5 Money Moves You Need to Make

By | 2016-10-17

Over the last few weeks I have spent a lot of time thinking about the events that have improved our financial situation. While I am a firm believer in small incremental changes over time, there are a few moves that stand out over the rest. Obviously, these aren’t a get rich quick scheme, but some actions have a bigger impact than others. Here are the 5 Best Money Moves we have made to date.

1. Student Loan Refinance

My student loans are, by far, the biggest financial mistake I have made. I put us in a $85,000 hole before we were married and initially didn’t have a plan to get out of it. When you get interest statements in the the mail totaling over $5,000 for the year, you take notice. Thankfully Mrs. AE overlooked my terrible choice and stuck with me.

After a few years, I finally got my act together and found a way to refinance my student loans. We will save over $3,000 in interest charges, along with a shorter payoff period. I had already paid my loan balance down to $44,000 before re-financing. If I would have done it right away the savings would be significantly higher.

I have been dreaming about the extra $1,000 a month once these loans are gone. Looking to significantly boost our savings rate.

The refinance was done through SoFi, the company was great to work with, if you have student loans go check them out. You can use this link to get $100 (I will be paid $100 as well).

You can read my full student loan story here – including my first attempt at refinancing

2. Personal Properties

I covered a lot of this in my recent Mortgage Refinance post. But I will break this down into two sections – our first home and the mortgage refinance.

First Home

By all the standard home buying financial metrics we failed on the purchase of our first home. Only 3.5% down, PMI, and the mortgage was over 35% of our combined salaries. Not a real wise decision.

The one thing we did do right, is buy at the right time in the right location. 2.25 years later we walked with over 25K in profit plus the equity we built. This wont always happen, but it shows that sometimes risks do pay off. Until we are FI, I will treat our primary residence as an investment.

Mortgage Refinance

I wont spend a lot of time on this since I recently did an entire post on the subject. But I have a feeling their are still people unnecessarily paying over 4% interest on their mortgage. Set the minimum amount of money on fire already – take action and refinance.

Look into a refinance ASAP if you haven’t if your rate is over 3.5%, you wont regret it

3. ESPP

Our company put together a pretty generous Employee Stock Purchase Plan, I covered all of the details in my “Company Stock: Must Own or Hard Pass” post. To date we have made over $10,000 by participating in the plan over the last 5 years.

By checking a box and signing our name we were able to make a good amount of money. A lot of people don’t participate – the last number I heard was 41% participation. Sure, there are reasons to not participate in a plan like this. But if you trust the leadership and can review the quarterly earnings report the window you are at risk is pretty small. For us its 3 Months, some plans you can sell right away.

The original $10,000 has grown to a number I can’t even calculate. We use the money to make lump sum debt payments or pump up our Roth IRA accounts.

 

4. Tax Advantaged Accounts

For anyone in the US, taking advantage of tax advantaged accounts is a no brainer. There are to many benefits to ignore. We use our 401Ks and Roth IRAs currently.

401K

Employer Match – We get about $2,000 per year from our employer match. Its actually below average, you could be leaving more than that on the table.

Tax Savings – This isn’t a 100% accurate, but we put over $16,000 a year into our 401Ks pre tax. If we paid 28% on that money it would be $4,400 more a year in income tax. I am all for keeping as much of our money as possible. We will be taxed when we withdraw, but we are assuming our incomes will be low enough to put us in a lower tax bracket.

Growth – I haven’t calculated out the growth on that $4,400 over the years, but based on other charts I have seen it will make a significant difference down the line.

Roth IRA

A lot of people recommend maxing out your 401K before looking at a Roth, but I like to cover both ends of the Tax Advantaged accounts. Part of the reason is I was looking for a place to put money from financial windfalls, but I also like the idea of not paying taxes on investment gains.

The investment opportunities in a Roth IRA are also beneficial compared to our 401Ks. We have a lot more control to seek out great funds with low expense ratios or diversify into REITs if we want.

I obviously can’t calculate the savings on this – check back in 30 years.

5. Education and Action

This is the only move on the list that I can’t quantify, but has had the biggest impact by far. Learning how to improve our finances, and actually putting the ideas into practice has made all of the above possible.

Both parts are required to move the needle. Action without knowledge can be dangerous, knowledge without action is worthless.

Find your Financial Motivation and start making incremental tweaks to improve your situation. You don’t need to be a financial guru to create wealth. Simply finding ways to turn savings into investments in cheap funds will get you 80% of the way there.

Honorable Mentions

There are a few other items I feel are worth mentioning that have made significant impacts in our financial life.

  • Automation – This is key to our strategy, we automatically pay our self first every 2 weeks. If money is tight, start small and build it up over time. Initially the money is not that important, building out the saving habit is key early on.
  • Transportation – We save over $3,500 per year on transportation costs by using Public Transportation.

 

Take Aways

I only want you to take one thing away from this post – we are not unique. Depending on your position you can use some or all of the above techniques to improve your financial situation. All you need is a little knowledge and a little action.

 

Some products that can help you:

Disclosure Policy

Personal Capital: Personal Capital has a ton of great Free features, you can track your spending, net worth and even analyze your portfolio. It has top notch security and I am able to connect all of my accounts. Saves a ton of time!

