Unconsciously Sabotaging the Future

Confession time.

I am a competitive person. I played sports for most of my childhood. When my body broke, I turned to competitive choir. I was good. I’m still alright, but in high school, I had all the awards to demonstrate my choir’s and my own excellence. When I got to college, I was competitive with my education. I was really good at school. My transcripts reflect that.

Now that I’m in the working world, I’ve chosen two routes of competition. First, I want to be excellent at my job. Second, I want to save all the money. This post is about saving all the money.

When I started my job, I had little invested. I had my small taxable account and $5500 in an IRA. Hubs had dabbled in 401k investing for years. He had roughly $50,000 saved.

It started innocently enough. I wanted to race him to $100k in investments between our 401k and IRA accounts. My taxable investments didn’t count. He had a huge head start, but I had a fire in me. I already felt like I was incredibly behind with investing, and I knew I was going to hit the ground running.

A race to $100k invested helped both of us. The more we have invested the better. As the CFO of our marriage, I started with a fair approach. I got him into an IRA and we maxed that. We both bumped up our 401k contributions.

Then I got a little crazy. I continued to bump up my contribution before the New Year and set it to max in 2016. Then I got distracted by other savings goals

We are still saving for a house, as we have been since we paid off my loans. Then we booked a vacation to Australia. I created a budget for the trip and set up automatic transfers into our travel account to cover our expenses.

Here I am today, maxing out all of my retirement accounts, saving for a house, saving for a vacation. Yet, Hubs isn’t maxing his 401k. I built it into the schedule for him to set his account to the maximum percentage he needs after we save for Australia. It wouldn’t max in 2016, but it will be all ready to max in 2017 when he has a full year contributing that percent.

The reality is that I’m prioritizing a house I don’t want and a vacation (I’m really excited for) over my husband’s retirement. I’m also choosing to pay more in taxes because his 401k isn’t maxed out. Why do I want to pay more taxes??

And because I’m competitive, I’m trying to win this race to $100k.

I didn’t realize what I was doing with this new plan. As it evolved, the plan wasn’t a bad one. However, now in its current state, it screws him over. I refuse to screw over my best friend.

Would I love to catch up to him? Absolutely. Maybe I will eventually because I have a better 401k match. But I am not willing to prioritize a sweet vacation and a house over his retirement and our future.

I’m cancelling the race.

Since writing this, Hubs bumped up his 401k. He’s still not fully comfortable with investing so he bumped it up as much as he was comfortable. Next year, he’ll max. This year, he’ll be close. I plan to evaluate our cash flow over the next few checks to see if I we have room to get him to max this year. Baby steps. 

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11 comments

  1. Good for you convincing your husband to contribute more to his 401(k)! I have a good head start on my boyfriend in terms of investments. He caught up in terms of overall investments because I was prioritizing my mortgage over taxable investing, but I have far too much of a head start on retirement accounts for him to catch up (I started at 19 slowly and at 22 for real versus him starting at 26 after paying off his student loans). If we bought a house some day in the future, we would go in 50/50 and then I would end up reallocating my condo equity mostly into taxable investments probably. Now he’s started making more than me (womp womp) and thus saving more than me, so even competing on annual savings doesn’t exist as an option! Oh well. It’s a bit weird of a feeling that even if we were both working to save $X towards a house down payment, we would do it in separate accounts at different speeds and then bring the money together to make the down payment, which makes it feel a bit less like a joint goal, you know?

    Have fun in Australia!!! I think that is next on our big trip to do list after Europe.

  2. I’m sure the tax difference is negligible, so don’t beat yourself up too harshly. This came from a completely good place — trying to save more! — which benefits you both. (I see discussions of “his 401k” vs. “her 401k” and I kind of want to shout: “It’s all the same money! No divorce court will consider those separate assets! Whoever has more will have to shell out if you get divorced!” Not that I’m shouting that at you — just that it’s important for married people to remember that it’s all joint unless there’s a prenup, and so anything one person does financially, essentially you’re both doing it.)

    I think it’s time to find a new person or thing to be competitive with. How about the blogger net worth ranking? (http://rockstarfinance.com/blogger-net-worths/.) Can you try to outpace some other people on your gains?

    1. Or! Rather than doing a race to see who gets to $100k first, have a race to get to $200k combined. That way, it’s a team goal! 🙂 I’ve been having fun lately with setting joint net worth goals 😉

    2. You’re shouting! You’re shouting! You are so right that the 401k allocation doesn’t matter for separating assets, but it does matter for our age difference and when we can get easy access to the funds.

      I agree that I need a new competition. I’m already on Rockstar.. though I haven’t updated it in a while.

      1. okay, no more shouting. 🙂 i hear you on the age difference issue, but i bet by then you’ll be so beyond set that it won’t matter in reality, only maybe on paper. i know you still feel like you’re late, but you guys are so much more focused on finances than most people ever get!

  3. My husband and I often remind each other that we’re on the same time, and that includes our finances. But I think if this is a way to motivate yourself toward investing more, it’s a good tactic. It sounds like you are keeping it balanced with other goals.

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