My Financial Map: Exactly How I Manage My Money

My Financial Map

If you’re like me, you love reading stories about how other people do money. But have you ever wondered about the actual mechanics of money? How all the nuts and bolts work together to make the savings magic happen?

Let’s back up. There are a million articles that show you how to spend less. You get inspired to start changing your behavior: making coffee at home, or cutting down on eating out, or riding your bike instead of driving. But changing your spending habits is just the first step to being good with money. Because spending less does not equal saving money.

To save money and then make the money work for you, you need to have this thing called a system. Money needs to be told where to go and when. There are countless banks and accounts to mix and match to build your overall strategy. Ever been curious how other people set up their money? Then today is your day, because I’m going to share with you my money system: exactly what happens to my paycheck, how much goes into each bucket, and the many financial institutions I use. Because nobody turns into A Rich Person by just leaving their money in a savings account.

Because I’m super visual, I was inspired by Apathy Ends and Budget on a Stick and created a money map, which shows how and where my money goes each month. I then went on to clutter the map with a bunch of emojis, because that’s an appropriate thing to do when you’re past 30.

My Money Map

The Luxe Strategist's Money Map
I didn’t add enough emojis. Click to enlarge!

Summary of Accounts

  • 5 investment accounts
  • 1 checking account
  • 1 savings accounts (with 2 sub-accounts)
  • 6 credit cards

Initial Thoughts

  • I only see about HALF of my salary when it lands in my checking account. The other half gets divvied up across taxes, pre-tax contributions and deductions.
  • I don’t use financial advisers or robo advisers for investing. I’m pretty hardcore about DIY in real life, so that applies to my finances, too.
  • I don’t have a house, car, student loans (anymore), or kids, so that’s why my map is pretty simple (well, except for the credit cards).
  • I have 6-8 credit cards at any given time, but always pay my bills in full.
  • When I do more math, here’s how my take-home pay gets split, with the categories ranked by percentage:
    • Savings – 49.5% (1)
      Needs – 21.9% (3)
      Wants – 28.6% (2)
  • Compare that to the popular 50/30/20 rule of thumb:
    • Savings – 20% (3)
      Needs – 50% (1)
      Wants – 30% (2)

As you can see, according to the generally accepted wisdom, savings comes dead last. For me, savings comes first. Another key point is how I’ve minimized my needs, or fixed expenses, by almost 30%. Lots of people think fixed expenses are non-negotiable, but they’re wrong.

My Financial Accounts

401K: Fidelity

I contribute the maximum ($18,000) to my 401k. Part of how I’m able to do that is because I make a decent salary now. But just because you make a lot of money doesn’t mean you’re any good at saving it. A high salary makes saving easier, but you still have three additional steps that many overlook: make the decision to save, plan, and then execute. A big part of my success is that I’ve had a lot of practice saving, even when I was making 33k a year. And whenever I got a raise, I wouldn’t increase my lifestyle, but I’d bank the extra money instead.

Taxes + Deductions

By contributing to my 401k as a single person, last year I saved about $3,000, which is pretty sweet! Check out this chart:

2017 Tax Brackets for Single Filers
Image: TaxFoundation.org

For example, see how wide that income range is for the 25% tax bracket? If your income is close to the lower end of the range, you’re gonna want to pay attention. Let’s say you make $40,000, and you don’t make any pre-tax contributions. That means you’re on the hook for the taxes in the Taxes Owed column. But let’s say you contribute $5,000 to your 401k. All of a sudden this makes your taxable income $35,000, bumping you down into the 15% tax bracket, and saving you a little over $200 dollars. If you contributed $10,000 to your 401k, you’d save about $700. This means you’d have more money to invest in other ways. Do note that the taxes you save now are just deferrals.

Health Savings Account (HSA): BenefitWallet

I contribute $3,100 a year to my Health Savings Account (HSA), with a little kickback from my job. 2015 was the first year this account was an option for me through work, so I was excited to sign up. An HSA is basically a pre-tax savings account for medical expenses, and requires you to choose a high-deductible plan. That means my monthly premiums are low, but I also have to pay $1,300 out of pocket before insurance takes care of the rest. So wait, why would someone want to pay MORE for healthcare again? Because I think the benefits outweigh the costs: The beauty is that you can INVEST your contributions, the account is still mine after I leave my job, and after I turn 65 I can use the money for whatever I want (not just medical expenses). It’s another way to diversify my investments.

Transportation

I opt into my company’s transportation program, so my subway pass deductions are pre-tax. A subway pass costs $121.50, so I’m actually paying a little over $91.

