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It’s Friday and that means it’s time for another reader case! This family of 5 hails from the frozen white North and have just had their Muskoka dreams dashed. How will they get out of it?
Let’s find out:
“We are a family of 5 plus an au pair that helps with our childcare for our three young children. I am a pediatric critical care nurse and my husband works in technical sales for large industry. We are 33 years old. We make a decent family income of about $180,000, and thought we had things planned out when we left our jobs to move up to muskoka to raise our family. Unfortunately I left my dream job and we bought a house based on city wages. My husband couldn’t find well paying work so now two years in My husband works in Aurora 2 hrs away and loves his new job, I work an hour away in a job I loathe.
I want to go back to doing what I love in Toronto. He wants to cut 4 hrs a day off his driving time. We are only two years into our mortgage, and this is our third house! We keep making the same mistake. We feel like we are doing something backwards and have decided to rent in the uber insane mortgage GTA area. Our realtor is pushing us to sell our house and buy a rental property on the water here in muskoka while we rent (we have a lovely home about 2.5km from the lake). We are still a bit emotionally attached to our home and our muskoka dream and had thought we could just rent it for a year to give ourselves a parachute, while we rent closer to the city.
I am wondering what you think would be the smartest idea? Rent our current home for a year or two to get some equity and then sell? Buy a vacation rental that we could charge more rent on? Or sell our house, even though breaking the mortgage would be very costly as we are just 22 months in. We love this area so much but it just doesn’t seem conducive to rewarding careers in our field. We have also noticed that we love the idea of putting down roots but we get itchy feet after a few years in each spot.
We found a rental that fits all of us plus the au pair and our st. Bernard in the small town of Tottenham for $2300/month.
We are frustrated because we feel like we have good jobs and make good money. And have nothing to show for it! We are at a precipice of another change and want to do it right this time. Here is our basic monthly financial picture. We would love your input on what the smartest next move would be. We feel like we failed in trying to live our dream and don’t want to keep feeling that way. And everyone thinks we are nuts to go back to renting.
Car payments – 3 cars, one paid off, the other two are 387 and 337.
Car Insurance 288
Life insurance -70
Electricity -250-350 ( we are in the country so we pay more here)
Internet – 100
Cell phones – $200
Gas – $600 (I commute over an hour to work). My husbands gas is paid for.
Childcare – $1000
Natural gas – 100
Home insurance – 106
We put $250 per month to our line of credit.
Then about $50-150 for car repairs
Diapers/pharmacy – $140
We try to put $500/month aside in savings
The rest is general spending for house stuff, eating out, general purchases. Usually about $950
Mortgage/property tax – $1955/mo
• Line of Credit – 5.5% interest rate – minimum payment of $192/month though that fluctuates a bit. Balance of $40,409.28
• Car #1 – 4.5% interest – about $15000 left owing. This is our family van.
• Car #2 – 4.5% interest – $18000 left owing.. This car is my husbands work car he drives about 100,000kms/yr. We were stupid and had a lease and then racked up kms and bought it out. So we are upside down on a 2017 car with 100,000kms on it. This one is amazing on gas though.
• We have a third car that is older and paid off, but isn’t great on gas. It would be worth 5-8k likely. We are hoping to go to 2 cars once we are back in a town centre so our au pair isn’t stuck in the middle of nowhere with no way to leave with the kids.
• Mortgage – 2.74% interest, fixed rate. 5 year term.– purchase amount$375000. $359530 still owing. Our realtor said she would list the house at $450k now.
Investments or savings (cash, bonds, stocks, etc.)
• $1500 in emergency savings
• $25k in RRSP
• $2k in another RRSP
• $6200 in an RESP
• $1700 in a trip fund.
Hoo boy. I winced when I read this: “We have also noticed that we love the idea of putting down roots but we get itchy feet after a few years in each spot.
