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

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

Tara and her husband Rob reside 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 in some unspecified time in the future as a result of stressors of being within the classroom. Tara likes her job, regardless of her considerably stagnant earnings. The couple isn’t certain 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 suggestions for efficiently residing a frugal life-style for the long-term.

What’s a Reader Case Research?

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

For an instance, take a look at the final case examine. Case Research are up to date by individuals (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 Aim Of Reader Case Research

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

Comfortable 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 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 ladies, non-binary of us and males. I’ve featured transgender and cisgender folks. I’ve had cat folks and canine folks. I’ve featured of us 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 of us who reside on farms and people who reside in New York Metropolis.

The aim is variety and solely YOU will 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 temporary story to me at

Reader Case Research Pointers

I in all probability don’t have to say the next since you of us are the kindest, most well mannered commenters on the web, however please be aware 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 folks to not make severe monetary choices based mostly solely on what one particular person on the web advises. 

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

Tara’s Story

Tara’s beloved passion

Howdy! 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 reside 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 acquired a two-bedroom rental in 2017.

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

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

We aren’t certain if we’d prefer 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 certain 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 attaining monetary independence is a pipe dream for 2 folks on salaries like ours, or whether it is lifelike. 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 we’ve got questions starting from if our present monetary setup might enable us to retire early in addition to discrete, particular methods we might save extra. We’re dedicated savers, and we wish to see how far we are able to go and what we may very well be doing in a different way. We additionally need to discover ways to successfully stability our financial savings with the methods we need 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 in that case, when. Our monetary future will assist us suppose by means of different questions on our profession, life-style, and the way we reside our every day lives. It appears urgent that we affirm we’re allocating our investments correctly. We additionally lack information about taxes and need to set ourselves up for future monetary success.

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

Rob actually likes to bake

The most effective 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, taking part in video games, or pursuing our hobbies. I play piano and take classes from a neighborhood 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 passion he began in adolescence and resumed throughout the pandemic. This has been an amazing artistic outlet for him, and has lowered his work-related stress degree. It has additionally boosted his confidence and shallowness, particularly as he has begun to do minor fee work.

We take pleasure in our freedom and discover nice companionship in one another and our pets. We take pleasure in being child-free by selection, and haven’t any plans to vary that life-style. We deliberately reside quiet lives, and we’ve got 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 hectic and demanding profession. Instructing is a vital and noble occupation, and many individuals thrive within the classroom. However 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 degree 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 snug residing as a instructor. Actually, 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 take pleasure in. 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 earn a living from home, which supplies me the pliability I have to stroll canines within the neighborhood. That is one thing I actually take pleasure in doing, each as a result of it helps out mates and neighbors and since it helps me make somewhat extra cash.

The one criticism I’ve about my present work scenario pertains to my earnings. My wages have stagnated and certain won’t enhance within the close to future. This isn’t a difficulty with my job particularly; it’s a reality of life within the wider publishing trade. I earn a snug earnings, 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 depart a job that serves me nicely and that I take pleasure in 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 certain if we need to go full FIRE, however we definitely need to have choices.
  • We hope to nonetheless be on the financial savings trajectory we’re at present on.


  • We don’t see any cause to vary our life-style and routine. We don’t need to buy a single-family house and we don’t plan on transferring. We’re snug 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 handle 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 rental might present a rental earnings sometime if we selected that route.


  • Rob wants a profession change. We aren’t certain what that can appear to be. He’s artistic and prefers to work alone, and in a quiet setting. He may do nicely with working from house.
  • If we each labored from house, nonetheless, we would have to rethink our housing scenario. I don’t plan to make any profession adjustments.

