Listen to the Full Episode:
As the holiday season ends, it is important to take action about our retirement plans and talk about the changes in the new year!
In today’s insightful conversation, Micah and Floyd explore the heartbeat of retirement—cash flow. It’s not just about money; it’s about creating a rhythm for a fulfilling life.
Learn how to keep track of spending, make small money moves, and understand why having practical and sustainable financial habits is crucial for your financial well-being.
Let’s not just make resolutions but take real steps to have a fantastic new year!
What We Cover:
- What is new for this year?
- How to set up 2024 for success?
- Cashflow Planning and Its Importance.
- Practical tips for tracking and managing expenses.
- How to increase your savings.
- Evaluate and refine your cash flow plan for the year ahead
- Work on your spending habits and consider using multiple credit cards for tracking expenses.
- Review unexpected windfalls with a plan: allocate percentages for enjoyment, future savings, and lifestyle improvements.
Resources for this Episode:
Ideas Worth Sharing:
If your your paycheck is going up this year, let's apply that rule and say hey, let's put 50%, let's increase that long-term savings. If we're increasing savings, not just lifestyle, it helps keep us on track for retirement. – Micah Shilanski Click To Tweet
And the cost today may be frivolous, you think. But what happens if you can't control that before you get ready to retire, before you go on a fixed income, before the pension plans start to come? So, creating really good sticky habits is just… Click To Tweet
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Micah Shilanski 00:41
Welcome back to the plan your federal retirement podcast. I’m your co-host MIcah Shilanski and with me is a legendary financial advisor – my father Floyd Shilanski. Pop’s, how’s it going?
Floyd Shilanski 00:52
Doing fantastic. It’s this time of the season. You know, it’s the holiday season and I just thoroughly enjoy it. Yeah.
Micah Shilanski 01:00
Happy New Year to all of our listeners and others pod is going to air the first of the year and we’re really excited to kick off an amazing 2024 and really talk about some great things that are coming up. So hope you had a very Merry Christmas. During this point in time, maybe took a little time off with the family and hopefully today is still a day off for you. But if not, we got this 2024 coming up and there’s going to be some amazing things that can happen this year. But it all starts with taking action and looking at it in advance. Right, dad?
Floyd Shilanski 01:27
Without a doubt. You know, there’s a taking action side. And I hope our listeners don’t confuse New Year’s resolutions with taking actions only because New Year’s resolutions sound good on December 31. Maybe the first and by January 14, Valentine’s Day, they might be ancient history.
Micah Shilanski 01:45
Yeah, they’re done by them, right.
They gotta weigh their play. That was cute. That was nice. I tried a little too hard. I did something a little different and it’s not sticky changes.
Floyd Shilanski 01:53
Yeah, I’m gonna I’m going to lose weight. Okay, and I’m going to exercise that whenever always gives me because I like tweak my shoulder. Oh, well, I can’t do that. Well, when I feel better. I’ll get around to it.
Micah Shilanski 2:05
Yeah. Yeah, it’s all those things. Right. And that’s when we’re talking with our clients. And I know you’re a big proponent of this as well, is what we call sticky changes, right? Anything that we want to do, we want to have just incremental sticky changes. I don’t want to go big. I don’t want to do this big thing. So I’ll do it for a couple of days and it’s never going to happen. It’s like you know financial dieting. Right? Financial dieting is trying to get a budget in place and it says this sounds great. You’re gonna take a course or whatever. And I’m going to do this financial budgeting. And you’re like you said Bob’s gonna do for seven days and you’re saying this sucks. I’m not going to do it and you’re gonna binge spend and then all of a sudden you’re gonna be off that budget, you’re gonna be off your cash flow planning. So when we’re doing things regardless of where you are in your finances, it’s really important to know what is your cash flow, Really important. Cash flow is the heartbeat of retirement. And, Dad, this is something that we see just day to day with our clients, whether they’re aspiring to be retired, they want to be the financial independence or an accumulation stage, or if they’re already retired, we see the same thing. Don’t we?