“Putting down roots” and “getting itchy feet” should never be in the same sentence. Pick one or the other. If you’re going to put down roots, put down roots. If you get itchy feet, don’t buy. Otherwise you’re just setting money on fire every time you buy/sell and get whacked with home closing costs. No wonder your realtor is encouraging you to buy. If this is your 3rd house, and on average your house prices is around your current mortgage amount of $360k, you’ve paid $360k x 5% x 3 = $54k in real estate commissions alone! Congratulation, you’ve just put your realtor’s kid through college. Damn, maybe I should get a realtor’s license…
“And everyone thinks we are nuts to go back to renting.” Well of course they would. If you rent, it calls into question all their life decisions and freaks them out. The fact they give a rat’s ass whether you rent or own says way more about them than it does about you. Stop giving a shit what other people think and do what’s right for you. Listening to them hasn’t worked out that great, has it?
Okay, now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s figure out what the situation is.
To summarize your situation:
Income: $180,000 (assuming an estimated after tax income of $130,000 after taxes, giving your location)
Debt: -($40,409.28 + $15,000 + $18,000) = – $73,409.28
Mortgage: – $359,530
Assets: $1500 + $25,000 + $2000 + $6200 + $1700 = $36,400
Okay at first glance, your monthly expenses are scaring me to death—yeah, I get that you have 3 kids, but c’mon, do you really need 3 cars?! There are only 2 of you, sell one of the cars!
I also notice you haven’t included any maintenance cost in your monthly housing costs, so already that’s a red flag that you’re not giving me the full picture.
But assuming that you are giving an accurate picture, let’s figure out how you’re doing and what you should do in this situation.
As we always say on this blog, let’s Math That Shit Up!
Given your monthly expenses of around $8000, your yearly expenses are $96,000. Which means you’d need 2.4 million to retire by the 4% rule.
Given your current savings rate of 26%, it’ll take you 28 years to the age of 61. So not great.
So when you say “we are frustrated we feel like we make good money but have nothing to show for it”, yup, you are right. Your realtor, however, is making out a like a bandit! They’ve made more money off you than your entire net worth! If you’re wondering where your money went, they have it.
You’re up to your eyeballs in debt to the tune of $73,409.28, and because you’ve been moving around so much, any equity you’ve gained keeps getting wiped out by closing costs.
And looking at your current monthly cost, housing costs immediately jump out at me:
$350 (Electricity) + $100 (natural gas) + $106 (home insurance) + $1955 (mortgage + insurance) = $2511.
And this isn’t even including yearly maintenance ( 1% of the price of your home ), which would actually add another $300/month to that amount.
So by moving to Tottenham and paying a rent of $2300, you immediately drop your costs by $2511 – $2300 = $211/month.
This has the effect of reducing the portfolio size you need by $211/month * 12 *25 = $63,300.
There is also this miscellaneous spending category of $950, which needs to be broken down to see where the money is going.
On top of that the 3 car costs, line of credit debt, is also adding to the budget anguish. Cut unnecessary costs and pay off this debt ASAP!
And now onto your question about whether to sell the house or rent it out:
1) Rent our current home for a year or two to get some equity and then sell?
2) Buy a vacation rental that we could charge more rent on?
3) Or sell our house, even though breaking the mortgage would be very costly as we are just 22 months in.
Okay, #2) is out of the question. You’re already all over the place, unsure of whether you should settle or move around, while setting your money on fire on closing costs. Trying to add real-estate investing on top of that with no idea what you’re doing is a horrible idea. DO NOT take on any more debt! Figure out your finances first.
So the actual options are:
Option 1: Rent out your current Muskoka home.
Option 2: Sell your current Muskoka home.
1) Not knowing exactly how much your house could be rented out for, I can’t tell you specifically whether this makes sense. However, given that a place closer to jobs/the city is renting for $2300/month, likely you won’t be able to rent it out for more. You’d have to be able to rent it out for $2800/month at least just to break even. And then you’ll still have to pay taxes on the rental income. So best case, you break even, worst case, you’re losing money by renting it out. Plus, people generally rent in Muskoka in the summer, so you’d end up with a high vacancy rate in the winter. This will likely be a money-losing proposition.
2) Selling your home would mean (assuming you can actually get 450K), you’d lose $450,000 *0.05 = $22,500 in real-estate agent fees. So that gives you $450,000 – $22,500 – $359,530 = $67,970.