Tara & Rob’s Funds


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

Mortgage Particulars

Merchandise Excellent mortgage stability Curiosity Charge Mortgage Interval and Phrases Fairness (quantity you’ve paid off) Buy worth and yr
 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 Identify 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 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 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 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 $97,773.21 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 basically 0% curiosity Financial institution of America N/A
Complete: $384,040.67


Automobile make, mannequin, yr 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 price $278.96 Required by our rental neighborhood
Piano classes for Tara $220.00
Misc. $200.00 Garments (thrifted!), private objects, medical / dental / imaginative and prescient, and so forth.
Common pet vet payments $150.00 Tough common of what we spend over a yr for vet take care of 3 cats
Journey price range $150.00 Varies by yr and relying on the price of the journeys we need to take.
Restaurant cash $150.00 Consists of date night time and outings with mates
Rob’s passion $100.00
Vitality invoice $85.00
Fuel $75.00
Automobile insurance coverage for each automobiles $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.
Presents $40.00
Farm Sanctuary donation $35.00
Cell telephones $33.55 Mint 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: $3,743.72 I’m not fairly certain the best way to account for the random issues in life (the washer breaks, the automobile wants new brakes, we want a brand new equipment, a pet or particular person has a serious well being situation, and so forth.) However it is a tough estimate! 
Annual whole: $44,924.64

*Word: my employer pays for our web since I earn a living from home, which is why it’s not listed above.

Credit score Card Technique

Card Identify Rewards Sort? Financial institution/card firm
Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card 5% at Amazon and Entire 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 way of life.

The woods are a cheerful 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 achieve the annual IRS-allowed max?
    • I contribute 15% to this proper now, which exceeds my employer match requirement. I’ve a selection about what sort of contributions to make and I select to make Roth contributions.
  • Are there any steps we might 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 sources over to Vanguard’s Complete Inventory Market Index Fund Admiral Shares, as an illustration?

Background Data:

We now have 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 need to know if we should always shift our investments solely 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 supplied by the Vanguard Complete Inventory Market Index Fund ETF, however in addition 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 finest to have extra in a single large 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’ve got full management every month over how a lot cash we save. If we’ve got an emergency or want to avoid wasting for one thing, we are able to 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. Nonetheless, I feel financially we’d be advantageous maxing out my 401k (and Rob’s) and having sufficient left over to reside, save, and make investments extra in our different account. I additionally really feel unusual about going by means of my employer every time I have to 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 scenario.

We additionally like the concept that we are able to entry our cash higher by means of our present methodology than if extra have 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 alleged to belief index funds relating to investing our cash. Is there any nuance to that normal precept? Ought to we think about investing in particular shares with confirmed observe data, so as to probably increase our earnings? I’ve thought of investing in Amazon, Costco, and different shares. We don’t at present maintain particular person shares, however I need to know if that’s one thing we would 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 at the hours of darkness on.

3) Dwelling a Frugal Life-style?

  • How do you stability a dedication to frugality with a really human have to 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, motion pictures, and so forth.)?

Background Data:

We have been closely influenced by Liz’s e book, Meet the Frugalwoods, and commenced saving aggressively years in the past. We now have continued to refine our financial savings methods and now save greater than 50% of our earnings yearly. Our degree 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 we’ve got had some conversations currently in regards to the methods frugality can turn out to be a supply of hysteria.

Generally 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. For example, we not often depart our house for meals, and typically want we might exit on extra dinner dates. That is particularly essential for me, since I earn a living from home. It’s also essential for Rob, since it might be good to present him an occasional break from cooking. We additionally thrift practically all of our clothes, and typically 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 will take a light-weight toll on our psychological well being. Non-essential purchases could be fraught with guilt. We are likely to forgo issues we want and reside 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 accomplished!

