October Financial Check

Can you believe that we are already 3/4 of the way through the year? I don’t know know about you, but in my mind, May was yesterday.

In light of it being 3/4 of the way through the year, I thought we might as well do an update on finances. Maybe one day, I’ll really lay it all out and be totally transparent, but I’m not sure that I will ever be that brave. I’d rather you not know some of my deepest, darkest financial secrets like the fact that I spend way too much eating out at really exciting places… like McDonald’s (Remember, I have a 3 year old and a 5 year old).

Financial Check

Taking Financial Accountability seriously makes cents!

Because I’m just not that brave, we’re only going to lay out our savings.

Our savings Year to Date:
1. Mortgage Principle Reduction: $21,134
2. 529 Plan savings: $2,800
3. IRA: $11,000
4. Savings Account (-11,414) — Boo!
5. 401(k) $25,585 –this includes company match & YTD returns
6. Mr. Keller’s work retirement: $3,600
…… For a grand total of: $52,705!

That’s not too shabby! I’m not going to tell you what our savings percentage is, but it’s not too bad. I could wish that our savings account hadn’t actually decreased over the year, but we had to fund those IRAs somehow.

By sharing this information, I’m trying to encourage everyone to start saving. I’m shocked every time I read how few Americans could come up with $1,000 in an emergency. To be honest, I don’t believe it. I think we underestimate our abilities. How many of you are buying unnecessary crap? I know I am!!

I’m also sharing this financial check is so that you can hold us accountable. I want to have F* You money, and the only way to do that is to save diligently.

One thing that has helped us with our savings rate immensely is to pay off all of our debt. We are debt free except for the house, and you cannot imagine how much money that has freed up on a monthly basis!

I used to have no issue with taking advantage of those 0% credit offers, but today, I smile and say “no, but thank you!” You see, even though those offers technically put us ahead (we were making money on the back of inflation), it was keeping us poor. We were overspending, and we were causing our future selves to pay for our mistakes. Why should future Sarah have to pay for Current Sarah’s shopping habit?

Join us at the end of the year for another financial check!

Make America Great Again!

Donald Trump’s slogan is “Make America Great Again!”  It’s a sign of fear, anger, and a direct result of trickle down economics that this slogan even resonates with anyone.  It’s also unnecessary.  America is great.

America GreatWhy is Trump so successfully tapping into this vein of fear, then?  What reasons do Americans have to feel any fear at all?  There are plenty of things to fear, but many of those things have always existed!  First, global tensions are ever present.  China and North Korea play a strong rhetoric game.  ISIS is a formidable and difficult enemy.  Russia continues to play games in Syria.  The list goes on.  Yet, I don’t think the fears are based on global issues as much as they are domestic concerns.  Global issues like these are not new, and they usually serve as a rallying point for the country.  The fact that they aren’t today bespeaks of a country that is worn out fighting wars over seas.

There are plenty of domestic fears that Trump has tapped into.  First, and easiest to reference is the rise of minorities.  Let’s be real here:  Trumps’ claims that the Mexicans coming into the United States illegally are the dredges of Mexican society are just wrong.  Sure, it’s likely that some are coming into the U.S. to traffic drugs and escape prosecution in Mexico (don’t some U.S. citizens go to Mexico for the same purposes?), but most illegal Mexican immigrants are here trying to make a better life for themselves.  It’s the same reason that my ancestors came to the U.S.!  Should they have been stopped?  Should a giant wall really be built?

Further, Trump has tapped into a fear around religion.  He would have the United States bar Muslims from entry.  Are we so frightened of ISIS that we would bar all Muslims?  That’s giving a terrorist group a lot of credit.  We all know that most Muslims are not radical, right?  This Pew survey says that the vast majority of Muslims around the world do not believe in or support suicide bombings and extremism.  Further, the U.S. has an extreme vetting system already in place for Muslim immigrants.  It’s not perfect, of course, but it’s darn near perfect.

Underneath it all, I think the biggest fear that Trump has tapped into is related to the economy.  Traditional manufacturing jobs have disappeared; replaced by workers over seas and, just as commonly, technology.  Jobs that once supported entire families are gone.  That’s a hard reality to deal with.  Even more difficult to wrap one’s head around is the huge shift in wealth.

According to the Allianz’s Global Wealth Report 2015, the U.S. holds 41.6% of the world’s wealth.  That’s huge!  The next highest country was China at just 10.5% of the world’s wealth.  Take a minute to think about that disparity!  Why on Earth would any of us in the United States complain about the economy?  Oh, wait… I may be able to answer that.  That same report also said that the U.S. had the most wealth inequality with a calculation of 80.56 (where 0 is perfect equality and 100 is perfect inequality).