That’s IF you can actually get $450k. I have serious doubts about that since housing prices have already started to crash in Toronto, but if you can get that price, and you don’t have to pay massive penalties for breaking your mortgage (typically you don’t if you’re selling your house, but every mortgage is different so check with your bank), you could use the profit to pay a big chunk of your debt ASAP! You’d only have $73,409.28 – $67,970. = $5439.28 in debt left. You could easily kill that debt in a few months.
If you can do that, you’d be able to reduce your monthly expenses by $387 (Car Loan #1) + $337 (Car loan #2) + $250 (LOC) = $974!
So by selling the house, moving to a place for $2300 month, and using the proceeds to pay off your debts, you’d drop your monthly expense from $8000 down to $8000 – $211 – $974 = $6815/month. This would increase your savings rate to 37% and reduce your retirement age from 61 to 54!
And if your husband wanted to keep working because he likes his job and he brings in at least $65,000/year, you’d only need a portfolio to generate a passive income of $6815 * 12 – $65,000 = $16,780/year. Which means you only need a portfolio of $419,500. You could quit the job you loath and spend more time with the kids!
This would take you:
|Year||Starting Balance||Annual Contribution||Return||Total|
6.5 years + a few months (from killing off the remaining 5000 of debt).
So there you go. Your addiction to real estate and debt has completely siphoned off most of your wealth. But if you do the following:
1) Sell the house for $450K with no mortgage breaking penalty
2) Using the proceeds to kill off most of your debt
3) Reduce housing expenses from the current $2500/month down to $2300 by renting
4) Reducing monthly costs by $974/month by paying off all your debt
5) Don’t buy another house unless you’re SURE you’re going to stay in one place for at least 5 years. Better if it’s 10.
If you do all the above and drop your monthly expenses from $8000/month down to $6815/month, and your husband keeps working, you can leave the job you loathe in just over 6 years with a portfolio of $419,500 to spend time with your kiddos!
Or you can keep churning houses and work until your 60’s. But if you do that, can I be your realtor? I want some of that sweet sweet commission money you’re setting on fire with every home purchase.
What do you guys think? Chime in in the comments!
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51 thoughts on “Friday Reader Case: Our Failed Muskoka Dream”
Once she stops working her expenses would go down. She could have more time to cook, take care of the kids, shop smart etc so mabe if her husband wanted to keep working and she could “retire” now.
Good point. There’s definitely a cost we all pay to work. Get rid of the car costs, cook more, child care costs. Though before doing that, they’d have to carefully look at their costs and break it down in more detail to see where the spending is going.
If she stops working can she also drop the au pair childcare cost of $1,000/month?
Yup. Childcare costs can be dropped if she chooses to stay home. But she’d have to run the numbers to see if it makes sense. I’m assuming their salary is pretty even, but it may not make sense if she’s the higher earning spouse.
I feel simultaneously thrilled and horrified, and not all that suprised at your breakdown. You are totally right. We had in the meantime decided to sell our place. So thats in progress, hopefully before the prices tank more. I don’t want to stop working. I am a bad full time stay at home mom, if I can go back to a position I like and work very part time (the joy of nursing is that this is possible) that will be my happy medium for FIRE for the short term. but not HAVING to work is a good thing to aim for. so then whatever I make is icing.
and the car will be sold asap. Our house upkeep is included in the $950 of spending per month.
Thanks for the brutal honesty, its what we’ve been needing! Now onward and upward!
I’d love to learn more about how you manage to pay $1,000 for the care of 3 kids; that’s a really, really good rate from where I’m standing (living in Ottawa and will be sending my little guy to a home daycare for at least 1,300). Are you hiring a temporary foreign worker? what does that fee include and how does that all work out? I’m dying to know because the cost of childcare is a serious impediment to growing our family and FIREing some day. thanks!
eeep this is a cross between being star struck that you took the time to do this, and horrified to see how foolish we are on paper.
We have decided to sell, and we will sell our third car.
I am not looking to totally quit, cause I love being a peds nurse, I just need to go back to the job I liked and I would like to not HAVE to work. and maybe do very part time.
Our house maintenance is included in our $950/month. unsuprisingly many months its almost the whole amount or we end up wayyy overspending.
