The Money Minded Mavens: My Inspirational Financial Group

I’ve always been frugal.  Ok, let’s not sugarcoat anything, I’m a cheapskate.  No splurging on clothes, no Lu-Lu lemon or designer threads. I don’t get giddy about shoes, have worn the same Target flats for the past three years, even to work events, and will most likely wear them until the soles wear out. No expensive makeup or beauty products, in fact don’t wear anything but Burt’s Bees face lotion and sunscreen. My hair hasn’t been cut or dyed for over a year (which I admit isn’t something I should tell anyone) and pedicures are an annual affair and in my opinion, take too long.  On vacations, we try to pick Airbnb’s that have kitchens, so we can eat breakfasts and a few meals in, while still enjoying the wonders of being in a new local. Below is a picture of me cooking dinner in Portugal! 

Why do I feel the need to refrain from indulging in any of the above? Multiple reasons, including I’d rather spend my time outside doing something badass then in a beauty salon, but mostly because I’d rather spend my money on more meaningful things. Things that will give me experience and will add to my overall happiness. 

Please do not mistake this admittance as judgement. The more I dive into the glorious world of personal finance, I’m constantly reminded that it is just that. Personal. What you choose to spend your money on is entirely, and rightfully, up to you. But have you ever considered the notion of exchanging an hour of your time chained to your desk for that pedicure or pair of Lu-Lu Lemon pants (which are over $80 dollars!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? They’re workout pants people!!!!!). And there is the lone, economically minded freak. Except I now have a coven.

The Money-Minded Mavens (there are 4 of the ladies on the left) hatched out of conversations with several of my girlfriends out in Colorado, girls who are like-minded, outdoorsy, and had one goal in mind: to share information, tips, research about all things financial. Now, this is not a ‘hey, how much money/debt/investments do you have?’ kind of group. It is a circle of trust formed to empower each other, dive into the intimidating world of index funds, HSA’s, tax deferred accounts, hold ourselves accountable for moving the needle towards Financial Freedom, FIRE, working towards being debt free. These are concepts we dive into each month, bringing our own perspective, takeaways, insight and experience.  

Each member of the group came with different goals in mind, unique life perspectives and positions (some married, some with kids, some who rent, some own), but we all had the desire to learn more. One of my best girlfriends, Janine, has been on the frugal path for quite a while, and has been a dedicated Mr. Money Mustache fan for years, and really helped make the group a reality. For those who are not familiar, and don’t want to dive into the Mustachian madness, he is THE FIRE Guru, a man who retired at 30 by living frugally, investing aggressively, and thinking about the world with an efficient, non-spending mindset. The principals and practices he writes about often align with how I’ve lived my life, how the girls in the Money-Minded Mavens are living theirs. But he has only been the tip of the iceberg! The number of mentors, financial ninjas, Retired-Early podcasters I’ve been introduced to in the past 7 months (our first meeting was in October 2018) has been motivating beyond my wildest imagination. The conversations held in our group have led to life-altering decisions, eye-opening discoveries, jaw dropping realizations.

Here are four things that have had the biggest impact to date:

Tracking my expenditures

I’ve never kept a budget, never had a number in mind that I could or couldn’t spend on groceries, trips, fun, eating out, beer…..I’m frugal so I don’t go overboard, don’t eat out every meal, so I don’t need a budget. I’m still of that mindset, although a budget and knowing what you are spending your money on are two very different things. This financial group has allowed me to dive into these exact things, because you can not manage what you don’t measure.  I started tracking just that after I joined the MMM’s – putting my expenses into different categories and it’s really been eye opening and allowed me to adjust things and be aware of:

    • Where my money is going & how much I’m spending on beer, eating out, groceries
    • My everyday bills
    • How much it actually costs me to live in a month, where I could cut back and months I may have expenses that aren’t monthly (vet bills, ski passes, trips)

 

Framing up/structuring my emergency account

As a saver, I always have a pretty decent amount in liquidity, so I never really separated accounts. A number of financial gurus I follow though say that having an emergency account with one-twelve months of expenses in it allows not only for a security net, but a mental load off. You do not have to stay at an unpleasant job with such a security net. You can be confident about asking for a raise or push back when there are work-load pile ups knowing that you would be ok if your work circumstances change. This is huge. Once I knew how much my monthly expenses were, by actually tracking them, I could outline:

    • How much I felt comfortable with in my emergency account – both from a practical and mental standpoint  
    • The savings amount I could afford to invest in, once my emergency account was well-funded
    • Setting up a more aggressive account (I opened a Money Market Account, with a 2% interest rate)

Rethinking my Automation

One of the things we do on our monthly calls is go around the horn and specify any adjustments, hacks, tips we’ve taken over the last month to move the needle on our financial goals. It’s not a dollars and cents conversation, just allows us to hold ourselves accountable for the small steps we’ve taken. This has been a tremendously positive exercise for me, as it helps keep my personal finance goals top of mind. A number of ladies in our group listen to Paula Pant, a Podcaster who has a gifted financial mind and a Tweak of the Week outline we have been implementing. One of her tips mentions automating your savings by an additional 1%, which is a small amount when you think about it. By reminding myself to do this though, I’ve been able to:

      • Look at how much is going into which accounts and up almost all of them 
      • Upp my mortgage payments – shaving off several years and $10k of interest
      • Add additional funds to my brokerage account contributions (index funds baby!)
      • Start an HSA (and learning what that was) and invest the surplus

Re-think Retirement

You work all your life, collecting a pay-check, taking a few days off here and there, maybe a vacation or two a year, then you retire and lay around, not working.  I guess that’s what a lot of people think when they contemplate retiring. Or perhaps, people haven’t given much thought to retirement at all?  This financial group has really helped me re-frame the way I look at non-traditional work life. I’ve had a ‘F*&k it’ list for a long time (something that deserves its own post) and this group has allowed me to think realistically about designing what I want my ideal day to look like…..when time allows. So, with all of these like-minded people who are saving aggressively, thinking beyond the cube walls, it’s really opened me up to: 

  • Think about time in a finite way – we do not get any more of it, so start using it wisely, now
  • Plan my days, weeks, months carefully and with intention
  • Devise a plan for post-traditional work that I can work on and execute now, so when I am ready to hand it up, I have wheels in motion

 

Thinking about your own personal financial path? What tips can you lend to anyone just starting out or well on their way? I’d love to hear! Happy Saving!

 

2019 on FIRE

Happy New Year! I’m writing this on January 27th, well into 2019, and have given my New Year Goals and intentions a lot of thought. Last year was a good one, full of trips, adventures, work ups and downs….reflection has happened though, so onto what I want for this year.

Much of what I want to cultivate this year has been inspired by my Money Minded Maven FI group. Huh? Let’s start by chatting about this whole FIRE movement I’ve recently got involved in….

What is FIRE? Financial Independence Retire Early. It sounds like a crazy concept, right? We’ve been taught that you go to college, get a job, maybe move up the corporate ladder in your committed field, upgrade your house, car, gadgets with each wrung of the ladder climbed, and retire when you’re 65. Maybe a bit younger if you aggressively save, contribute to your 401K, have a pension. This concept is outrageous when you stop and do the math. And I have always had a cash-register mind (as in the dollars and cents of living rattle around up there).

There are a sub-set of people out there who don’t buy into this model. And I have been one of them, without really knowing it. Instead of spending all you take home, why not save most of it,  find inexpensive things to do with friends, be mindful of where your money goes (ie. spending it on experiences instead of designer clothes, new cars, more stuff), invest in tax deferred accounts, house hack (or whore out your house as Mike likes to say) and cook most meals in to keep eating costs down. Why do all of this? So you can retire from any traditional type of work and focus on work you love, your passions, travel, whatever you want.

There are a number of people in this movement who have crunched the numbers so hard they’re already there. And by there, I mean financially independent, not having to work the corporate gigs, unless they want, and putting their energy into what they love, living life on their terms, out of debt. And these people have become our teachers. Here are a few people & resources  I’ve been soaking up knowledge from: Mad Fientist, Optimal Living Daily , Paula Pant, The Minimalists, Mr. Money Mustache, Radical Personal Finance & Gretchen Rubin to name just a few.

So how did I come to identify myself with the FIRE crew? Beyond my always being unbelievably frugal, I have some extremely intelligent girlfriends who are like-minded in the sense that we want to empower ourselves and each other to learn more about investing, maxing out our financial gains, diversification, and tips on how to live a more fulfilling life with less. So we started a financial group that dives in to a different topic, podcast episode, book each month, focusing on financial goals and habits you can institute into your own life. We meet virtually to share what’s worked, what we’ve learned, our thoughts on savings, and hare resources. It’s phenomenal and so motivating!

