“We have X dollars and Y bills. What happens now?”

More than once in my adult life, I’ve had to sit down and have this conversation with myself and/or with my husband. In my household, we agree that we have “four walls” that we must protect:

1. Housing
2. Utilities
3. Transportation
4. Food

Did I ever tell you about the “doomsday list” that Jay and I came up with in 2018, following my sudden job loss? Did I ever tell you that we revisited the list three weeks ago just in case we needed to use it again?

In 2018 when our household income dropped by 60% with no notice (right after we bought a new house), we had to evaluate what our strategy was. Morally, I am not a person who will borrow money from family/friends, and I also avoid taking on credit card debt if I can help it. So, here’s our action plan to protect our “four walls”.

1. We will end casual spending (things outside necessity food items, and gas)

2. All savings account allotments stop (no more savings for the holidays, vacations, short term purchases, vet bills,etc)

3. All membership services stop (Netflix, Costco, Amazon, etc)

4. Air conditioning turns off (we’ve got portable and ceiling fans)

5. Once we’ve done steps 1 – 4, we’d start draining our savings account to maintain the bare minimums. At this point, we may consider taking on short term credit card debt–but only if we KNOW how we’re paying it off, because credit card debt is actually a brand new payment/expense mixed into the already tight budget.

6. Once we get towards the 20% mark of our savings… we’d sell one of our two cars (We go back and forth on which one. My car is worth much more, but his car would sell faster and already has less useful life in it. Either way, one is getting chopped.)

7. We’d then sell our rental house. This one is low on the list because landlords can’t evict tenants due to a sale, and our buyer pool is larger on a vacant home than it is on a tenant-occupied one. As long as they keep paying, they can stay until the lease ends.

8. We’d then begin selling items of value from the house. The riding mower, grill, TV’s, furniture, etc.

8. We’d then consider the feasibility of selling our own house (can we qualify for an apartment somewhere? Do we have a place to go?)

9. By this point, we should be scraping the bottom of our savings account…leaving just enough to cover deposits on a rental somewhere.

10. Our life should be completely downgraded, all the while…maintaining our four walls of life. If we are still struggling, we will consider hardship withdrawals from our 401k’s/retirement funds…but the goal is to break even by this point.

Personal finance is “personal”. My job is volatile, but my husband’s been on his for 8 years and has stability. Thus, our doomsday list may not look identical to yours, but ultimately… we all have the same “four walls” of life to protect.

Whether you’re already a stage or two into your own list, or you are financially secure right now, it’s always important to know what your next move will be.

Don’t “prep” by hoarding TP and forget about “prepping” your budget, too.

PSA: Does somebody know where the will, life insurance, passwords, and other items are?

My father passed away suddenly in August of 2019 at age 61.I got one day to properly mourn (which was 2 days before he died) until I found myself standing in a large pair of shoes at age 28… his.

At that moment, my job became helping my mother rebuild her life and finding a “new normal” without the man she’d spent 40 years with. For Adrian, that meant making well over 100 calculated decisions very quickly, before dad was officially pronounced dead.

Only Jay knows this story, but shortly after the doctors told us that his stroke was fatal, I turned to my husband and we mutually understood that we were now on the hook for mom’s mortgage payments (alongside our own life expenses) indefinitely. My father was the breadwinner, so his passing ended his salary and his Marine Corps pension. But, the bills don’t care. They’re still due on the 1st. Oh yeah, and somebody would have to pay for his final expenses, and the medical bills that resulted from a 4 day long ICU stay, etc. That burden fell onto us because we realized we were probably the only people somewhat capable of doing it.

But my father was a smarter man than that. He knew better.

His death was completely random and unplanned even to him, but he planned for it. Three hours after he died was probably the single most “prideful” moment I have ever had for my father. We got home from the hospital and I gained access to his files where we found life insurance policies that we didn’t know existed, vital folders literally labeled with their exact contents, and every other document we needed to notify the VA of his passing and get death benefits to kick in. It was right there, clearly marked, easily accessible.

I was privileged enough to witness my mother’s face when she realized that everything would be okay. You don’t know how that moment felt.

In a lot of ways, I run my household. I solely manage our budget, and make all loan, investment, and insurance decisions. I try to include my husband, but he prefers to yield the floor to me. However, none of these decisions will do him any good if he can’t find them.

