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Naked With Cash: Betsey S, May 2014

Naked With Cash [1] is an ongoing series at Consumerism Commentary [2] in which readers share their households’ finances with other readers. These participants benefit from the accountability that comes from tracking their finances publicly and the feedback of the four expert Certified Financial Planners (CFPs).

For more information, read this introduction. [3]

This year, we have four participants who will share their financial reports, exposing the results of their financial choices. Each participant is paired with one of our Certified Financial Planners. The experts will provide insight and guidance that will help our participants take their finances to the next level by the end of 2014. Learn about this year’s participants and experts. [1]

Betsey is single and works as a government analyst in a job that she is still relatively new at, in a city she recently moved to. She lives with two roommates in order to keep her living costs down, but Betsey is saving up for a down payment on a home. In the long-term, Betsey hopes to retire comfortably and start a business brewing craft beers. (Read her update from last month [4].) This month, the topic deals with changes to income.

After reading Betsey’s comments, you can see video commentary from Sara Stanich, CFP. Sara Stanich appears courtesy of Stanich Group [5] and Cultivating Wealth [6]. This month, Betsey will share information about her short-term financial goals.

Betsey’s Net Worth Statement

Betsey’s Income Statement

Comments and analysis from Betsey S

I got one state tax refund back in May, and I am still tracking down another state refund. I’m hoping to put the money towards some of my short-term goals. I have enough money set aside for three weddings this summer, and I also started saving up to buy a new computer. My laptop is from 2007 and basically doesn’t have the processing power any more to handle software I use for work, which in turn limits my flexibility in working from home.

‚ÄčI don’t have a retirement savings goal at this point other than “as much as I can.” For me, that means trying to reach maximum contribution levels for a 401(k), Roth IRA, and HSA while still trying to balance that with goals like buying a house and living in an expensive city.

I contribute 10% of my salary to a 401(k) and my employer matches 5%. I’m not fully vested in the matching dollars for another two years. My plans are to contribute up to the IRS limit of $17,500 per year starting in September. I have about $7,000 in a Roth IRA but don’t plan to contribute more until I finish maxing out the 401(k) to reduce taxable income. Eventually, I’d like to put after-tax money into that account as well. Contributing to my HSA to cover higher health expenses later in life is another retirement savings option I’d like to take advantage of while I have an eligible health insurance plan.

3% of my salary goes into a retirement pension that would pay out in an annuity as 1% of my salary for every year of government service (e.g. if you retire after 30 years, the annuity is equal to 30% of your three highest average salary years). If I left for a private sector job, I’d get a lump sum of my contributions back and would definitely stick it in a Roth IRA.

Feedback from Sara Stanich, CFP

Sara takes a look at Betsey’s finances, and shares insights into her retirement savings plan.

Feedback from Luke Landes

It looks like May was a successful month for you! Good job in keeping your expenses low. Your fitness expense is growing — can you tell me more about that? Are you working with a personal trainer? I’ve been working with a personal trainer for about a year and it’s really helping me. I generally don’t have the motivation to work out by myself, so having appointments three times a week, with an expert who can guide me through activities has helped quite a bit.

In lieu of a plan for retirement, putting as much money as possible into tax-advantaged accounts is the next best thing. Getting into some of the details, just make sure that if you’re contributing to your 401(k) beyond the maximum that qualifies for your employer’s matching contribution, make sure the investments you’re choosing are sufficiently fee-free. Expense ratios and management fees for investments in 401(k) plans can often be higher, and if you’re not getting the benefit of an employee match beyond a certain contribution amount, you may be better off investing in tax-advantage accounts outside of your 401(k), with a brokerage that focuses on low-cost index funds like Vanguard. That’s a good discussion to have with Sara if you haven’t already, or even with a free adviser offered by your 401(k) plan administrator.

The pension is definitely a benefit that will help you in retirement.

2 Comments (Open | Close)

2 Comments To "Naked With Cash: Betsey S, May 2014"

#1 Comment By Anonymous On July 6, 2014 @ 7:30 am

Love this post! I’m impressed by Betsey’s willingness to really put herself out there – I’m not sure I’d have the guts to publish my personal finances. Although she doesn’t seem to be doing too badly – good for her!

Also some great critiques.

#2 Comment By Anonymous On July 11, 2014 @ 1:23 pm

Unfortunately, it seems my last post of questions on Betsey’s case was either not approved or simply disappeared, to my chagrin. I am wondering why Betsey and her CFP here are focusing on reducing tax liability now and how she/they came about an additional $2k tax liability figure mentioned previously by not contributing to regular TSP vice Roth TSP? The effective tax rate would suggest it would be much lower. Please provide rational for not contributing to either Roth TSP or RIRA in favor of reducing taxable income? I can’t help think this couples in with the fact Bestsey does not have a retirement plan at this point and saving as much as you can (basically for the sake of saving). Good in one regard, but I’m a little bemused and rather upset the CFP’s and Luke’s feedback haven’t touched on this, given we are half through this series already. Seems to me to be a fundamental point of having a budget and “retirement saving” is to actually have some sort of plan. I think this couples as to why I have seen any feedback on the choice to reduce taxable income now over tax free benefits over the long term.

Also, Luke’s feedback on this post seems like an automated response, because he talks about fee-free and about expense ratios in employer’s 401k plans, and tax efficient outside of 401K, etc, as if he forgot that her 401k plan is the Government’s TSP. Did Luke forget the background of the people being highlighted in this series?