Floyd Shilanski 03:01
We do and, you know, years and years and years ago, and I’ll tell the story just quickly on Micah. We were doing a program up in Fairbanks, and he sat down with two people up Olympic games still clients today, many, many years later, and they were librarians. I don’t know about you, but sometimes when we hear someone’s nomenclature, the job title, something comes to mind. And when we talked about a librarian, I didn’t think we would see they had very 0000 with numbers in front of it in the checkbook. And I remember Micha’s conversation, he looked at him and said, How did you do this and their response was classic. And what was their response? Micah?
Micah Shilanski 03:38
They looked at me and says, Micah, it’s not that hard. You just spend less than you make.
Floyd Shilanski 03:42
Yeah, that’s how easy it is not simple, but that’s how easy it is.
Micah Shilanski 03:47
Right? Yeah. And it takes hard work. Right. So so on there, you know, it’s a simple concept, but it’s hard to implement and hard to stay on top of this. So getting into this new year, let’s talk about some new things that we should be thinking about. Now. We’re gonna have another pod that’s going to be coming with all the great New Year changes and updates to your benefits, all really good stuff. I’m going to be doing that with Tammy here shortly. But Dad and I wanted to get together and talk about just kind of one of the core things we need to be thinking about. So number one, of course, is going to be that cash flow that we talked about cash flow planning before on the podcast, the best cash flow plan that you can do is the one that you’re actually going to do it’s the best diet is the best exercise program, right? It’s the one you’re actually going to do. So this isn’t something that should be super complex. It should be relatively simple. You can look at on a monthly basis or every couple of weeks. You should know what your top five categories of expenses are. Where does your money go on a monthly basis? I mean, hey, am I in range in that spending alignment?
Floyd Shilanski 04:42
That’s really important. You know, Micah, I met with a client last night make very good income, alright, single provider, but doing an excellent job on it. And when I said how do you spend your money and his wife looked at me and looked at him and says, it comes in and it goes out, it comes in and goes out and then we want to take control of it. How do we do it? And typical, wants to bring out a spreadsheet, and I close the spreadsheet over and I says what does it cost to run the household every month? I don’t know. Let me see my spreadsheet as I’m gonna say therein lies our challenge. And I said what I really want you to do for the next 30 days. 45 days. I want you to write – not tight – write down exactly. I bought a coffee I did this I bought a soda I went to McDonald’s or we went out for supper. I don’t care what you spend, write it down with the numbers. And here’s what I’ll tell you. I will bet you a coke, that when you come back you will automatically change your spending habits. And you know we work hard, we work 40-50 hours a week the kids know if you got kids oh my goodness gracious. Last weekend. My great granddaughter kept us going Thursday night, Friday night, all day Saturday. And by Sunday. It’s like what happened? So when we know we’re busy, and it’s easy to one off, oh, well, we’ll order Instacart bring food into all right. We’ll do all these things to make our life easier, but we don’t realize what the net cost is. And the cost today may be frivolous, you think. But what happens if you can’t control that before you get ready to retire, before you go on fixed income before the pension plans start to come? So creating really good sticky habits is just crucial. As we go into the next year. It’s 100%.
Micah Shilanski 06:19
Pops, as we get into this year, right? What are the things that we’re thinking about? What are the things that we need to change now? And I like what you said about writing these things down? And it’s just the exercise alone makes the difference right. And scientists talk about this right just observing something changes the results changes the outcome, right? And that’s exactly what we’re going for is financial awareness. I don’t need down to the penny where all of your money went. Generally that type of level of scrutiny isn’t needed. What is needed is you being aware of how and where you spend your money. Now, a couple of quick hacks on this one, we’re all creatures of habit. So one of the things is when I go to checkout, it’s subconscious. I grab my wallet, I grab my credit card, I go to put it in there, right? But now I’m going to throw that credit card in there. I’m not going to think about what I’m spending I’m really not going to jot anything down etc. So I need to change my habit right now. Assuming you’re not driving, take your wallet out and move your credit card to a different spot. Now you’re gonna say Micah, this is really silly. Well, sure it is right but we’re creatures of habit. Now when I go for my wallet, I go for that credit card. It’s not there. Now I have a pause. It’ll brave Oh crap, and I forget my credit card. You’re gonna have a little bit of that shock. But then will be just oh, wait What did Floyd talk about, aha. He talked about writing down what we spend our money on. And then you’re gonna have a brief pause where you can write down what that was, then you can get your credit card into it. It’s about creating these little changes that can make a massive impact.
