Retirement Options


Let’s talk retirement.

Until just this past year, hubs and I had saved absolutely nothing toward retirement. And, even this past year, we had just started saving $100/month (only in the months where we had an extra $100 to spare). In April we opened our very first Roth IRA for 2014 with a whopping $1,000 investment. That’s it. That’s our full retirement.

I’ve had in the back of my mind that I would start more aggressive retirement contributions after we’re completely consumer debt-free (the only thing left is the car!). But now that I’ve landed a full time job things are shaking up a little.

One maybe odd thing about this job is that they require mandatory retirement contributions. I’ve never heard of that before (but this is my first full-time job, so maybe it’s more common than I think???). Also, there are two separate retirement options. At first I mistakenly thought I could switch between the two, but that was inaccurate. After reading more (and speaking with HR), I’ve learned that once I select a plan – that’s it. There’s no changing the plan. Ever. For the entire duration of my career at the university, I am locked into the retirement plan (note: I can still change investments within the plan, see more below).

The big difference is that one plan is a defined benefit plan, whereas the other is a defined contribution plan. The defined benefit plan has a higher mandatory contribution and match (currently 11.48%, compared to 7% for the defined contribution plan), but it scares me that someone else is entirely in control of the investment. Plus, the defined benefit plan pay-out isn’t based solely on the amount contributed (like the defined contribution plan), it’s based on years of service, average monthly salary, and an actuarial formula.

In contrast, the defined contribution plan benefits are based solely on the amount I’ve contributed and how the investment performs across time. It allows me to select the investment company and investment allocations myself. So even though the match is a smaller percentage, I may be able to make it up with interest and growth across time (and benefit pay-outs aren’t contingent upon years of service, average salary, etc.).

There are lots of other factors to consider as well (e.g., the defined benefit plan offers health care subsidies after retirement and better long-term disability than the defined contribution plan). It kind of sounds, to me, like the defined benefit plan is similar to a pension….only it’s not free money from the employer. It’s money that has been paid-in by the employee (and matched by employer) all throughout the employee’s career. When I googled “defined benefit versus defined contribution” everyone says to participate in the defined benefit plan, at a minimum, and to add the defined contribution plan if possible, too. But I think this is different because the websites I looked at were assuming that the defined benefit plan was paid in full by the employer (not by employee contributions). Also, at my job it is not possible to participate in both. It’s an either/or (and no moving between them).

I’m leaning toward the defined contribution plan simply because the peace of mind of being in control of MY money instead of relying on someone else to be in control (also, I don’t like that the percentage of contributions in the defined benefit plan varies and that vesting doesn’t apply until termination of employment).

Reader thoughts or opinions? For anyone who would like to see the fine print, I’ve attached a retirement comparison chart I received. Thanks!!!


If you had the option, would you select a defined benefit plan (similar to a pension, but with mandatory employee contributions) or a defined contribution plan (just like a regular 401(k), with a 7% company match)? Why?

Lackluster June 2015 Debt Update


So remember how we had a no-income month of May with hubs’ business?

That really hurt us in terms of our ability to make big debt payments. I even said at the beginning of the month that we were going to cut out some of the debt payments all together (like the car payment and balance transfer loan, which don’t have minimum payments currently due), and pay minimums on everything else.

Well, its one thing to say something and another to actually do it.

And although we really didn’t have the funds to do so (I had to tap into EF funds), I made some payments toward all of our debts for my own psychological satisfaction. That being said, it’s not like I was able to do an awesome job on debt payments this month. In fact, I believe this is our lowest debt payment since I started blogging here (back in March 2014).

And there’s one thing thats certain in regard to debt eradication. If you aren’t moving forward, you’re moving backward. There is no “stationary” option available.

So, unfortunately, I also have to tell you that our debt actually increased this month (not due to new debts, but due to accruing interest on the existing debt).

However, the additional debt has been totally puzzling to me. It’s all from my student loans and, although I have a lot of student loan debt, every single month my debt has been going down. This month I actually made a larger student loan debt payment than normal and my debt somehow went up.

I called Navient to ask about what happened.

How is it that every single month I pay (X) and my debt decreases. This month I paid (X+$67) and my debt somehow increased? It doesn’t make sense that I paid more and somehow my overall balance has gone up?

The person I spoke with had no idea. She took down some information, said she’d file a report, and someone would get back to me. That was two weeks ago and still no news.

I called back another time to try to figure it out.

This time, I was told that even though I’m on income based repayment where unpaid interest is forgiven on my subsidized loans, apparently the unpaid interest is only forgiven on a quarterly basis? Meaning, the interest continues to accrue and is only forgiven once every three months.