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

  1. Rob is the very best bartender

    Get rid of debt! It’s robust to maneuver ahead on monetary objectives in the event 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 residing bills held in an easily-accessible financial savings or checking account.
  3. Observe your bills! With the intention to know the way a lot you want in your emergency fund, you might want to know the way a lot you spend each month. The best manner to do that is with a free on-line program, such because the one supplied by Private Capital, which is what I exploit and suggest (affiliate hyperlink).
  4. Contribute to your retirement account and be on observe given your age and deliberate retirement date! In case your employer presents a match, you’ll want 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–you might want to set-up a person retirement plan, similar 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 in the event you’ve accomplished steps #1 -4. Utilizing a bank card responsibly–which suggests paying it off in full each month–is a superb and straightforward option to earn rewards. I really like my money again card and earned $712.59 from it final yr. Right here’s how.
  6. Open a taxable funding account! That is one other non-obligatory subsequent step in the event you’ve accomplished steps #1 -5. Investing within the inventory market is one option to have your cash earn more money. Questioning the best way to get began? The most effective primer on investing (for my part) is JL Collins’ Easy Path to Wealth (affiliate hyperlink).
  7. Discover different tax-advantaged automobiles! One other non-obligatory step if #1-6 are accomplished. Such accounts embrace (however should not restricted to): Donor Suggested Funds and 529s.

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

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 totally different accounts?

  • If it have been me, I’d consolidate to 1 high-yield financial savings account, such because the American Specific Private Financial savings accountwhich–as of this writing–earns 1.75% in curiosity (affiliate hyperlink).
  • Tara & Rob would earn $355 on their cash in a yr 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 suggests three months’ price of spending = $11,231.16 and 6 months = $22,462.32. Good job, Tara and Rob!


We love 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:

Intention to avoid wasting no less than 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 earnings, 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 out there, 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 out there 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:

  • Comply with these directions on the best way to 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 right this moment’s examine: 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 suggests what I say under is fake. Tara’s 401k contributions are NOT pre-tax.

Like the remainder of the world, Rob realized the best way to bake sourdough throughout the pandemic

Some retirement accounts, together with Tara’s 401k, are pre-tax. Meaning you don’t pay taxes on the cash you contribute to those accounts. You do pay taxes while you take this cash out in retirement; BUT, this usually works in your favor as a result of your tax bracket ought to be decrease in retirement since your earnings is more likely to be decrease (assuming you’re now not working). If Tara and Rob need to lower their taxable earnings, maxing out Tara’s 401k–which is $20,500 in 2022–is a simple manner to take action. Nonetheless, 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; in the event you achieve this earlier than then, you’ll pay a penalty. As Tara famous, the entire level of a 401k is that you just don’t contact that cash!

Rob’s retirement account–a Roth IRA–is taxed within the reverse manner 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 into a Roth IRA, however you don’t pay taxes while you withdraw the cash in retirement.
  • A Roth IRA grows tax free.
  • It is advisable 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 depends upon your earnings 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 conventional 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 while you withdraw the cash in retirement.
  • There are not any earnings limits. Anybody can contribute to a conventional IRA.
  • It is advisable 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 (similar to a 401k, 403b, IRA, SEP IRA, and so forth) is smart 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 earnings). The IRS has this helpful chart outlining Roth IRA choices. Assuming Tara and Rob are “married submitting collectively” and their MAGI is beneath $204k, the utmost allowable contribution for every of them is $6,000/yr.

If he needed, Rob might additionally open a conventional IRA, which might be a pre-tax account (and thus, would each scale back their taxable earnings and enhance his retirement financial savings). Nonetheless, 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 might additionally open a conventional IRA and contribute $6k yearly. That is an alternative choice for additional decreasing their taxable earnings, if that’s a precedence for them.

Nonetheless: earlier than making any choices about IRAs, I’d first need to know what choices Rob has by means of 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 in a different way than plain previous taxable investments. With taxable investments, there are not any age, earnings, or contribution limits, and don’t obtain any preferential tax remedy. Therefore, their title: “taxable investments.”

If all the pieces I simply mentioned sounded utterly incomprehensible–however you’re curious–I HIGHLY suggest you take a look at 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 numerous Vanguard accounts into their Complete Market Index fund comes all the way down to capital positive aspects taxes. You must pay capital positive aspects taxes on the earnings (not the full quantity) your shares have earned through the years.

What you pay in capital positive aspects taxes depends upon a number of components:

  • How lengthy you’ve had your investments:
    • Brief-term capital positive aspects taxes–while you’ve held shares for lower than one yr–are greater than long-term capital positive aspects 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 to procure them:
    • In different phrases, how a lot these investments have appreciated since you bought them.
  • Your earnings.

