethink our housing scenario. I don’t plan to make any profession modifications.

Tara & Rob’s Funds


Rob’s web revenue$4,801Rob’s web wage, minus the next deductions: well being and dental insurance coverage, 401k contributions, and taxes.
Tara’s web revenue$3,467Tara’s web wage, minus the next deductions: well being and dental insurance coverage, 15% 401k contributions, and taxes.
Tara’s further web revenue from canine strolling$200
Rob’s annual AP grading revenue$125
Rob’s Trainer’s Pay Lecturers web revenue$58
Month-to-month subtotal:$8,652
Annual whole:$103,824

Mortgage Particulars

MerchandiseExcellent mortgage steadinessCuriosity ChargeMortgage Interval and PhrasesFairness (quantity you’ve paid off)Buy value and 12 months
 Mortgage on main residence$153,6963.00%30-year fixed-rate mortgage$49,804$203,500 bought in 2017 (refi in 2020 for decrease rate of interest)

Money owed: $0


MerchandiseQuantityNotesCuriosity/Sort of securities held/Inventory tickerIdentify of financial institution/brokerageExpense Ratio
Taxable Investments$219,287.94We didn’t know fairly what to do after we began investing, so we began a Vanguard account with all of those completely different allocations. We haven’t contributed to something apart from the Complete Inventory Market ETF in awhile as a result of we realized it was redundant. Ought to we consolidate these into the Complete Inventory Market ETF or allow them to experience?Vanguard Complete Inventory Market ETF: $156,644.69
Vanguard Complete Bond Market ETF: $20,494.25
Vanguard Mid-Cap Development Fund: $12,357.55
Vanguard 500 Index Fund Admiral Shares: $8,114.27
Vanguard Well being Care Fund Investor Shares: $8,142.69
Vanguard Development Index Fund Admiral Shares: $6,923.28
Vanguard Fairness Revenue Fund Investor Shares: $6,611.21
VanguardVanguard Fairness Revenue Investor CL: 0.28%
Vanguard 500 Index Admiral CL: 0.04%
Vanguard Healthcare Investor CL: 0.30%
Vanguard Development Index Admiral CL: 0.05%
Vanguard Mid Cap Development Investor CL: 0.33percentVanguard Complete Bond Market ETF: 0.03%
Vanguard Complete Inventory Market ETF:  0.03%
Tara’s 401k$97,773.21That is Tara’s Roth 401k. The charges appear excessive, however I really feel caught because it’s an employer-sponsored account with a match.Vanguard Goal Retirement 2050 FundVanguard0.08%
Rob’s Roth IRA$46,680.34Vanguard Goal Retirement 2050 FundVanguard0.08%
Financial savings Account$19,746.62That is our extra sturdy emergency and trip fund in a excessive yield financial savings account.0.55% rate of interestBarclaysN/A
Financial savings Account$552.56That is our emergency fund. We hold a minimal of $500 in right here to keep away from a cost.Earns basically 0% curiosityFinancial institution of AmericaN/A


Automobile make, mannequin, 12 monthsValued atMileagePaid off?
Toyota Corolla 2012$10,75363,000Sure
Toyota Scion XB 2009$5,50055,000Sure


Groceries$750.00Contains family provides and meals
HOA charge$278.96Required by our rental group
Piano classes for Tara$220.00
Misc.$200.00Garments (thrifted!), private gadgets, medical / dental / imaginative and prescient, and so on.
Common pet vet payments$150.00Tough common of what we spend over a 12 months for vet take care of 3 cats
Journey funds$150.00Varies by 12 months and relying on the price of the journeys we wish to take.
Restaurant cash$150.00Contains date night time and outings with mates
Rob’s pastime$100.00
Power invoice$85.00
Automobile insurance coverage for each automobiles$63.81
Cat meals for 3 cats$60.00One of many cats has a particular food plan
Cat inhaler$55.00Sure, our cat has bronchial asthma. Who knew that was a factor!
Alcohol$50.00Priorities, y’all
Family repairs$50.00Very tough estimate of family equipment repairs
Automobile Bills$50.00Inspections, oil modifications, and so on.
Farm Sanctuary donation$35.00
Cell telephones$33.55Mint Cellular for 2 telephones (affiliate hyperlink). Yearly whole is $201.23 an individual ($402.46 for each of us)
Pet Shelter donation$20.00
Charity donation$18.09
Spotify account$17.31
Film leases$15.00
Amazon Prime membership$10.00
PBS streaming membership$5.00
Month-to-month subtotal:$3,743.72I’m not fairly positive tips on how to account for the random issues in life (the washer breaks, the automotive wants new brakes, we’d like a brand new equipment, a pet or individual has a serious well being problem, and so on.) However this can be a tough estimate! 
Annual whole:$44,924.64