Floyd Shilanski 07:46
You know, Micah, right now, as you said, that don’t get mad at me. I can imagine the millennials and all those say I’ll use my phone. Right? I check out my credit cards. I can see all of that. And there’s this one couple of last night I go I got it, but you know what? Tell me the last charge on your credit card. I don’t know. Show me the last time I don’t know… What your mom and I do when we go out to for dinner for ourselves. I don’t bring out the credit card. I pay cash.
Micah Shilanski 08:12
That’s not true, you just pass the bill to me. I’ve been at dinner with you. I know how that works. You put like a $10 in there and you pass it on down and be like No, that’s about my portion. But what do you mean that’s your portion?
Floyd Shilanski 08:23
Oh, whatever, I can with you or your sister without a doubt.
Micah Shilanski 08:28
Your drink was $10
Floyd Shilanski 08:30
Well, we didn’t say anything about drinks. Point being of course, is that we don’t track and if any of you happen to carry cash with you anymore, and you put $100 bill down, what happens once you break it. Tomorrow it’s gone. So we don’t track and I use it just as an example. Because like you said, we’re creatures of habit. I call it plastic magic. You pull out the credit card magically it gets paid. magically it gets paid. But what it doesn’t do is give us tracking right now if you want to put your household electricity, natural gas, so on automatic pay and track at the end of the year. I’m good with that because you’re gonna pay it anyway. But it’s that other stuff. It’s amazon.com it’s PayPal. It’s the subscription from Apple. That’s that streaming device. You ever sit down this time? Of The Year and just go on Apple and look at all the subscriptions you may have. What’s the last time you logged on to Disney or paramount? You know that well it’s not a lot of money Floyd, but you take out over a year all those subscriptions to be 1000 $1,500.
Micah Shilanski 09:33
Yes, it’s about being aware on that side now. It’s actually kind of funny. Not only do we work our listeners, though, with a lot of federal employees, several financial advisors who actually hired us to come in and say, Hey, we want you to build a financial plan for us and nothing against them in their own right is financial planners, but they weren’t having another coach come in and say hey, really look at what we’re doing and kind of hold us accountable to these things. So kudos to them. I think a solid financial planning advice is to make sure you’re following your own advice, bring it down and to look at this. But dad, it was funny. I was meeting with one another advisor and his wife and I do that same thing. I was talking about cashflow. And he paused and I looked at him through zoom and he’s like,
Micah Shilanski 10:11
I want to pull up my spreadsheet right now. But this is exactly what we tell clients not to do.
Micah Shilanski 10:18
Exactly right. Right now I am just as guilty of it as the next person when I don’t have awareness. I have no idea where my money goes. Now. This is where dad and I are going to disagree just a little bit have two different ways of doing this just a little bit so it’d be fun. Fun to listen for you guys. What would I like to do with my spending because I still like plastic magic. Yes, I bring cash. I don’t like writing down everything I spend money on again. What’s the best program that works? Dad’s idea is fantastic, but I’m not going to do that. I know I lacked that discipline to write down every single transaction every single place I go okay, so I got to do something different. That works for me. It works for a lot of my clients as well. And I noticed this crazy what we talked about before on the podcast is actually have five different credit cards that we use to track our spending. Now you could be saying, Well, Micah, I have one credit card at the end of the month that tells me exactly where I spent my money. Great. Then how much did you spend on entertainment last month without looking it up? And if you know that well then fantastic. You’re good. If you don’t know that that’s why we’ve devised this other system. I like to break spending down between three and five categories, three is a minimum, fives are maximum because it’s easier to keep track of. For me, household travel, entertainment, medical and kids. Those are the top five areas that we’re spending money on: household, travel, entertainment, medical and kit. So that’s five different credit cards with those now when I go to checkout for something I’m making sure to use that correct credit card and then I know at the end of the month Okay How much should my household bills be should be between X and Y was that credit card between x and y if it was we get a gold star we move on with life. If we go to entertainment it should be between x and y but it was Z okay it’s a great conversation my wife and I really quick – Hey, my love it looks like this month we’re slightly over on our entertainment side. Just want to bring a little awareness in here. No action needed. Notice what I did not say I did not say Sweetheart, you are over budget in the entertainment right if you’re married, you already know what I’m talking about that does not bring financial harmony, right where it’s even this one. So the first month it’s like, Hey, we’re a little bit over. Let’s bring awareness to it. And that’s about it. Now if we’re over two months in a row now we need to have a little bit more of a conversation. Do we need to realign how much we need to spend Where’s this coming from etc. But I know every month where my money goes to those top five categories. Now to your point if I dug into the households to say tell me every single household transaction who I probably couldn’t off the top of my head I could give it a good go. But I’m sure I would miss things but I know how much a month they spend entirely on my household. And that’s the goal that we need to have.
