My Retirement

I left my career exactly two years ago (on the 8th). My son was 8 months old. Honestly, I could have left my job years prior thanks to what my husband set up for us, but without kids, there was nothing to fill my time. I enjoyed my work a lot, so every day worked was another day of money ‘saved.’ I now have two kids and haven’t looked back. I’ve ‘retired,’ but I haven’t stopped producing some income in addition to managing our finances (although I managed the finances while employed full time also).

First, some background of my career.

When I first started working, I was very driven. My goal was CFO by my early 30s. That seemed crazy, until our CFO stepped in shortly after I started working there, and she was 32. Goal marked. I was on the General Schedule pay for the Federal government. I started as an intern in 2007 (GS-4) and joined the training program (GS-7) that gave you a salary increase every year (with acceptable performance) until your position’s max (GS-12 by 2011). I needed to devise a plan that got me to a GS-15 as fast as possible because in 2011 I was 25 years old, which meant I had 5-7 years to climb 3 grades (which takes at least one year in each grade). Not a lot of wiggle room. Well, I soon realized that there was more to life than climbing the ladder as quickly as possible.

I met my husband at work, and we ended up moving to DC for personal reasons and took a GS-12/13 (this means that I started the position as a GS-12, and after 52 weeks ‘in grade’ with acceptable performance, I was promoted to the GS-13 – in theory, not practice). I was warned that it would be an uphill battle to go from the 12 to the 13, and it wouldn’t be as easy and automatic as it had been to get to the GS-12. Commence years of frustration and extremely poor communication from my leadership on expectations. Without getting the promotion within my position, I applied for another position within the same office, and I got it. This was a GS-13/14. I never got the 14.

My experience within the CFO’s office was so hard on my psyche, and I felt that being a young female, rather than my excellent experience, production, and reputation, were playing into the decision making by my leadership to not promote me. I left and went “back into the field” instead. That position was a GS-13 with no promotion potential within that role. By that time, it didn’t matter to me. I didn’t want any more responsibility than what I had; I enjoyed the work I was doing.

My experience in the CFO’s office taught me that I preferred to be at home with my family and experiencing those things. Before my relationship with my husband, I didn’t realize how much I wanted to spend time outside of work traveling, playing sports, and being with my family.

MY LAST DAYS

When my son was born, I took 14 weeks off work (using my own built up leave since at the time the government didn’t provide maternity leave). The typical 12 weeks got me to just before Thanksgiving, and then I worked one or two days per week until after Thanksgiving. The goal was to work and burn my leave to zero before quitting instead of being paid out on it. If you’re paid out on it, then the tax bill hits hard and all at once. Plus, by burning the leave while still employed, I gained even more time off to burn during those pay periods, more 401k (TSP) matches, and added a few months to my back end pension calculation.

Based on my leave balance, being responsive at work, and managing child care, we first set a goal of January. Then, my husband pointed out that January and February had holidays, and I should try to work through those holidays to get those ‘free’ days off. The goal became March because March is long and without any holiday time off! Well, the Federal government shut down that winter for several weeks. My husband’s job was affected by the furlough, but my type of position was funded through a different mechanism that meant my agency still worked (and if you want a lot of detail on that, I’m always happy to talk about it, but I won’t bore the majority here 🙂 ). So I worked full-time while he stayed home with our son. This meant I wasn’t using my leave, so I could work the part-time schedule longer once he went back to work. We then set my goal for May. I probably could have made it longer, but I was afraid that if I got near Memorial Day, he’d say “work through that holiday,” and then 4th of July wasn’t too far away, so I forced my last day to fit.

I had a such a good reputation for the work that I did, that I still get asked questions by friends I made in the position. Plus, I help my husband get through some work things here and there since his position is similar to one I used to hold. I miss the work, but I don’t miss the office politics and red tape, so I’ll take these random questions from friends!


WHAT AM I DOING IN RETIREMENT

There are days that I miss the work I did. I certainly appreciate the flexibility we have now.

FLEXIBILITIES & MOBILITY

We had the opportunity for my husband to work in KY for the summer after I quit. We were able to capitalize on the per diem given for living away from your duty station, and my son was able to spend time with his cousins. I also learned to be extra grateful for our normal-sized house and that I wasn’t trying to live in a one-bedroom apartment for very long.