This makes no sense to me. Navient is a little bit trickier, but it’s clear as day from looking at all my debt updates (you can go through the archives for yourself), that my ACS loans (which are all subsidized) have had the same balance – to the penny – ever since I applied for income-based-repayment (last August). But my minimum payment doesn’t even cover the interest, so it’s clear that the unpaid interest has been forgiven every month, not just once a quarter. Otherwise, my balance would have continued to rise every month as I make my minimum payments.

My IBR status hasn’t lapsed, supposedly this policy isn’t new (in regard to only forgiving interest once per quarter), and there’s absolutely no logical reason I can think of that explains it.

But with BOTH of my student loan carriers this month (Navient and ACS), my balances have gone up.

Can anyone explain this to me? Pretty please with a cherry on top?

It’s absolutely maddening! It’s such a helpless feeling to know I owe this money, but to feel like somehow I’m getting screwed over – only no one believes me and no one seems to think anything is amiss.

To sum up…

  • I’ve made the same payment every.single.month. My balance has always decreased.
  • This month I made the same payment PLUS an extra $67 payment.  And somehow my balance increased.

Part of me still thinks maybe this is a new policy (only forgiving interest quarterly) and the representative I spoke with simply didn’t know or realize it. Otherwise, how do you explain that BOTH of my loan service providers had the same issue in the same month?

It really makes me want to knock out my car loan debt ASAP so I can start to kill these student loans. They absolutely need to die.

Now that I’ve gone on my rampage, let me show you the actual debt numbers.

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Capital One CC-17.9%-Paid off in March 2014$413
Mattress Firm-0%-Paid off in May 2014$1381
Wells Fargo CC-13.65%-Paid off in May 2014$7697
BoA CC-7.24%-Paid off in June 2014$2220
License Fees-2.5%-Paid off in April 2015$5808
Navient - Federal Student Loan$39088.25%$116June$4687
ACS Student Loans$214117.24%$77May$21035
Navient - Dept of Education student loans$666676.55%$307June$63254
PenFed Car Loan$146422.49%$100June$24040
Balance Transfer student loan (Former Navient 1-01)$53370% (through April 2016)$100June$5937
Medical Bills$60860%$25June$9000
Totals$118,051 (Last month = 117,815)$725Starting Debt = $145,472

I can’t beat myself up about it too much. Next month will be better. Onward.

Seriously though – anyone else on IBR have this issue where unpaid interest was not forgiven this month? Is it a new policy to only forgive interest once per quarter? Why have I never experienced this before?

Job Status


Hi friends! I’m happy to announce that I’ve officially signed the deal and will have a full time job starting July 13th!


Holding my signed contract

Yikes, that’s sneaking up quick! I’ve signed a short-term 1 month contract to work on course preparation from mid-July through mid-August. Then my full-time contract (where the benefits kick in) begins mid-August. Not a lot of time between now and then to tend to things such as: moving girls to full time preschool, buying some work-appropriate attire (I’ll sure miss lounging in my yoga pants all day!), and any other household odds and ends that need to be wrapped up before beginning full-time employment.

I had a handful of commenters ask me to expand on what, exactly, this job is. I’ve mentioned a couple different jobs and I think people were getting confused so I’ll take a moment to give some additional details.

  1. The job I have accepted is for a large public university in Tucson (betcha can’t guess where – wink, wink, nudge, nudge) in a department I’ll call Department A. This job is for a non-tenure track position. It’s part lecturer and part online program coordinator. As time moves on and the online bachelors program really gets going, it will turn into more coordinating and less instructing. Although my dream used to be the traditional tenure-track position, in recent years as I’ve gained experience with online teaching I really see this as the future of academia and I’m excited to have a portion of my salary be administrative (the coordination) while still having the ability to do what I love in the classroom (the lecturing). Plus, there tends to be more money in administration than in the traditional tenure-track career path (at least in my field, may not be true in all fields).
  1. Back in January I had applied for a job at the same university, but in a different department that I’ll call Department B. I did not get that job. BUT, they are the ones that called me a couple weeks ago. I spoke with the department head and she wanted me to teach a couple classes this Fall. She also said that they were trying to get approval (from the college level) to hire a full-time lecturer/undergraduate coordinator but wasn’t sure if it would be approved in time for the fall semester. I got an email on Monday from the dean stating that the position was approved, would be posted soon, and to please apply because they wanted to do a quick (7-10 day) turnaround. This is academic lingo for “we legally have to post the job, but the position is yours.” This is similar to job #1, above, in that it is also non-tenure-track; one part lecturer and one part administrative. The main reason why I prefer job #1 over job #2 is that job #1 pays better. My starting salary (in Department A) is more than many of the assistant professors are making in Department B.
  1. The last potential job lead was/is the most up-in-the-air. It’s for the position that I flew out of state for this past March where I did the whole “not-an-interview” thing. At the time I was told that funding for the position they’d advertised was no longer available, but I was encouraged to apply for next year (starting in the 2016-2017 academic year). I recently received an email from them notifying me that the position has been posted. Applications are not due until September, and interviewing/hiring will likely take place in the November-February time frame for the August 2016 start date. This is the only job of the three that is a traditional tenure-track position.

