:::: MENU ::::

2023 Financial Goals

by

As I’m looking back at 2022 and planning for 2023, I’ve been thinking a lot about financial goals. There are 4 main categories of financial goals that I want to breakdown and discuss below: short-term savings (money in a high yield savings account), investments (money in longer term savings and IRAs), Debt (gotta get outta debt ASAP!), and travel (because….balance). Read more about my thoughts and feelings below and let me know what you think!

 

Short-Term Savings

  • Emergency Fund – current balance is $4757. My goal is to save $300/month until I hit $5k (will take 1 month).
  • Car Repair Fund – current balance is $2858. My goal is to get to $3,000 and then pause any additional savings and only replenish as needed. This money is for larger car repairs, new tires, etc. I plan to save $150/month until I get to $3k (it will only take 1 month to do so).
  • Semi-Annual Fees – current balance is $816. This is a $1,000 revolving account (currently slightly lower than $1,000 due to recent payment). This is for semi-annual/irregular bills, like car insurance (paid every 6 months), life insurance premiums (paid annually), HOA fees (paid quarterly), car registration (paid once every 3 years), etc. I plan to save $250/month until this is recouped at $1k (it will take 2 months to do this, because there’s a planned insurance bill being paid in January, and it is paid from these funds before excess is deposited into savings)
  • Student Loan Savings – current balance is $1481 (it had been higher, but I’d used some of these funds to purchase a computer when my old one died back in August). My goal is to get up to $4702 to pay the lowest balance student loan in full, but this is also a lower priority savings item, so some months it gets cut from the budget if there isn’t room. My tentative goal is to plan for $150/month in savings, and more when I am able.

 

A note on my emergency fund –

Unfortunately, I had to dive deep into the emergency fund a few months ago, when I landed back in court with my ex over child custody issues. It has been a stressful few months, as I had not anticipated this turn of events and legal proceedings of any kind are costly, time-consuming, and stressful. I was so grateful I had an established emergency fund. Most of this fund was paid out back in August and I’ve slowly been re-building this fund. While there’s always the possibility I’m going to have to dive back into the EF to fund continued litigation, I’m very hopeful that we are nearing resolution on the matter and this money can sit undisturbed for the foreseeable future. But because of the somewhat unpredictability of the future, this EF is non-negotiable and I rank it highest in my personal rank-order of budgeting when it comes to savings versus extra debt payments. I need this EF to be fully funded at $5k to feel comfortable.

 

Investments

  • Traditional Retirement – 7% of my paycheck is invested into a retirement account. I get a 7% match, so it’s a total investment of 14% of my salary. I will increase this once I’m debt-free, but plan to keep as-is for now.
  • Husband’s Retirement – 15% of my husband’s salary is invested into a retirement account.
  • 403(b) – In addition to my 7% investment, above, I also invest $50/paycheck to an optional 403(b) account. I’d love to increase the amount invested here after becoming debt-free, but plan to keep as-is for now.
  • Health Savings Account – I’ve pledged $5500 here. We’re still newer to HSAs, as I used to rely on FSAs for health care. Because we’re still new, we don’t have a large buffer so I’ve decided to invest an amount that would fully cover our family deductible ($3,000) + leaves a healthy buffer for prescriptions or over-the-counter meds, etc.
  • FSA Dependent Care – I’ve pledged $700 for 2023. I used to put significantly more into my Dependent Care FSA, but as the girls are getting older I’m finding I only need it for occasional summer childcare and, thus, have reduced my investments. It’s use-it-or-lose-it, so there’s no advantage to extra savings.
  • 529 Education Account – I deposit $80/month. I’d LOVE to increase this, but it’s lower on my priority list until I become debt-free. In the meantime, I figure every little bit helps.
  • Tax Credit – Certainly not an “investment” but I wasn’t sure where else to include this. We always invest the amount allowed for AZ tax credit ($800 in 2022, but increasing slightly in 2023). As a side-note, I love that Arizona allows for tax credits so you can choose where your state tax money goes. I love to donate to my kids’ school as well as other organizations within the community that I support.
  • House – When we bought, we put more than 20% down, but we financed on a 30-year mortgage and have never really felt great about it. To try to pay it off early, we’ve made extra payments sporadically here and there, but in the past year we’ve established a set routine that works really nice for us – We do double house payments twice per year (the extra payment designated as principal only). I’ve set these up to occur in months where we have 3 paychecks so that the “extra” money is put toward the house.

