Welcome to our first Money Slackers chat at Policygenius Magazine, a regular discussion among Pg staffers about money. We held the following conversation in a Slack chatroom. It's been lightly edited.
Myles Ma [Managing Editor]: So today I wanted us to talk about money resolutions — personal finance habits you want to start or break for the New Year. To start off, I was wondering if we could share one or two money resolutions for 2019. For me, I'm investigating the idea of using a financial planner. Blayne, as a future dad of two, I'm curious about how your 2019 looks like moneywise.
Blayne Smith [Senior Acquisition Manager]: Maxing my health savings account contribution in 2019 since I know we will easily hit our deductible early in the year (February is due date for kid No. 2).
Myles: Oooh congrats congrats congrats. That's a super smart idea.
Blayne: I also want to not overpay on my taxes because I'm pretty sure I do that every year since I've been married. I might need to talk to a financial planner.
And then just generally spending less because kids are super expensive and now I'll have two.
Jeanine Skowronski [Editorial Director]: Have you tried the IRS withholding calculator? I did last year. Not sure if it worked just yet.
Myles: I triiied it, but yeah, I don't know if it has worked either. But that is a good money resolution. Especially because of the new tax law, you want to make sure you're setting aside the right amount of taxes.
Also, I wrote about it, not to be too self-promotional.
Jeanine: Myles, stop being too self-promotional.
Blayne: My complexity is more around my wife Emily's 1099 work, which is most of her income and what we can/should use for deductions.
Patrick Hanzel [certified financial planner and Senior Associate, Advanced Planning]: For something like taxes, a financial planner can give some general advice but if you are a 1099 employee or someone with complex taxes I'd recommend finding a good CPA to help with the estimates.
Blayne: Patrick, literally this is what I was just saying to Emily, so I think you just pushed me over the line. New 2019 resolution: Find a good CPA.
Anyone know a good CPA?
Hanna Horvath [Staff Reporter]: So, my money resolution this year is to get a solid investment plan. I'm just starting to dip my toes into it and now would be a good time to buy, because of the market. So I've been talking to him about investment strategies. But also, as I'm in my 20s, how I should start maximizing my retirement savings, etc.
Patrick: As someone who comes from a background of financial planning, my resolution is actually quite comical because it goes back to the basics. My focus is budgeting this year. I know pretty much exactly what is coming in, but can lose track of what goes out.
Jeanine: Not to be too-promotional, but we wrote a spreadsheet for that.
Myles: Stop being so self-promotional.
Blayne: I'm afraid to add up my Seamless bill for 2018. And I definitely want to order less take out in 2019.
Myles: The amount of money I spend on eating out is truly shameful.
Jeanine: I need a better food budget/plan/life/everything.
Myles: Aside from delicious, delicious food is there anything else we want to cut back on next year?
Hanna: Beauty products from instagram ads. I fall for it. Every. Time.
Laura Reineke [Writer & Social Strategist]: It's less about "cutting back" than "managing better," but I need to be more on top of vet bills for my extremely perfect cat.
Jeanine: Extremely purrrrfect, you mean.
Laura: I got pet insurance through Policygenius dot com (ever heard of it???) this year, but I know I can be better about budgeting for her weird problems.
Myles: Jeanine, do you have any advice for Laura as the owner of 900 pets? [Note: Jeanine has four pets.]
Jeanine: Ha! I wish. We've been very lucky with our crew, because they're young. But we definitely need to get pet insurance. [Note: Jeanine got pet insurance shortly after this conversation.]
Patrick: Back in my financial rep days we had a goal for leftover money each month: Save 1/3, invest 1/3, and blow 1/3 on whatever you want.
Myles: OK OK OK, what is one thing you guys want to blow your money on in 2019?
Laura: I don't NEED a new couch, but I super WANT a new couch.
Hanna: I'm most likely traveling to London next spring.
Patrick: I’d like to blow some money on vacations.
Myles: I WISH I could say like, the theater. But tbh it's going to be Knicks tickets or something dumb. God I hate the Knicks.
Jeanine: I am blowing my money on vacation. We're going to Key West in March. And California in July. I am thinking about a no-spending February to balance that out.
Myles: Jeanine, how would a no-spending February work? Is it like intermittent fasting?
Jeanine: More like actual fasting. Moratorium on all discretionary spending. Teddy [Jeanine’s husband] and I have done it before ... with varying degrees of success.
Hanna: What is the biggest challenge with a no-spending challenge?
Jeanine: Intense boredom. But I'm thinking if a vacation is waiting on the other side of one, it might get us through 28 days.
Patrick: I’m planning a no-alcohol January, which I guess is both personal and financial (since drinks are like $15 in this city.)
Hanna: This is something I should also do.
Myles: True that. One of the tough things about not eating out is that it's the default thing friends do together. Money resolution: Do free things with friends
Jeanine: So nevermind the Knicks games, then?
Blayne: Have a kid, you'll never go out to dinner again.
Patrick: There are so many free or low-cost things to do, you just have to find them sometimes.
Hanna: I think it's hard to go no-spend in the winter, too, because it’s cold.
Patrick: It does make it harder. Not as much free stuff to do outside. Just curl up in a ball in your apartment until winter is over.
Jeanine: Money resolution: Hibernate.
Blayne: Yeah, one of the unexpected but somewhat necessary expenses of having a 3-year-old in NYC is taking her to indoor spaces to play on the weekends. Because we have to get out of the apartment or we'll all go crazy, but it's too cold for the playground.
Jeanine: Oh, yeah, what can you do with kids in winter that doesn't cost a ton of money?
Laura: Make slime? Do kids still make slime?
Blayne: We haven't made slime yet.
Myles: I think they secrete it naturally?
Laura: Hard pass.
Jeanine: My cousin's kids love making slime. (Not naturally.)
Patrick: Well we started with an IRS calculator and made it to secretion.
Myles: Are there any money "icebergs" you're afraid of in 2019? Like, Blayne has a second child coming.
I would like to move and moving is expensive and horrible. We could have a recession maybe.
Jeanine: I'm a little worried about a recession, because it makes liquid assets a lot more important at a time I was just getting more comfortable with the idea of investing.
Patrick, any potential tips here for how to prepare?
Patrick: Well the good news is that we are all relatively young here. So no need to fret about 401(k) or other retirement assets taking a hit. Plenty of time to recuperate. But putting some additional funds toward liquid savings isn't a bad idea if the market doesn't seem appealing. (Although if it takes a big downturn, I'm putting more in!)
Myles: That's that “buy low, sell high” thing you always hear. So don't freak out about the stock market unless you're nearing retirement, got it.
Blayne: I'm putting all my money into crypto.
Patrick: Is Bitcoin even a thing still? That came and went in about a month.
Myles: Alright now that we've entered into a horrible cryptozone I think that's a good place to wrap up. My takeaways: HSA it up, check your tax withholding, consider a CPA or financial planner, budget wisely. And watch out for slime?
Patrick: One piece of real advice: Don't fall into a fad strategy.
Myles: LIKE WHAT, PAT??? CRYPTO ISN'T A FAD, BROOO.
Patrick: Anything you are hearing about in the news likely means it has performed exponentially, meaning it’s now at a high and you are late to the party. Stick to the basics with a well diversified portfolio.
Jeanine: That's pretty solid advice.
What do you want our Money Slackers to talk about next time? Email suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image: Phillip Blackowl