I am gonna stick this bad boy on our fridge and we are gonna get our shit together. no more paying for other peoples kids educations. 😉
Awesome response. You can do it!!!
Love your attitude, Linds! Kudos for committing to getting your shit together!
Yeah, it almost certainly makes sense for her to stop working as soon as they can. She is paying $600 in gas, $1000 for the Au Pair, $387 in card payment, at least $100 in car insurance, $50 car maintenance and two hours a day she could cook more, optimize finances, etc. I doubt she is making much net money by working. They should move close to husbands job, sell one car, rent, let Au Pair go, cut down on grocery costs and eating out. I’m sure they’d be much happier and in much better financial shape with less stress and more time with the kids. Most costs here are very high here and there should be tons of room for improvement. Cell phone, internet, insurances, groceries, misc, all seem very high. Usually I love these case analyses but I feel like FIRECracker was pretty lazy here.
Hey this margarita isn’t going to drink itself! 🙂 “Being lazy” is “da dream” now so mission accomplished!
If she stopped working, they would save on childcare and gas plus they could sell at least one car if not two thus reducing insurance and car repair cost. Not sure how much she makes but it may be worth it if she hates her job, plus she would be taking care of her kids. She may also have more time to look into that $950/month on general expenses which seems high to me!
I would agree with your recommendation to sell the house until they figure out where they really want to live…and no vacation rental property!
Also I would consider applying the $500/month savings against the line of credit instead.
my husband and I make nearly the same. i am technically the higher earner for now at 92k a year before taxes.
Thanks for the clarification, linds. Well, if you’re the higher earning and want to keep working, that’s fine. It still makes sense to become at least partial FI, so you’re choosing to work rather than being forced to work. That way, if you ever want to step it back take a lower paying, more enjoyable job, you can.
I don’t think she was lazy at all but probably trying to keep from going off too much and hurting their feelings too much. I was frustrated at reading this as well, but the wife and I were going down the same road ten years ago and thankfully got our act together the pay five. To see the amount of money they make and how well they could be setting themselves up for the future is disheartening. I agree that it seems to be a wash for her to work a job she loathes and have someone else taking care of her kids. Doesn’t make much fiscal sense to me, but then again we don’t have kids yet. But I have coworkers who do the same thing but at a blue collar salary and it is because the spouse would go crazy if they were a stay at home parent. It’s all very situational. But I think that the plan laid out by firecracker is a great starting point and won’t discourage them from making a change because she isn’t getting into the weeds too much. Hope this rambling makes sense.
Thanks for your 2 cents, Ktmusa8! I think that you have a good point about spouses continuing to work, despite paying to do it, because some people aren’t suited to being a stay home parent. Linds also clarified that she’s the higher earning spouse. So she doesn’t necessary HAVE to stay home, but it makes sense to become at least partial FI, so she could quit her hateful job for a better one (even if the pay is lower) if she wants to.
are you making this one up? nobody could make this series of bad life choices, could they?
You think I’m creative enough to make this up? Maybe on ‘shrooms.
But, seriously, she’s made some bad choices, but she’s still young, there’s still time. We all make mistakes.
Her response of “I’m getting my shit together” is great, so I commend her for that!
Interesting case study. This situation is really more common than we think. While I dont have the perfect solution, it looks like the utilities for the rental have not been factored into the overall cost, unless utilities are generally included in the rent in Canada. In the USA, that is not commonplace. It still makes more sense to sell the house and apply the proceeds to the line of credit, but the timelines change. Quitting her job and eating out less could save $1500 or more if the childcare was eliminated. Then the 3rd car can be sold too which might be enough to pay off all the debt. Lets have a follow up to see how things worked out. Thanks.
I thought same thing, heat may be included in renting an apartment but for a house heat and hydro need to be paid.
Utilities were included where I was renting, so it depends on the rental. In any case, even if the costs were the same, her husband would still be closer to work with the rental, saving money on time, gas, and car costs. And if she’s not willing to stay in a place long enough, it makes no sense to keep buying and losing money to realtors. So agree with you on the selling point.
