Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Dealing with Property Management Companies

Once we got back to the US we needed to find a place to live. Our household goods weren't scheduled to arrive for about 2 months, and there weren't any desirable openings in military housing. Most people usually choose to camp out on the floor with an air mattress, but--UGH! 2 Months of sleeping on an air mattress? PASS! I was lucky enough to find us a short-term furnished apartment a few miles away from the installation. We did a month to month lease so we could move into military housing once something came available. Well, we ended up being in the apartment for about 2 months. On move out day I went to the property management company and asked them to do the inspection with me present. It went great. They said I would receive my deposit back.

As many military members have come to expect, I did not get my full deposit check back in the mail. They didn't deduct anything for damages, but they deducted $90 for "cleaning fees." I knew there was absolutely no way they did any cleaning on that apartment. It was pristine when I left it. I was so mad it felt like there was fire coming out of my ears. I couldn't decide whether to just let it go or to fight it. After a few days I decided to ask for the refund with the expectation I would get nothing. I sent them an email and played it out like there had been some mistake--giving them an easy out, and presented a list of all items that I had cleaned (cabinets, refrigerator, stove, etc). This afternoon my husband got a call that they were sending a check for $90 and had "hit the wrong button" when putting in the charges. Riiiiight....But, it sounds like we're getting our money back! Woohoo!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Update on job situation and life

The husband had his phone interview a while back. It went great! They called about a week later and asked if he was still interested in the position, because they were going to start contacting his references. He said he was interested, and not much later they emailed and said they would like him to come for an in-person interview in early January. Yay! We think there is a very good chance he is going to be selected for this position, but we will have to wait a few more weeks to find out.

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I've been keeping up with Gnucash, and I think I'm going to keep using it. If there were a version of Quickbooks for personal finances, this would be it. Its layout is very similar and it has the ability to produce reports, just like Quickbooks.

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The bugger has been growing up like crazy! Over the last few weeks he has gotten much better at using his fork and drinking out of a regular (not a sippy) cup. His favorite activity by far is playing at the playground in our neighborhood.

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We have only a minimal TSP contribution remaining for December. This year we contributed the full $18,000. I am planning to shut off the TSP for a while, until we know what the retirement plan looks like at the Husband's new job. If it doesn't have a match, then we will turn it back on and max it out for 2016 before he separates from military service. If there is a match then we will leave the TSP alone and contribute nothing for 2016. (We will make the maximum contribution using his new employer's retirement plan).

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Another month passed...

In the last month, we've moved into our house (military housing) and we've gotten settled in (mostly). We are still waiting on some items we've had in storage to be delivered. Our home is not metered, which means we won't be able to save on utilities, but we won't have to pay anything either.

The Husband has gotten a request for a phone interview, and it will take place next week. We're still early in the hiring season, but we hope he will get a few more bites in the next several weeks.

I've been experimenting with a new bit of financial software I heard about. The software is called Gnucash, and it's free (which is exactly the price I'm willing to pay). I like the double entry accounting-style system, but I'm not sure if it's going to be better for our purposes than the Excel spreadsheets I have been using. We'll see if I can keep our finances organized using it before I ditch the spreadsheets. (I have not received any compensation from Gnucash).

We've nearly maxed out the TSP for 2015, and despite socking away over $1,500 in it this month, our net worth increased by only $400. Hopefully we make better progress in December. We will receive a fair amount of dividends, which will help, but I'm crossing my fingers the stock market comes back up a bit.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Job Search & Applications

The Husband has been busy sending out job applications for next year. As I may have mentioned before, he is planning to transition out of the military and back to his civilian career. Fortunately, the application/hiring timeline for his civilian career matches up with his contract ending. Applications/interviews are typically done in November and December with hiring usually taking place in February (or later).

It's been interesting looking at various positions and where we might want to live. The Husband is originally from Florida, and it's certainly at the top of our list. Florida has reasonable real estate prices, no state income tax, good climate, and is near his family (Hello, free babysitter!). But, there are other good options, and we're fairly open to most situations. So far he's applied for positions in Maine, Virginia, Florida, Missouri, Kansas, and several others scattered all across the country to Hawaii.

