Our Investment Strategy

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Spoiler alert! Our investment strategy is super boring, and anything I know about investing I’ve taught myself through numerous books, blogs, and podcasts. And you can too!

Since getting married in 2013, thanks to quitting a job I detested, traveling, and travel nursing, I’ve worked a total of 39 months. That averages out to < 8 months a year. Aside from a six month stretch where we both quit our jobs, Greg has maintained a super flexible part-time position that allows him to work when, and as much as I do, but take off when we want to travel or go home to harvest.

We’re really fortunate that his super flexible part-time position comes with a 401k and of course flight benefits, but I am the clear breadwinner. Last year my salary accounted for 85% of our gross income. I consider us one income (with flight benefits), no kids. OINK OINK, we’re the Porkens!

Greg: Did you pack pb&js for lunch?

Jamie: No, we don’t have bread. I brought cream cheese and pork rinds.

Greg: Great! We’re the Porkens!

 

I’ve had a Roth IRA, a 401k, and a Roth 401k through travel nursing, but not all agencies offer retirement, and some only after completing a couple of contracts. I just found out my latest nursing contract does, in fact, offer a 401k. Victory is mine! The hospital doesn’t provide a match until you work there a year, and they cap my contribution at 50% (up to the federal annual max of $18,500/yr), but I like that- it makes my investment strategy a lot easier to come up with.

I have researched the hell out of our investments and while I’m always open and willing to change, but not at all emotional about investing, at this point in our lives/quest for financial independence (when we can live entirely off the earnings of our investments), we invest 100% in stocks. Not individual stocks, but stock market index funds. Depending on what the funds cost, I split our investments between domestic and international funds, or just straight domestic. If you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, J L Collins’ The Simple Path to Wealth is an excellent place to start. In the meantime, here’s how we allocate our funds:

Jamie Roth IRA, Vanguard: 90% Total Stock Market Index Fund VTSAX, 10% Total International Stock Market Index Fund VTIAX

Jamie Trad IRA, Vanguard: 100% Total Stock Market Index Fund VTSMX

Greg Roth IRA, Vanguard: 90% VTSAX, 5% International Explorer VINEX, 5% International Growth VWIGX

Greg Trad IRA, Vanguard: 100% VTSMX

Jamie 401k, Securian: 60% Advantus 500 index fund, 30% Extended market index fund VEXAX, 10% Total international stock market index fund VTSAX.

Greg 401k, Fidelity: 100% Fidelity 500 index fund FUSEX. (the best ticker!)

Jamie 401k, Principal: 50% Principal LargeCap, 30% Principal MidCap, 20% Principal SmallCap index funds.

Now that doesn’t mean 90% of my income goes into my Roth IRA and the Total Stock Market Index Fund, but that 90% of the $5500/yr I put into my IRA is allocated to Total Stock and the other 10% goes into Total International Stock. My plan every June is to reallocate again, so the total balances reflect that 90/10 balance again.

 

We got super serious about investing last year but the most we’ve ever contributed to our respective retirement accounts has been just 15%, so this is a huge jump for us to contribute our company maxes. It might come back to bite us in our cash asses, but you know what I say- There’s only one way to find out! We will pay ourselves first and live off the leftovers. I am #pumped for the challenge. Our 2018 investing and saving plan, in order of priority:

  1. Contribute the company max to our 401ks. Greg = 40% gross income, Jamie = 50% gross income
  2. Save enough to max our 2019 IRAs.
  3. Save enough to max our 2019 HSAs. I’m trying to make enough in side hustle income this year to cover this.
  4. Save enough for our 2019 expenses.
  5. Invest the leftovers in our taxable Vanguard index funds.

 

Boy, all this saving and investing would be a lot easier if I hadn’t spent the first three months of 2018 sitting on my duff, waiting for a job. What can you do but learn from it and move on? Oh wait, lots of things. Namely, decrease our expenses and increase our income. This calls for my financial alter-ego… Lady Pocketchange? Lady Budgetcoin? Lady Goesnutsoverfindingaquarter? Greg, help me out here.

