My 401K is gonna be pissed!

Screen shot 2009-12-10 at Dec 10, 2009, 11.38.09 PMI made a pretty impulsive move yesterday. I decided to reduce my 401K contributions from 8% of my gross salary to 5%. *Gasp* Yes, that does mean I am going to have less in my retirement accounts, but don’t worry, I have a ninja-riffic plan in the works. If you read my post on Monday, you know I’m flirting with the idea of living outside of my spreadsheet. As a result, my net worth come retirement may be a little lower, but I think my overall quality of life will improve.

There were a few things that lead to my decision to decrease my contributions.

1) I was contributing 8% to my 401K and fully funding my Roth IRA each year. At my current income ($50K) that works out to 18% of my gross income being invested in retirement accounts. If you keep up with PF blogs, news stories, and TV shows, you’ll notice almost all ‘experts’ recommend a 20-something individual save between 10%-15% of his gross income for retirement. I was contributing 3% more than the average recommendation. Obviously, the more you contribute, the richer you will likely be. But I don’t really care if I have $3MM or $4MM in my account come retirement, as long as I have enough to live a comfortable lifestyle I’ll be a happy ninja. Oh, and the government only matches 5% anyways.

2) I essentially just gave myself a 3% raise. I have contributed 8% to my 401K since my first day of work (at the ripe age of 22). I’ve totally learned to manage my money being 8% poorer than I could be. I now will be taking home about $1,200 more per year (after taxes). That’s $1,200 I can use to save for a house, take a vacation, buy a moped, or rent out an entire movie theater for a private viewing of Twilight III. Sure, most of those expenses are not necessary, but don’t forget, I’ll still be socking away 15% for my gray hair days ahead.

3) The third, and probably most important, reason I decided to reduce my retirement contribution by 3% is this: I had no plans for the short term. Sure saving 18% for retirement is great, but guess what? That doesn’t make me rich until I’m 60 years old. What if I want to have a good chunk of change accessible in my 40’s? What if I want to retire early, but don’t want to be penalized for withdrawing from my retirement accounts? Well my friends, this is where the ‘short-term’ investing game comes in to play. I have to start exploring other means to grow my money. I have been so focused on retirement, I completely forgot to establish a game plan for my 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s.

Sure, I am taking away 3% from my retirement accounts each year, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to waste it. Instead I will transfer that money in to an investment vehicle of my choosing (stocks, bonds, etc). I need to start growing money for a 5, 10, and 20 year time horizon so I can do things like pay cash for the next vehicle I purchase, move up in house as my family size grows, pay for my kids college, and basically enjoy pre-retirement life.

As long as I contribute 15% of my gross income towards retirement, I have no need need (or reason) to contribute more. I’ve realized for me, anything above that 15% mark can be better served in short term mutual funds, real estate, cash, and bonds.

If you aren’t sure what percentage of your income you should be setting towards retirement, ask yourself this question. Would you rather have access to $6MM at age 60, or access to $1MM at age 45 and $3MM by age 60. I use to think I wanted $10MM all at retirement, but I now think I’d be just fine with $3MM in retirement if it meant I had $1MM available to me much sooner.

I have a couple questions for you all, how much do you contribute to retirement (if any), how much would you ideally like to contribute to retirement (if you are currently meeting that goal), and would you rather have $6MM at age 60, or $1MM at 45 and $3MM at age 60? What strategies have you established for pre-retirement goals? What short term investment vehicles do you recommend? Do you think I’m crazy? Any helpful hints, tips, and criticism is greatly appreciated 🙂

Wife = asset or liability?

Screen shot 2009-11-17 at Nov 17, 2009, 8.15.38 PMSo I have this great plan in my head: Get married and get rich. They go hand in hand right? Okay, I know it may not be all gravy, but I still can’t wait for the days of being a DINK (Dual Income No Kids). I’ve got a gameplan in my head, but I wanted to run it by all you married folks to see if it was reasonable.

The plan is simple: Live off my income, put wife’s income in the bank. Let’s pretend I get married in a year. At that point, I’ll be making $62,000 annually. That is easily enough money for both me and the Mrs. to survive on. Let’s not forget she will be working as well. I’ll assume she will be making roughly $40K/yr. Whatever is left after taxes are taken out of her paycheck, will go straight to Roth IRA’s and savings (probably about $25K/year).

I’m not naive though, I’ve listened to my fair share of Dave Ramsey and it is not uncommon to hear a caller indicate his wife is responsible for accumulating a significant amount of debt without his knowledge (Don’t label me a sexist, I know this works both ways). The power of a larger income can lead to a tendency to live a more frivolous lifestyle. New cars, lavish vacations, and dining out become the norm. High income often causes increased spending.

The main reason I want to be able to survive off my income, and save hers, is I don’t think my wife will work forever. Once baby ninjas enter the picture I want her to have the option to stay at home. If we allow ourselves to become accustom to surviving off both of our incomes, it would be super difficult to take a $40K hit in income for her to stay home. I feel like a lot of people purchased huge homes based on their dual income, and now find themselves struggling as one lost employment or decided to stay home with the kids. I would like to avoid that situation at all costs.

If I play my cards right and buckle down on the budget, future Mrs. Ninja and I should be able to comfortably live on my salary and take hers to the bank. Hopefully accumulate $100K in savings come time to make a home purchase, and then she can quit and stay home with the kids. Am I living in a dream world? Is there something to the DINK formula I’m overlooking? For current Dinks, is it totally awesome? Have you become dependent on both incomes? Has the dual income caused any issues? I need all the info I can get so I can plan accordingly.