She clarified that she’s the higher earning spouse and would prefer to keep working, so it looks like those costs stay. However, selling the 3rd car would be an easy win. She did mention “the car will be sold asap”, so she’s definitely listening 🙂
“My husband couldn’t find well paying work so now two years in My husband works in Aurora 2 hrs away and loves his new job, I work an hour away in a job I loathe”
That’s a killer, 4 hours of drive commuting every day!?!? That’s 800 hours a year. And 2 hours each day for you too?
When did this become normal?
That’s not healthy to anyone’s wellbeing or finances. Even if his gas is paid for, the stress and hassle (not to mention cost) of driving and fighting other drivers will fry your nerves. Get within walking/biking distance of his job first, then search for a closeby nursing job. Then you’ll have the energy and time to do things around the house. Or cook, clean, do your own childcare and stuff between you.
Everyone’s entitled to their own way of being and living and it’s your own choices and preferences. But there are some massive massive inefficiencies here that are destroying your wallet, your health and wellbeing and also the environment (but that’s a topic for another day).
I think you’ll find these two relevant.
great! I will read these links. The commuting is killing us. especially my husband.
So many comments that SHE should stop working so they can save on childcare, and none suggesting HE should stop working so they can save on childcare. Women enjoy having meaningful careers too, people — especially working in the healthcare field. Either parent can stay home if someone wants or needs to. Let’s see some equality!
I think the reason is that she specifically stated that she hated her job but he loves it, and not due to gender roles.
Then why does the original poster say in the comments: “I would like to not HAVE to work. and maybe do very part time?” And as said, she openly stated that she hates her job and that her husband loves his.
I know the default stance these days is to be offended on behalf of all women, but there are in fact women in the world who do prioritize taking care of their kids. This is not a bad thing.
I believe the comments are due to this statement “…loves his new job, I work an hour away in a job I loathe.”
Sorry to clarify. I left a job at an internationally renowned childrens hospital taking care of incredibly sick and amazing kids (and parents) and tried to work in a smaller center close to muskoka doing much less acuity, in a challenging workplace culture. It just isn’t for me. I have zero against smaller centers, but I miss the culture and passion of the workplace I left. This move will allow me to go back to the larger hospital.
Thanks for clarifying, linds. As you said earlier, if you become partially FI, you can choose to work in a better job, go down to part time, or quit. It’s about having choices 🙂
The utilities costs need to be added to the rental costs, as is rental insurance. (Much cheaper but still an expens).
Still, for sure FC plan is the right path here. Get rid of the house, pay down debt. However, I would also say ditch the Au pair. Get a teenager in the neighborhood to take your kids to school and back for a fraction of the price (plus you won’t need to provide a room and food etc). This is totally a life style choice, not a necessity once you are closer to school.
I’m totally invested in these hybrid solutions, a combination of investment income and part time work! We have 3 kids as well and there’s lot of different pressures that can come with that ‘providing a home etc etc’ that requires some extra spinach to Popeye out of those shackles!
I also want work to be optional but am not looking to be a stay at home parent. Picking through the options and trying to run through scenarios is so challenging, and the clarity offered by FIRECracker is so helpful. Good for you for taking the advice, simplifying, and spending less time on the road. My personal bugaboo is commuting, you’re not with your family, you’re not doing anything fun AND you’re not getting paid for that time….nah. I bet it will feel amazing to be rid of the house, and remember you and your partner at your kids home, your reduced stress, more time together and happier lives will be the best thing you can give them, much more important than a house you own. Also, wow a peds nurse, thanks for that too, high fives and respect to all our carers .
I totally agree, it would be easier if I DID want to stay at home with the kids full time. but I don’t. I worked really hard to be a damn good nurse and I want to keep doing that in some capacity. Thanks for the comment!
My reco assuming you sell your current home:
-Rent closer to a major subway line since you wish to work at Sick Kids hospital. Tottenham is still too far away.
Perhaps your husband need to make the ultimate sacrifice since he makes less and try working PT instead and be a SAHD. Plenty of examples. Visit Retireby40 . Joe Udo is a great inspiration although he was somewhat financially set when he did it.
-That being said, you can get by with just one car, eliminate the au pair, make do with PT childcare, and get your finances back in order. The housing market is not going anywhere at the moment. You will have time to get back into the market in a couple of years.
