As I write this, my fiancé Joe and I are navigating a series of major financial and life events. From a financial perspective, life is all about working towards multiple goals at the same time.
For starters, we are planning our wedding in Mexico City in November. At the same time, we are also working through the process of starting a family through surrogacy. And if that wasn’t enough, we are also planning to buy a new house. Working toward these goals (while continuing to save for retirement) has required a lot of careful planning and disciplined saving. In this article, I wanted to share what we’ve been doing from a financial planning and investment management perspective to make it all work.
One important note: My savings goals are specific to my life and my unique needs, but the strategies I use to reach these goals can apply to anyone, regardless of their age, life stage, or financial objectives.
For most gay couples, the decision to have children is not something that can be taken on the spur of the moment. The inescapable fact is that, unfortunately, we live in a world that puts up massive barriers for young gay people who want to be parents.
Our biggest challenge with the surrogacy process has been not having anyone to help guide us through it. We’ve had to work with four different parties during this process, and there is no one-stop shop or resource to help us understand everything we needed to know or what questions we needed to ask. As a result, we’ve spent a lot of time and energy working to navigate this process during the last several months, but we are now making good progress.
On top of those logistics, there is also the financial component: having kids — whether through surrogacy or adoption — is expensive: most experts suggest budgeting up to $200,000 for these costs. And because there are no financing options for surrogacy or adoption, most people have to start planning and saving for these costs well in advance.
Fortunately, Joe and I had conversations very early on in our relationship about whether we wanted to have children and whether to adopt or go the surrogacy route. Defining our shared financial goals allowed us to start planning and saving much earlier than we might otherwise have been able to.
Buckets & Waterfalls
We divided our savings goals into three categories, or “buckets”: short-term, medium-term, and long-term. “Short-term” refers to any major expenses we plan to have in the next 3 years; for us, that includes surrogacy, daily living expenses, and potentially buying a new home if the opportunity arises. “Medium-term” refers to expenses we expect to have in the next 3–10 years, which in our case includes buying a new home (if we haven’t already) and a new car. “Long-term” refers to any expenses more than 10 years out, which for us means retirement.
This approach has helped a lot, especially since we are working towards multiple goals at once. No matter where you are in your financial life, from building wealth to entering retirement, you should always have a short-term, medium-term, and long-term bucket for your savings goals. The goals for these buckets will naturally change depending on where you are in your financial life; for example, the medium-term bucket for someone in their 20s might be for a home purchase, but for someone in their 40s, it could be for their children’s college expenses.
To stay on track with our goals for each of these buckets, we use the “waterfall” method to set money aside as soon as cash comes into our bank accounts. In our case, filling the short-term bucket was the most pressing, so we focused on that. Once we felt comfortable that we were in a good place with our short-term bucket, we started to put less into the short-term bucket and more into the medium-term bucket to save for our eventual goal of purchasing a house. We also wanted to ensure we didn’t lose out on any long-term compounding of our initial investments, so while we were actively saving towards these buckets, we also continued to contribute to our 401(k)s.
My portfolio probably doesn’t look like the average, run-of-the-mill portfolio for someone in their late 20s or early 30s. Most of our money is earmarked for our short-term and medium-term goals, and since time is not on our side, we can’t rely as much on market growth and portfolio appreciation to fund these short- and medium-term needs.
The Short-Term Bucket
Most of our savings are in cash in high-yield savings accounts; I also recently sold some bonds to help shore up our cash savings, since our financial needs require us to have quick access to cash (and selling bonds triggers a much smaller tax hit than selling stocks). Treasuries are also a worthwhile option if you have idle cash that you don’t want to subject to the current market volatility, especially with the high rates on offer in today’s market; the current rate on six-month Treasuries is 3.86%.
The Medium-Term Bucket
My medium-term savings go to a brokerage account that I have been accumulating over time. Because our short-term goal is so significant, we have less to save for our medium-term goals, but I still contribute a small portion of my income to this account to take advantage of compound interest.
As I mentioned, we plan on purchasing a new home soon, but since we already own a home, we can afford to be a bit more flexible with our medium-term savings, at least temporarily.
Private credit investments are also a key element of my medium-term strategy. The floating rate on private credit investments can offer a greater return than the public bond market.
Also, you may have heard of “I bonds,” and they can be a good investment to hold in a medium-term bucket — especially now, since I bonds (which are tied to inflation) are currently being offered at 9.62%. I bond purchases are limited to $10,000 per individual per year, but they can be a great way to make your savings work for you within this inflationary environment, and it’s a product that Joe and I have incorporated into our medium-term strategy.
The Long-Term Bucket
For our long-term savings, Joe and I both utilize our employer-sponsored 401(k) plans. It was important to us to stay on course to meet our long-term goals even while we were saving up for our short-term goals, so Joe and I both agreed to continue contributing to our 401(k)s up to the limits of our employer matching while saving for the wedding and surrogacy.
The investments in our respective 401(k)s are firmly aggressive: we have a long time horizon before retirement, so time is on our side, and we can afford to be more aggressive in our investment allocation. Despite the ongoing market volatility, I still believe stocks are the best long-term investment; in fact, if we didn’t have so much of our cash earmarked for surrogacy expenses, I would be using it to take advantage of the more attractive valuations we’re seeing in capital markets today.
As you can see, my financial life has a lot of moving pieces. However, these are all things that are important to Joe and me, and we are staying focused on the near-term steps that will help us reach our short-term and long-term financial goals.
Regardless of age or situation, working towards multiple goals at the same time can be difficult. The team at Strategic Wealth Partners is here to help you navigate these challenges, capture opportunities, and reach your financial objectives. If you’d like to discuss the moving pieces in your financial life, we invite you to connect with our team.
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