Since my husband’s job required fairly frequent travel, my son and I were able to join him for those work trips. We went to Orlando and Glacier National Park together! We also took several trips just for fun, like to the Braves Spring Training games.

Pandemic life made us realize that we wanted to be closer to family earlier than we had intended. We loved our neighborhood, and the schools were going to be great, but having to isolate from people for so long was hard. It was also a logistical nightmare to get things done sometimes without family to help watch the kid(s) in a pinch. Since I’m not working, we decided to move to KY to be near Mr. ODA’s family – a lot earlier in life than we had intended. We discussed the possibility in May, discussed it more seriously in June, had our house listed in August, and closed on it in September. Nothing like a hasty decision with a newborn and no house lined up to move into on the other end of this decision! But had we both been working and both needing to be employed once we moved, we wouldn’t have been able to make such a move as quickly as we did. You can read more about these decisions in my ‘Moving States’ series posted recently.

It’s been nice to be able to do activities with the kids during the week when things are less crowded. Sure, a pandemic limited our options for the last year, but we still have more freedom. I enjoy seeing all the things they learn in a day. There are hard days where I crave more adult conversation or the ability to sit quietly and get something done without being asked for the 90th snack of the day, but I still wouldn’t go back to work.

WORKING

I’m the type of person that wishes I knew the inner workings of so many things and have a strong desire for efficiency. When I took my first job in DC, I kept pushing that I wanted to bridge the ‘headquarters’ and ‘field’ communication gap. For instance, there was a process that the field would submit to headquarters for action. Headquarters had their own internal process of tracking and executing it, but the field didn’t know that process. Therefore, headquarters spent a lot of time answering “what’s the status of my request” type emails. I explained the process to the field, and then we were left to spend more time processing the actions than managing questions.

All this to say: I’m quick to jump at new opportunities where I’ll learn something. I like knowing the process for things and find these details help me better connect with other people. While not being employed full time, I’ve kept my eye open for short term and part time opportunities to do something different.

ENUMERATOR

In February 2020, before the pandemic started, I applied to work for the US Census. We don’t “need” the money, but it gave me something to do that’s different. The application said Census field work was expected to be conducted in April and May. This was going to be hard since my daughter was due at the beginning of April, but I figured I wanted to be in the mix for information instead of assuming I wouldn’t be physically able to do work. Well, the pandemic delayed everything. I didn’t get any information until June, went to training, and then started work in July.

I was able to set my schedule in advance, which was nice. I learned at the beginning that it was hard for me to manage pumping and for my husband getting our daughter down for naps. So I changed my future schedules to be in 2-3 hour segments so that I could go home to feed her and put her down for her next nap. I was given a cell phone that had my work assignments (addresses to collect census data) and my day’s hours. I went door to door trying to gather census data from addresses that hadn’t responded. Most people didn’t answer their door, which meant that I probably had to knock on neighbors’ doors until I could identify at least the number of people who lived at the address in question. That was probably the hardest part because I would introduce myself and immediately be met with “I filled mine out!”

The work was in my geographic area. The furthest I had to travel for my assignments was 25 minutes. We ended up moving out of the area in September, so I missed several opportunities to work more, but most of the work was dwindling by then (the work started to send us further and further from our ‘home base’… even an ability to go to other states).

Honestly, I wanted to be the number crunchers in the office, but that position wasn’t available. I thought if I started with the field work, I could get my foot in the door. Our move hindered that a bit, but I’m glad I did it. I learned how the Census gets tracked. I made some money. I have some good stories (encountered several types of animals, including being surrounded by two large dogs that got my adrenaline running; left a few houses because my gut said it wasn’t safe). The application used to track information needed help, as it assumed we were all working in cities, whereas I was usually out in the country (e.g., no close neighbors). I boosted my confidence with glowing remarks from my supervisor since I put more than bare minimum effort in and was efficient in getting the work done.

the giant dogs that circled me, but eventually let me back in my car

SEASONAL CHANGE RUNNER

A local race track had thought that a limited number of patrons would require less staff. Unfortunately, once the race meet started, they were surprised at where their deficiencies were. Less patrons doesn’t necessarily mean less activity at concessions and bars, for example. Mr. ODA and I were approached about an opportunity to fill this gap. We’d have to be ok being on our feet for 6-8 hours, pass a background check, and pass a COVID test (interest fact: this is my only COVID test I’ve taken).