*Be aware: my employer pays for our web since I do business from home, which is why it’s not listed above.

Credit score Card Technique

Card IdentifyRewards Sort?Financial institution/card firm
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card5% at Amazon and Entire Meals; 2% at Eating places, Fuel Stations, Drugstores;1% all different purchasesChase Financial institution
Financial institution of America Visa Signature3% on-line purchasing; 2% for groceries; 1% all different purchasesFinancial institution of America

Tara’s Questions For You:

Our questions fall into two broad themes: discrete investing questions and broader questions on frugality as a way of life.

The woods are a contented place for us!

1) Investing?

  • As a substitute of throwing cash into our Vanguard Complete Market ETF, ought to I contribute MORE to my firm 401k to succeed in the annual IRS-allowed max?
    • I contribute 15% to this proper now, which exceeds my employer match requirement. I’ve a selection about what kind of contributions to make and I select to make Roth contributions.
  • Are there any steps we may take to optimize our funding earnings?
  • Ought to we consolidate all of our particular person Vanguard accounts into the Complete Market Index Fund?
  • Ought to we think about shifting our assets over to Vanguard’s Complete Inventory Market Index Fund Admiral Shares, for example?

Background Information:

We have now investments in quite a lot of Vanguard mutual funds, though the overwhelming majority of our investments are concentrated within the Vanguard Complete Inventory Market Index Fund ETF. We wish to know if we must always shift our investments totally into this fund, or whether it is okay for us to carry investments in quite a lot of different funds. They appear pretty superfluous, given the diversification offered by the Vanguard Complete Inventory Market Index Fund ETF, however additionally they appear innocent. I do marvel if we’re lacking alternatives by not wholly committing to the Vanguard Complete Inventory Market Index Fund ETF. Is it greatest to have extra in a single huge bucket?

Rob’s most up-to-date portray contest entry

Are there different mutual funds that could be higher than the Vanguard Complete Inventory Market Index Fund ETF?  What I like about our present technique is that now we have full management every month over how a lot cash we save. If now we have an emergency or want to save lots of for one thing, we will lower our investments for that month and use money stream to pay for no matter we have to. If we turned to a extra aggressive technique with my 401k, we wouldn’t have as a lot management. Nevertheless, I feel financially we’d be positive maxing out my 401k (and Rob’s) and having sufficient left over to stay, save, and make investments extra in our different account. I additionally really feel unusual about going by my employer every time I must make changes. I don’t really feel as in management and I don’t like the concept of my employer figuring out an excessive amount of about my monetary scenario.

We additionally like the concept we will entry our cash higher by our present technique than if extra had been saved in our 401k. Although I do know that’s the purpose: to not entry it! It’s simply peace of thoughts. What’s the greatest technique?

I do know a core tenet of most monetary recommendation is to keep away from investing in particular shares. I do know we’re purported to belief index funds in the case of investing our cash. Is there any nuance to that basic precept? Ought to we think about investing in particular shares with confirmed monitor information, so as to doubtlessly enhance our earnings? I’ve thought of investing in Amazon, Costco, and different shares. We don’t at present maintain particular person shares, however I wish to know if that’s one thing we’d think about doing sooner or later.

2) Taxes?