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Floyd Shilanski 14:05
You know, Micah, I’m laughing here as you see some time are smiling as well as you but you know the first thing you said about the credit cards, you know having by you, we all subscribed to that, you know, you know your mom and I have a travel card and so on and so forth. Right. So you have dynamite. But when you said that I recall an old magazine, I don’t know if it exists anymore called Money Magazine. And back in the 80s is that the average household had five to 10 credit cards and they were all maxed out. So when Micah talks about five credit cards or we talked about using credit, we’re not talking about carrying a balance every month, forward and forward and forward. All right. One of my clients says hey, this you know, there’s this travel card is great, you know, I’m getting all this miles, you know, and then we pay it off at once a quarter and I asked him Do you know what the interest rate is? As five or seven and we pull it up? 29% I go why I didn’t know that as it you gotta be aware of it. So if you use credit use it wisely, of course. And then make sure you pay those credit card bills off every month. Don’t let them lag on. All right. And the other thing that I encourage you to do a little different than Micah, or a lot of my clients I’d say take a weekly budget. You don’t take a monthly budget. So if you’re going to spend 5,6,$700 on going out entertainment if you put it in cash, and you’re reaching that pocket, and you only got 20 bucks, maybe you’re going to McDonald’s and you’re not going someplace else. Just a thought.
Micah Shilanski 15:26
Yeah, I don’t know if 20 bucks gets you to the McDonald’s. But yeah, same concept, though, right? What cash do we have now? Again, this is a system because I’m a bit more of a saver versus a spender. I can make sure we’re paying those credit cards off. I have some clients and nothing wrong with them pops to your point. They’re a bit more spenders than savers. Credit card strategies are not a good plan for them. They will spend those credit cards Okay, great. This is when we need cash. This is when we need separate bank accounts the same concept with it. I love it. Alright, so talking about sticky changes right cash flow you totally get all excited about this and and you might think this is so basic. Well it’s so key right? This is something you have to have. It’s like oil in your car right? It’s something basic but if you don’t have it, things will blow up and this isn’t my friend with a Tesla is going to be like not being like I got a Tesla but for the rest of us mere mortals we need to have oil in the car or it’s going to blow up. You got to understand your cash flow or you’re going to have problems. With this concept of sticky changes right little changes that we can do that’s gonna go on there, pops, let’s talk about saving money this next year and I know one of the things that we talked about is anytime well lets talk in time we have unexpected money we kind of have a general rule of thumb of what we’d like to do about that. So how does that work?
Floyd Shilanski 16:39
Unexpected money. So you get a bonus and it’s substantial, not one or $2,000 but you know is 10,15 or 20 grand? What I always tell my clients is take 10% and just spend it. You’re gonna do it anyway. So just take 10% and spend it all right, and if this is money that you weren’t counting on, it was kind of a surprise. Let’s take 50% of it, and I call it pay it forward. So if you’re not maxed out that 401 K plan or your Thrift Savings Plan, we want to do that they haven’t funded your IRA. Well, you can’t because you make too much money. Well, you can do the backdoor Roth Alright, so we can fund it and we can still ship it. Let’s pay it forward with 50% Then take 25% and place it in a travel account I call it adventure accounts now. So throw those money over this other account, and that’s the same for the vacations, that’s the go Hello scheme to scuba diving, something you just want to do. And here’s the real key though. No more than 25% of that bonus to improve lifestyle. Yeah, you know, and that’s what so many times happens is we see these large fluxes of money. You know, when they get rid of the credit card, they do all this stuff, but they didn’t they don’t save and then all of a sudden well I got this money now. So here comes a new car payment here comes this other payment and all of a sudden we see that beyond our means the expensive start to take over. So I love percentages as you know you know if we get in the habit of 50% 25-10 and so on, it’s easy. You get a pay raise your check goes up $100. Well, the $100 doesn’t go to improve your lifestyle, only a percentage on it.