The race meet is only 15 days. We were approached after the races had started. We needed a COVID test, but didn’t want to pay out of pocket for it, so we had to wait until the next Wednesday to get that. Between all these factors, we were left with only a few days that they needed help. One of those days, we already had plans to attend the meet as patrons, so we didn’t want to lose that ticket. Mr. ODA worked one day of the meet, while I worked 3. I then also picked up a shift for their Derby celebration (although it’s not where the Derby was held).

We had a security guard escort and walked between all the bars and concession stands making change. Patrons tend to start their day with large bills, so the cashiers need smaller bills changed out. That’s where we came in. On the first day, I walked over 26k steps – while wearing ballet flats. My feet and calves weren’t happy about it.

It was an interesting experience. I enjoyed watching the transactions that took place, and the time passed quickly. We didn’t even know what our hourly rate was until our first pay checks, but we thought it was something new and different, so we jumped at the opportunity.

BREASTMILK DONATION

I’ve breastfed both my children. For my first, I worked while he was 3-8 months old, so I needed to pump to leave him with someone else. I learned that I produced a healthy amount of milk and looked into donation methods. A friend of mine had donated milk to a milk bank that works with NICU babies, so I explored that option. I went through their rigorous approval process and took their oath on health standards. I donated over 1200 ounces to the bank that first time. They weigh the milk upon arrival, and I was paid $1 per ounce weighed.

It was a lot of work, don’t get me wrong. I agreed up front to provide 350 ounces per month for 4 months. I didn’t hit that mark. It was mostly to my lack of knowledge on how to freeze the milk so that it took up the least amount of space when packing a cooler. They also had a requirement that not more than 6 ounces gets put in a single milk bag, so that added up. I struggled with their packing mechanism; no matter how many of their videos and attempts I made, I couldn’t seem to get 350 ounces in one cooler. It’s nerve wracking when you’re trying to get frozen milk from a freezer to a cooler while it’s 80 degrees outside (garage freezer), and you feel like you only have one shot to do it right or you jeopardize your entire stash from arriving frozen and being worth all that time and effort. I digress.

My second child didn’t latch for the first 4 weeks of her life, so I was exclusively pumping. That meant that she wasn’t regulating how much I made, and so I was making a whole lot more milk than she needed. I knew the rules associated with this milk bank from last time, so I was on my A-game from the start. Lesson learned – double check their rules before any future donation attempts because they changed a couple of their rules. They now wanted 400 ounces per month for 4 months, and they allowed (and encouraged) as much milk in one bag as possible. I wish I had known that on the days where I was trying to figure out how to get 7 ounces into two bags and whether I wanted to hold off on mixing later pumping sessions. I did better with the packing this time around, but it still wasn’t great. I nailed it on my last cooler, but it was too little too late. After my last cooler went off, I only had about 150 ounces left over. We were about to be ‘homeless’ (remember when we sold our house but didn’t have a new one to go to yet!) for 7 weeks, and I couldn’t keep up with pumping and moving around to all different places, so again I didn’t meet their quota. They’re always so gracious for whatever they receive though. I ended up donating just over 1,100 ounces this time around at $1 per ounce.


Mr. ODA could retire today. But again: what would we do with all that free time, what would he do about his leave balances that we don’t want to cash out, what do we do about health care? Our monthly expenses are more than covered by our rental property cash flow, but we don’t want to be stuck at home not being able to spend any extra money because we don’t want to raise our expenses. Since Mr. ODA is going to keep his job for now, we’re planning a more extensive summer travel calendar and trying to shift the mindset away from super frugality since we’ve already met many of our financial independence goals. Our savings now will create lifestyle in the future once we’ve both taken the “retire early” plunge.

The biggest change since I was working is that the Federal government now pays paternity/maternity leave. As I shared, I had to use my own leave balance. The Family Medical Leave Act just holds your job – it allows you to use your own time off, but it doesn’t guarantee payment. So I was granted 12 weeks of unpaid leave that I was then “allowed” to substitute my own leave for. I had planned for babies, so I had a great leave balance to get me through my maternity leave. Now, my husband will get paid for 12 weeks without having to touch his leave balance! Since we’re talking about having another kid, he’s going to stick around to utilize that benefit.

