Emergency Fund as a Roth?

I’ve read so much literature on why you shouldn’t use your Roth as an emergency fund account.  However, I want to delve into why I do.  First of all, I do have anywhere from $250-500 in my regular savings account that easily transfers to my checking for any day-to-day “emergencies” (e.g. new brakes, plumber, etc).  I have an automatic contribution of $50 from my paycheck biweekly that goes to this savings account so I don’t have to even think about it. Generally about the time my savings is above $700 I deposit $500+ into my Roth accounts.

Let me tell you why I do it this way.  I do understand that I can only deposit $5,500/ year and once I take out my contributions to this account I cannot “catch up” so to speak. However, for me as a single mom just having a Roth is a luxury.  Plus, my savings account gets basically no interest (0.03%), but if I put it in my Roth I am generally making about an average 7-9% return.

So my money is doing double duty by saving for retirement and providing major emergency relief, if needed. Once you put money inside of a Roth IRA, it can be invested in a wide range of options such as stocks, bonds, bond funds, money markets, or mutual funds. Depending on your risk tolerance and desired returns, investments ranges can be selected from varying degrees of mixed portfolio. While the Roth IRA might not provide the instant liquidity of a savings or checking account, it can still provide access to funds within a few days.

This summer I did have to withdraw from my Roth when my A/C went out and needed replaced.  Tax rules allow us to withdraw contributions tax-free at any time (just don’t touch investment gains until retirement or you’ll be hit with taxes and penalties).  So by the time the A/C man was available to install the money was already transferred into my checking account and I didn’t need to put anything onto my credit cards.  I look at this differently than some people because I’m not using my Roth as an Emergency Fund, I’m making my Emergency Fund a Roth.  If no major repairs come up then that money is staying put for retirement and I’ll be able to pull out the earnings tax free when I’m over 59 ½.  However, in the event something drastic happens I do have it there and it helps me sleep better at night knowing that it’s there.

Let me be clear that I will NEVER touch the earnings on the Roth either.  I only have withdrawn the contributions and only as-needed.  I don’t dip into Roth for vacations or other nonessentials because I can’t simply “return” the money later. Any money put back into a Roth is considered part of the allowed contribution for that particular year.  For example, if you’re allowed to contribute $5,500 a year to your Roth and you withdrew $1,000 for plane tickets in January, you can’t put in $6,500 ($5,500 + the $1,000) when you get your December work bonus. You can only contribute $5,500 total/year regardless of how much you took out and that’s it.

I personally use both Betterment and WealthSimple for Roth accounts (I like to diversify).  If you’d like to test them out here’s a link to get 90 days free through Betterment  and this link for WealthSimple gets you $15,000 managed free for one year. Currently, my Annualized Earnings for my Betterment account are 9.8% (I’ve had it for two years now) and for WealthSimple are at 3.8% (I just opened it in April). I have really liked Betterment, but I’ll write more on WealthSimple after I’ve had the account at least a year.

Do you have a Roth account?  If so, who do you use and why do you like them?

Weekend Project #5: Front Door

My front door was not in the best shape and it lacked…most everything. Buying a new door is definitely not in my budget.  It was worn down, had dark oily spots here and there, and just wasn’t that inviting.  Since the door already had fake wood paneling I opted to paint it.

img_5057
Before

I used //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=solelsurvi-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=B001735FM2&asins=B001735FM2&linkId=29bc288ae07f2bb60f0fcc2853e37724&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true&price_color=333333&title_color=0066c0&bg_color=ffffff“>Minwax Gel Stain in Walnut.  I put on one coat using a regular brush and also a spong brush.and let it dry and two days later I put on a second coat.

door
After

We added a wreath and voila! I think it’s much more inviting! My last home didn’t have the faux wood paneling and we had used a Rustoleum Topside Navy Blue paint.  It really shined and held up to weather! However, if you go that route try to use a different entrance as it takes time to dry. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of that door. Sorry!

Have you done any weekend projects lately?  Any ideas for me to try??

How to Get Paid to Lose Weight!

If you’re not feeling very motivated to lose those extra pounds,  here’s a nice little incentive that might help change your mind: cold hard cash.  I don’t know about you, but the frugalista in me is definitely motivated by that.

There are two sites I have personally used and love: DietBet and HealthyWage.  I used DietBet monthly to lose the baby weight after Cici and I’m at it again to lose it again from Baby J.  I’ve just completed my first round and am happy to say, I WON!

DietBet

When you sign up at DietBet, you can create your own game or join one that’s already in progress. I personally always join one, but that’s just my preference. Also, DB offers two different types of games: lose 4% of your body weight in four weeks or The Transformer for losing 10% of your body weight in six months.  Note that you can do these consecutively as well.

