The Maximum 401k Contribution Limit: What You Could Have If You Max Out Every Year

Mega yacht in HawaiiThe government has blessed us with the ability to max out our 401k to $18,000 a year starting in 2015, up from $17,500 in 2014. If you are 50 or older, you can add up to $6,000 extra per year from $5,500 in 2014. Although $500 isn’t that big of an increase, it’s still better than a sharp stick in the eye!

I always recommend trying to max out your 401k as fast as you can. Once you get into a max habit you’ll rack up some nice bucks in no time.

So many people don’t even bother to try because they don’t feel like it’s possible. But once they try, they kick themselves for wondering why they didn’t max out sooner. Remember, the contribution to your 401k is pre-tax so an $18,000 contribution is more like $13,500 less from your paycheck a year if we use a 25% effective tax rate.

Here’s a simple chart to see how much you can accumulate in your 401k by age or years worked if you contribute $18,000 a year starting today. The chart is obviously more helpful for younger folks, given older folks had lower maximum contribution limits in the past. For example, when I first started maxing out my 401k in 2000, the contribution limit was only $10,500.

I’ve also included my high-end 401k target amount by age based off continued maximum contributions plus a constant 4-8% annual return. My high-end 401k savings target can also be considered your overall total savings target, which includes after tax savings as well. The numbers are for “ideal” conditions. We all know that life, recessions, and buying things we don’t need get in the way of savings and returns all the time.

The Best Place To Rent A Vacation Property In Lake Tahoe – The Resort At Squaw Creek

Lake Tahoe Summer At The Resort At Squaw CreekWinter is coming and I’ve just renewed my season pass at Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe! One of my favorite activities in the world is writing for a couple hours in front of a fireplace in the early morning, hitting the slopes for four hours in the middle of the day, and then relaxing in an outdoor hot tub with a couple cold beers. One for me, one for you.

Lake Tahoe, California is one of my favorite places in America. The other two favorites are San Francisco and anywhere in Hawaii. Lake Tahoe is situated roughly 205 miles away from San Francisco and it’s a place I’ve been going to for amazing skiing/snowboarding during the winter and golfing, hiking, swimming, biking, and fishing during the summer since 2001.

Most people think of Lake Tahoe as a winter destination given the 1960 Winter Olympics were hosted in Squaw Valley USA. Squaw is one of the largest mountains with a 2,850 foot vertical; a top elevation of 9,050; 4,000 acres of skiable area and 270 trails after joining forces with Alpine Meadows in 2012. The mountain is so big that even during peak holiday weekends, there’s hardly ever a wait for the lifts when they are all open. Squaw is great for beginners and advanced skiers alike.

But if you’re a summer lover, summer in Lake Tahoe is even more beautiful! Every year I spend 4-5 weeks up at my place during the summer and fall for a writing retreat. I love to hike and there are scenic trails all around. 

Are You A Real Millionaire? $3 Million Is The New $1 Million

True Millionaire. SF Giants Win The World Series

The Day After The SF Giants Win Our Third World Series

Although being a millionaire sounds nice, it’s not that impressive anymore thanks to inflation. If you retired today at 65 with $1 million and no Social Security, you’d only be able to spend $40,000 – $45,000 a year for 25 years until you’d run out of money. $40,000 – $45,000 a year is not bad for an individual or a couple with no debt. But it’s not like you’re popping Crystal in the hot tub on your luxury yacht in the South of France – not that that’s what everybody wants to do of course.

The first thing we should do is pray the government doesn’t raise the minimum Social Security age to something absurd like 85 years old or simply cut payouts drastically. If our prayers aren’t answered, let’s hope our 401ks and IRAs don’t get taxed out the wazoo come distribution time. If our hopes for a well-managed government are crushed, then surely we’ll have developed multiple income streams by retirement so no one event can get us down!

When I was working at McDonald’s for $4.25 an hour, I filled up my 1987 Toyota Corolla FX16 babe-mobile for $1 a gallon. I distinctly remember not being excited about making $4.25 an hour, but I had to do it because my parents didn’t give me much spending money. Besides, I wanted to do more than treat the ladies to free apple pies and Mcflurries.

The minimum wage in America is now close to $10 an hour ($10.75 here in San Francisco), and gas is around $3.5 a gallon depending on where and what type you get. I think it’s interesting that the minimum wage used to be 4X the amount of one gallon of gas. Now the gap has fallen to only ~3X as the cost of goods have surged faster than wage inflation.

I’m not sure whether this post will motivate people to accumulate more wealth or demoralize people who don’t think amassing a $1 million net worth is remotely possibility. I constantly need motivation to try harder because I tend to kick back too much. Only until we fully understand reality can we come up with a realistic financial plan. 

Should I Contribute To My 401K Or Invest In An After-Tax Brokerage Account?

foragingThe great thing about a 401k is that you are contributing with pre-tax money. The higher the tax bracket you are in, the more tax savings you will have. If you can start withdrawing from your 401k when you’re in a lower income tax bracket, then you’ve successfully conducted some tax engineering to boost your wealth.