I’ve done things here and there to keep me sane because talking to other adults is a big need for me. But I wouldn’t trade all the time I’ve had with my two kids thanks to Mr. ODA’s extensive research and aggressive saving/investing to get us set up for success and early retirement. I’ll continue to keep my eye out for these part time opportunities where I get to learn something new.

April Financial Update

This month had a lot of money movement – tax payment out, stimulus check in. As I’ve shared before, we don’t budget. But you can start seeing how we’re pretty consistent on where we spend out money. This is because we have a spending mentality that we use to make each decision, rather than giving ourselves a ceiling in each category. I believe some may see a ceiling as a definitive amount to spend (e.g., if I’ve allocated $100 for restaurants this month, and by the last week I still have $75 in that budget pot, then I’m going to go spend it). If you know your long term goals and take responsibility for your decision-making, then you don’t need to pay close attention to each dollar.

With that said, my family came to visit for a week. It was our second’s first birthday, and my dad is helping us finish our basement. With 3 more adults in the house, we spent more than typical feeding them and eating at restaurants versus cooking after spending the day working in the basement. Mr. ODA and I share the same birthday, so we splurged for a nice meal that night. We actually spent about $300 at restaurants over this last month, but thanks to our Chase credit card, we received statement credits for $188 worth of these purchases!

We have also spent more on entertainment. We went to a winery and a brewery, purchased tickets for the local horse race season, and have done other activities now that the weather is nice. The pandemic and winter had our spending lower than our usual amounts, but I expect our spending to be more than it had been in these coming months. We’ve already put together our summer bucket list for travel.

We had all the tenants pay their rent on time, except one who eventually paid. Our rental income is $12,353, and we pay our business partner about $2,100 (we collect the rent and then pay him to cover the mortgages he holds and his half of the ‘profit’ after the mortgages are deducted from rent). We had to replace the HVAC in a rental. Luckily, this rental is owned with a partner, so only half the cost will affect us. We haven’t paid the bill yet, so that will hit next month.

  • We paid about $5,972 for our regular mortgage payments. We put an additional $5,000 towards an investment property mortgage, which now has a balance of $8,665. We also put $5,000 towards one of the properties that we have with a partner, which he matched, leaving that balance at $42k.
  • Every month, $1100 is automatically invested between each of our Roth IRAs and each child’s investment accounts. Our stimulus checks that we received for the kids went directly into the kids’ UTMAs.
  • Our grocery shopping cost us $539.  
  • We spent $91 on gas.
  • $290 went towards utilities. This includes internet, cell phones, water, sewer, trash, electric, and investment property sewer charges that are billed to the owner and not the tenant. We still haven’t sought reimbursement from the builder on our electric bill, but this month’s bill was significantly less than the previous months.
  • About $1300 was spent on supplies for the basement bathroom work. We registered the kids for swim lessons, registered our son for pre-school in the Fall, did more activities with the nice weather, and I made several gift purchases (current birthdays, baby shower, next Christmas (I like buying when I find something that makes me think of a person rather than a mad dash in the Fall to buy gifts)), so that was about $400.

SUMMARY

Our net worth has increased over $123k since last month due to our investment accounts and property values increasing. Our cash balance is starting to dwindle down to what we typically carry as ‘cash.’ And our mortgage balance is decreasing more than average due to our goal of paying off two of the mortgages that we’re carrying.

March Financial Update

I realize that some of the items that I share each month will be repetitive, but I’m catering to new readers that may not have seen the previous month’s details. As always, feel free to reach out if you have any questions about this information.

SPECIFIC LARGE CHANGES FROM LAST MONTH’S UPDATE

Paid $8,000 towards an investment property mortgage. This property’s mortgage balance is just under $14k, and we expect to have it paid off in the next 6 months. It would be earlier, but we’re also paying off another mortgage at this time, so we’re putting money towards that one next.

Mr. ODA cashed a few savings bonds that were mature, so we brought in $622 that wasn’t planned.

MONTH’S EXPENSES

Every month, $1100 is automatically invested between each of our Roth IRAs and each child’s investment accounts.