So where are we at?

I’ve officially accepted job #1. Taking job #1 meant that job #2 was out. There is still a possibility I could apply for (and eventually be offered) job #3 for next year, but I’m pretty unsure about it at this point. With all the family turmoil going on, I don’t like the idea of having to move my family cross-country, have my hubs find a new job (or re-start his business in a new state), and basically start all over again. I like the stability of staying where we currently live and starting to really put down roots. I’m also having a hard time with the actual job descriptions. In my mind, I’d always really wanted a tenure-track position. But now that I’m facing a different option, I’m realizing how excited I am about it. I’ve always loved project management (I have some experience with that in the past), and that’s basically what the online coordination is, but on a larger level. Instead of “project” management its “program” management. Also, research is stressful. I still like it and I often incorporate it into my lectures (and I love teaching!), but do I really love research? I don’t know. If given the option, I think I’d select the administrative side (i.e., online program coordination) over the research side. In terms of long-term growth, I also see additional opportunities for the administrative side. Online programs:  it’s the way of the future! Getting this experience early on could help me have a competitive edge over others in the future and maybe, just maybe, land me an awesome position back by family at some point. The big downside is the lack of tenure, itself. Tenure is the best job security in the world! But I don’t worry about it too much. I think my work will speak for itself and I’ll make myself an indispensable asset of the program. So hopefully I’ll have job-security that way.

I have so much more I want to say and some advice I’d like to gather from readers regarding retirement options, but I’m out of time now so that will have to wait until Monday.

Thanks for your encouragement and support along the way. I’m still a little nervous about the transition back into full-time employment (this will be my first full-time position in the past 3 years since my kids were born), but I’m also very excited for this next chapter of our lives and the implications for our debt reduction!

Lots Going On – Travel, Decision Time and Almost There


I didn’t get an update in last week.  We were traveling to see my grandmother and I neglected to deal with the “no internet” issue at her home.  In the past, I always had a hot spot with my cell phone plan, but since I cut that last fall, well, I didn’t plan well.  I went out for a few hours to get internet and get work done, but otherwise, spent the entirety of my time reveling with my family.  It was truly an amazing trip, and I’m so glad I spent the money to go!

The total cost of the trip was less than $150 for two tanks of gas, and one meal out which I paid for.  But the fun was priceless!  Swimming, fishing and riding four wheelers at all my different extended families homes.  The little kids did not want to leave, and frankly, I didn’t either.  I was especially grateful to my cousins and uncles who spent a good deal of time with my little ones as I have been struggling with what I am calling the “fatherneed” especially for them.

2015-06-15 10.54.04

Princess and Little Gymnast with their catch of their FIRST ever fishing experience, and then we all got to watch the fish get cleaned and then ate them…SO, SO YUMMY!

I’ve also got the big housing decision deadline coming up in the next 30 days and am still struggling with what to do there, but that’s a story all on it’s own and I’m sure I’ll write about it in the upcoming weeks. Needless to stay, it’s still taking up a bit of my time researching, thinking and praying about what the right move is on that front. (Our lease is up in September, but we have to give notice by July of what our plans are.)

And most importantly, we are speeding quickly toward our “no consumer debt” pay off debt which is just a week away.  And I’m beginning to contemplate the next move on the financial front and more immediately a new budget since we’ve been on our super frugal budget now for almost four months.

Oh, and one big thing has happened.  We bought a car!  A family car, just in time for our Georgia trip.  I just couldn’t stomach the thought of the cramped conditions for 8 hours each way and frankly, while the Accord is a good little around town car, I just didn’t trust it for such a long trip.  So after much research and thought, I bought a car.  I will give the details on that in the next week or so.  The twins helped drive down to GA in it, and they too were glad to not have to drive the stick shift for so long.

Sea Cadet driving on the first leg of the trip to GA.  It was his first time driving with the entire family in the car...boy, was it scary!

Sea Cadet driving on the first leg of the trip to GA. It was his first time driving with the entire family in the car…boy, was it scary!

Weekly Debt Update #19- Father’s Day Weekend and Disney Prep


Hope everyone is having a wonderful day.