Checking Account: Charles Schwab

ATM fees don’t have to be a fact of life. After constantly getting hit with fees when I banked with Chase, I switched to Charles Schwab, because they reimburse your ATM fees. They don’t have any physical locations, so if I need to deposit a check all I do is take a picture of it and upload it to the app. Easy peasy. And not gonna lie, I get a little thrill every time I see an ATM fee reimbursed.

Savings Account: Capital One ING

This was my first online savings account since forever ago. I liked segmenting my savings goals into sub-accounts, because they made feel more in control of my finances and like I actually had a plan. Capital One ING was one of the first to offer this simple, yet nifty little feature. I know there are other banks now that offer higher interest rates, but I don’t bother chasing after them for a couple hundred bucks a year. I actually keep very little cash and invest most of my savings. I’ve had more sub-accounts in the past (like, wedding, etc.), but for now, I keep two holding accounts:

  • Savings – You could call this my “Emergency Fund”, but I actually use it as a “holding pen” to transfer money into my brokerage account. I don’t have a set threshold for how much I leave in this account, but usually it’s a few thousand and that’s it. #keepitlean
  • Travel/IRA – Another weirdly frankensteined category. I used to have a separate account for travel, and a separate one for my IRA, but then one day I decided to just combine these two unrelated accounts into one. So I save up for travel in this account and also use it as a holding pen to transfer money to my IRA account. If I made a big travel purchase, I’ll manually transfer that same amount from the ‘Travel/IRA’ account back to my checking account. I ‘ve also scheduled weekly auto-transfers to my IRA from this account.

Roth IRA: Vanguard

A Roth IRA was the first investment account I ever set up by myself, and I maxed it out every year ($5,500). So I got sad when I found out I couldn’t contribute anymore post-marriage.  As a married couple, our combined income is too high to be eligible, so this year I had to change my strategy…

Traditional IRA: Vanguard

I started this account so that I could roll over my 401ks after I changed jobs. I’ve started contributing the max amount ($5,500) this year since traditional IRAs don’t have income limits. Since I can’t contribute to my Roth IRA anymore, as of this year, I’ve re-routed my money to this account instead, although due to income limits, I get zero tax savings. I need to investigate other ways I could invest this money instead.

Brokerage Account: Charles Schwab

Since I was maxing my 401k, HSA and IRA, the next step for me was finding more ways to grow my money. This brokerage account was included with my Charles Schwab checking account, so I use this to invest in index funds. I’ll manually move money to this account from my savings when I see a buying opportunity.

Rent + Utilities

I pay my share of rent (pro-rated since I make less than my husband), gas and electricity. My husband pays the cable bill and his share of the rent. The gas and electricity bills are on auto-pay.

Credit card #1: Chase Sapphire Reserve

I am a maximizer and I couldn’t let 100,000 reward points slip through my fingers. I know plenty of people who are kicking themselves for not applying for this card. I was initially rejected because I had signed up for too many cards in the past 2 years (over 5), but I tracked when I’d be eligible again and signed up in a local branch. Since the fee is $450, I’ll wait to get my $300 travel credit again, then cancel before the annual fee kicks in.

Credit card #2: Chase Sapphire Preferred

This is a card I’ve held onto for years. Right before I cancel the Reserve card above I’ll transfer the leftover points I have onto this card. I usually use this for eating out since I can earn 2 points per dollar.

Credit card #3: Chase Freedom

Years ago when I had credit card debt, I transferred the balance to this Chase Freedom card for a 0% APR. I’ve had it ever since. I mostly use it for the rotating 5% categories, but not much else.

Credit card #4: American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Personal

I’m a loyal American Express fan. In my experience they have the best customer service. I use this card for points and I hold onto them for dear life. When deployed, you can get a ton of value from them.

Credit card #5: American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Business

I also got the business card earlier this year. They were having promo where you could earn 35,000 points after a 3k spend instead of the usual 25,000 points. Increased bonuses almost never happens, so I pounced. I signed up for it right before all my wedding expenses started to pile up so I could maximize on spending that was going to happen anyway.

Credit card #6: Discover It

One of my favorite hidden gem credit cards. I use this for two reasons:

  • They have the best cashback rewards at stores I shop at anyway. By clicking on affiliate links through their shopping portal I’ve earned up to 20% cash back!
  • This is the credit card I use the least, so to prevent the bank from closing my account (which has happened before!) I’ve linked this card to automatically pay my cell phone bill every month.

Takeaways

  • I definitely have some inefficiencies with the savings account and the transfers to my investment accounts. I could transfer money directly from my checking account and into the investment accounts. I think it’s a mental hitch where it feels safer to put the money in a “holding pen” first just in case my checking account gets too low.
  • It’s really nice to see the overall flow of your money, and the percentages help me confirm my priorities.