Micah Shilanski 18:10
I love that. And again, large bonuses are great but day to day stuff right with a step increase. You’re getting a cost of living adjustment up raise any of those things, minimum 50% put towards the future, right I love that idea. And that can be the TSP is a great place for you. Now you can put an extra $500 in there. It went from 20 to 520 2500 plus catch up if you turn 50. Now it’s 23,000 Plus catch up the year you turn 50 potential remains the same at $7,500 to put over $30,000 inside of your TSP and that’s not including your 5% match, which is absolutely fantastic. So you can really save some money there. So if your your paycheck is going up this year, let’s apply that rule and say hey, let’s put 50% Let’s increase that long. term savings. If we’re increasing savings, not just lifestyle, it helps keep us on track for retirement.
Floyd Shilanski 18:57
You know, Mikah, if you’re five or seven years out from retirement, you know, understanding that if you get dual income family, and you said well, we can’t afford it. Well what’s going to happen in five or seven years when your dual income becomes one or becomes none now as pensions. All right. So one of the things that Micah and I really strive to do with our pre retirees is get them living off that what we project to be that future income, all right, and like many of my clients had dual incomes. We’ve got one side of the equation, male or female it doesn’t make a difference. But we’re banking almost 100% of their income, maxing the TSP Max in the 401 K plans stuffing the savings account up so when they get ready to retire we’ve got more than just a 401 K plan. We have assets that are our retirement timeline we know reasonably that you can make this adjustment from month to month or day to day week to week paycheck, your sell off under retirement, and it is your goal and yours and you enjoy yourself because money is no longer a concern.
Micah Shilanski 20:00
Amen. Right. These are really important things that we should be thinking about now pops lets really focus on that latter part right there. What are we solving for? Right? Because all the times you can get caught up into technical stuff and how much should I save and how much should I invest it? Those are all great things to chat about. We can geek out about them right on with you. But this is all for a goal. What’s the goal? At the end of the day, the goal is your financial independence. Now, it could be retirement right. But we’d like to say financial independence is what’s the date, what’s the age when you’re eligible… Now, working is 100% optional. You don’t have to go into the office and work but some of us like still love to work right. We want to be financially independent. We want to keep going Well fantastic. That’s great. Some of us want to hit that financial independence and we want to make a transition to retirement. Fantastic. That’s great as well. So let’s keep in mind what we’re solving for. What’s that age that you want to be retired or financially independent? Than, dad to your point, how much do you think you’re going to spend in that period in time? And how do start sampling that how we started living on that a little bit sooner? Let’s find out if that’s the right dollar amount for you.
Floyd Shilanski 21:00
You know Micah its so crucial. Don’t compare yourself with the neighbor. I’ve had probably in the last quarter. I’ve had five clients go boy Tell me, how am I doing comparing? Compared to what? Compared to what? Right? I’ve got clients that don’t make double digit and I mean triple digit incomes and they save and save and save. And we have clients that have triple digit income. And they’re always well, you know, I don’t have enough Well, I can’t Max fund this and you know, we’re always shifting money here and there. Alright, it’s a matter of mindset. And then as you Micah you know and I know you and Tammy have talked about it. And over the fers especially we can pretty well project what the pension will be pretty well project what deffers is going to be down supplements going to be and then we can project what Social Security is going to be so we can get real close to what we think the income is going to be. And that’s it for this conversation. We say it’s five grand that you’re going to have and you’re spending 10 Well, now we know we have a gap of five, we have to solve for that. And years and years ago, I would tell people my role was to get you at age 75 And then you’re on your own. Well now I’m telling clients I’ll get you to age 100 Micah and his sister we’re taking care of you I may not be here, but we’re going to get you to age 100 Before we run out of money, and because we don’t know when we’re going to die. So making sure that transition is just so so important. And not the average but for you, for you and your family.
