A few weeks ago, I ran into a colleague of mine from my old law firm. After exchanging the normal pleasantries, we got to talking about who from our class was still working there. It wasn’t many. I graduated law school back in 2013 and started my first biglaw gig soon after. Just four years […]
I was recently talking to a buddy of mine about personal finance when we ended up on the topic of saving money. He knew he needed to save more money, but was having trouble actually doing it. To him, saving money came down to self-control. As he explained it, he was struggling to save more because he couldn’t resist the urge to spend. If he could just avoid buying the latest gadgets or going out to eat so often, he’d definitely be able to put more money away – or so he told himself. Saving money came down to willpower. If he wanted to save more, he needed to will himself to do it.
I’ve always seen it a little differently. I’m admittedly a terrible budgeter. I don’t give every dollar a job and while I track my account balances regularly using both Mint and Personal Capital, I rarely, if ever, actually sit down and review my spending. I’m also horrible at self-control. I go out to eat all the time. And if I see something that I want that isn’t too expensive, I’ll just buy it without much thought…
I’ve often lamented about getting a late start in the savings game. Unlike many of my peers that went into the workforce at 22 years old, I opted to head off to law school (and goofed off for a year before doing that). Choosing this path meant that I had to take out nearly six figures worth of student loans and made it so that I earned essentially no income for the majority of my twenties. By the time I started my first job, many of my friends had already been in the workforce for 4 or 5 years.
When it comes to late starts though, I don’t think anyone can beat my wife. She spent five years in college, another four years in dental school, did a one-year general practice hospital residency and is now currently in year two of a three-year specialty residency. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s 8 years of post-college training! And unlike medical residencies, most dental residencies pay nothing or offer their residents a tiny stipend (usually a few thousand bucks a year – my wife made about $4,000 total in 2016). By the time Mrs. FP earns her first real paycheck, she’ll be 32 years old. Oh, and she’s also got a healthy six figures of student loan debt to boot. Quite a position to be in at 32 years old.
For me, 2016 will go down as the first year I began aggressively saving for retirement. It sort of bums me out that I’m getting into the savings game so late. At 30 years old, I’m way behind my more financially literate peers, some of whom have already retired or established huge treasure troves of savings. See folks like Millennial Revolution, Money Wizard, and Fiery Millennials.
A part of it is a byproduct of me entering a profession that requires years of extra schooling and a ton of student loans. While most people start their first job at 22 years old, most lawyers won’t start their first job until they’re 26 or 27 years old.
One of the surprising things I learned when I started side hustling was that doing so gave me access to an extra retirement account. This was true even for sharing economy/gig economy side hustles like Uber or Postmates. Most people don’t realize it, but when you’re working in the sharing economy/gig economy, you’re technically a self-employed business owner. Your business is you and you’re the boss and sole employee. And as a benefit, when you’re self-employed, you get to contribute to self-employed retirement plans like a Solo 401k. Yes, even a lowly delivery person can put away money in the same manner as a successful solo entrepreneur.
Last year, I set up my Solo 401k with Fidelity and this past week, I made my first contribution to it. At first glance, the process seemed pretty intimidating, but it actually turned out to be much easier than I expected. This post walks you through the entire process of setting up and contributing to your Solo 401k.