 

I am full of ideas for decreasing expenses, but increasing income isn’t always so easy. We could:

  1. Work overtime. Is this my favorite? Of course not. My favorite is spending less, everyone knows that. But working overtime is hands-down the easiest, most lucrative way for me, as a nurse, to earn extra income.
  2. Extend my contract. It is always easier to extend than it is to find a new contract, and our landlord would be glad to have us another few weeks.
  3. Ask for a raise. Just an idea for Greg. I’m contracted at a set rate.
  4. Take a contract immediately after harvest. We’ve had plenty of adventures already this year. We can get to work.
  5. Get a part time job.
  6. Travel for work. I can’t do this, but Greg can go work other airports, or go to a hub for training. Traveling for work means more hours than usual, hotel points, and a set daily food stipend which God love him he doesn’t spend but transfers to our checking account like it’s part of his paycheck. Don’t settle for anything less than your own Greg, ladies. He’s the best man I ever met.
  7. Donate plasma.
  8. Monetize this blog. When you click through links of specific products I recommend, I get paid. We very much appreciate your support.
  9. Take online surveys to earn a few extra bucks a month.
  10. Utilize passive side hustles to keep expenses at a minimum and savings at a maximum.

 

Of all of those ideas, maybe the best way we, or anyone, can decrease expenses/increase income is to lower the expense fees we’re paying to manage our investment accounts. Last year I had my Roth IRA with another bank, but after learning about investing and delving into all my expense fees, I have since moved everything over to Vanguard. Although they may not seem very expensive, unchecked expense fees can eat away at your wealth, which obviously I’m massively opposed to.

As an example, the “other bank” has a 500 index fund with an expense ratio of 0.28%, whereas Vanguard charges just 0.04%. That means the other bank was charging me seven times as much to manage the same kind of fund. Another fund I held at the other bank charged me 1.58%! Again, that doesn’t seem like much, but when we retire for good we plan on living off of just 4% of our total investments. So a fund that charges 1.58% eats up over a quarter of the money we plan to live off of, just to have someone else manage it. I don’t think so

 

My ultimate goal is to get our investments to “coast FI”, then I can quit nursing and we can both do what we want for the rest of our lives to cover our expenses. Coast FI means we’ll be “coasting” to financial independence- that we won’t have to contribute another dollar to our retirements to be able to retire with the amount we want. That’s not nearly as much money as you think. $200,000 earning 7%/year for 30 years would be over $1,500,000, which I think we can all agree is an adequate supplement to Social Security. I use Dave Ramey’s Investment Calculator to figure our numbers based on what we currently have invested.

 

So there you have it! We don’t use a financial adviser, we don’t buy individual stocks, we don’t own any real estate, and we don’t have any cryptocurrency, coins, or gold. Our money that isn’t invested is just sitting in cash, waiting for a rainy day. No one (aside from a financial adviser, and I have my serious doubts about them) can tell you how you should invest your money, but there are tons of free resources out there full of sound advice to help you sleep better at night, which is my main investing philosophy. Whatever helps me sleep at night.

 

Resources:

Mad Fientist – FI (financial independence) blogger specializing in “Advanced strategies for pursuing financial independence and early retirement”

Mr. Money Mustache – FI blogger achieving “Financial Freedom Through Badassity”

IRS.gov retirement plans – learn about the different types of retirement plans from Uncle Sam himself.

Vanguard index funds – I would have all our accounts through Vanguard if I could. If Warren Buffett recommends them, they must be great.

Media – my personal recommendations for what has worked for us

Personal Capital – Free financial tracking. I use it to keep an eye on our net worth, and if you sign up through our link we both get $20.

Capital One 360 – Free checking, savings, and money market accounts. These are the main accounts where we keep our cash, and if you open any accounts through our link you get free money- up to $100!

 

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