So how does it work you say?  You pick a game  that suits your budget (bets can range from $10-$500) and put in your deposit and weigh-in.  In 30 days (or 6 months if playing the 10% Transformer) everyone submits their final weight and the winners split the pot evenly. Payouts are made via Paypal a few days after verification. For example, the last time I won I had deposited $25 and received back $48.33 (my $25 deposit and $23.33 in winnings from the pot).  I chose to reinvest it into another DietBet game until I reached my goal weight, but you can cash out if you’d like as well.

I’m currently signed up for Shape Up for Summer with Heidi & Chris Powell with a $30 deposit, $151,980 in the pot, and 5,066 players as of May17. Wish me luck!

HealthyWage

Healthy Wage is for more significant weight loss. You can set it for 10-150 lbs to lose, over 6-18 months, for anywhere from $20-$500 bet per month.  It has a handy online calculator which allows you to determine roughly what your payout will be.  In most cases, the prize won’t be less than $100.

Healthywage

If you want to do a Healthy Wage team challenge, you will have to put up the entry fee which is currently $25 per month for up to three months. The team challenges advertise much larger payouts — up to $10,000. However, this top dollar prize is if your team is the most successful and has a higher percentage of weight lost than any other teams participating.

These programs and their apps work for me because I’m motivated in three ways:
1. I want to lose weight and be healthy
2. I do not want to lose my deposit
3. I love to get paid

Have you tried either of these?  What incentives do you need/use to get in shape?

For more information, you can check out this excerpt from Good Morning America:

 

Appeal Your Property Taxes!

If you think the market value of your property is incorrect, the appraisal district encourages you to file a protest. First and foremost, understand that when you are negotiating with an appraiser at the appraisal district that you are protesting your property value, not your property taxes. If your strategy for winning your protest is to convince the appraiser that your ever increasing taxes are a huge burden, your story will fall upon deaf ears. The appraisal district has absolutely no control over your tax rates; they simply determine property values.

In most cases, no appraiser will physically visit your property to assess the value. Counties simply do not have the manpower to cover the entire county on a yearly basis. I live in Harris County, where there are approximately 150 appraisers who are required to attribute value to more than 750,000 property accounts. It simply can’t be done. Do not consider your tax assessed value to be indicative of your true market value.

Preparing for your hearing is most crucial. As a property owner representing yourself you can greatly increase your chances of getting a value reduction if you apply the methods I’m listing here. Appraisers will actually appreciate your due diligence.

Pictures are worth a thousand words – Take pictures of any disrepair on your property and of any “negative influences” surrounding your property. Qualified negative influences could be busy streets, water tower looming over your house, sewer plant nearby, commercial property bordering your residential, etc.

Google Earth – I would recommend printing a satellite view of your property and the surrounding area. Probably 85% of the time you can find something negative to talk about on the image (i.e. construction, road issues). Get creative as this adds support to your argument.

MLS Sales – If you know a Realtor that can assist with evidence gathering, ask them to print some of the SOLD properties in your neighborhood. Many times you will see that the appraisal district’s evidence will suggest that a comparable house built in 1965 with no remodeling recently sold for $150,000.  This “never remodeled” house is jacking up your home value. However, you may be able to find the property on MLS and see that the pictures and description suggest otherwise and it sold for a higher price solely because it actually had a COMPLETE remodel recently.   Therefore, your value should be adjusted downward from that sale because your “comparable” home is in original condition and has never been renovated.

Estimate of the value – When you meet with the appraiser you need to have a number in mind and support that value with the evidence you have prepared. Saying you want a lower value without knowing what that lower value should be suggests to the appraiser that you haven’t done your research. Remember, you’re trying to prove your case for property value. It’s hard to prove something when you don’t have a theory built yet.

Short and Sweet – Appraisers may sit with 20-40 property owners every single day. They probably hate protest season and people in general by the second week. Limit your stories and stick with the facts. The appraiser will appreciate it and will hopefully return the love in the form of a value reduction.  Unless you are in a newer cookie cutter style neighborhood with a lot of recent sales you can almost always come up with a little something which can persuade them to nudge your value down. Never argue, complain or whine.

Chances are pretty good that you’re paying more in property taxes than you should be so present the evidence at hand and speak with confidence.. According to the National Taxpayers Union, as many as 60% of properties in the U.S. are assessed at a higher amount than their current value. I personally bought my home six months ago and recently received a tax assessment $10,000 higher than what I paid.  I have already protested and settled with my county and will save at minimum $400/year now on my property taxes.  Hopefully you will too!  If you decide to protest, let me know how it went for you.

