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

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

Tara and her husband Rob stay in Texas the place he’s a highschool instructor and he or she’s an editor with a publishing firm. They’re fortunately child-free and cat-full by alternative and personal their condominium. 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 residing a frugal way of life for the long-term.

What’s a Reader Case Examine?

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

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

The Purpose 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 Examine collection started in 2016 and, to this point, there’ve been 83 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 folks. I’ve featured girls, non-binary people and males. I’ve featured transgender and cisgender folks. I’ve had cat folks and canine folks. I’ve featured people from the US, Australia, Canada, England, South Africa, Spain, Finland, Germany and France. I’ve featured folks with PhDs and other people with highschool diplomas. I’ve featured folks of their early 20’s and other people of their late 60’s. I’ve featured people who stay on farms and folk who stay in New York Metropolis.

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

Reader Case Examine Tips

I in all probability don’t must say the next since you people are the kindest, most well mannered commenters on the web, however please observe 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 constructive, proactive strategies and concepts.

A disclaimer that I’m not a skilled monetary skilled and I encourage folks to not make severe monetary choices primarily based solely on what one individual on the web advises. 

I encourage everybody to do their very own analysis to find out the perfect 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, at the moment’s Case Examine topic, take it from right here!

Tara’s Story

Tara’s beloved pastime

Good day! My title is Tara. I’m 34 and married to Rob, who’s 35. We’re childless by alternative, 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 just a few years after marriage and purchased a two-bedroom condominium in 2017.

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

We’re focused on making a sound monetary technique that enables us to have choices for our future. Extra particularly, we like the thought of reaching monetary independence inside the subsequent 10 to fifteen years and are questioning if that is potential or accountable?

We aren’t positive if we’d wish to retire early, work part-time, make profession adjustments, 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 will not be sustainable for him. We don’t know if our aim of attaining monetary independence is a pipe dream for 2 folks on salaries like ours, or whether it is real looking. We’re each very privileged, however don’t make a ton of cash.

We submitted our state of affairs as a Case Examine as a result of we have now 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 want to see how far we will go and what we might be doing otherwise. We additionally wish to learn to successfully stability our financial savings with the methods we wish to deliberately spend cash, like journey.

What feels most urgent proper now’s our total 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, way of life, and the way we stay our every 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 the perfect a part of your present way of life/routine?

Rob actually likes to bake

The very 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 films, taking part in video games, or pursuing our hobbies. I play piano and take classes from an area instructor. This is a vital a part of my life, and I contemplate it financially non-negotiable. Rob paints miniatures for tabletop video games, a pastime he began in adolescence and resumed through the pandemic. This has been an awesome artistic outlet for him, and has lowered 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 alternative, and haven’t any plans to vary that way of life. We deliberately stay quiet lives, and we have now created an setting that fits our personalities.

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

The worst a part of our present way of life is Rob’s tense and demanding profession. Instructing is an important and noble career, and many individuals thrive within the classroom. Nevertheless it doesn’t swimsuit Rob. He’s quiet, prefers to work alone or in small group settings, and doesn’t reply nicely to emphasize. He’s been educating on the high-school stage for seven years. For the primary few years, we anticipated his anxiousness to finally 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 residing as a instructor. In actual fact, his wages exceed the median for lecturers 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 really like my job and work in a tremendous setting with a beautiful boss. I work at home, which supplies 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 buddies and neighbors and since it helps me make a bit extra cash.

The one grievance I’ve about my present work state of affairs pertains to my revenue. My wages have stagnated and sure is not going to improve within the close to future. This isn’t a problem with my job particularly; it’s a truth of life within the wider publishing trade. I earn a cushty revenue, however it’s disheartening to know that the one factor that may 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 nicely and that I get pleasure from doing. Total, I really like my work and the approach to life 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 the moment on.

Way of life:

  • We don’t see any motive to vary our way of life and routine. We don’t wish to buy a single-family dwelling and we don’t plan on shifting. We’re comfy in our present condominium, and just like the peace of thoughts that homeownership brings.
  • The condominium way of life 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 spot within the metropolis. We like that our condominium may present a rental revenue sometime if we selected that route.