Rob painted this for Tara, who actually likes birds

We don’t perceive taxes in any respect. We don’t know how taxation is biting into our investments and we wish to plan an intentional technique for limiting our tax burden after we start to attract from our accounts. Would maxing out my 401k and investing much less in our Vanguard accounts assist with taxes? Ought to we open up one other Roth IRA for me? Total, taxes are one thing we’re just about in the dead of night on.

3) Dwelling a Frugal Way of life?

  • How do you steadiness a dedication to frugality with a really human must get probably the most out of life?
  • Ought to we be open to spending extra on issues that would enrich our lives earlier than we attain monetary independence (eg. journey, consuming out, motion pictures, and so on.)?

Background Information:

We had been closely influenced by Liz’s ebook, Meet the Frugalwoods, and started saving aggressively years in the past. We have now continued to refine our financial savings methods and now save greater than 50% of our revenue yearly. Our stage of dedication to frugality varies, however we’re persistently thrifty individuals who save aggressively. On the entire, this life-style has been nice for us.

However now we have had some conversations currently in regards to the methods frugality can grow to be a supply of hysteria.

Typically Rob and I forgo purchases and experiences that would enhance our lives due to our issues in regards to the bills related to them. This may be demoralizing, and it causes us to overlook out on alternatives that would enrich our lives. As an example, we hardly ever depart our residence for meals, and generally want we may exit on extra dinner dates. That is particularly essential for me, since I do business from home. Additionally it is essential for Rob, since it will be good to present him an occasional break from cooking. We additionally thrift practically all of our clothes, and generally we’d each like to purchase some new issues to spruce up our wardrobes.

Total, we’ve encountered a darkish facet to frugality, one that may restrict our experiences and life satisfaction. This could take a light-weight toll on our psychological well being. Non-essential purchases might be fraught with guilt. We are inclined to forgo issues we’d like and stay a life with out spontaneity and play.

Liz Frugalwoods’ Suggestions

Tara, Rob and all three cats are in fabulous monetary form! They’ve accomplished all of the pre-requisites for a wholesome monetary life and are within the luxurious place of with the ability to flip their consideration to their investing technique. Very effectively accomplished!

Questioning what these pre-requisites are? Right here you go:

  1. Rob is one of the best bartender

    Remove debt! It’s robust to maneuver ahead on monetary objectives whenever you’re weighed down by debt. I don’t embrace a low, fixed-rate mortgage on this definition of debt.

  2. Save up an emergency fund! That is 3 to six months’ price of your dwelling bills held in an easily-accessible financial savings or checking account.
  3. Monitor your bills! As a way to know the way a lot you want in your emergency fund, it’s worthwhile to know the way a lot you spend each month. The best method to do that is with a free on-line program, such because the one provided by Private Capital, which is what I exploit and suggest (affiliate hyperlink).
  4. Contribute to your retirement account and be on monitor given your age and deliberate retirement date! In case your employer presents a match, make sure to contribute sufficient to get the match–that is FREE $$$. In case your employer doesn’t supply a retirement plan–otherwise you’re self-employer–it’s worthwhile to set-up a person retirement plan, equivalent to: an IRA, a Roth IRA, or a Solo 401k (that’s what I’ve).
  5. Create a bank card technique! That is an optionally available subsequent step should you’ve accomplished steps #1 -4. Utilizing a bank card responsibly–which implies paying it off in full each month–is a wonderful and simple solution to earn rewards. I like my money again card and earned $712.59 from it final 12 months. Right here’s how.
  6. Open a taxable funding account! That is one other optionally available subsequent step should you’ve accomplished steps #1 -5. Investing within the inventory market is one solution to have your cash make more cash. Questioning tips on how to get began? One of the best primer on investing (in my view) is JL Collins’ Easy Path to Wealth (affiliate hyperlink).
  7. Discover different tax-advantaged automobiles! One other optionally available step if #1-6 are accomplished. Such accounts embrace (however usually are not restricted to): Donor Suggested Funds and 529s.

Earlier than delving into Tara’s particular questions, I wish to undergo all of their belongings.