Property Taxpayer Remedies from Texas Comptroller

Just Another Single Working Mom

I read a lot of financial and money saving blogs, books, articles (and I do mean A LOT).  I consume tips and tricks as if they’re water.  I’m a single, working mom of three kids under six and I am the sole provider.  That being said, a lot of financial tips are aimed at either the SAHM or two parent households. For those of you out there in my Other category trying to scrounge to provide the best for your kids, hope this helps.

 1) Daycare. Ouch.  It’s more than my house payment.  All I can say is if you qualify for daycare assistance – get it! In my case, I am just over the threshold so I’m constantly looking for the next best thing.  It so happens that my older children go to one place and my youngest goes to another.  Yes, it’s inconvenient but it saves me $400/month.  I had a friend whose mother is really ready for grandbabies, but her daughter is not.  She agreed to watch my daughter for HALF of what the daycare would charge me so she could get her “baby fix” and she makes some fun money. Win-win number 1. This summer my older daughters will be going to a neighbors house instead of their regular daycare because I know a teacher that wants to make extra cash over the summer.  Win-win number 2.  This works for me because my regular daycare owner knows my situation so she doesn’t charge me cancellation/holding fees as she knows I’m just trying to survive the daycare years.  A neighbor of mine even received a 40% reduction from her language learning daycare just by negotiating.  If one place says no, go to the next place the next week and see what they are willing to do.  People want your business.

2)  Extreme Couponing? Let’s be honest, I don’t really have the time. I get up at 4am with the baby to have some one-on-one time and then we’re off and running and out of the house at 6:30am so I can get everyone where they need to be and me to work at 7:30am.  HOWEVER, there are a couple of exceptions.  Target, CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart with the help of a few couponing websites like  KrazyCouponLady.com and livingrichwithcoupons.com.  I check them out before I do anything else in the morning and see if there is anything good for the day (i.e. free, practically free, moneymaker).  If there is I grab what I need and hit the store on the way to work, or on my lunch break if we hit a snag in our morning roundup out the door. Let’s face it, they’re kids and our mornings don’t always go as planned–babies spit up, kids lose their shoes, keys get lost…you get the picture.

 3)  Credit Cards are only to be used for money back and to be paid off every month.  I have a Sam’s Mastercard to get the 5% back on gas (and they almost always have the lowest price on gas in my area).  I have a Chase card that gives me 1%-5% back on everything and they give you cash back, not options to buy giftcards etc.  An Amazon Visa because I shop there for reimbursable work expenses and also regularly for diapers (love Amazon Mom and Amazon Family) so I get rewards points to use back at Amazon.  Target card (they have debit and credit option) to get 5% back on all of their purchases. That’s it and I use them where I’d be using cash anyways (just getting rewarded for it).  I write down the purchases in my check register each time so I know exactly how much to pay off when I get home. My bank offers free BillPay so I don’t wait for the purchase to hit my card before I send the payment off.

 4)  The coveted Side Hustle.  Let’s face it, if you can’t save enough money you must make more money.  I was looking for an inexpensive babysitter on Care.com that I never found, but I did find a Sunday gig.  A church was hiring for an infant sitter so I let them know I was interested, but had my own children I’d have to bring.  They were reluctant at first but wanted to meet everyone. My kids became fast friends with the regular kids, and a few months later they offered me the Wednesday evening sitter position as well.  ALWAYS be on the lookout for a side job and don’t be afraid to ask if your kids can join, etc.  Extra bonus: it’s a weekly built in play date for my kids.

Basically, there are always ways to save.  Every time I think I’ve scrounged to the max I find something else I can do to cutback on costs or add to my budget.  You cannot get complacent.  My biggest advice is to stay calm and positive and realize “where there is a will there is a way”.  Talk to people, network, know the prices, know what’s a deal. If you don’t ask you’ll never know so ALWAYS ASK and DON’T BE AFRAID TO NEGOTIATE. Five years ago I would have said there is no way I could survive alone.  Now I’m not only surviving alone, I’m providing for three little people and we are all thriving. Life is good.

Surviving and Thriving

This is my very first post. I’m starting this blog because as a single parent and sole provider, I’ve found very little information that pertains to my niche.  It seems like a lot of content is aimed at the SAHM and two parent households.  Unfortunately, there are those of us that don’t fit in that mold and don’t have many options that come with a two parent or co-parenting situation.  One of the largest shifts in family structure is this: 34% of children today are living with an unmarried parent—up from just 9% in 1960, and 19%in 1980. In most cases, these unmarried parents are single. However, a small share of all children—4%—are living with two cohabiting parents (pewresearch.org 2014). That being said, I think there are a significant number of us that fit into this “sole parent” mold.  And if you don’t, you can still benefit from some of the wisdom I’ve come across.  If I can even help one person in any way, then it was worth it to begin this blogging journey.

 

212795-Being-A-Single-Parent-Quote