Sofi – I saved a ton of money using SoFI for a Student Loan Refinance. They were great to work with, the process was super easy (compared to my previous refi) and I got a great rate. If you have student loans be sure to check them out.

15 thoughts on “5 Money Moves You Need to Make

  1. G
    Graham @ Reverse The Crush

    Excellent advice,
    $5000 in interests costs is an alarming amount. My student loan was only about $21,000 in total so the most interest I ever paid in a year was around $1000. Even still though, that’s a good chunk per year.

    I also couldn’t agree more on taking advantage of stock sharing plans. I definitely took advantage of my plan while at the bank. I was able to contribute up to 9% of my salary and then they matched 50% of that. It accumulated quickly with the dividends.

    The tax advantaged accounts need to be utilized too. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      Thanks Graham,

      It was alarming, motivated me to get my shit together for sure. $1,000 is nothing to sneeze at either.

      If you trust your company and its history you should rarely pass these opportunities up.

      Reply
  2. Matt @ Optimize Your Life

    I’d like to add a caveat to number 1. I opted not to refinance my student loans. I have direct loans with the federal government, and so I can take advantage of a number of different repayment strategies. The one I chose was the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. I pay a percentage of my income to my loan servicer every month and after 120 on-time payments that occur while I am working in public service, the balance is forgiven. This is saving me far more (in the six figures) than a consolidation to a lower interest rate would.

    That said, I graduated law school with an obscene amount of student loan debt and most people are likely not in that situation.

    100% agree with everything else (although I have not purchased property yet), but it is more interesting to bring up the disagreements. 🙂

    Thanks for a great post!

    Reply
    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      Thats a great point Matt – since I don’t work for a Public Service Org that option is not available to me. If you have the option you should absolutely look into that option.

      haha – varying views are what make this community great, bring your experience

      Reply
  3. Mr. PIE

    AE

    Your are doing mighty fine work. Like compound interest,the growth you will get in net worth and the lessons of life is so much more than the addition of 1+2+3+4+5.

    In our experience, the 401k max out and company match for each of two people working is YUUGE !?

    If you can balance that with regular drip into a taxable account also with the plan to retire early and use those funds prior to age 59.5 ( unless you are planing ahead to do a 72 t distribution or Roth conversion), you will be golden.

    Reply
    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      Thanks Mr. Pie

      We are looking forward to the market gains to start overtaking our contributions and really get this show moving. I have read your posts on the 401K growth, definetely a motivator

      Reply
  4. S
    Stefan - The Millennial Budget

    Great advice here AE. Once you get rid of these high interest loans the extra money can certainly be used to supercharge your savings and allow you to achieve whatever your financial goals may be. Unfortunately my company has no ESPP plan, or none that I know of but once you get to partner (8-10 years) it makes no difference as the salary is ridiculous.

    Reply
    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      Really looking forward to killing off these loans – have made some big strides in the last 2 months.

      Thats pretty awesome, assuming you start sharing in profits at that stage

      Reply
  5. Amanda @ centsiblyrich

    All great money moves, AE! It’s been so long since we’ve had student loans, I don’t remember many details (I’m old), but I know we did consolidate and refi them to get the rate down as we were working on paying them off.

    I love that you included education and action. Lately, I’ve had some people mention to me that they just aren’t interested in personal finance. While I don’t totally get that because I LOVE it, I understand they don’t love the topic like I do. But I think it’s so important to get a basic understanding and take action. Whether or not we want to admit it, money plays a huge role in each of our lives. It’s important to take control, rather than let it control you.

    Reply
    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      Education and Action are my favorite for sure, if you don’t learn the basics money will control you forever.

      I did a consolidation and a refinance – the consolidation was kind of a disaster

      Thanks for the comment and read!

      Reply
  6. Mustard Seed Money

    I’m with you when it comes to the Roth IRA. I originally contributed up to the match with my 401k and then maxed out my contribution to my Roth IRA. I reasoned that I could diversify my tax bill in the future as I wasn’t sure if taxes were going up or down. Although I truly believe they will go up in order to pay for entitlements.

    Reply
    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      I am sure they will go up over time, just have to balance that with the tax bracket you will be in when you withdraw.

      The fact that no one knows makes me lean towards the throw money in both bucket strategy.

      Reply
  7. Financial Panther

    Totally agree with you about refinancing student loans. If you’re in a position where you aren’t expecting any sort of loan forgiveness, then refinancing makes absolute sense. The reason most people don’t do it right away is because of lack of knowledge or because it seems harder than it really is.

    I know for myself, I wasted over a year paying unnecessarily high interest rates when I could’ve refinanced right away. It definitely cost me thousands by not doing that.

    Reply
    1. Apathy Ends Post author

      I wasted years as well, unfortunate – but at least we finally wised up and got our act together!

      Reply
  8. Martin - Get FIRE'd asap

    $85k in student loans!! Wow that’s a lot AE but I guess, for some professions, it’s even more. I didn’t go to college so can’t imagine starting off my working life with such a huge debt. Good on you for actively reducing it and taking whatever steps needed to get rid of it asap. As you say right at the start, the path to FI is not a short one but it can be shortened by taking lots of small steps as well as a few big ones to get get there, Nice work and good luck.

    Reply

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