Evaluation of Tara & Rob’s Belongings


Tara and Rob have a complete of $20,299 between their two financial savings accounts. That is nice, however, I’m not clear on why that is in two completely different accounts?

  • If it had been me, I’d consolidate to 1 high-yield financial savings account, such because the American Specific Private Financial savings account, which–as of this writing–earns 1.75% in curiosity (affiliate hyperlink).
  • Tara & Rob would earn $355 on their cash in a 12 months simply by having it on this high-interest account.

They’re spot on with this greenback quantity as their emergency fund. Their month-to-month spending is $3,743.72, which implies three months’ price of spending = $11,231.16 and 6 months = $22,462.32. Excellent job, Tara and Rob!


We like our little out of doors area

Between Tara’s employer-sponsored 401k and Rob’s Roth IRA, they’ve $144,453.55 in retirement investments. Let’s examine this towards Constancy’s retirement metric:

Purpose to save lots of a minimum of 1x your wage by 30, 3x by 40, 6x by 50, 8x by 60, and 10x by 67.

Since Tara & Rob are 34 and 35, we’ll say 2x their mixed revenue, which might be ($103,824 x 2) = $204,648. This implies they’re a bit behind, nevertheless…

I’ve questions on Rob’s employer:

  • Do they not supply a retirement plan?
    • In the event that they do, I encourage him to discover the small print and discover out if there’s an employer match.
    • If there’s a match accessible, he ought to begin contributing to this instantly. Once more, an employer match is FREE $$$$.
  • Tara talked about a pension plan for Rob–they need to analysis the small print on that.
    • Does it require full vesting/a specified variety of years of service?
    • Is any portion of the pension accessible if Rob leaves educating earlier than that service date?

Social Safety:

The above retirement whole additionally doesn’t embrace what they’ll every obtain in Social Safety. To determine their anticipated Social Safety advantages, Tara and Rob ought to:

  • Observe these directions on tips on how to retrieve their earnings tables from (the federal government’s Social Safety web site).

This data, mixed with the solutions to my questions on Rob’s pension, will give them a clearer image of what they will count on in retirement.

Tara’s Query #1: Investing Methods

Alrighty, let’s flip our consideration to the meat of right now’s publish: investments. As I learn it, Tara’s investing questions boil all the way down to:

  1. Ought to they every max out their retirement accounts? (Tara’s 401k and Rob’s Roth IRA)
  2. Ought to they consolidate their taxable investments into their Vanguard Complete Inventory Market ETF?
  3. Ought to they spend money on particular person shares?

1) Maxing Out Retirement Accounts?

Like the remainder of the world, Rob discovered tips on how to bake sourdough in the course of the pandemic

Some retirement accounts, together with Tara’s 401k, are pre-tax. Which means you don’t pay taxes on the cash you contribute to those accounts. You do pay taxes whenever you take this cash out in retirement; BUT, this usually works in your favor as a result of your tax bracket must be decrease in retirement since your revenue is prone to be decrease (assuming you’re not working). If Tara and Rob wish to lower their taxable revenue, maxing out Tara’s 401k–which is $20,500 in 2022–is a straightforward method to take action. Nevertheless, Tara is appropriate that placing cash right into a 401k locks it up. You’ll be able to’t withdraw from a 401k till age 59.5; should you achieve this earlier than then, you’ll pay a penalty. As Tara famous, the entire level of a 401k is that you simply don’t contact that cash!

Rob’s retirement account–a Roth IRA–is taxed within the reverse method from Tara’s 401k. Right here’s a fast rundown on Roth vs. conventional IRAs:

Roth IRA (Particular person Retirement Account):

  • A Roth IRA is a retirement account that’s publish taxes.
  • This implies you pay taxes on the cash you place right into a Roth IRA, however you don’t pay taxes whenever you withdraw the cash in retirement.
  • A Roth IRA grows tax free.
  • You have to be age 59.5 earlier than you’ll be able to withdraw cash penalty-free (though there are exceptions).
  • Your eligibility to contribute to a Roth IRA relies on your revenue and your explicit tax scenario.
  • I like this Nerd Pockets article on Roth IRAs if you wish to learn extra.