So, on the first day of this COVID-19 social distancing initiative, I broke out my filing cabinet and fireproof safe, sat down on the living room floor with Jay, and we organized our documents together. I got revised copies of all active insurance policies, clearly marked any crucial paperwork, shredded out-of-date things, and re-evaluated our life insurance needs. I showed Jay crucial documents that he’d need to sell our house, and where to find it. I gave him a plan.

Jay and I are both betting that I outlive him, but if I don’t… the last gift I want to give him is the same gift my father gave my mother… certainty.

If you’ve got some free time this weekend, lay out your plan. Don’t take the location of the policies, paperwork, and passwords your family needs to survive to the grave with you.

Be the hero they need you to be through life, and death, alike.

How I turned auto loan “denials” into “approved” without a down payment.

When Jay and I were newly dating and neither of us had any cash, nor any credit, but we were in need of a second car… we were at a crossroads.

We agreed that we did not want to buy a barely running car at a high interest rate. Don’t get me wrong, when you’re in a bind–sometimes you’ve got to take the best option available to you…but for us, we did not want to take on some expensive car debt on a questionable car at the very beginning of our relationship.

Yet, we kept getting denied for auto loans. If I wanted to stop spinning my wheels… I HAD to learn what we were up against and play by their rules. Point blank period.

It was at this point that I decided to learn the basics of lending. Ironically, this decision launched my decade long career in finance, but back in 2012…my goal was to learn, and I learned by finding a chart similar to this one. What I learned is that lending is that it all comes down to 1 simple thing… “Risk”.

Think of it this way. If a friend borrowed $100 from you and never paid you back…would you trust them to let them borrow another $50? Would you tell your mom it’s okay to lend them $50? OR would you tell everyone how they stiffed you? Same concept.

I learned that we were trying to get a “secured” loan (versus an unsecured loan), and the trick I used to eventually buy our needed car was learning what “Loan To Value” is.

Jay had no credit, and I had spotty credit. We were not getting approved for $0 down auto loans because we hadn’t demonstrated that we could reliably make our payments on anything. The loans we WERE getting approved for had high interest rates because they wanted to earn as much as they could up front just in case we eventually stopped paying. Basically, we had to get some skin in the game.

Let’s talk about “Risk” again. If you are buying a car worth $10,000 and the lender asks for a $2,000 down payment–the lender is reducing their risk by 20%. Meaning, if you never make your first payment, they could likely sell the car at auction and at least break even. There in-lies the root of every denial we were getting… we looked like a bad risk.

Since I didn’t have cash for a down payment, I had to find another way to get my loan to value dropped. We shopped around hard and eventually found a car being sold at 44% loan to value. It wasn’t what we wanted, but it was a running car with ideal lending math.

The bank approved it…and we made our payments on time. Next time around, the bank saw that we can reliably make payments–so they were more lenient on other loans such as a credit card, a nicer car, and eventually…buying a house.

If the old way isn’t working, it’s on you to do what you’ve got to do.

Here’s 5 ways that I plan to save my money in 2020

Let’s stop feeling broke in 2020, mkay?

If you’re off work or just hanging out between Xmas and NYE, then use this weekend to sit down and think things through. Here’s some things I’ve created a plan to save for in the new year.

Christmas: I’m putting $60 a month aside for holiday spending again this year, which equals $700+ that I will have readily available next holiday season. No loans. No credit cards. No overtime. No skipping bills. No stress. 💅🏾 Can’t swing $60 a month? If you save $20 per month, that’s basically $250 by next year. Setup a new savings account, login to your online banking, set up automatic transfers in under 5 minutes, and get ready to make next Christmas stress free.

Home repairs: My house needs 15 new windows, a new front door, a new retaining wall, and a few trees cut down. I’m saving 30% of my paychecks for this. Before you clutch your pearls at my percentage, don’t forget that I spent the last 3 years paying off 50k of debt. I’m ahead of some in my journey, and behind others in theirs, but this is my own personal spot. Be proud of your progress. I was just as determined to pay off a $600 credit card as I am to pay cash for these repairs.

