Personal Finance (Money Journal)

This is an update to the money diary series.

I have my main job as research economist and do some consulting on the side. My main job offers me good benefits and the consulting side offers me flexibility for tax purposes.

Concept Amount
Compensation $ 181,824
Income Tax $ 42,883
Federal $ 20,423
State DC $ 7,783
OASDI & Medicare $ 14,669
Savings $ 55,250
FERS $ 5,608
401(k)/403(b)/TSP $ 20,500
SEP $ 11,385
Solo 401(k) Employer $ 11,385
Disposable Income $ 83,690
Monthly DI $ 6,974

Additional benefits,

Concept Amount
Annual Leave 13.25 days
Sick Leave 13 days
Paid Holidays 13.75 days

Health Insurance Expenses

Concept Cost
Health, Dental, Vision Insurance $ 1,523.86

Expenses

Category Amount
Living Arrangement $2,400
Auto Loan $300
Groceries $500
Miscellaneous $200
$3,400

Living Arrangement

I live in a 1B high-rise housing coop. Between HOA fees, mortgage, taxes, utilities, insurance, and budget for maintanence it is about 2,400 (includes for example amortization for eventually replacing HVAC). Utilities include electric ($40), gas ($60), Internet ($40), and streaming services. Am also including dog-related expenses (planning on adopting soon).

Compared to my previous living arrangements, the costs have increased but so has the quality. In general, I expect rent in the area to increase quite a bit so owning made sense financially as a way to protect myself against that increase in cost of living and against high inflation (e.g., leveraged investment in real estate).

Groceries

I have a pretty flexible budget for groceries compared to a typical Food Plans of about $125 a week. I buy groceries at Whole Foods using the Amazon Visa Rewards card so I get a 5% cash back that helps.

Not much has changed from my previous money diary in this aspect. Inflation has contributed to a higher budget in groceries. Amazon started charging delivery fees in the area so I am happy I still live a block from a Whole Foods Market.

Car

I own a 2016 Kia Soul which I have back home in Puerto Rico and my mom uses. I have SmartBenefits as a federal employee so I have subsidized public transporation.

I finish paying for the car next year so I have divided the balance by 12 to make it comparable to other annualized / monthly expenses.

Miscellaneous

Miscellaneous expenses may include going out every so often or buying a videogame.

Annual Leave

I won’t have too much savings but allocating about a couple hundred bucks every couple months for when I go on break.

Savings

This section is the highlight of the comparison with the previous money diaries. My modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) passed the Roth IRA limits which meant I had to adapt my tax-advantage strategies. Contributing to a Roth IRA is no longer an option and traditional IRA contributions would not work well since I already contribute through 401(k) like accounts. I also opted for a non HDHP/HSA insurance since I expect to have some higher use of certain services.

My plan was to keep contributing the maximum available for my 401(k) / 403(b) / TSP plan as an employee ($20,500) which also maximizes the 5% employer matching contribution. For retirment, I also contribute to my federal pension plan (FERS). The trick is to be savy on how to work with the consulting income. For that, I maximize both a 401(k) Solo (employer contribution) and SEP IRA for a total of 50% of my compensation between the two accounts.

Taxes

Federal and state income taxes: $42,883. Since my taxable income exceeds the OASDI limit, it helps reduce my effective total income tax quite a bit. Maximizing the tax-advantage instruments and switching from Roth to traditional allows me to pay a lower effective tax rate even at higher earnings.

Allocations

I am still able to save about 50% of my gross compensation which allows me to be on track to continue saving at least one year earnings by age 30. I already have one year earnings saved for retirement, but as my income increases I need to keep my savings up-to-par.

Amount Allocation
Compensation $ 181,824
Taxes $ 42,882 24%
After-Tax $ 138,941 76%
Expenses $ 48,000 35%
Savings $ 90,941 65%

Conclusion

In conclusion, I have been able to meet the goal of growing my earnings and keeping my savings at the same rate (50% taxes + expenses, 50% savings). The tax-advantage / retirement portion of savings has decreased from 75% to 60% as consequence of the higher earnings (contributions are now traditional rather than ROTH). Still, the total amout of savings has increased about 267%.

José Bayoán Santiago Calderón
José Bayoán Santiago Calderón
Research Economist

🇵🇷 Economist by training. Data scientist / software developer by accident.