This past weekend was Father’s Day, of course, so for all you fathers out there- here’s to you. Since my dad was down in Orlando visiting my nephew all weekend, we did not do any celebrating. After talking with my mom and brother, we’re holding off celebrating with my dad until the weekend of the 4th, since we all have the weekend off. However, just like for mother’s day where I celebrated GF being the “mother” of our dogs, she did some amazingly wonderful things for me. First, she made me breakfast, and then I got to spend most of the day doing what I wanted (spent playing guitar) while she worried about taking care of the chores. She made the dinner of my choice (her awesome homemade chili and a Greek salad) and then took us for a drive to a little, but fairly famous, road side stand for root beer floats. On the way back, we stopped at a beach and relaxed in the park. Here’s me on a child’s swing, lol:

IMG_3779.JPG (1)

As for Disney prep- I appreciate all the amazing comments on last week’s post. We now have some ideas for what we are going to do for food on our way back. Chances are at this point, we’ll find a grocery store outside of Disney and grab some items to pack in our cooler on the way back. Like I said before, GF has begun picking up non-perishables for the ride down. The way she coupons and shops, I don’t see a problem having enough non-perishable foods for both the way down and the way back up. We also started doing a “hardcore” cleaning of our house. The house never gets really dirty, but we don’t clean into the nooks and crannies too often. GF and I agree that there’s no better feeling after vacation than coming home to a super clean house. This way we won’t have to worry about doing much in the ways of chores when we get back. If there’s one thing about Disney, with the amount of walking and the lack of sleep, you could use a vacation after, so to speak, lol.  We started doing the cleaning last night and we’ll move room to room until we leave in a couple of weeks.

For the last week of debt payoff, here’s the numbers:

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Current BalanceTotal Paid OffPaid Since Last Week
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$23,838.59$3,998.65$57.94
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$18,702.35$3,494.67$48.15
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$0.00
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$5,925.89$4,424.29$345.74
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$0.00$6,096.03$0.00
Sallie Mae 06 and 074.75$6,415.09$0.00$6,415.09$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 015.25$5,000.00$0.00$5,000.00$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 025.25$3,000.00$0.00$3,000.00$0.00

Second Job Offer?!?!


Say what?


Just now I opened my email and found an email from the “other” department saying they are posting an ad soliciting an instructor/undergraduate coordinator and they would like for me to apply for the position. The ad should be posted by the end of the week and they hope to have a quick hire (7-10 day turnaround).

What? WHAT?!

My Mom (the real estate broker) says I’m like an empty house. I’ve sat on the market without any offers for months and then – all of the sudden – there’s a bidding war! (haha! Gotta love my mom, comparing me to a house!)

I haven’t responded yet. I was planning to email them today to say that I’d just signed a contract with another department but I haven’t actually signed yet and I wanted to wait until everything is 100% official before closing that door.

So what should I do? I’ve exchanged a couple emails with the department where I’ve received an official offer letter today. We’re still working on an exact salary number but I expect that negotiations should wrap up tomorrow and I also bet that my salary with this department will be higher than they could offer in the “other” department.

So should I reply now and say I’m unavailable – that I’m in contract negotiations with someone else? Or should I wait until the contract is officially signed and leave them hanging in the meantime?

I seriously cannot believe I’m even in this place. Just a few weeks ago I was unsure if I’d ever get a full time offer, and now I’ve basically got two? Craziness!

Hot Temps!!!


Living in Tucson, we have it pretty good during the winter. We get a nice crisp chill in the air and can drive to the mountains to play in snow (yes, there are little mountains in Tucson), but we only have a handful of below-freezing nights and rarely encounter snow in the city.

So I like to playfully tease my friends in the North during winter time – mocking them with pictures of our sunny outside fun.

That being said, I pay for it when the summer months roll around. Here’s a snap shot I took of our weather last week:


Yeah. That’s accurate. Temps ranging from 106-115* daily. No relief in sight. It is H-O-T, y’all! So I’m just going to prepare myself now for the higher electric bill that’s bound to be showing up sometime soon. I’ve got our thermostat set on 78* during the day, but its so hot outside that maintaining a 78* temperature inside means the A/C is literally running all.the.time. No fun for our pocketbook!

Luckily, we have a friend with a pool so we’ve been doing lots of swimming at her house (we have a community pool, too, but its not nearly as nice and can be kind of crazy during summer). Otherwise, we’re cooped up indoors and its driving me nuts! I love summer, but I already can’t wait for the temps to drop again. Anything over 100* is really brutal!

How’s the weather where you live? What temperature do you set your thermostat at? Any fun summertime plans (bonus points for cheap/free fun!)?