How to Make Your Own Money Map

  1. Note you salary and your take-home pay (look at your latest paycheck).
  2. Gather your total expenses and savings for each category.
  3. Calculate the percentages: Divide each amount by your salary.
  4. Now for the fun part! Create your map in Google Drawings using the Shapes and Lines tools. If you have Gmail, here’s how you get there: Google Drive → NEW → More → Google Drawings

Want to see more money maps? Check out how other bloggers manage their finances:

Anchors: Apathy Ends, Budget on a Stick
Link 1: Adventure Rich
Link 2: MinaFi
Link 3: OthalaFehu
Link 4: The Frugal Gene
Link 5: Working Optional
Link 6: Our Financial Path
Link 7: Atypical Life
Link 8: Eccentric Rich Uncle
Link 9: Cantankerous Life
Link 10: The Retirement Manifesto
Link 11: Debts to Riches
Link 12: Need2Save
Link 13: Money Metagame
Link 14: CYinnovations
Link 15: I Dream of FIRE
Link 16: Stupid Debt
Link 17: Spills Spot
Link 18: Making Your Money Matter
Link 19: Life Zemplified
Link 20: Trail to FI
Link 21: The Lady in the Black
Link 22: Smile & Conquer
Link 23: Her Money Moves

What about do think? Any ways I could simplify or optimize? What are your favorite financial accounts?

Image: The Luxe Strategist

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  • Budget On a Stick

    Love the percentages! I need to go back and add that to mine and I expected way more emojis 😉

    Do you have the ability to sent the money directly into savings using direct deposit? It helps to automate things.

    • Yeah, the percentages were not super fun to calculate, but I thought they were important to get the big picture.

      I do have the ability to send money directly to my savings from work, but I’d have to update that paperwork with my company. I’d rather control that myself, even if it’s more inefficient!

      Thanks, BoaS for checking this out!

  • Adventure Rich

    Oh man, I still need to make one of these! I love the visual, being able to actually see where your money goes is so helpful (since typically its all online and just numbers on a screen!).

    • Yeah, I love reading people’s money reports, but honestly my eyes glaze over a lot because I’m a super visual person. I like to see everything at once! And it helped to spot some inefficiencies.

      Would love to see your money map! With combined incomes and kids I’m sure it’s way more complicated.

  • Very well done.

    When putting this together, did anything unexpected pop up, good or bad?

    Have you consulted with your CPA around the advantages of filing married-jointly? Or is the tax table for illustration purposes?

    • Thanks, Church. Yes, one is my savings sub-accounts are used in ways that don’t match their names. Two–my Emergency Fund or savings is not as huge a priority to me as they are to other people. Blasphemy, I know, but I’d rather have my money work for me in investments. It’s a risk, but that’s part of my personality 🙂

      I don’t have a CPA because my taxes were always straightforward: one job, never sold any stocks, etc. But my husband does have a CPA so consulting them to figure out the tax situation is a smart idea! I just hit him up to have a meeting. Thanks for that suggestion!

  • Love your posts! They’re so detailed and well organized. I need to add more design to mine because it’s so plain in comparison.

    • Thanks, girl! I haven’t seen your money map, but I’ll check your site, hehe!

  • that was a great way to explain the tax + deductions. easy to understand jump down in the tax bracket.
    great money map. I will need to create one. fun to see how it compares to others. Its like a ‘what’s in your wallet’ type of thing.

    • Ha, yeah, I agree it’s like a ‘what’s in your wallet’ but the financial version!

      Yeah, I actually uploaded the wrong chart! The chart I wanted to show had the actual taxes you owed per bracket, grrrrr.

      Good luck with your money map, and thank you for stopping by!

  • That’s a nice money map. I just enter my income and expenses on excel every month but I need to be more sophisticated like yours especially with the percentages.
    Yes, american express is the best. They have the best customer service hands down. One example is last year when they called to tell me that the card number had been compromised…five minutes after the thief tried to use my card number to buy Apple products online. Talk about quick. They immediately mailed me a brand new CC with a new number a couple days later.

    • Yeah, I use Excel a ton for work, but I don’t have those big, detailed sheets that other bloggers tend to use. What’s the advantage of that versus using Personal Capital/Mint?

      And yeah, AMEX tends to be more expensive in terms of annual fees, but they by and far blow away all the other credit card companies in terms of service. Chase is slumming it in comparison.

  • Former New Yorker

    Love this! Also, thanks for the reminder. We have to get on setting up another investment account, earmarked for baby boy.