Conventional IRA (Particular person Retirement Association):

  • A standard IRA is a retirement account that’s pre-tax
  • This implies you don’t pay taxes on cash you place into an IRA, however you do pay taxes whenever you withdraw the cash in retirement.
  • There are not any revenue limits. Anybody can contribute to a standard IRA.
  • You have to be age 59.5 earlier than you’ll be able to withdraw cash penalty-free (though there are exceptions).
  • Extra about conventional IRAs right here.

Our firstborn

The underside line is that contributing to some kind of tax-advantaged retirement account (equivalent to a 401k, 403b, IRA, SEP IRA, and so on) is sensible for most individuals in most circumstances.

How a lot you’ll be able to contribute to a Roth IRA (and whether or not or not you’re allowed to) relies upon upon the way you file your taxes and your MAGI (modified adjusted gross revenue). The IRS has this useful chart outlining Roth IRA choices. Assuming Tara and Rob are “married submitting collectively” and their MAGI is underneath $204k, the utmost allowable contribution is $6,000/12 months.

If he wished, Rob may additionally open a standard IRA, which might be a pre-tax account (and thus, would each cut back their taxable revenue and enhance his retirement financial savings). Nevertheless, that $6k IRS-mandated restrict continues to be in impact and your COMBINED contributions to a Roth and a standard IRA can’t exceed $6k. Earlier than making any modifications to Rob’s Roth IRA, I’d first wish to know what choices Rob has by this employer.

2) Consolidating the Taxable Investments?

Now we’ll flip our consideration to Tara and Rob’s different inventory market investments–their taxable investments. Retirement accounts (like 401ks and IRAs) are ALSO invested within the inventory market, however are taxed otherwise than plain previous taxable investments. With taxable investments, there are not any age, revenue, or contribution limits, and don’t obtain any preferential tax remedy. Therefore, their title: “taxable investments.”

If the whole lot I simply mentioned sounded fully incomprehensible–however you’re curious–I HIGHLY suggest you try the ebook The Easy Path to Wealth by JL Collins (affiliate hyperlink). In case you’re nonetheless with me, let’s forge on…

Tara’s query about whether or not or to not consolidate their varied Vanguard accounts into their Complete Market Index fund comes all the way down to capital beneficial properties taxes. It’s a must to pay capital beneficial properties taxes on the earnings (not the full quantity) your shares have earned over time.

What you pay in capital beneficial properties taxes relies on a number of components:

  • How lengthy you’ve had your investments:
    • Quick-term capital beneficial properties taxes–whenever you’ve held shares for lower than one 12 months–are increased than long-term capital beneficial properties taxes, which is but another excuse to maintain taxable funding accounts open for the long-term.
  • How a lot cash your investments have made since you acquire them:
    • In different phrases, how a lot these investments have appreciated since you bought them.
  • Your revenue.

For extra, try this Motley Idiot article, which outlines the method.

Rob’s favourite pasttime

To determine their capital beneficial properties publicity, Tara and Rob ought to have a look at their Vanguard portfolio for his or her “value foundation,” which is what they purchased the shares for. From this, they will calculate their potential capital beneficial properties.

If Tara and Rob discover that they’d pay nominal capital beneficial properties to promote their shares and transfer them into the Complete Market Index Fund, then I personally would consolidate. If it had been me, I might put the whole lot into one whole market, low-fee index fund that matched my asset allocation wants and danger tolerance. The explanation for that is that, basically, investing in a complete market index fund offers you the broadest attainable publicity to the inventory market (in addition to the bottom charges). In a complete market index fund, you’re basically invested in a teensy bit of each single firm within the inventory market, which provides you a ton of range. If one firm–and even one sector–tanks, your total portfolio isn’t toast. It’s the “not placing all your eggs in a single basket” model of investing. It’s what I do, it’s what the overwhelming majority of FIRE of us do and, better of all, it’s very, very straightforward to implement and keep.