For extra on capital positive aspects taxes, take a look at 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 have been me, I’d put all the pieces into one whole market, low-fee index fund that matched my asset allocation wants and threat tolerance. The reason being that, normally, investing in a complete market index fund offers you the broadest doable 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 supplies you a ton of variety. If one firm–and even one sector–tanks, your whole 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 simple to implement and preserve.

Going ahead, if it have been me, I’d concentrate on 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 quite a lot of of us prefer to put money into as a result of bonds are a lower-risk (though additionally lower-reward) funding automobile.

Is it Sensible 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’ve gotten a foul quarter. If you’re as a substitute invested throughout your entire inventory market, firms can go bankrupt and your portfolio will nonetheless 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 passion, not a monetary technique. In case you actually take pleasure in day buying and selling and need 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 need to be aware 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 choosing a brokerage with glorious low-fee funds.

Tara is appropriate that the expense ratios are a tad greater on a few of their accounts, however none of them are outrageous. Generally, you need to goal for the bottom doable charges as a result of there’s no cause 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 the best way to discover a fund’s expense ratio? Take a look at the tutorial in this Case Research.

Tara’s Query #2: Taxes

Any tax choice will depend upon Tara and Rob’s gross annual earnings. Generally, in the event you work within the US, have a W2 earnings, and aren’t a billionaire, there aren’t actually all that many tax-advantaged choices out there to you. You possibly can–and may–benefit from what’s out there. However, for the overwhelming majority of individuals–and particularly in the event you’re taking the usual deduction–there’s no “one bizarre trick” to saving cash on taxes. It will get extra refined if you’re FIRE’d (or within the tax yr previous to FIRE), which I’ve addressed in earlier Case Research.

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

  • Retirement accounts, similar 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 just 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 here are just a few others that don’t apply to Tara and Rob, however may very well be useful to different readers:

Tara’s Query #3: Dwelling a Frugal Life-style?

Date night time 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 folk can discover their candy spot of “luxurious frugality” the place all their wants are met, they’re capable of afford some “needs,” and so they’re financially on observe 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 reside a life you like.

The entire level of frugality is to avoid wasting on issues that don’t matter to you so 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 help my highest and finest priorities? If sure, nice! If not, then it’s time for a re-adjustment.

I’ve written about this matter 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.

Aim 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 ponder if they may really feel extra snug 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 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 together with his expertise, similar to: curriculum growth, textbook creation, consulting, and so forth? Former academics, please share your recommendation within the remark part!

Frugality Ought to Not = Anxiousness

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

Tara, you and Rob haven’t any cause 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. Via your sensible selections, you and Rob have given yourselves that present. 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 acutely aware treats into your life-style 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 just’ve deliberate, prioritized and saved to make it doable. Perceive that that is very totally different from defaulting to take-out each night time 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 frequently and each single time, it’s a pleasant expertise. We don’t stress about the associated fee as a result of it’s a deliberate expense. You possibly can construct restaurant meals into your price range in precisely the identical manner you embrace groceries, HOA charges, and so forth.

Climbing in Arkansas

Right here’s the best way to be strategically luxurious:

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

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


  1. Make a reservation at a restaurant, take pleasure in your date night time, really feel zero guilt, and decide to doing it frequently! Let me know in the event you want me to make the reservation for you.
  2. Discover methods to include enjoyable and spontaneity into your ultra-frugal price range. Create a plan, put aside funds, and really feel assured that you just’ve labored laborious to make this enjoyable doable.
  3. Contemplate consolidating your money accounts into one high-interest financial savings account.
  4. Analysis the retirement choices and pension supplied by Rob’s employer.
  5. Rob ought to start an lively job search, particularly in gentle of the present purple scorching 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 direction of this account.
  7. Decide your mixed gross earnings after which think about if you wish to discover further tax-advantaged methods, similar 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’ve gotten 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? Electronic mail me ( your temporary story and we’ll discuss.

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