Clearly, the Trickle Down effect doesn’t work.  For those who may not know, the Trickle Down effect is the idea that if you allow the richest people to grow richer, the wealth will trickle down as the rich people create more jobs.  This is actually a fairly entrenched idea in the U.S., but it’s been proven false.  Wealth does not trickle down.  The rich just get richer and the poor just get poorer, while the economy has a whole suffers.  Researchers have even calculated that when the richest 20% of society increase their income by one percentage point, the annual rate of growth shrinks by nearly 0.1% within five years.  Why would the economy shrink?  As the poor lose their share of the wealth, they struggle to pay for education and health care, which obviously hurts society as a whole.

All of these negative things are happening, and yet, I claim that America is still great.  How could it not be?  The American people make America great.  We are an enterprising, hopeful people.  We dream big, and we have high expectations.  We live in a society where someone like me (a woman) can strive to have it all.  We’ve had dark periods throughout our history where the economy skewed towards the rich and we were deeply embattled at home and globally, but we’ve always come out swinging and better than ever.  Why would now be any different?

This past weekend I was moved to tears as I watched 4 different groups of St. Jude runners go by.  These are people who are running miles upon miles to raise money for the St. Jude hospitals so that the sickest children in the world receive the medical care that they deserve.  How can a country that is so full of kind, generous people not be great?

Donald Trump cannot “Make America Great Again.”  In many ways, he represents the worst pieces of America (upper class elitist who has moved jobs overseas while selling gambling, booze, and strip clubs).  The collective people of the United States is what makes America great.


Note:  I don’t care if you vote for Trump or Hillary.  This is not a blog post designed to build animosity towards Trump.  It’s really not even intended to be a political post.  I just don’t understand how anyone could think that this great big, beautiful country of ours isn’t great!

Have it all

By most standards, I have it all. I’m married to a supportive man, I have two kids (1 boy, 1 girl, how perfect!), I’m well-educated, leaning in at work, taking time to write in this blog, running a side business, and keeping up with the household chores (most of the time, anyway!). We live on a great property in a house that was built by my grandpa. This means lots of legacy and lots of DIY. I’ve been pretty blessed.

Have it all

Having it all

But do I have it all or do I just have pieces of it all?

In a prior post, I wrote that I feel as though I am perpetually and chronically running behind. I’m playing catch up, unable to keep up with my own scorecard and due dates because I am so busy try to have it all.

Marriage is a partnership, but is it an equal 50/50 partnership?  I’m guessing that in most households, it’s not. I came across a video today–actually a commercial.  You may have seen it as it’s actually going viral.  You can check it out here on Sheryl Sandberg’s facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/sheryl/videos/10156510941810177/?pnref=story.

The video/commercial in question shows a grandfather sitting at the table with his grandson.  He’s watching his daughter as she gets home from work, starts dinner, picks up the toys, and works on laundry, all while participating in a teleconference for her job.  Her husband is sitting in the background watching TV.  Then, there’s a voice over from the grandfather.  He’s written a letter to his daughter, lamenting the bad example that he set in not doing things around the house, and he promises to go home and at least help with the laundry.  It’ s a commercial for Ariel laundry from P&G, but it’s so much more than that!  It’s really a statement on global inequality.

I can really identify with this commercial!  Both Mr. Keller and I grew up in more traditional homes where the wife took care of the household chores and the children while the husband took care of the outside (but heaven forbid the flower beds be included in what is known as the outside!). When we entered into our marriage, I had high hopes of a marriage in which I cooked and he cleaned up after dinner, but I never made that reality happen. Instead, I accepted his expectations (again rationalizing it because we grew up that way and “he’d had a hard day at work”).

Why do I accept this? Why do I accept the fact that I maintain the house, the children, the finances, and our social calendar, all while bringing home more than half of our family’s financial income?  Some days, I feel as though everyone and everything in the little Keller world is dependent upon me. Silly, right? I mean, they won’t starve without me cooking. Eventually, someone else would do laundry. The dusting probably won’t happen, but I’m sure that Mr. Keller would get the kids ready in the morning if I just refused. BUT, I don’t.

Mr. Keller is a wonderful man.  I’m not trying to complain about him.  I’m simply sharing my thoughts on how our household got to where we are today.

I’ve put myself in this position, but so has society.  Stereotypes and gender expectations have had a huge influence in my life and, I’m sure others.