Future Lexus/4Runner fund: Our cars are both paid off, but they’re getting older each year, so I’m still dropping $360 a month into my savings account every single month (automatic transfers, people) as if I still have a car payment. I want a late model Lexus, Jay wants a 4Runner, and we are going to pay cash this time around. If we do this for 3 years, we will save almost 13k alone starting today. Even if we end up financing, that’s a hefty down payment and proof to our budget that we can swing $360 a month with ease. The cash needed to make tomorrow’s purchase starts today, so if you’re in a similar spot, start with me!

401k: I have been working since I was 14 years old and I do NOT plan to work until I’m 67 only to die at 70. I’m dropping out of the workforce at 55 and retiring to Malaysia, and that requires a lot of money. I’m making sure to always match my employer’s full retirement contributions on my behalf, and increase it anytime we get a raise this year. This year, I plan to aim for at least $19,000 saved. Even if you aren’t saving that much, save something, and start YOUNG. Don’t play catch-up in your 50’s because you’ll work 50x as hard, miss out on decades of compound interest between now and then, and net less money in the end. Absolute facts. Google this one, kids.

Rental property fund: Part of my retirement strategy is to own a few rental properties. I’m operating two income producing spaces, and I intend to add a third house in 2020. I’m using every extra penny we earn (overtime, bonuses, good months at work) to fund this. It’s the lowest priority of 2020, but it’s still on my list to do before this day next year.

How about you?

Get organized in 2020. Here’s what happens with our paychecks each week:

First, we utilize direct deposit and automatic transfers so every aspect of our finances are 100% automated. Why? Because humans get distracted and make mistakes… computers will always get it right.

Second, we run 3 primary accounts:

Bills: Fixed expenses, and odd things like random checks we write. We put the money in here, write the check, and move on. No babysitting needed.

Spending: Variable expenses. This is the account we physically “spend” every day.

Savings: Our mandatory emergency fund goes here, along with the money we’ve budgeted for savings.

Our main accounts have sub-savings accounts so we can tell how much we’ve got at a glance (gifts, haircuts, etc), but those three main accounts is the bread/butter. I operate our accounts in this fashion so we never have to ask ourselves if a certain bill has come out yet before making a purchase, nor do we ever risk overdrafting due to human error. Every month, our bills automatically get paid, and we can see how much we’ve got for spending at any given moment…because they’re totally separate of each other. Done and done.

Third, we’ve got a SET amount of money that gets deposited via our payroll. Every other penny above this set amount such as overtime, extra shifts, and bonuses automatically goes into our emergency fund (along with our regular savings contributions). We only live on as little/much as needed, and we save anything extra. Set it and forget it.

Fourth, our emergency fund started at $500, then we increased it to $1,000…then $2,500… then $5,000. Nowadays, we keep about $10,000 on hand. Basically, our emergency fund changed as our lives changed.

I find that mapping out my finances is my secret weapon towards building financial independence. Aim to spell everything out, but make sure it’s not too convoluted that it doesn’t work anymore (KISS: keep it simple, stupid).

Want to start? Visit your local financial institution and setup the systems you need. It’s free!

So, my dad died…right?

On July 28th, he came over to my house and had dinner with us. The very next day, I got a call saying that my mother found him on the floor at home and he was being rushed to the emergency room. We found out that he suffered a devastating brain stroke.

On August 1, 2019…my mother became a widow at age 56. My father was 61 years old when he departed this earth.

So.. yeah.

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I took a break from the blog for a while, but i’ll be back in the next couple of weeks, and so will my podcast.

 

My father, the hero.
October 1957 – August 2019

Confession: Here’s how my finances impacted my mental health in 2019

If you’ve ever sat around a bonfire with me, I have probably asked you this question:

“What was a B.C / A.D moment in your life where you realized one period of your life was over and a new one was beginning?”

Next week, my husband and I celebrate our first full year in our new house. At the time, I understood that moving away from our home of 5 glorious years would naturally come with new memories, but I never expected our move to become a rocky, emotionally draining, friendship ending, relationship straining, symbolic B.C. / A.D. moment in my life.

Continue reading “Confession: Here’s how my finances impacted my mental health in 2019”

Landlording: The First Tenants

It’s been 9 months since my very first rental property was leased.

We ended up $6,000 in the hole, animal control was called,  they’ve already attempted to break their lease…twice, we’ve had the home tested for mold, and as of this post… I gave them the notice that I intend to end their lease.

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…that means it’s officially time for my first Landlord Update!

Continue reading “Landlording: The First Tenants”