-Lastly, consult a fee-based financial planner
Yeah I agree, commuting is painful. My boss used to commute 2-3 hours each day and it destroyed his health. Spending less time on the road will be good for them.
One thing I learn from reading Millennial-Revolution and JL Collins blog is to consider “Math” in every decision you’re gonna make. If your goal is financial independence, calculate if the decision would cause you to be F.I. earlier. If not, then maybe you should re-think the decision and see how you can get the same benefit without sacrificing your financial independence.
That’s what my wife and I did when we decided to put our child in childcare (which is damn expensive here in Australia to the tune of AUD$110.50/day) for my wife to go back to work. With that decision, even after childcare cost and would her salary working 4 days a week, our F.I. duration decreases by 3 years on a 50% savings rate.
Thanks FIRECracker! Please keep creating this reader case for we love to read them.
Nice work, PAS! Way to #MathShitUp!
Given F’craker’s response to me a couple of weeks ago, I would say she is not the one to ask about anything personal ‘cause she really does not give a….
Correct. # of fucks given: 0.
Forget your realtor, stop caring what other people think and “do what’s right for you”. I know, far easier said than done! At the end of the day your realtor cares about your realtor, not your future long term happiness or financial wellbeing.
Now you have some numbers to decide what may be the best Next step from a financial standpoint. Sit down with the family, decide what you want from your lives and pursue that thing unashamedly.
“At the end of the day your realtor cares about your realtor, not your future long term happiness or financial wellbeing.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
You only need to pay the au pair $1000 per month? I understand the room and board means minimal expenses, but gosh, what do they get out of it? Are these typically European kids wanting to see North America for a few months? Or Philippino migrants supporting their families back at home?
no no, these are teenagers from europe, they work part time, have us as a home base, and travel in their off time. Its a great gig for them and not bad for us, other than having a different person in our house every 6-12 months.
Okay, thanks for the reply. Oh, to be that young again.
Muskoka is nice … I think she should just switch job locations and continue with the hired help for the kids … nursing is good income in Ontario … your other advice sounds good too …. besides the hired help will help keep things going and the price is reasonable …. we have 2 maid/cooks and a driver seeing they are inexpensive over here … it is so nice to have my driver pick me up and come home to a nice clean house with a freshly cooked hot dinner waiting on the dinner table … my wife likes it too 🙂 …. with international teachers this is a common way of life overseas – Michael CPO
She clarified that she’s the higher earner and wants to keep working, so it makes sense for her to keep the childcare costs so she can continue working.
Looks like you have all the pieces figured out for your awesome overseas life 😉
Ok good they know they make a ton of money and make terrible choices. My advice is for you and your husband to sit down and map out a 5 year, ten year and 20 year plan. Make the 5 year one fairly detailed. Figure out what you really want and where you want your life to go. What are your core values. Once you see clearly these things I think you will make better decisions since each decision will either support or work against what you are moving towards. Newmarket May be better option for nursing, to have short commute.
Good advice, Suzq400! The good news is they are still young, lots of time to fix mistakes. Besides, we all make mistakes. If they make a 5, 10, 20 year plan and stick to it going forward (ignoring what their friends and realtors say), they’ll eventually come out a head.
Yeah these folks should just take their yearly after tax income, put it in a pile in their backyard, pour some ignitor fluid on it and set it on fire. They would actually be better off. Having money to spend seems to put them into debt. Better to not have any, at least they would have positive net worth (ie, $0.00).
They are the typical debt slave creator family that you read about online on the various FI blogs and web sites. Massive cash leaks everywhere, no ability to manage money, their worst enemy is their credit score, which allows them to borrow more than they could ever hope to pay back, and they do not understand the time value of money.
Oh, and as for the Muskoka property 2.5 KM from a lake, good luck selling that. It takes an average of 3 years to sell a house in Muskoka.
I really hope you’ve been working on a “Where are they now?” series because this is one I would like to follow.
Wow, Brandon, way to read my mind! I was just thinking about doing a “Where are they now” because one of our reader cases just updated me on her situation. I will see what I can do…:P
You can also claim $8000/child in childcare expenses. Might help with the cost there 🙂