  • Rob wants a profession change. We aren’t positive what that can seem like. He’s artistic and prefers to work alone, and in a quiet setting. He would possibly do nicely with working from dwelling.
  • If we each labored from dwelling, nonetheless, we would must rethink our housing state of affairs. I don’t plan to make any profession adjustments.

Tara & Rob’s Funds


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

Mortgage Particulars

Merchandise Excellent mortgage stability Curiosity Price Mortgage Interval and Phrases Fairness (quantity you’ve paid off) Buy value and 12 months
 Mortgage on major residence $153,696 3.00% 30-year fixed-rate mortgage $49,804 $203,500 bought in 2017 (refi in 2020 for decrease rate of interest)

Money owed: $0


Merchandise Quantity Notes Curiosity/Sort of securities held/Inventory ticker Title of financial institution/brokerage Expense Ratio
Taxable Investments $219,287.94 We didn’t know fairly what to do after we began investing, so we began a Vanguard account with all of those totally 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 Progress Fund: $12,357.55
Vanguard 500 Index Fund Admiral Shares: $8,114.27
Vanguard Well being Care Fund Investor Shares: $8,142.69
Vanguard Progress Index Fund Admiral Shares: $6,923.28
Vanguard Fairness Earnings Fund Investor Shares: $6,611.21
Vanguard Vanguard Fairness Earnings Investor CL: 0.28%
Vanguard 500 Index Admiral CL: 0.04%
Vanguard Healthcare Investor CL: 0.30%
Vanguard Progress Index Admiral CL: 0.05%
Vanguard Mid Cap Progress Investor CL: 0.33percentVanguard Complete Bond Market ETF: 0.03%
Vanguard Complete Inventory Market ETF:  0.03%
Tara’s 401k $97,773.21 That 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 Fund Vanguard 0.08%
Rob’s Roth IRA $46,680.34 Vanguard Goal Retirement 2050 Fund Vanguard 0.08%
Financial savings Account $19,746.62 That is our extra strong emergency and trip fund in a excessive yield financial savings account. 0.55% rate of interest Barclays N/A
Financial savings Account $552.56 That is our emergency fund. We maintain a minimal of $500 in right here to keep away from a cost. Earns primarily 0% curiosity Financial institution of America N/A
Complete: $384,040.67


Automobile make, mannequin, 12 months Valued at Mileage Paid off?
Toyota Corolla 2012 $10,753 63,000 Sure
Toyota Scion XB 2009 $5,500 55,000 Sure
Complete: $16,253


Merchandise Quantity Notes
Mortgage $1,062.00
Groceries $750.00 Consists of family provides and meals
HOA charge $278.96 Required by our condominium group
Piano classes for Tara $220.00
Misc. $200.00 Garments (thrifted!), private gadgets, medical / dental / imaginative and prescient, and so forth.
Common pet vet payments $150.00 Tough common of what we spend over a 12 months for vet take care of 3 cats
Journey finances $150.00 Varies by 12 months and relying on the price of the journeys we wish to take.
Restaurant cash $150.00 Consists of date evening and outings with buddies
Rob’s pastime $100.00
Power invoice $85.00
Fuel $75.00
Automobile insurance coverage for each vehicles $63.81
Cat meals for 3 cats $60.00 One of many cats has a particular weight loss program
Cat inhaler $55.00 Sure, our cat has bronchial asthma. Who knew that was a factor!
Alcohol $50.00 Priorities, y’all
Family repairs $50.00 Very tough estimate of family equipment repairs
Automobile Bills $50.00 Inspections, oil adjustments, and so forth.
Items $40.00
Farm Sanctuary donation $35.00
Cell telephones $33.55 Mint Cell 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: $3,743.72 I’m not fairly positive how you can account for the random issues in life (the washer breaks, the automobile wants new brakes, we’d like a brand new equipment, a pet or individual has a serious well being situation, and so forth.) However this can be a tough estimate! 
Annual whole: $44,924.64

*Observe: my employer pays for our web since I work at home, which is why it’s not listed above.