I don't think the Husband will have a difficult time finding a job, but the possibility is in the back of my mind. If 6 months from now he has nothing in hand, I will start looking for a position. I used to work in accounting, and I have an inactive CPA license in another state, which I would reactivate. I suspect it's probably considerably easier for me to find a position than it is for him, but we shall see. It's been pretty fun considering all of the possibilities!


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

What do we want to do in retirement?

I suspect a lot of people would wonder, "Why would you want to retire early? What will you do? Why not just work and get some nice stuff out of life?" And the answer is that the things we really want to do don't involve working for money. We have the things we need, and I don't see the point in working in a job I don't find 100% fun, for things I don't particularly want. Some people like their jobs, maybe even to the point they would do them for free. That's not us.

We've given a lot of thought to what we'd like to do if we had endless free time. Mainly, we'd like to:
  1. Move to Florida, buy a small house, and spend a lot of time fishing, grilling out/cooking with friends, homeschooling our son, and taking it easy.
  2. Road trip. A lot. Possibly even doing some longer stints living in a travel trailer near national parks. Explore. Spend a summer in Alaska.
  3. Hike the Appalachian trail. We've hiked a considerable amount, but we've always done day hikes. We're both in reasonably good shape, and feel we stand a fairly good chance of being able to complete the entire trail in one summer. 
  4. Live overseas again. Since we're a military family, most won't find it too surprising that we spent a little over a year living in Korea. Let's go overseas again. Either as international teachers, or something else. (Clearly we don't have this figured out yet).
  5. Do effective & meaningful volunteer work. Help others get out of poverty, help others get an education and quality employment. 
As we think about early retirement longer & longer, our list gets longer and longer. While we're still nearly a decade away from retirement, it will be fun implementing our plans as our date gets closer and closer. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

October Update

This month we came bouncing back from the downturn.

My current strategy is to max out the husband's TSP, and an IRA for each of us. Given our income, it is possible to use the traditional TSP/IRA to reduce our income enough that we pay no income tax. After we hit this point, I switch all of the remaining contributions to the Roth variety. As if that's not complicated enough, I will harvest some gains in our taxable account as the tax rate is 0% as long as they are within the 15% bracket. This is of course assuming that gains exist in our taxable account and the stock market hasn't tanked.

After I have maxed the TSP and the IRAs, I add any remaining money to our taxable account. For this year, we are on track to save approximately $31,000. This number could be higher, but I've been hoarding a bit of cash in case the husband leaves the military and transitions back to civilian life.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Made a new friend!

Yesterday, the Little Bugger and I were at a large playgroup, and a dad (Stay-at-home dads are rare in the military), introduces himself to me and starts talking about how he left the military and replaced his income with his investments. Now, this is a pretty odd topic of conversation for someone you just met, especially in the military where everyone is beyond broke, but not surprisingly, we hit it off great and got our kids together to play today. He has a 1 year old, just a month older than the Little Bugger, and a newborn. I'm really looking forward to getting our kids together again. We had actual adult conversation, and talked about our favorite investments, our favorite blogs (Mr. Money Mustache!) and what our goals are for early retirement. He and his wife are a little older than us, so they are a little further along in their journey, but we will have a lot to talk about when the 4 of us, plus the kids get together. We talked about setting up a barbeque for next weekend, although we don't have any firm plans.

I'm eager for November to arrive, so I can tally up October to see how we did this month. Since we've arrived here at our new duty station, we've had to replace some foods--condiments and such, which has been driving up our food costs. I don't think our food spending has been super low, but I also don't think it has been terrible.

We're not exactly working towards anything specific the rest of the year, as the IRAs are maxed, and the TSP is nearly there. If any cash is left over it will be saved for our possible transition out of the military in 2016.


Saturday, October 24, 2015

Who are we?

We're a military family currently stationed in the central U.S. We're on a quest to become financially independent and travel the world. We have a 1 year old, who we refer to as the "Little Bugger." He has graciously decided to come along for the ride (sometimes not so much).

This blog will chronicle our military adventures, possible transition to civilian life, and growing our net worth.

Stay tuned.