 

Debt

  • Carmax Auto Finance – I have a current balance of $13,700. My monthly payment is $374, and I haven’t been paying much more than that (typically about $100 extra/month). Once my short-term savings accounts have been replenished, I’d really like to increase my payments here. My pie-in-the-sky goal is to put $1,000 toward this bill. My little bit more reasonable (minimum) goal is to make double-payments every month ($748/month). In my ideal pie-in-the-sky world, I’d love to pay off my car by the end of 2023.
  • Aidvantage – Current balance is $26,561. This consists of 4 different student loans, ranging from $4700 up to $7800. Ideally, I’d love to pay off the smallest loan by the end of 2023. That leaves just below $22,000 remaining. No telling what will happen in Washington in the meantime, which could also impact the balance due. This is currently interest-free and lower on my priority list.

  

Travel 

  • I realize this is a get-out-of-debt blog, but I’ve talked before about how travel is very important to me, especially in the wake of the loss of my brother. Life is short and time isn’t guaranteed. I want to travel and make memories with my family. In that regard, I have 2 trips planned in 2023 and a BIG trip planned in 2024 (that I’ll be saving for throughout 2023). Because I’m a planner, I’m budgeting very carefully for these trips.
    • The first is a Disney trip with the kids, this February. It’s their big gift for Xmas this year. We plan to drive, stay off Disney, and only spend 1 day at the park. We’ll then travel to San Diego to do the zoo, the USS Midway, and swing by Joshua Tree National Park on our way back to Arizona. In total, I’m budgeting $3,000 for this trip.
    • Next is a cruise with the whole family this summer. My mom has generously offered to help subsidize some of the costs because we will be taking care of my brother’s 2 youngest girls while on the trip (they will room with us and essentially be under our care for the duration of the trip). I’m budgeting $2,000 for this trip.
    • The BIG trip, not planned until Summer 2024, is going to be a trip to Italy with only Michael and I. We have not bought anything for this yet and have only begun doing research and planning, but it’s a big trip – international airfare, looking at 10-12 days in total, and all that entails (food, lodging, etc. etc.). I’m budgeting $6,000 for this trip.
  • Adding up the planned expenses and dividing by 12, I’m looking at a little over $900/month needed in savings. I realize this is a huge amount of money. Shoot – my rent used to cost less than that! But this is such a major priority for me and I don’t want to just wish and dream about it. I want to plan and save and make these things into my reality.

  

Rank order of goals:

  1. Investments – these are paid first, many coming from our paychecks prior to being deposited. For that reason, these are #1.
  2. Emergency Fund – until I get back to $5k, this is my #2.
  3. CarMax – I plan to start with double payments every month, but I plan to increase even higher when all short-term savings accounts have been funded.
  4. Travel – This is pretty non-negotiable. I hope to do it for cheaper than I’ve estimated, but I’d rather over-estimate and have extra money leftover, than under-estimate and end up left with a big bill in the end.
  5. Other short term savings – this includes money that I’m setting aside to pay for my student loans.

When I have extra money in a month, I plan to put extra toward #3 and #5.

What are your thoughts? I know this is a lot of money going toward savings (a much higher ratio of money going to savings versus debt), but this is where I feel comfortable. What would you do differently?


12 Comments

  • Reply Martha |

    i would pause investments until i am debt free. for you and your husband, you could probably end the year with way more traction if you focus on paying off the debt, your EF and your sinking fund for travel

    • Reply Ashley |

      At my work, I am compelled to invest a minimum of 7% to my retirement account (I can increase the investment, but not decrease it). I’d be reluctant to reduce my HSA since we have a high-deductible health plan, so I want that money to be able to cover medical expenses if needed. We could, in theory, reduce husband’s retirement contributions, and the voluntary 403B and 529. For the latter two, it seems like such small monthly investment that it wouldn’t make a big difference either way. But still something to think about.