Credit score Card Technique

Card Title Rewards Sort? Financial institution/card firm
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card 5% at Amazon and Complete Meals; 2% at Eating places, Fuel Stations, Drugstores;1% all different purchases Chase Financial institution
Financial institution of America Visa Signature 3% on-line purchasing; 2% for groceries; 1% all different purchases Financial 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 life-style.

The woods are a cheerful place for us!

1) Investing?

  • As an alternative 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 alternative 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 contemplate shifting our assets over to Vanguard’s Complete Inventory Market Index Fund Admiral Shares, as an example?

Background Data:

We have now investments in a wide range 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 a wide range 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 surprise if we’re lacking alternatives by not wholly committing to the Vanguard Complete Inventory Market Index Fund ETF. Is it finest to have extra in a single massive 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 we have now full management every month over how a lot cash we save. If we have now 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 believe financially we might 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 thought of my employer figuring out an excessive amount of about my monetary state of affairs.

We additionally like the concept that 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 finest 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 contemplate investing in particular shares with confirmed monitor data, with the intention to doubtlessly enhance our earnings? I’ve thought of investing in Amazon, Costco, and different shares. We don’t at the moment maintain particular person shares, however I wish to know if that’s one thing we would contemplate 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 want 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 at the hours of darkness on.

3) Dwelling a Frugal Way of life?

  • How do you stability a dedication to frugality with a really human must get essentially 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, films, and so forth.)?

Background Data:

We had been closely influenced by Liz’s e book, 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 constantly thrifty individuals who save aggressively. On the entire, this way of life has been nice for us.

However we have now had some conversations recently in regards to the methods frugality can develop into a supply of tension.

Typically Rob and I forgo purchases and experiences that would enhance our lives due to our considerations 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 dwelling for meals, and generally want we may exit on extra dinner dates. That is particularly necessary for me, since I work at home. It’s also necessary for Rob, since it will be good to present him an occasional break from cooking. We additionally thrift almost all of our clothes, and generally we might each like to purchase some new issues to spruce up our wardrobes.

Total, we’ve encountered a darkish aspect to frugality, one that may restrict our experiences and life satisfaction. This will take a lightweight toll on our psychological well being. Non-essential purchases will be fraught with guilt. We are likely 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 the pre-requisites for a wholesome monetary life and are within the luxurious place of turning their consideration to their investing technique. Very, very nicely finished!

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

  1. Rob is the perfect bartender

    Get rid of debt! It’s powerful to maneuver ahead on monetary objectives for those who’re weighed down by debt. I don’t embody 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 residing bills held in an easily-accessible financial savings or checking account.
  3. Monitor your bills! In an effort to know the way a lot you want in your emergency fund, you have to know the way a lot you spend each month. The simplest method to do that is with a free on-line program, such because the one provided by Private Capital, which is what I take advantage of 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 affords a match, be sure you contribute sufficient to get the match–that is FREE $$$. In case your employer doesn’t supply a retirement plan–otherwise you’re self-employer–you have to set-up a person retirement plan, akin to: an IRA, a Roth IRA, or a Solo 401k (that’s what I’ve).
  5. Create a bank card technique! That is an non-obligatory subsequent step for those who’ve accomplished steps #1 -4. Utilizing a bank card responsibly–which implies paying it off in full each month–is a superb and simple technique to earn rewards. I really 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 non-obligatory subsequent step for those who’ve accomplished steps #1 -5. Investing within the inventory market is one technique to have your cash earn more money. Questioning how you can get began? The very best primer on investing (for my part) is JL Collins’ Easy Path to Wealth (affiliate hyperlink).
  7. Discover different tax-advantaged autos! One other non-obligatory step if #1-6 are finished. Such accounts embody (however aren’t restricted to): Donor Suggested Funds and 529s.

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

Overview 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 totally different accounts?

  • If it had been me, I’d consolidate to 1 high-yield financial savings account, such because the American Categorical 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. Good job, Tara and Rob!