With that context, I’ve thought about my goals for 2019 in these areas: Financial, Personal Goals & Habits

Financial Goals 

  1.  Get a handle on the money coming in & going out – essentially, how much does it really cost to live on a monthly/yearly basis? This took awhile to figure out, gathering tax information, digging into credit card bills, travel expenses, Airbnb income, mortgages, etc. If you’re trying to do the same, I’d recommend setting up a Personal Capital dashboard that lets you see where you’re spending, how your investments are pulling into your net worth and you can even link your homes’ value (which is awesome for Happy Homes!)
  2. Maximize my 401K, tax deferred investments, and savings – I’m all over this as well! I set up time to speak with a personal adviser at Vanguard to understand my investments, map out my retirement goals and work on a strategy to get me there. Having gone through the first exercise of what I actually need to pay my bills/live my life, I was able to see how much more I could be saving. This was by far the most intimidating, as investments have always scared me. Why? Because I didn’t understand them and didn’t take the time to find out. Until now! I have so much to learn here, but taking the first step was huge to get me on my way. And the Money Minded Maven group has fueled me! This stock series is on my list to dive into.
  3. Research things I don’t understand. It’s only confusing because it’s not familiar. With the resources available, there’s no excuse to not be up to speed on what’s happening with my finances.
  4. Get the grocery bills, alcohol, eating out bills under control. This isn’t as glamours, but having done an analysis of what I was spending at the grocery store, on alcohol and eating out, it really opened my eyes. I’m going to make an effort to meal-plan every week, cut back on the booze during the week, and eat out less.
  5. Sell Chase St. The past few months have been a journey in making the best out of a sticky situation (ie. pulling the listing, renting the house short-term to cover the costs & dealing with almost weekly renters). The goal is to sell it this spring – and if it doesn’t sell, we’ll get a long-term renter to ease the burden of flipping, cleaning, worrying if your sh*t head renters are going to trash the place.

Personal Goals & Habits

  1. Stop procrastinating. Be more consistent. This seems to be a common theme for me, often proclaimed at the beginning of the year. But, I’m a tactical person, often driven by outside forces and deadlines, so I’m trying to institute ways to stick to things.
  2. Re-instate the Happy Kitchen Dinner Series. This took flight last year, slowly sputtering out due to lack of commitment from good old’ me. I love cooking. I love spending time with my friends. I am constantly planning menus in my head. So why haven’t I done anything more with this!? See the first personal goal….
  3. Cut back on the alcohol. This could fit under all of the categories, as it will have an impact in each category. I like my craft beer and that comes with a price tag, so cutting back will help the wallet. Personally, I feel the best when I wake up without having had any booze the night before. And the kind of person I want to be happens when I’m alert and focused, not foggy and lazy. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy my good beer & wine and will continue to do so when it means I’m socializing with friends or celebrating a special occasion. I’m just taking a mindful look at when I drink and prioritizing the goals around it.
  4. Spend more time on activities that move me forward, towards my goals. The Money Minded Maven’s are focusing on habits this month, so I’ve thought a lot about what I’m committing energy to because those are the things that become a priority. What’s helped me here is outlining my priorities, then making sure my habits and actions line up accordingly. It’s one thing to say you’d like to do yoga everyday…..it’s another if you turn the tv on a night, having not done any.
  5. Watch less tv. The average American spends 4 hours a day watching tv. Insane! I have a bad habit of turning the tv on at night when I’m cooking, to decompress after an over-stimulated work day. But then it will remain on through dinner, post dinner and right up until we go to bed. No bueno, especially with the list of things I could be doing that would benefit me in some way.
  6. Get up and move. I’m a morning person and feel amazing when I incorporate movement first thing in the morning, so vow to make a consistent effort to get up and get moving. Whether that means morning yoga, or a sunrise walk or slow jog, I’ve done this inconsistently over the years, and really do feel amazing if I keep it up.
  7. Network more. With friends, with like-minded people, with opportunities. I want to make a point to say yes to things that open my mind, that put me out of my comfort zone, that lend value. I have so many amazing people in my network and want to make the effort to connect with them more often.

 

These are my goals for 2019 – a bit different than past years, more financially focused I’d say, but also aimed at living a more meaningful and mindful life. Hope you’re having a wonderful start to the year and I’d love to hear any goals or habits that you’re working on!

 

Cheers!