    • Reply Reen |

      I disagree with pausing investments (if retirement) until debt free. You miss out on compounding years. For some people they would never save for retirement if they paused. I went to law school and have paid my student loans back in full, but most of my colleagues will be paying back their loans for 25 years (for real). They pay their loans and save for retirement or they will have nothing and it doesn’t make a dent fast enough. I am not a fan that Dave Ramsey advocates this approach. It is not realistic for working professionals that have huge student loan debt or a car loan (from time to time).

      • Reply Ashley |

        I’m in that camp, Reen! I graduated in 2013, so I’ve already been paying for 10 years and likely still have a ways to go (I graduated with over 100k in student loan debt, though I’m closer to $26k currently). Many/most of my friends from grad school have their student loan repayment plans set for 30 years!!! I tend to agree with you (and disagree with Dave Ramsey) about pausing investments until out of student loan debt. That works if maybe a lower debt amount…but not when the initial debt was mortgage-sized debt! It’s going to take quite some time to pay it off, so it makes sense to me to start investing ASAP. If anything, I’m behind because I didn’t start retirement savings until I was 32 years old!

  • Reply Walnut |

    How high are your student loan interest rates normally? How about the car loan? I would consider consolidating some efforts to paying the car off (student loan savings, 529 monthly payment, etc.) I bet you could get that paid off sooner than later if you consolidate some efforts.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Good point at consolidating efforts. That said, my student loans will have a much higher interest rate (6.80%) than the car (3.45%). The loans are “paused” and have 0% interest currently, but that may expire at some point (as I’m sure you are aware, the pause has been extended multiple times – no idea what will happen in the future though). Knowing the interest rate on the student loans versus the car, does that change anything for you or no?

  • Reply Angie |

    If you have <3.5% rate on your mortgage you should keep it around as long as possible. If you want to feel better about it I would do what you're doing with your student loan savings and once it hits a certain amount consider investing a portion of it. Realistically, savings account rates right now are around 3.5-4%. So you'd technically make/save more having it in a savings account than paying down your mortgage. If you have a low rate, having cash or investments is usually better and safer than locking it into a certain payment in my opinion.

    Of course, you've got to do what makes you comfortable at the end of the day. And really an extra 2 payments a year wouldn't make that big of a difference. I just like the idea of having more money available to me rather than locked up.

    • Reply Ashley |

      This is a really good idea, I’ll have to talk to my husband about it. Our mortgage rate is very low (2.625% fixed). Hubs and I are both pretty financially conservative, and we were hoping to pay off the house early because hubs is set to retire in 10 years, and it would be AMAZING to have him retired and have no home payment. But I fully hear your point about having a potentially higher rate of return with investments relative to the interest savings associated with paying off the house early. We need to mull this over.

      • Reply Walnut |

        Gosh that is hard! When in doubt, cash gives you the most options! Maybe you’ll get good news about further deferment and then can make a lump sum toward to car with the cash at the end.

        It would be useful for you to see the full amortization tables for each of these debts and then you can play around with the numbers, projected payoff dates, etc.

        Since you want to be debt free including mortgage in ten years, maybe that is the plan to be working toward including saving up for 1 or 2 car purchases in that time frame as well.

  • Reply Kate |

    I am with you. When I started reading this blog I was in my late 20’s with no husband or kid and a 1 BR apartment and a cat. I had $100,000 in credit card and student debt. But now I’m 40 and have a house, a kid, and all those initial loans are paid off but I recently took out a car loan. I’m much more interested in beefing up my cash savings than paying off all of my debt. Even $5000 feels like too little to have on hand for emergencies these days.

    • Reply Ashley |

      That’s still in the works. I submitted it well ahead of the deadline and haven’t heard back yet, but their website says they are delayed due to high volume (which is understandable). I do believe I’ll be approved, but I wouldn’t be eligible for forgiveness until August 2025 (I didn’t start working full-time in an eligible job until August 2015).

So, what do you think ?