Financial True Confession Time

As previously reported, we here at The Single Dollar are totally committed to anonymous transparency, but seeing as how we’re anonymous (at least, kind of), that relies on we — well, me — actually reporting the numbers correctly.

And lately I…haven’t quite been. Continue reading “Financial True Confession Time”

Growing Net Worth With a Lower Income

Growing Net Worth Lower IncomeI’m going to put “lower income” in quotes here, because, for heaven’s sake, I make $47500 in base salary, plus side hustling that is probably going to amount to $1000-$2000 this year. That ain’t a low low income; it’s not all that far below the median household income for the United States.

But it’s certainly not the kind of income that many PF bloggers have, either through successful freelance businesses, or just because they’re in much better paying fields. Even at under $50K income, and despite a few emergencies, my net worth is steaming along at a respectable pace at this point. I’ll run exact numbers at the end of June, after exactly one year at this salary, but most months I manage a net worth growth of around $1800-$2000, on a gross salary of $4000. Obviously, I’m keeping my expenses low — something people routinely comment on when I do a monthly net worth update. Continue reading “Growing Net Worth With a Lower Income”

Where Does My Paycheck Go?

[I’m traveling for work this week, so this post is pre-scheduled. Responses to comments might be a bit slow. Hopefully by the time you read this, I will be enjoying good weather and not inventing new ways to spend money.]

I got oddly fascinated by the breakdown of my paystub the other day. Sometimes I feel like no sooner do I get paid, than it’s all gone, you know? So, I decided to do a little math. In a standard half-month period (I get paid twice a month), here’s what happens to my paycheck:

  • 10% goes to income taxes (6.6% federal, 2.3% state, and 1.2% county — state/local taxes are way lower here than they were in my previous two jobs)
  • 7.4% goes to FICA (6% Social Security and 1.4% Medicare — interesting, I would have guessed Medicare ate up more of my paycheck than that.)
  • 2.6% goes to health insurance premiums (medical, dental, eyesight).
  • 25% goes to retirement savings

At this point we are up to 45% that disappears from my paycheck before I ever see it! No wonder I feel like it all goes so fast!

The other 55% gets direct-deposited, and that’s what I work with for my actual budget, so at this point I moved away from the paystub and looked at my budget and did more math.

  • 22% goes to various savings accounts (emergency, travel, down payment) — now I’m down to only 33%.
  • 10.7% goes to rent and utilities
  • 7.5% goes to cash for groceries and so on
  • 2.5% goes to transportation (car insurance, gas)

That’s a total of 20.7% for essential monthly expenses, so after all’s said and done I have just 12.3% of my paycheck for spending money and things like medical care, car repairs, clothing and so on. I usually put 2.5% in my slush/free spending account, so there’s just under 10% available for the other stuff.

I actually can’t tell whether that’s a lot, or a little. If anyone feels like doing some similar math, I’d love to know where you’re at.

Why I Budget 4 Ways for “Miscellaneous”

This post is pre-written; I’m away for a few days at a conference. I should still have internet access but responses to comments will probably be slower than usual.

I’ve been refining my budgeting strategy for a while now — as those of you who’ve been following know, since I can’t shut up about it — and there’s one thing I started doing in January that I really like. If you look at my budget categories, you actually see four that could be filed under “misc.” I take out $300 in cash every month; I have a line item for “gremlins” (more on that in a sec) that I’m now putting $100 into every month; I have $500 going into the emergency fund kept in a separate account; and I also have a line item for “slush” that is currently getting about $120 a month. Continue reading “Why I Budget 4 Ways for “Miscellaneous””

Tax Time

2014 taxesI’ve been dying for January because I thought I had a decent chance at a real refund this year, for the first time in ages. (Generally I’ve ended up either owing a small amount, or getting a small refund.) As of yesterday I finally had enough documents in that I could start working on them, and even though I’m not totally done yet, because I’m still waiting for one official W2 and one official 1099 to make an appearance, I think, based on my preliminary calculations, that I was right and I should be able to put a healthy chunk of cash towards my Roth IRA. [Can I take one second to be mildly depressed about this, though, because I’d rather blow it on some new clothes. OK, better now.]

Continue reading “Tax Time”

Deciding on a Retirement Plan Beneficiary (Especially When Unmarried Without Children)

I don’t usually write technical posts, but this one is, more or less, so it needs a big giant disclaimer on the front: I am (OBVIOUSLY) not a financial professional. Please consult someone who actually knows what they’re doing before making any serious moves.

OK, now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’m going to give you some solid advice: whether you’re single or married, make sure your retirement account beneficiaries are properly named and for heaven’s sake, get a will made. [Full disclosure: I’ve done the first, but not the second; it’s on the list for this year.] Continue reading “Deciding on a Retirement Plan Beneficiary (Especially When Unmarried Without Children)”

Finding a Home for Future Me: Creative Housing Options for Solo Retirement

Single Retirement HousingI got an email from a reader the other day — which was cool! I love getting emails! — that said, in part:

Hi, I am so happy to have found your blog! I didn’t know if I’d ever find another single woman in her thirties who writes about personal finance and cooking! I [was frustrated] with only ever hearing from writers who are partnered, which makes for a completely different financial context than my own…. It’s so great to see another me out there!

The writer is planning to start her own blog (which is awesome, and I look forward to plugging it here whenever it launches). I’m looking forward to the company! There aren’t that many 30- and 40-something long-term single bloggers out there; it’s one reason why I really appreciate Tonya from Budget and the Beach. Continue reading “Finding a Home for Future Me: Creative Housing Options for Solo Retirement”

Why I Don’t Percentage-Budget

BudgetUpThere seem to be two schools of thought on budgeting. One suggests certain percentages of your monthly net income to allocate to certain categories: no matter how much you make, spend 30% on housing, 30% on life expenses, 10% on saving, etc. So, with a net income of $1000 monthly, you’d look for housing costing $300 and save $100; with a net income of $5000 monthly, you’d look for housing costing $1500 and save $500. Continue reading “Why I Don’t Percentage-Budget”

2015 goals

Finally, the long-awaited [ed. note — sure, sure] 2015 goals post.

I’ll probably revisit these at some point — for one thing, my job situation might or might not change over the summer. I’m either going to be at the same job, with the same income, for another academic year, or be changing jobs with all the resulting unknowns from that. But for the purposes of this post I’m assuming that I’ll be at my current job through all of 2015.

I’m trying to keep these simple: instead of a dozen goals, I’m making only five, focused around my current priorities. Some of these are more under my control than others — for example, I can definitely contribute $1000 a month to retirement because I’m already doing it and it’s automatic! But the net worth goals are trickier, because they rely in part on things well outside of my control, like whether I have a medical emergency or what the markets decide to do. I’m also setting a pretty aggressive target for monthly cash savings; if I stick to this plan, I’ll be living on about $1150 a month, roughly 1/3 of my net income. I’m going to try this for a few months and see how it goes, but if I’m feeling deprived by the time I do my first-quarter review at the end of March I may have to re-evaluate. Continue reading “2015 goals”