We love our little outside house

Between Tara’s employer-sponsored 401k and Rob’s Roth IRA, they’ve $144,453.55 in retirement investments. Let’s examine this in opposition to 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, nonetheless…

I’ve questions on Rob’s employer:

  • Do they provide a retirement plan?
    • If that’s the case, 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 embody what they’ll every obtain in Social Safety. To determine their anticipated Social Safety advantages, Tara and Rob ought to:

  • Comply with these directions on how you can retrieve their earnings tables from (the federal government’s Social Safety web site).

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

Tara’s Query #1: Investing Methods

Alrighty, let’s flip our consideration to the meat of at the moment’s research: 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 put money into particular person shares?

1) Maxing Out Retirement Accounts?

WHOOPS edit by Liz on 9/1/22: I completely missed the half the place Tara mentioned her 401k contributions are Roth, which implies what I say beneath is fake. Tara’s 401k contributions are NOT pre-tax.

Like the remainder of the world, Rob realized how you can bake sourdough through 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 once you take this cash out in retirement; BUT, this usually works in your favor as a result of your tax bracket needs to be decrease in retirement since your revenue is more likely to be decrease (assuming you’re now 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 possibly can’t withdraw from a 401k till age 59.5; for those who accomplish that 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 put up taxes.
  • This implies you pay taxes on the cash you set into a Roth IRA, however you don’t pay taxes once you withdraw the cash in retirement.
  • A Roth IRA grows tax free.
  • You might want to be age 59.5 earlier than you may withdraw cash penalty-free (though there are exceptions).
  • Your eligibility to contribute to a Roth IRA relies on your revenue and your specific tax state of affairs.
  • 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 set into an IRA, however you do pay taxes once you withdraw the cash in retirement.
  • There aren’t any revenue limits. Anybody can contribute to a conventional IRA.
  • You might want to be age 59.5 earlier than you may withdraw cash penalty-free (though there are exceptions).
  • Extra about conventional IRAs right here.

Our firstborn

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

How a lot you may contribute to a Roth IRA (and whether or not or not you might be 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 for every of them is $6,000/12 months.

If he needed, Rob may additionally open a conventional IRA, which might be a pre-tax account (and thus, would each scale back their taxable revenue and improve his retirement financial savings). Nevertheless, that $6k IRS-mandated restrict remains to be in impact and your COMBINED contributions to each a Roth and a conventional IRA can’t exceed $6k.

Tara may additionally open a conventional IRA and contribute $6k yearly. That is another choice for additional decreasing their taxable revenue, if that’s a precedence for them.

Nevertheless: earlier than making any choices about IRAs, 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 aren’t any age, revenue, or contribution limits, and don’t obtain any preferential tax remedy. Therefore, their title: “taxable investments.”

If all the things I simply mentioned sounded fully incomprehensible–however you’re curious–I HIGHLY suggest you try the e book 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 positive aspects taxes. It’s a must to pay capital positive aspects taxes on the income (not the full quantity) your shares have earned through the years.

What you pay in capital positive aspects taxes relies on a number of components:

  • How lengthy you’ve had your investments:
    • Brief-term capital positive aspects taxes–once you’ve held shares for lower than one 12 months–are larger than long-term capital positive aspects taxes, which is but one more reason to maintain taxable funding accounts open for the long-term.
  • How a lot cash your investments have made since you purchased them:
    • In different phrases, how a lot these investments have appreciated since you bought them.
  • Your revenue.

For extra on capital positive aspects taxes, try this Motley Idiot article.

Rob’s favourite pasttime

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

If Tara and Rob discover that they’d pay nominal capital positive aspects to promote their shares and transfer them into the Complete Market Index Fund, then I personally would consolidate. If it had been me, I’d put all the things into one whole market, low-fee index fund that matched my asset allocation wants and threat tolerance. The reason being that, generally, investing in a complete market index fund offers you the broadest potential publicity to the inventory market (in addition to the bottom charges).

In a complete market index fund, you’re primarily invested in a teensy bit of each single firm within the inventory market, which supplies you a ton of variety. If one firm–and even one sector–tanks, your total portfolio isn’t toast. It’s the “not placing your whole eggs in a single basket” model of investing. It’s what I do, it’s what the overwhelming majority of FIRE people do and, better of all, it’s very, very simple to implement and preserve.