We had all the tenants except two pay their rent on time, and the other two houses paid on the 12th (typically when a tenant is late, the balance is paid on the next Friday of the month – pay day). Our rental income is $12,353, and we pay our business partner about $2,100 (we collect the rent and then pay him to cover the mortgages he holds and his half of the ‘profit’ after the mortgages are deducted from rent). We made it through the month with no investment property costs! We did have a tenant power wash our house out of the kindness of their heart though.

  • We paid about $5,900 for our regular mortgage payments.
  • Our grocery shopping cost us $500. We did the trial period for Walmart+. Unfortunately, the first two weeks of that trial period were destroyed by back-to-back ice and snow storms, so we couldn’t ever get deliveries scheduled within a couple of days. Once life went back to normal, there were plenty of delivery times available, even same day. While it was convenient, it wasn’t worth the annual fee and tipping the driver each time, so we cancelled it.
  • We spent $57 on gas, and $83 eating take-out.
  • We made some purchases that aren’t typical: ski season pass for next year ($119), medical bill ($70), and some furniture and odds and ends for the house (~$1,500).  
  • $464 went towards utilities. This includes internet, cell phones, water, sewer, trash, electric, and investment property sewer charges that are billed to the owner and not the tenant. Last month I shared that our electric bill was very high. We learned through the course of 6 HVAC company visits that our unit was not running properly, and that meant our heat strips were essentially on since we moved in ($$$). We will seek financial compensation from the builder once our next electric bill comes in.

SUMMARY

Our net worth increased by $45k from last month’s update. This change is mostly due to the value of our houses increasing and our mortgage balances decreasing.

February Financial Update

I had so many things to share, and now it’s time for another net worth update, but I hadn’t gone into the details of our 2019-to-2021 changes! I promise, it’ll come.

SPECIFIC LARGE CHANGES FROM LAST MONTH’S UPDATE

We paid off $5,000 left on one of our credit cards. This credit card was opened for a large purchase, and the 0% introductory rate expires at the beginning of March, so I wanted to make sure it was fully paid off so we don’t pay any interest on the balance.

We put $2,000 towards an investment property’s mortgage, and we received $2,000 cash out from another investment property’s refinance.

MONTH’S EXPENSES

Every month, $1100 is automatically invested between each of our Roth IRAs and each child’s investment accounts.

Between our personal home and the investment properties, except for the one that we refinanced so we skip February’s payment, we paid about $5,500 in mortgages. To put this in perspective, we brought in over $8800 from those properties, which doesn’t count $900 worth of rent at this time that the tenant is late on. This doesn’t include the properties that we own with a partner through an LLC, which nets us $400 each month (although one of those properties hasn’t paid rent this month yet either).

  • Our grocery shopping cost us $409.
  • We spent $76 on gas, and $72 eating take-out. We typically visit family once a week (45 miles round trip), go to the grocery (10 miles round trip) once or twice a week, and get take out once a week (10 miles round trip).
  • I made two Amazon purchases for non-grocery items we needed (e.g., activities for our 2 year old, vitamins, items for our daughter’s 1st birthday, and – really important – potty training seat), which totaled $125.
  • We owed personal property taxes from last year’s time in Virginia, so I paid the $94 for that. I also paid the balance of our personal home’s HOA, which was $85 for the rest of the year.
  • As for the investment properties, we had to purchase a new washing machine, which was $528 (although that cost is split with our partner for this particular house). We also paid for the insurance on a property that isn’t escrowed, which was $203.

$430 went towards utilities. This includes internet, water, sewer, trash, electric, and investment property sewer charges that are billed to the owner and not the tenant. Our electric bill was insane this month. We moved into our new home in November and had previously been living with gas heat so didn’t know what to expect. Mr. ODA called the HVAC company to have them run a diagnostic check on our units, and we found that the downstairs condenser isn’t working. It isn’t resolved yet due to an ice storm here, but hopefully it’ll be fixed today, and we hope to see some sort of compensation for our high electric bills due to this not working properly.

SUMMARY

Our net worth increased by $102k from last month’s update. This change is due to fluctuations in the stock market and the value of the houses. Our 401k balances increased over $35k, our taxable investments rose over $10k, and home values increased over $42k all together. A difference of over $5k in our credit card balances also contributed to the change in net worth.