For a long time I stashed my money away in a bank earning 0.01% interest. In case you are wondering, that is a very bad rate. I did not really care to check or compare, it was just somewhere to put the money. When I started my first internship I was auto-enrolled in a 401k, and when the summer was over I blindly withdrew the money, not understanding that a 10% penalty (plus loss on growth over time) was not worth the convenience of money-in-hand. Three years ago I started to pay more attention to my money and where it lives.
I decided it was time to take ownership of my money. Over time I have built up a collection of accounts. If you are interested in the methods of madness of my money management, look no further. Here is my financial breakdown.
The Accounting of My Accounts
Where My Money Lives
Savings Account: Ally
I shut down the old bank account with the appalling interest rate of 0.01% and opened a new account that pays 185x the amount of interest (1.85%!). It is all in Ally right now, and they ramp up the interest rates frequently to keep up with competition. I calculated 6 months of expenses as my emergency fund and keep it all here. The one downside to Ally is it is online only, but that is fine with me as they reimburse your ATM fees and have great customer service. The amount should really just be one straight line on 6 months of expenses, but I use the account to house paychecks and manually invest every so often. I need to set up automatic investments straight to my brokerage account! The graph is spikier in the second half because my paychecks were larger and I was investing it more frequently.
401k (Roth and Traditional)
I max out my 401k every year. That’s $18,500 going straight towards retirement. Maxing this is an understandable struggle for those with lower incomes, but it should be a priority once the minimum emergency fund is established. The trick for me was fighting off lifestyle inflation. I got accustomed to never seeing the extra money from raises or promotions as they went straight into my 401k. Check out The Beginner’s Guide to Investing – How to choose 401k options to learn about how I set up my 401k in just 20 minutes.
Vanguard: Roth IRA
I max out my Roth IRA every year on January 1st. You can open a Roth IRA when you have earned income. I started contributing at 22, but I started working at 14! I wish I had opened an account sooner. I start at the beginning of the year so the money has more time to compound. I hold just two index funds in my Roth IRA, down from a cobbled together jumble of ETFs from when I first opened the account. I keep my international exposure here as my 401k does not have a decent international option.
When I maxed out the other retirement options, I wasn’t sure what to do with the rest. Dump it all in a brokerage account? But there is one more super-retirement account left: the Health Savings Account. If you are covered under a high deductible health plan, then you may qualify for the HSA. The money you contribute to an HSA can be invested and it is completely tax-sheltered, as long as the funds are used for healthcare expenses. If you pay for health costs out of pocket, you can keep the receipt and withdraw later on down the line. There is no time limit here, and at age 65 you can withdraw it all penalty-free!
I researched all these benefits, did some digging as a dependent on my parent’s healthcare (which I am covered on until this year) to see if I could still contribute. You do not have to open up an HSA with your employer, unlike a 401k. I researched the best option for investing the money as HSA custodians tend to charge high fee for their investment accounts. Saturna had one flat $15 fee for trades and seemed to be the best option. I maxed out the account in just one ETF fund, paid the $15, and reveled in this strange world they call adulthood.
The rest of the money gets periodically lumped into my brokerage account with Vanguard. As you can tell from the pie chart at the beginning of the post, a lot of my money lives in this account. Unfortunately there seems to be no way to put more into the tax-sheltered options. I researched the mega backdoor Roth and it does not seem like something my employer supports (although I hear that sometimes it takes multiple phone calls to reach someone who can help with this).
If you are interested in learning more about investing, read The Beginner’s Guide to Investing – For When You Just Want To Be Told What To Do.
What’s In My Wallet
Credit Card #1: Discover It
After starting my new job in Portland, I went shopping for professional outfits, and as part of a store’s promo decided to sign up for their card. However, as I had no previous credit history, I was denied on the spot. It was a wake up call. Later, I tried applying for a different credit card. Denied again. I was trapped in a Catch-22: I needed credit history to have a credit card but in order to have a credit card you need credit history.
Enter Discover It, my very first credit card. They are more lenient on approvals, and provide decent cash back in rotating categories.
Credit Card #2: Chase Sapphire Preferred
See the big red spike in the graph below? That was from when I signed up for Chase Sapphire Preferred. I learned that we could put Mr. Mechanic’s tuition on a card. This was great as the bonus is 50,000 points if you spend $4000 in the first three months, and since I can’t pay my rent with a credit card, I wouldn’t be able to naturally hit the limit. It has been a great card, I used it while traveling as there are no foreign transaction fees. I’ve started to use it less now though, since the cash back reward is not as high as my other cards.
Credit Card #3: Chase Freedom
I honestly can’t remember the thought behind this card. It has 1.5% cash back, and there is a $150 bonus after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months. It sits in my bedside table, mostly unused.
Credit Card #4: Fidelity Rewards
Since this card gives unlimited 2% cash back, a tad better than the usual 1.5% cash back, Mr. Mechanic and I got one to use jointly. Our previous, completely manual, way of splitting expenses was getting to be a huge pain.
If you want to read more about credit cards, check out Credit Cards: Good or EVIL?
- Ultimately, I’m mostly happy with where my money sits today.
- I want to simplify the ETFs I first bought when I opened the brokerage account, and now that it has been a year I can do that without worrying about capital gains taxes.
- I need to follow up to find out whether the mega backdoor Roth is an option for me.
- I think the percentage of money in my brokerage account is way too high, but that mostly comes from stashing money away without understanding the investing options when I was working from age 14-22 (8 years!)
- It is about time to automate my paycheck to go straight into the brokerage account rather than letting cash build up. Luckily my new job has an easy method for splitting up your paycheck into different accounts.
How to Make Your Own Money Map
- Note your salary and your take-home pay
- Gather your total expenses and savings for each category.
- Use this Sankey builder tool and plug in your own numbers (they include a simple example to start with)
Want to see more money maps? Check out how other bloggers manage their finances:
The Luxe Strategist
The Frugal Gene
Our Financial Path
Eccentric Rich Uncle
The Retirement Manifesto
Debts to Riches
I Dream of FIRE
Making Your Money Matter
Trail to FI
The Lady in the Black
Her Money Moves
Full Time Finance
Freedom is Groovy
Millennial Money Diaries
All About Balance
A Journey to FI
Present Value Finance