At Age 37, My Wife and I Have Begun Investing Our Money, Thanks to Charles Schwab

At age 37, I am fully aware that I am now at the halfway point of the average American lifespan. I suppose this is literally the most appropriate time to have my midlife crisis.

Finally, I can trade in my old paid-off Honda Element for a brand-new Jeep Wrangler, take a spur of the moment trip to Spain, and start training for American Ninja Warrior…

But instead, I am focusing all that energy into planning for the 2nd half of my life- and my wife’s, as well as our children’s future.

My wife and I got married 10 and a half years ago, right in the middle of the 2008 Financial Crisis.

The first half of our marriage was spent building our careers from entry level positions and trying to manage the tens of thousands of dollars of debt we were in; largely due to college loans and our wedding.

The most recent half of our marriage began with us finally becoming debt-free in 2013, buying the last steal-of-a-deal new home in the Nashville area, and both finding ourselves far enough into our careers and side hustles that we started making a comfortable living.

But as Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid explains, your goals and motivations evolve as you overcome your previous more basic needs and desires.

Now the focus is… how to invest our steady stream of income into our future.

I thought it was as simple as just paying off our house, then worrying about retirement afterwards.

However, my wife has been listening to the Moneywise program on Moody Radio on the way home from work each day. She explained to me that based on our interest rate on our home, it would actually be a better investment of our money to start building our retirement now, alongside paying off our mortgage early.

My wife then set us up an appointment with Charles Schwab financial investment company, which she had been hearing endorsed on Moneywise.

Today was the big day.

Our financial advisor helped us rollover my 401K from my previous employer to traditional IRA and select a portfolio for it. She also gave us direction on determining our financial goals so we could better plan our retirement and our kids’ college funds.

This was a major milestone for us. Here’s to the second half of life!

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The Crazy (Not So Crazy?) Idea to Downsize to a One Story Home in an Effort to Pay Off Our Mortgage Quicker

When our family moved into our brand-new construction home back in January 2015, we had somewhat of an idea that we were potentially getting the last great deal in our bedroom community outside of Nashville.

But we didn’t realize that would mean the value of our home would increase more than $25,000 each year following.

In our neighborhood, houses are constantly for sale, and often are sold before a “sold” sign can even be posted in the yard.

My wife has been keeping up with the growing selling prices of our neighbors’ homes. It’s no exaggeration: We would easily make $80,000 if we sold our home today.

Contrast this to a decade ago when we bought a town home the year we got married, which happened to be right in middle of the The Great Recession. The value of that town home began dropping almost immediately. When we finally sold it in 2014, we barely made $1,000 off of it.

My wife and I are mutually obsessed with paying off our mortgage as soon as possible; as we have been debt free for 5 years now: No student loans, no car payments, no interest to be paid- other than our mortgage.

Last weekend was consumed by the quest to find out it would make more sense to actually downsize to a 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom, one story home in our area; compared to the 4 bedroom (plus a bonus room), 2 and a half bathroom, 2 story home we have now.

Even with the cost of other homes rising in our town, the $80,000 profit from selling our current home would greatly minimize our monthly payment; which we’re already paying several hundred dollars extra on each month.

We learned that ultimately, the amount of money we owe the bank would remain the same, but with the monthly payment being several hundred dollars lower, we could increase the amount we pay on the principle by that much more. And therefore, we could pay off our home years sooner.

However, it’s still a gamble…

Because at the rate our home is increasing in value each year, this means that two years from now by 2020, our home would be worth $100,000 more than what we bought it for in January 2015.

So while we are still open to the idea of downsizing in order to have a paid off mortgage that much sooner, it might be smarter to wait a few more years as our home continues to increase in value at the rate it is.

Therefore, it looks like our plan is to be working on simple upgrades for our home in the meanwhile, so that not only we will be able to enjoy our current home that much more while we are actually living it, but so that it will also be that much enticing for future buyers.

The problem is, I’m no Chip Gaines when it comes to my handyman skills. That will prove to be the biggest challenge for now…

Dear Holly: You Learned How to Jump This Week… While Wearing Your Brother’s Pokemon Underwear!

2 years, 2 months.

