My sisters are visiting us over thanksgiving.

How long are they staying with us?

Three days.

Can they sleep on the floor?

**

Earlier this week, we documented our $72 K savings goal for next year. Our plan is to max our retirement accounts early, then hit our taxable accounts. We’ll be on a tight budget, but we feel equipped for it.

Then just the other day, I came across Mustard Seed Money‘s post on the average American’s top 10 financial goals based on a recent NerdWallet study. The NerdWallet study found that most people (71% of those surveyed, across income levels, age and gender) regret how they have managed their money. 89% have one or more of the following financial goals (in bold below). Taking the cue from the list, I wanted to check how they stack up for us (and how we’ve dealt with them).

The goals (% of Americans saving for the goal) and our position:

Saving for a wedding (8%)

We never did. We married in court, for $35 – a college friend and two sisters-in-law witnessed and signed. They paid for a dinner at Johnny Carino. I even worked a half day before we married. My mother pestered me for a year – for a “real” wedding. A few folks called, messaged and sent us money. They now get a yearly card from us. One uncle (whose story needs telling) sent us $500 Canadian, just about his weeks’ pay. We intend to give it back when his daughter marries, with whatever the money gains and compounds in the time.

A $35 wedding is perhaps the best way to filter the people you should have in your life. The rest can be an afterthought, for when you’re feeling particularly kind. 

An average American wedding in 2014 was $31,213. This insanity is universal – an Indian Colleague spent $60,000 when he married two years back. The Chinese are also going berserk, as the BBC points out here, here and here. A Sudanese man was about 20 cows behind on payments for his wedding.

Saving to have children (8%)

We do not have any children. We all have our own reasons for why we want or not want children – a beyond belief episode explored this issue a few months back. That said, one of our motivations for pursuing FI is so that we can adopt two children later. FI will allow us to dedicate ourselves to them, and to our other noble pursuits.

Starting a Business (10%)

Does a rental property count? We want to invest in a rental property when the Denver market cools down. The numbers do not work in our favor at the moment.

Buying a Home (23%) 

We bought our first home this year. We put 25% down and went slightly over our initial budget. It is just the right size and structure for us. The neighborhood’s not bad either.

a suburban feel in a city

Buying/Leasing a Car (27%)

Our beloved Honda Fit has given us so much and asked for so little.  We’ve traversed much of the country (baring the northwest), criss-crossing it twice (DC to SF, and back) and even venturing into Canada once.

The beloved has averaged about 10k miles a year, and currently sits on 70k. She should continue running for a long time at this rate.

We use public transportation for our daily commute.

Starting/increasing retirement contributions (28%) & Saving more in general (53%)

The generally recommended 10% – 15% savings will give you a retirement when you’re 65. Retiring earlier requires a more aggressive approach. Dave Ramsey’s investment calculator can help you determine how your savings will grow based on what you intend to save.

We live on one income and save the other. That, if the market remains steady, should allow us to be FI in ten years. We are not frugal, but we live within our means.

We have not maxed our retirement accounts so far, but we intend to next year.

Saving for Vacation (31%)

Vacations are great, and we’re looking to do that to perpetuity after we reach our FI. For now, we’ve allocated 2% of our gross pay towards our recreational expenses that includes eating out, movies, vacation and the likes. We have a few trips planned for next year – and those will have to stay within the allocated fund.

While the 2% seems low (and it is), we actually travel quite a bit. We feel we’re better traveled than most people we know.

Not accumulating any/more debt (42%) & Paying down debt (58%)

We live within our means. We do need an emergency stash, which we intend to build up next year. We carry two credit cards, but pay them off almost immediately. So I’m not sure if we’re using our credit cards the right way.

We have a thirty-year mortgage, but we intend to pay it off in twenty. Refinancing to a fifteen year is an option we want to explore next year.

For all the rest, I’d create a budget. The money map is a fun exercise to trim away the fat.

The GIST

Living ordinarily is key – we certainly do not feel we miss out on anything. “Simple living, high thinking”, is what my mother says often (despite her pestering for a real wedding). Learning to love where we are in life and what we have, if those do not come naturally to you, is critical to a happy life.

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