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How and When to Book Your Travel

2018 has officially been dubbed the Year of the Wedding. We thought we hit our peak in 2016 with 6 weddings, but this year we have officially been invited to 9, though we will likely only attend 7. Not only do all these wedding come with the usual costs of gifts, hotels, etc., but nearly all of them are a flight away. This isn’t just because NFF Jr. is easier to travel with on a plane than in a car. We have weddings that span Massachusetts in the north, to Wisconsin in the west, to Houston, TX in the south.

All of this travel has got me thinking about the best way to minimize our travel costs. Now, I have a confession to make. I’m a bit if a data nerd. I hear the words “statistical analysis” and I immediately get excited. Most sites I’ve been to who claim to know the best times to book flights often sorely disappoint. They’re usually too specific (“buy the third Tuesday before your travel”) with no acknowledgement that not every flight is the same. What about winter versus summer, holidays, etc? read more

Net Worth Tracker: January 2018

January is a very exciting time for our finances. Why? Because it’s BONUS MONTH! Yes, I work in an industry where bonuses make up a decent percentage of our salaries. Not Investment Banker levels, but certainly more than the average worker. It’s a good shot of adrenalin for the savings goals that we have set for ourselves at the start of the year, and my promotion this year combined with the company doing well meant that my bonus this year was significantly larger than last year. And with all of our savings going towards saving for our house, this month gave us one last big push we need to accomplish our goal next month.

With a total growth in net worth of over $50,000, January was our best month ever! Monthly savings and the bonus contributed about 75% of the increase, but investment gains added the other 25%. The incredible growth in the market has done wonders for our Net Worth number, and the increasing number of people calling for 10%-15% corrections has me excited about potential buying opportunities coming up. I just hope the correction comes sooner rather than later. read more

Net Worth Tracker: December 2017

Happy New Year everyone! December was an interesting month for us, as Mrs. NFF went back to work following her maternity leave and I took mine. (Today is my first day back, and explains the late posting of this month’s net worth). For anyone who is on the fence about taking paternity leave, TAKE IT! I had an amazing time with my boy, and it is incredible to see him grow and learn new things every day. I was also lucky because I could delay my leave and so I took it as my wife went back to work. This gave me some great alone time with my son, and being the sole caregiver was a great experience.

It was also a decent month for us financially, though that is owed almost exclusively to the stock market gains. Present shopping, end of year charity donations, and holiday travel expenses really hurt our spending, and consequently December was our worst “savings” month this year. However, a very healthy stock market more than made up for it, and we were able to grow our net worth by ~$11,000. We also received some very generous gifts for NFF Jr. to put into his college fund, adding an additional $25,000. (Note: I include college savings in our overall Net Worth to keep a full view of every dollar we have. However, our FIRE number does not include this money for obvious reasons.) read more

Net Worth Tracker: November 2017

I love November. Usually it is the height of fall in the DC region and it also kicks off the start of the holiday season. I love seeing my family and spending time with them, and Thanksgiving is the first opportunity we’ve had in several months to do that. Additionally, this Thanksgiving was extra special because it was the first time many of my family members got to meet NFF Jr.

Financially, November was an ok month for us. Mrs. NFF is not back at work yet, and her limited maternity leave policy meant we went this month without any income from her. Maternity/Paternity policies in the US are truly f***ed up. We are fortunate that Mrs. NFF could take 3 months off work (half of it unpaid) and be ok, but I can’t image how the millions of other families in the US deal with it. read more

Net Worth Tracker: October 2017

The first half of October was a busy month for us. We spent 2 weeks in Maine enjoying the start of the fall season. I was expecting to have to travel for work during those weeks, but project delays meant I got to spend every night with my wife and son. Returning to a travel schedule is going to be hard for both me and Mrs. NFF, so the longer I can delay that the better.

All of the travel, along with Mrs. NFF’s birthday, certainly added some additional costs to our budget this month. We also had renewals of larger expenses, like car insurance. I know I plan for those charges, but mentally it is still challenging to see such a large expense hit our credit card. Despite all of that, we still managed to grow our net worth by $11,516. It wasn’t our best month this year, but it definitely wasn’t our worst. Most of the gains (~$7,600) came from increases in the stock market which helped to lift our 401k and other retirement account balances. The rest was a result of our monthly savings, which goes directly towards our house fund. read more

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The 411 on 529s

I don’t think I’m saying anything controversial here, but I think giving your children a solid education is the best gift a parent can provide. Despite the nationalistic economic trends emerging throughout the globe, the (high paying) jobs of the future will continue to require a strong education in order to compete globally. Additionally, there is strong research out there forecasting that the economic divide among the millennial and future generations is going to be much less based on race, and more based on who was able to graduate college without student debt. I owe so much of my current financial situation to the fact that I was able to graduate one of the most expensive schools in the country completely debt free.

As a new parent, saving enough to send my kid to college ranks as one of my top goals. While it doesn’t beat out retirement (you can’t borrow money for retirement but you can for school), it does beat out EARLY retirement. I would view it as a worthy sacrifice to have to work a couple of extra years if it meant sending my child to school debt-free. Though I have learned one thing over the last several weeks: the cost of college is scary high. I mean, it-Halloween-month-so-culturally-relevant-IT-remake scary. read more

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We Froze Our Credit, Here’s How

The Equifax breach in early September, though not the largest data breach in history, spooked me like no other data breach has. Target, EBay, Sony, all of these data hacks I watched come and go, changing little about my every day actions. Equifax, however, just feels different. Maybe because it’s the ground zero of credit, or maybe because it has much more information about me than any other company would have (except maybe Amazon?). After talking with a few family members, I decided to freeze my wife and my credit.

What is a credit freeze?

According to the FTC’s website, a credit freeze restricts access to your credit report only to your existing creditors and certain government agencies. Because creditors won’t issue new accounts without seeing your credit report first, restricted access makes it very difficult for thieves to use your credit information to open accounts in your name. read more

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Net Worth Tracker: September 2017

September was a big month for Mrs. NFF and I. We brought our new baby home from the hospital, we celebrate our 2-year marriage anniversary, I celebrated my 2-year anniversary at my company, and I turned one year older. Fall (my favorite season) is here, and we celebrated by traveling to Maine this past week to see the first leaves begin to change.

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What Does It Mean To Be Vested?

Last Sunday, I hit a major milestone at my company. I have officially been working here for 2 years. In some ways, it feels like I’m just starting but in others I feel like a seasoned veteran. This is especially true since the average job tenure of people my age is just 3 years (should I be looking for a new job already?). The anniversary date came and went without any fanfare. I didn’t get to chose an anniversary gift out of a magazine, or even receive a card from my company. I actually got something much, much better: I vested.

What is Vesting?

Vesting is a term used to describe how much of your 401k you are allowed to take with you if you leave the company. You may be thinking “Wait, I don’t get to keep my entire 401k?” Before you overreact, I want to be clear that vesting only applies to the portion that your company contributes. If you invest $5,000 in your 401k, and your company contributes $1,000, vesting only applies to the $1,000. You get to keep your $5,000 plus whatever you’ve earned in the market when you leave. read more

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