The feminist movement was great… until it wasn’t.  You see, I don’t think feminists expected the world I live today.  They fought so that I could vote, work a job, and be reliant upon myself.  I don’t think they expected that women would do all of those things while still shouldering the bulk of the household chores.  You see, I’m competitive and ambitious; I want to be the best.  I want to win at being the best wife, mom, housewife, and employee.  I want to have it all, but I’m realizing that something has to give.

Financial Accountability

“Life was harder before I started!” I heard that quote the other day on a Dave Ramsey podcast. The speaker was someone there to do her debt free scream, and she was referencing her budget. Prior to following Dave’s Baby Steps and holding herself to financial accountability, her life was harder!

Financial Accountability

Taking Financial Accountability seriously makes cents!

How could that be? Before she sat down and created her budget, her family just spent their paycheck. Like most Americans, I’m sure they thought they were fine as long as they could pay their mortgage, car payment, credit card minimums and still pay the power bill and put food on the table, but they found themselves in debt and stressed out; they were managing their lives around their debt payments.

That’s certainly how I felt before we went on the Dave Ramsey Baby Step program!  The funny thing is that I didn’t even realize that I felt stressed out by our debt until I started to really make a plan to eliminate the debt!  I realized that up until the Keller family implemented a budget, we were really being managed by our debt payments.  I had no real idea where our money was going outside of those payments.

Every month, I would make our payments.  I would then spend the rest of the month constantly calculating how much money was left.  If it appeared that there would be a deficit, I would move money over from savings.  I felt as though I was constantly calculating, adjusting, and transferring money.  The budget stopped all of that.  It really was easier!  Now, I just update our Mint.com budget every couple of days and note how much wiggle room we still have in each category!

Now, we’re reached most of our goals and paid off everything except for the house!  BUT, that doesn’t mean that the budget is thrown out the window!  On the contrary, it’s just as important as ever.  Now, rather than pouring money into paying off cars, student loans, and zero percent credit cards, we’re pouring money into retirement accounts, savings, and college savings plans.  After sticking to the budget for a year, it’s natural for us to continue to stick to it!  Holding ourselves financially accountable has truly made life easier!

2015 Financial Review

Mr. Keller and I were talking about our 2015 financial review this morning. It was just a casual discussion as we prepared for our day, but it left me with a lot of emotions and questions. I realized that I needed to take a deeper dive!

2015 Financial ReviewThe quick discussion that we had was really empowering. I was left feeling very proud! We realized the amazing progress we had made in just the last twelve months: student loans, 0% credit cards, and car loans were all paid off! We were left with just our mortgage! In addition to that, we are now regularly funding our children’s college education funds, we started IRAs, and we increased our investment in my 401k. Those are some results!  As Dave Ramsey, would put it, we went from being normal consumers to being Weird!

As I thought more about it, I went from feeling really proud to just being a mixed bag of emotions!  I was still proud, but I was also feeling cautious as I wanted to run the numbers to double check everything.  Additionally, I felt challenged to do more!

First, I pulled up all of our bank accounts and ran the numbers.  We did, indeed, pay off about $60,000 in debt over the past twelve months.  Nearly half of that was an auto loan that we paid off by selling my super nice but excessive GMC Yukon.  We then paid for a Honda Accord, half with cash, and half with a loan, but we paid off that loan just a couple of months later with my bonus.  At this point, we were taking the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University class, and Dave’s teachings about getting rid of all debt really started to sink in!  I took the money out of savings to pay off my student loans and 0% credit card balances!  Before, we had just been making monthly payments on those items because their interest rates were low.  It seemed silly to pay them off when we could afford the monthly payments and pay interest that was less than the typical inflation rate; however, I decided to give Dave Ramsey’s zero debt thing a try.  After all, he’s a successful guy, and we didn’t seem to be making much progress on our own.

I am sooo glad that we finally paid off those debts!  It’s so freeing to only have a monthly debt payment related to our mortgage!  Plus, by removing those monthly payments, we had the cash flow each month to finally set up 529 plans for our children!

Those things are well and good, but I also wondered if our savings had actually increased.  We had put all of this money towards debt re-payment, and much of it had come out of savings.  What was the impact of that?

We actually increased our savings by nearly $43,000!  I had increased my 401k contribution mid-year, and that helped tremendously!  We also opened IRA accounts.  Even better, part of how we reached that $43,000 number was that we were consciously putting money each month into our savings account.  We really have a lot to be proud of in 2015!

I think I’ll probably ruminate on this financial review a little bit longer.  There are lessons here that we can take into 2016 that will help us save more! Once I get those strategies down, I’ll write another post for you!  I’m hoping that by posting the Keller family’s financials, anyone who reads this will feel motivated to improve their financials, too.  Maybe rather than competing among ourselves for the best possessions, we can compete for the highest savings rates!