The problem with the 401k is the 10% early withdrawal penalty before age 59.5. If the government gets desperate, they can raise the early withdrawal penalty percentage or increase the age limit. I ascribe a 75% chance one of these two things will occur over the next 30 years.

It’s easy to understand why saving for retirement is difficult. The value proposition is that you put your money away in an institution like Fidelity, which operates under the confines of the omnipotent government, who punishes you if you err from their rules, all for the chance that your money will grow decades down the road.

With no assurances from your money manager or the government that your money will be there in retirement, spending money now on instant gratification makes perfect sense. Give me the latest iPhone vs. the potential to have $25,000 more in retirement! Therein lies the dilemma of the 401k contributor who can’t max out his or her account every year, and who therefore doesn’t have excessive after tax savings for liquidity and other purchases.

Why Would An Aerospace Engineer Want To Be An Uber Driver?

Uber Driver

Harry Ubering

Previously, I had written about my struggling friend Jabir who was unemployed for a couple years before he discovered Uber. He drove for Uber for a year before switching over to be a dedicated hotel driver. In this post, my other friend Harry shares why he drives for Uber even though he’s financially thriving. Enjoy!    

Normally when I’m out putting around in my SUV driving people around for Uber (or Lyft – I do both), the first question they ask is: “So do you do this full time?”  Reluctantly, I usually tell them, “No, I also work for an engineering company as an aerospace engineer.” (odds are, if you’ve ever flown, you’ve been on one of our planes). It’s not that I’m embarrassed to be a full time engineer/part time Uber driver, but it always elicits a very strange reaction from my passengers.

Why would anyone who has a perfectly good job want to drive around a bunch of jokers during his free time? They don’t outright say it, but I’m sure that’s what they’re thinking. But there are actually a lot of reasons why I enjoy it and as you may have guessed, it’s not just about the money. Well a big part of it is about the money, so let’s explore that a little more first:

The Cheapest International City In The World: San Francisco

9,500 sqft for only $8.9 Million in Presidio Heights, SF

Guess the price of this 9,500 sqft, SF home.

I have been everywhere, and it is clear to me that San Francisco is one of the cheapest cities in the world based on its wealth creating potential. So many of my friends who live in New York City or around the country like to say that the median rent and home price in San Francisco are our country’s highest. It’s simply not true. Rent and property prices in Manhattan are the highest AND they only get to enjoy the outside for six months a year! Related: East Coast Living: Is It Really That Horrendous?

If I had to pay $2,500 a square foot for a condo in Greenwich Village, I’d be a little bitter too about equally amazing SF property costing 40% less. Heck, you can even get panoramic ocean view properties in San Francisco for under $800 a square foot. There’s no other city in the world that can boast such value.

The media have a great way of misleading the public because they like to take averages and extrapolate. I am in the trenches, actually visiting open houses in NYC and SF and bidding on places. I’m also a landlord who is very in-tune with market rents and wages for the 22-35 year old crowd. Based on the rents and incomes I’ve seen, San Francisco is affordable if you can land one of the many tech, internet, software, healthcare, consulting, and finance jobs.

I was just in London for Wimbledon, and places in Knightsbridge and Chelsea make Pacific Heights in San Francisco feel like Costco prices!

A Great Way To Save More Money: Visualize Your Broke-Ass Lonely Self

Graffiti Long Island No Money No Honey

5Pointz, Long Island City

Ever since I was in the 4th grade, I’ve had this mild obsession with staying in shape. There was this girl I liked in gym class that I so wanted to impress, but I already had a gut as a nine year old! So imagine my dread when it was swim season and I had to sit down next to her in only my trunks. I couldn’t wait for the teacher to blow her whistle so I could jump into the pool and exhale. I was always so envious of the bony kids who didn’t have to suck in their guts.

I never did get the girl. I blamed genetics and my lack of courage to say, “Wanna get an ice cream sandwich during recess?” All throughout secondary school I decided to get into better shape because I knew I couldn’t be poor and out of shape at the same time. That would be a disaster.

Nowadays, I no longer care as much about being in good shape because I’ve usually got my clothes on. Women don’t seem to care for hunky dory guys anymore. A nice smile, an engaging personality, a job, a car, a stack of Benjies, and a two bedroom condo with a view of jumping dolphins in the horizon will do. Can you really blame single 40-year old guys who are still having the time of their lives?

“Even if I don’t need him to take care of me, I’d like to know he can provide the life I want to lead,” mentioned a couple female friends who are 8’s, but settled for 6’s.

If we men can’t stay fit, then we must be able to at least generate enough wealth to provide. Being unfit in wallet and in wealth leads to loneliness. This is our curse from society, which I’ll discuss more in an upcoming podcast.

“No money, no honey,” as the saying goes.