Going ahead, if it had been me, I might give attention to funneling all my extra cash into the Complete Market Index Fund. Tara and Rob even have Vanguard’s Complete Bond ETF, which is one thing lots of of us wish to spend money on as a result of bonds are a lower-risk (though additionally lower-reward) funding automobile.

Is it Clever to Put money into Particular person Shares?

For my part, completely not. Why? as a result of if that one firm goes down, so too goes your funding. If Apple or Amazon or Netflix or whoever has a nasty quarter, you’ve got a nasty quarter. If you’re as a substitute invested throughout your complete inventory market, corporations can go bankrupt and your portfolio will simply bob together with the broader inventory market. Investing in a person inventory is “placing all your eggs in a single basket.”

I think about investing in particular person shares to be a pastime, not a monetary technique. In case you actually get pleasure from day buying and selling and wish to do it for enjoyable, go proper forward! However I wouldn’t do it with cash I would like. For my part, it’s not a lot safer than going to a on line casino.

Expense Ratios

Focaccia bread baked by Rob

I additionally wish to notice the expense ratios on Tara and Rob’s investments. Expense ratios are what you pay your brokerage (on this case, Vanguard) for the power to speculate out there. Tara and Rob did a implausible job choosing a brokerage with glorious low-fee funds.

Tara is appropriate that the expense ratios are a tad increased on a few of their accounts, however none of them are outrageous. Normally, you wish to goal for the bottom attainable charges as a result of there’s actually no purpose to not.

For reference, the next three brokerages supply DIY low-fee funding choices:

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

Questioning tips on how to discover a fund’s expense ratio? Try the tutorial in this Case Research.

Tara’s Query #2: Taxes

Any tax choice goes to rely on Tara and Rob’s gross annual revenue. Normally, should you work within the US, have a W2 revenue, and aren’t a billionaire, there aren’t actually all that many tax-advantaged choices accessible to you. You’ll be able to–and will–make the most of what’s accessible. However, for the overwhelming majority of individuals–and particularly should you’re taking the usual deduction–there’s no “one bizarre trick” to saving cash on taxes. It will get extra subtle in case you are FIRE’d (or within the tax 12 months previous to FIRE), which I’ve addressed in earlier Case Research.

Listed below are the usual tax-advantaged automobiles that Tara and Rob can look into:

  • Retirement accounts, equivalent to 401ks and IRAs: I outlined these tax benefits above.
  • HSAs (Well being Financial savings Accounts): “A sort of financial savings account that permits you to put aside cash on a pre-tax foundation to pay for certified medical bills” (supply:
  • FSAs (Versatile Financial savings Accounts): “…a particular account you place cash into that you simply use to pay for sure out-of-pocket well being care prices. You don’t pay taxes on this cash. This implies you’ll save an quantity equal to the taxes you’d have paid on the cash you put aside” (supply:

Listed below are a number of others that don’t apply to Tara and Rob, however could possibly be useful to different readers:

Tara’s Query #3: Dwelling a Frugal Way of life?

Date night time out!

I by no means need anybody to suppose I espouse depriving oneself in favor of saving cash! I do know it’s a tricky needle to string, however my hope is that folk can discover their candy spot of “luxurious frugality” the place all their wants are met, they’re in a position to afford some “needs,” and so they’re financially on monitor for his or her future. On the finish of the day, life’s too brief to spend it doing stuff you hate and that’s the place I feel frugality is available in: it offers you the choice to stay a life you like.

The entire level of frugality is to save lots of on issues that don’t matter to you so as to spend on the issues that matter probably the most.

That is values-based spending and it’s how I construction my spending selections. Am I spending on issues that assist my highest and greatest priorities? If sure, nice! If not, then it’s time for a re-adjustment.

I’ve written about this subject fairly a bit over time, so I’ll refer Tara and Rob to a few of these oldies-but-goodies from the Frugalwoods archives:

From 2017:

Geez louise, evidently I used to be on a tear in 2017…

From 2016:

From 2015:

I hope these supply some perception into how I keep frugality with out feeling the undertow of deprivation.