Going ahead, if it had been me, I’d deal with 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 a number of people wish to put money into as a result of bonds are a lower-risk (though additionally lower-reward) funding car.

Is it Clever to Spend money on Particular person Shares?

For my part, completely not. Why? as a result of if that one firm goes down, your funding plummets. If Apple or Amazon or Netflix or whoever has a foul quarter, you will have a foul quarter. In case you are as an alternative invested throughout your complete inventory market, corporations can go bankrupt and your portfolio will nonetheless bob together with the broader inventory market. Investing in a person inventory is “placing your whole eggs in a single basket.”

I contemplate 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 observe 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 available in the market. Tara and Rob did a unbelievable job deciding on a brokerage with wonderful low-fee funds.

Tara is appropriate that the expense ratios are a tad larger on a few of their accounts, however none of them are outrageous. Typically, you wish to intention for the bottom potential charges as a result of there’s no motive 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 how you can discover a fund’s expense ratio? Try the tutorial in this Case Examine.

Tara’s Query #2: Taxes

Any tax determination will depend upon Tara and Rob’s gross annual revenue. Typically, for those who 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 possibly can–and may–benefit from what’s accessible. However, for the overwhelming majority of individuals–and particularly for those who’re taking the usual deduction–there’s no “one bizarre trick” to saving cash on taxes. It will get extra refined 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 autos Tara and Rob can look into:

  • Retirement accounts, akin 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 set 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 just a few others that don’t apply to Tara and Rob, however might be useful to different readers:

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

Date evening out!

I don’t 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 people can discover their candy spot of “luxurious frugality” the place all their wants are met, they’re in a position to afford some “desires,” and so they’re financially on monitor for his or her future. On the finish of the day, life’s too quick to spend it doing stuff you hate and that’s the place I believe 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 as a way to spend on the issues that matter essentially the most.

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

I’ve written about this subject fairly a bit through the years, 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 preserve frugality with out feeling the undertow of deprivation.

Purpose Readability

A Center Japanese unfold ready by Rob

I additionally surprise 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 desires to transition to a brand new job. I’m wondering if they may 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. We’re at the moment in a unbelievable job marketplace for staff and Rob ought to capitalize on that! I think about there are many non-classroom-teacher careers accessible to somebody along with his expertise, akin to: curriculum growth, textbook creation, consulting, and so forth? Former lecturers, please share your recommendation within the remark part!

Frugality Ought to Not = Nervousness

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

Tara, you and Rob haven’t any motive 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 your smart selections, 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, but it surely does imply constructing aware treats into your way of life on the common.

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

Maybe set up a schedule for eating out–weekly, bi-weekly, month-to-month–then go to the restaurant and have a beautiful time figuring out that you simply’ve deliberate, prioritized and saved to make it potential. Perceive that that is very totally different from defaulting to take-out each evening since you did not meal plan. That is strategic luxurious and it’s how frugality stays tenable for a lifetime. My husband and I eat out commonly and each single time, it’s a pleasant expertise. We don’t stress about the price as a result of it’s a deliberate expense. You possibly can construct restaurant meals into your finances in precisely the identical method you embody groceries, HOA charges, and so forth.

Mountaineering in Arkansas

Right here’s how you can be strategically luxurious:

  1. Establish your priorities
  2. Spend on these
  3. Get rid of spending on non-priorities

There’s truthfully little level in being uber frugal for those who’re not utilizing a few of your financial savings for the belongings 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 for those who can’t ever get pleasure from it?


  1. Make a reservation at a restaurant, get pleasure from your date evening, really feel zero guilt, and decide to doing it commonly! Let me know for those who want me to make the reservation for you.
  2. Discover methods to include enjoyable and spontaneity into your ultra-frugal finances. Create a plan, put aside funds, and really feel assured that you simply’ve labored laborious to make this enjoyable potential.
  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 energetic job search, particularly in gentle of the present purple sizzling job market.
  6. Decide your capital positive aspects 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 contemplate if you wish to discover further tax-advantaged methods, akin to:
    1. Maxing out Tara’s 401k
    2. Opening an IRA (for Tara, 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 will have for Tara? We’ll each reply to feedback, so please be happy to ask questions!

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

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