Dear Holly,

You’ve been on a mission this week. I’m not sure what inspired it. Maybe you’ve been seeing your friends do it at school, or maybe you’ve just simply developed your muscles to the point you can.

But after just a few days of practice, you finally taught yourself how to jump!

You’ve been leaping across our living room like a frog. You’ve even been making the sound: “Ribb-ribb-ribb-ribb…”

I had been noticing for the past couple of weeks that it looked like you were practicing. You just couldn’t figure out how to actually get your feet off the ground; as if it were supposed to be an automatic thing that happened after you squatted.

Your newly learned jumping skill just happened to be the same week that your brother talked you into wearing same of his old Pokemon underwear over your clothes.

Of all the cute clothes you have in your closet, you have decided that your brother’s old underwear are better choice.

Actually though, it reminds me of a conversation I was having with Mommy this week, how I myself have cool newer t-shirts that I never wear enough; as if I’m saving them for some special occasion that never happens.

Instead, I tend to wear only my old faded clothes when we’re home.

The irony is that for the people I love the most, I wear the worst clothes; and for the rest of the world, I have to put on a fashion show that no one is paying attention to.

So maybe you have inspired me to just start wearing what I really want to wear, even when it’s just our family at our house.

As for now, I have a feeling that it will just be the new norm to be seeing you jumping around the house in boys’ Pokemon underwear.

 

Love,

Daddy

Dear Jack: The Dr. Suess Playhouse You Built with Your Cousin

6 years, 8 months.

Dear Jack,

It’s funny to see what happens when you let two almost 1st grader cousins entertain themselves at Nonna and Papa’s house. All it took was a few stuffed animals, a Cozy Coupe, a play tunnel, and the furniture in the living room.

The next thing I knew, you both had built a Dr. Suess style playhouse!

Apparently, the entry way was a slide that was prompted up on the couch. Once you tested out that out several times, you built the cabin space, thanks to the recliner couch and your favorite blanket.

Once that was complete, you and your cousin enjoyed the fruits of your labor by secretly sharing some snacks and toys underneath the blanket ceiling.

During the course of the weekend, there were several modifications; one including the giant D.A.R.E. bear at the end of the tunnel. I’m not really sure what purpose he served, but there was no need for me to question it. As long as it made sense to the two of you, it made sense to me!

Clearly, your Dr. Suess style playhouse is the modern twist on the classic children’s fort.

I’m sure in your mind, the playhouse was huge. When you’re young, things seem much bigger than they are; especially when imagination is heavy in the mix.

You literally spent hours building, rebuilding, and playing in it. And my favorite part about was, no one had to tell the two of you to go imagination and figure out something fun to do.

It just happened.

Obviously, you both were able to make something exciting out of something ordinary. That skill will get you far in the life.

I have a feeling that the next time you visit, the next playhouse will be even more extravagant… and bizarre!

Love,

Daddy

A Step-By-Step Guide To Moving With Kids And Pets (By Guest Blogger, University Moving and Storage)

No matter how you look at it, moving can be stressful — especially when you add kids and pets into the equation. Changing routines, packing everything you own and uprooting your household is a surefire recipe for stress regardless of who you are.

When you can’t understand why everything is in disorder, it’s even more difficult to cope. So when you’re moving with pets and kids, what can you do to ease the tension for the ones you love? To help answer that question, see the following tips and accompanying step-by-step guide to improving the way you move with children and pets.

Preparation

The more you can prepare your household for a move, the better they’ll be able to handle it. Take advantage of the time you have prior to your move to help everyone efficiently cope. Two key ways to prepare:

· Practice traveling

· Talk about the move

With your kids especially, have conversations about what’s coming for the family. Make the idea of moving a journey, and get them involved in the prep work. Maybe you let them choose decorations for their new rooms, or drive them around the new neighborhood. Help them visualize what’s coming, as much as possible. Equally, if you know you’ll be spending a lot of time in the car during a long-distance move, get your family used to the idea. Practice with a few shorter trips to adapt everyone to what moving will involve.

Make Plans for Moving Day

Expect moving day to be frenzied, and do everything you can to ease that stress. Can you have friends watch your pets? Can you hire a sitter for the kids? Maybe you can keep your pet in an extra room or the backyard of your new home? If someone is keeping is your children and/or pets entertained while you’re unpacking, it’s possible to relieve a lot of stress associated with the move.