Objective Readability

A Center Japanese unfold ready by Rob

I additionally marvel if a few of their monetary stress stems from the uncertainty round Rob’s profession? I sense that this weighs on each of them because it appears clear Rob needs to transition to a brand new job. I’m wondering if they could really feel extra comfy with their discretionary spending as soon as they’re clear on Rob’s subsequent step and new wage?

To that finish, I encourage Rob to start actively job looking out. We’re at present in a implausible job marketplace for staff and Rob ought to capitalize on that! I think about there are many non-classroom-teacher careers accessible to somebody together with his expertise, equivalent to: curriculum improvement, textbook creation, consulting, and so on? Former academics, please share your recommendation within the remark part!

Frugality Ought to Not = Nervousness

I used to be unhappy to learn Tara’s remark that, “…now we have had some conversations currently in regards to the methods frugality can grow to be a supply of hysteria.”

Tara, you and Rob haven’t any purpose to really feel anxiousness round your funds. You’re in nice form and also you’ve put your self within the place of NOT needing to really feel anxious about cash. By way of your sensible decisions, you and Rob have given yourselves that reward. Time to begin having fun with it! This doesn’t imply blowing cash on stuff you don’t want, nevertheless it does imply constructing acutely aware treats into your life-style on the common.

Tara talked about a need to eat out and that’s one thing they need to completely do! Do it tonight! I’ll make the reservation for you if you would like.

Maybe set up a schedule for eating out–weekly, bi-weekly, month-to-month–then go to the restaurant and have an exquisite time figuring out that you simply’ve deliberate, prioritized and saved to make it attainable. Perceive that that is very completely different from defaulting to take-out each night time since you didn’t meal plan. That is strategic luxurious and it’s how frugality stays tenable for a lifetime. My husband and I eat out recurrently and each single time, it’s a pleasant expertise. We don’t stress about the fee as a result of it’s a deliberate expense. You’ll be able to construct restaurant meals into your funds in precisely the identical method you embrace groceries, HOA charges, and so on.

Climbing in Arkansas

Right here’s tips on how to be strategically luxurious:

  1. Establish your priorities
  2. Spend on these
  3. Remove spending on non-priorities

There’s truthfully little level in being uber frugal should you’re not utilizing a few of your financial savings for the stuff you get pleasure from most in life. Optimizing each final expense, however being depressing, defeats the longterm aim of economic stability. Why have cash saved up should you can’t ever get pleasure from it?


  1. Make a reservation at a restaurant, get pleasure from your date night time, really feel zero guilt, and decide to doing it recurrently! Let me know should you want me to make the reservation for you.
  2. Discover methods to include enjoyable and spontaneity into your ultra-frugal funds. Create a plan, put aside funds, and really feel assured that you simply’ve labored exhausting to make this enjoyable attainable.
  3. Contemplate consolidating your money accounts into one high-interest financial savings account.
  4. Analysis the retirement choices and pension provided by Rob’s employer.
  5. Rob ought to start an lively job search, particularly in gentle of the present crimson scorching job market.
  6. Decide your capital beneficial properties tax burden and resolve if it’s price consolidating all taxable investments into the Vanguard Complete Market ETF. Going ahead, plan to focus contributions in the direction of this account.
  7. Decide your mixed gross revenue after which think about if you wish to discover further tax-advantaged methods, equivalent to:
    1. Maxing out Tara’s 401k
    2. Opening an IRA (for Tara or for Rob or each, being cognizant of the $6k restrict)
    3. Researching HSAs and FSAs. I’d begin with seeing what your employers supply.
  8. Cuddle up with the cats and pat yourselves on the backs–you’re doing nice!

Okay Frugalwoods nation, what recommendation do you’ve got for Tara? We’ll each reply to feedback, so please be at liberty to ask questions!

Would you want your individual case examine to look right here on Frugalwoods? E mail me ( your transient story and we’ll discuss.

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