Tax season brought us a huge refund which we will use to payoff the mortgage
I realized this week that some personal finance adages are true. I suppose that I always knew this intellectually but I managed to say this out loud (and by “out loud” I really mean, “in a Signal chat”) this week and once I said it, the weight of what I had accomplished came into sharp focus.
So let’s start at the beginning.
Mr. Tucker’s work was recently acquired by another company. This required him to sign a whole new slew of legal documents, some of which were a bit unclear. Fortunately for me though, I have a friend who is an incredibly brilliant employment lawyer who is licensed to practice in Ontario AND in California. Those are two very challenging jurisdictions to get licensed in (and she has a ton of experience with tech companies) so clearly, the woman is a GD genius. Luckily for me, she is also a lovely friend who read all of Mr. Tucker’s new documents before he signed them.
When all was said and done, she asked me about how things were looking for him at work, personally…and that’s when I took stock and realized that … IT DOESN’T MATTER! We are finally at a point in our lives that while it would be shitty, a layoff wouldn’t decimate our finances.
Having her ask that question made me go through our accounts and made me realize the following:
– Our mortgage will be paid off by July (two months before schedule!). The house is currently worth high 6 figures.
– Mr. Tucker’s retirement accounts will meet our target by the end of 2023.
– Any layoff would result in a severance enough to carry us through to the end of the year.
– The kid’s RESPs are currently funded enough to get them a 4-year undergrad degree + books at a local university. We’re still funding it but even if we stopped putting money in it today, they’d still be fine!
– We are currently mostly living off my income, which is private disability insurance indexed to inflation until I am 65.
– I have a small pension + lifetime benefits (Mr. Tucker would get half of it should I die as well as half of my CPP and the kids would get an orphan’s benefit as well until they are out of school).
– On top of regular tax shelters, I also have an RDSP which gives me 100% return on investment via government grants until I am 49 (and can grow tax-free in investments until I am 59).
– Should either of us pass away, we have sufficient life insurance and investments to carry the surviving spouse and the children.
– We have a secondary property that is currently rented to a family member at-cost but that has a mortgage on it at around 1/3rd of its value.
When I wrote all of this in a message I realized quickly that even though I had spent some time worrying about the company acquisition, there really is nothing to worry about. While we wouldn’t be living high on the hog, the decisions we made have been good ones.
We do a monthly game night with friends but for Easter we decorated eggs
So, those true adages? Consistency does beat intensity AND time in the market beats market timing. Let’s look at one example, our kid’s education savings accounts:
Consistency beats intensity
I didn’t end up opening an RESP until my eldest was around 3 (12 years ago). Up until 2020 we could only afford to fund it to the tune of $80 a month ($40 each) because we had a pretty high child support payment and I stayed at home with the kids until the eldest was 4.
But what we did do when they were younger was that we asked family members to give us money for their RESPs instead of buying gifts for various holidays. So for about 5 or 6 years (until they wanted to spend their birthday & Christmas money), we were able to throw in an extra $150 twice a year for their education.
Time in the market beats timing the market
When I go back and look at what we put in vs what we actually have, we see an almost 40% increase over the last 12ish years (investments + grants – so 20% each) in the original accounts (we do still fund these with the same $80 monthly).
Conversely, we also started a new RESP in 2020 using a Robo-advisor because we wanted to play catchup on our contributions and get the grants for previous years. In those 40 months we have seen a 24.6% return in that account – 20% of which is grants, so really we have only made 4.62% on our money since 2020. Not bad (but not great) considering how awful it’s been.
So even though we have been putting more away every month the long game has paid off in spades when you look at the return. We also aren’t done yet, I will continue to put money into the account until we run out of grants available to each kid AND it will also compound for at least another 3 years.
No matter what the market does, we just continue to fund our registered accounts. Dip in the market? Fund it monthly. Market overvalued? Fund it monthly. I just cannot be bothered to think about these things and even through it may or may not be the most perfect way, dollar cost averaging has often been my long term strategy. I used this strategy because it was easier to set up our budget and make savings come out of our accounts every month like a bill rather than have to constantly think about it.
Spring chorin’ has begun
Hoisted by my own petard
I was saying to Mr. Tucker the other night that while we intellectually know that we make good money and have assets, we sometimes feel a bit like money is tight. The reality is though is that we have structured our budget to feed money into two kinds of goals. Regular goals such as putting money away to buy a car with cash every 10 years, education savings, emergency savings etc. Then we also have stretch goals, which is basically saving almost everything Mr. Tucker makes into vacations, retirement accounts and paying off our house early.
So we feel poor sometimes when I have to say, “No, sorry, we are out of pocket money this month so we can’t have take out.” Because really, we live off of a bit over what a median household income is in Canada. But we don’t actually ever have to make really hard decisions, so it’s all in our heads and is guided by our goals. The things we end up denying ourselves is junk food, more subscription services or weird baubles at the dollar store. We don’t deny ourselves the things we really enjoy, such as travel and going to concerts. The kids also have all sorts of cool lessons and activities. But this is self-restriction for a higher goal. We’re actively making choices to deny ourselves shit we don’t really need in order to reach…well, apparently we’ve pretty much reached it…OUR LONG TERM GOALS.
It’s just absolutely wild to me that we can see the finish line after years of just putting in the effort. Of course, Mr. Tucker still wants to work until the end of 2024 but it is nice to know that we have a backup plan should things go south.
It’s so funny that one little question from my friend would lead to such a heavy weight being lifted off of me. But here we are!
Another fine book club was had