Post-Move Tips

Returning your pets and kids to their routines as soon as possible is a good way to help in the first days after a move. Set up food dishes and get your pet on a regular eating schedule. Give your kids their preferred toys as soon as you unpack. If there are certain things you regularly do as a family — such as taco Tuesdays or weekend movies — try to apply them when you’re transitioning. Getting back to routine provides comfort and security to little ones in the midst of change.

Check out the below infographic from University Moving and Storage for more information.


A Step-By-Step Guide To Moving With Kids And Pets created by moving company University Moving and Storage

 

15 Tools Every Homeowner Should Own Guide (By Guest Blogger, Mike Knapczyk of Chicago Metro Home Inspections)

There’s nothing more satisfying than solving a problem on your own, especially when it comes to repairs around the house. Doing it yourself not only provides you with a sense of accomplishment and builds your self-esteem, but it also can help you save a lot of money compared to hiring a contractor — so you can focus on other important financial matters for your family. However, it takes more than the willingness to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty to be a true do-it-yourselfer. You also have to make sure you have the right tools for the job.

Although some household repair projects may require specialized tools, many of the most common household DIY projects can be accomplished with a set of basic tools. That’s why it’s in the best interests of any homeowner to keep a rudimentary toolbox around the house to handle any projects that might pop up. There are 15 tools that every homeowner should have on hand in case of emergency. Some are obvious, but others might be ones that homeowners wouldn’t know they would need until they actually need them.

For example, it’s common knowledge that you need a hammer for driving nails, screwdrivers for driving screws, and a set of combination wrenches and adjustable wrenches for handling nuts and bolts. Not everyone would think of a torpedo level as a necessary tool, but it’s essential for ensuring a shelf or picture is hung on the wall correctly. Slip-joint pliers are useful for gripping worn-down bolts or other hard-to-hold objects. Caulking guns are indispensable for sealing cracks and joints, and duct tape will help hold objects together until you can find a permanent solution. Wire cutters will come in handy if you need to do any minor electrical work around the house; while a hacksaw can handle cutting through copper pipes for a plumbing project. No matter what type of project you’re taking on, safety goggles and a respirator or breathing mask will help protect you. Finally, a flashlight is a crucial item to keep in any toolbox because most household problems happen in the dark.

Review the following list of 15 tools every homeowner should have and make sure your toolbox is ready for the next DIY project in your house.

Author bio: Mike Knapczyk is Owner and Operator of Chicago Metro Home Inspections, and provides home inspection services to the Chicagoland and Cook County areas. Knapczyk is involved in every aspect of the business and has much experience in the home inspection industry.

15 Tools Every Homeowner Should Own Guide from Chicago Metro Home Inspections

Our Back Porch and Back Yard are Like 2 More Rooms of Our House in the Summer (Featuring American Plastic Toys)

This makes the 3rd summer we’ve spent in our house since it was built, yet it’s the 1st summer we’ve really made an effort as a family to utilize those 2 forsaken “rooms” of our house: the back porch and the back yard.

It’s becoming the norm these days that, as a family, we end up hanging out there under the blue sky, with the soybean field in sight right over the fence. My one year-old daughter loves it when I take her out there just to watch the robins fly by. She points to the sky, “Wuh? Wuh?”

I then confirm, “Yes, birds. Birds.”

While we were on vacation in Florida last week, American Plastic Toys sent our family some samples of their outdoor sports equipment for kids. (And yes, these products are actually made in America.)

So this past Saturday morning, we finally were able to break out the new outdoor sports toys and have some fun.

We made our way out onto the lawn so my son could hit some home runs. I forget how big our lawn actually is, but playing baseball helped put our “field” to use.

Our back porch transformed into a golf course, as our son wanted to refine his skills for the next time we visit a putt-putt place. Eventually, our golf game transitioned in to a hockey match, as our son is quite aware of the Nashville Predators. Before he was ready to move on, though, he also engaged me in a sword fight, using the golf clubs.

Summer is on its way. I want make sure we make good use of the great outdoors, especially when they are literally right outside the back door.

As for my daughter, she’s happy just to watch her big brother play, as she uses our back porch as a training facility for learning to walk.