Micah Shilanski 22:28
Yeah, be careful when you read these Money magazine reports or finance are the watercooler stuff right that says you need X amount of dollars, right? What are they solving for? This is a huge question. And I’m the same thing right when people come in and I’ve got two of them actually yesterday come in. new clients are like, hey, we want to know how we’re doing compared to the average person. Oh, the average person? Like the average world person that lives you know, considerably lower standards than us will not make it not that okay, well the average person in the United States will know not that the average person in Alaska will know the average person’s in our circumstances. Aha, all right. So this is now a game you want to see if you’re better than the next person. Yeah, well, if you’re better than the next person but you still run out of money in retirement. Did you win? They’re like no. I said, Okay, well, then being better than the average really isn’t what we’re solving for. Then what we’re solving for is are you on track for your retirement? And if you’re on track for your retirement, you can hit that you achieve your goals and you don’t want out of money are you got to be happy? And they’re like, Yes, I was like fantastic. That’s the average that we need to have. It’s your average. Are you on track for your plan? And if you are you get two thumbs up we move on with life and if you’re not we need to start making tweaks in order to be there.
Floyd Shilanski 23:36
You know what Micah That’s so so right on because we I have clients, all right, that lived comfortably on about $3,500 a month. They bought their house a long time ago, they paid the house off, and the social security comes in and their rate, right so we don’t have to have millions of dollars in retirement to get them through. Now conversely, we have our clients that are in the higher income bracket. They’re not ultra high net worth, but they’re make really good money and they’re accustomed to spending 10, 15 $25,000 a month and their circumstances is so much different. All right, and that really now becomes more of a numbers game, because their pensions and Social Security. They’re not going to get 25,000 a month. So how do we solve for that? That is so much different than the couple that have paid their house off 30 years ago and lived way below their means. So the comparison USA Today last week, the average American has less than $1,500 or $2,000 saved for retirement. So someone comes in and says Look what I got more of that in my Roth IRA, I’m doing better. What does that really mean? Who’s the average? Don’t compare yourself? I think that’s what we’re both trying to say. Everyone is unique. their wants and needs are different than the next person.
Micah Shilanski 24:54
Amen. Well, pops this podcast is all about action items, right where things our listeners can do this week to help improve their situation now, it’s a new year, which is fantastic. So number one, I’m going to kick it off with the easy one and say the number one action item. Start working towards your cashflow. Understand what those numbers are getting picked those categories between three and five. Where do you spend the most money and come up with these ranges so you can track it this next year.
And the second thing to that on the on the cash flow side of it. If you haven’t adjusted your withholdings to max fund that 401k or that tsp I think that’s the second thing that you do. And if you’ve already done that, congratulations, have you funded that traditional IRA so we can do the Roth conversion of what we refer to as the backdoor Ira are to be in the top five things you do.
Absolutely. And the second thing is have a written plan down that says any unexpected money that you get what’s your plan with it? You know, it can be as simple as 50-50. 50% of the future 50% Today, we could break it down a little bit more as Floyd kind of broke down. But even in Floyd’s rules, it was 50% for the future, any additional money you have coming in? Yes, I know inflation is real. Yes, I know groceries are more expensive, but there’s still going to be expensive in the future. And we got to be setting money aside to make sure you are taken care of.
Floyd Shilanski 26:10
You know, and oh my god, I don’t think either one of us are saying be so that at the end of the month if you’re balancing your checkbook, and you have an extra 20 bucks, but 10 here and 10 here I don’t think we’re saying that. What we’re saying is just watch the cash flow. Because if you overspend what you earn, it’s gonna be hard to make up that difference later on in life.
Micah Shilanski 26:29
Amen. Well, pops. As always, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast. Always. My pleasure. Yeah. To all of our listeners. I hope you have a wonderful January Happy New Year and until next time, happy planning.