    I wish I had signed up for HSA when I started at my current job and I was single (in the eyes of the law, at least) so I’d have a few years of HSA savings account. If you’re young and healthy, HSA is a no-brainer. But back then I was young and did not have a brain, lol.

    I decided against HSA again last year when we found out I was preggo, but I’m open to re-visiting the idea again this year. That extra $$$ would be good to have if it turns out to work for us!

    • With kids, your money map will be MORE complicated!

      It’s funny. A few weeks after I signed up for an HSA, I actually broke my finger. So I went from, like, tiny, co-pays with my old plan, to having to pay over $1,000 for x-rays and office visits. It really sucked, not going to lie. But now I have 6k in my HSA investment account and it’s nice to watch it grow! I’m able to use it for other people’s expenses as well. Like you, if I was pregnant I probably wouldn’t have signed up for it. I think another factor is how much your company contributes to the fund. Mine kicks in $250, so in total (2 years), they’ve added $500 so far, but other people’s companies might be way more generous!

      “I was young and didn’t have a brain” made me LOL. We’ve all been there! I remember rolling my eyes when my friend told me to sign up for a Roth IRA, but that’s another blog post…

  • Well, I’m pretty type-A so being organized is in my blood! I also very big picture and like to see everything at once.

    Yes, I need to write another post about how AMEX is the bomb! Their return protection policy alone makes them stand out, but that’s another blog post.

  • Hi Karen, thanks for the kind words, and for weighing in! Your daughter is so lucky to have a mom who’s helping out with tuition. And I’m jealous you have a rental property in the works! For me, I’d have to get one out of state (I live in a HCOL place) or wait to buy one when I retire!

  • Hey Hannah,

    You’re totally right about the example post not being in the thousands. I was supposed to upload a different graphic that showed the actual math for each bracket, and will fix that today. And yes, pre-tax now is a deferral later, but I hope I will be retired then and will be in a lower tax bracket. Although no one can predict the future! Pre-tax contributions now also help free up more after-tax money to invest in other areas. I try to invest both pre-tax and post-tax just to diversify.

    Thanks so much for the sharp feedback!

  • Hi!

    I spent a lot of time on the chart, and I was still upset I didn’t get a chance to add more emojis to it! Scope creep…
    I’m glad you got some idea on how to organize your finances–that’s exactly what I was hoping for when I posted this.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • I would LOVE a detailed post on what card to sign up for first in order to max out points and such. I’m so uninformed about how the all interlock. I know some people say sign up for Chase first versus this or that. I’d love to read your take on it!

    • Hi! Hmm, you read my mind. The whole credit card/travel hacking thing has been brewing since Day 1. However, I wanted it’s the one subject I wanted to mull over the best way to write about it, because, as you’ve just said, it’s all confusing and overwhelming. But thank you for letting me know that’s what you’re into! I love feedback like this, so I can make sure I’m writing about the stuff that readers care about.

  • Forgot to reply to this! I’m sad about the Roth IRA because it was my first investment account I ever started. We have history! We’re looking into the backdoor Roth. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Hey! Thanks for the compliments. I would have added more emojis but scope creep happened…The Chase Sapphire Reserve is such a great card, and it’s helped us book some award seats to New Zealand! Thirteen hours in economy? Nah. I’ll check your money map out!

  • Those transportation savings are IMPRESSIVE.

    I also snagged the Chase Sapphire Reserve last year and earned the 100,000 reward points. It’s my first ever attempt at travel-hacking so I’ll have to keep stopping by here to see how you use your points/what cards you’re signing up for!

    Great post as usual.

    • Hey Zach,

      Yeah, sometimes I feel like city folks get lucky with our measly transportation costs. I don’t know what I’d do if I had a car payment, gas and insurance–yikes.

      Congrats for being wise and getting the CSR! I’m definitely not a churner but I get to where I need to go 🙂 I’m hoping to start a series for beginners since there are very few around the Interwebs.

  • Nice map! I like how clean your presentation is. I opted not to list out all my credit cards, but I typically use only two of the 20 or so accounts I have open at a given time 😜

    • “Clean presentation” is my favorite compliment. Ever. Wow, I hope you’re rocking so major travel hacking with that kind of CC portfolio!

  • gracesface

    I don’t even have one credit card and you have SIX!? My mind is having a hard time with this…I’ve just discovered your blog recently and I’m drooling over the knowledge and encouragement in every post. Thank you, Ms. Luxe! 😉

    • Yeah, I have six and I’m still good with money! Haven’t paid a cent in interest in forever, each card has a specific purpose. Thanks so much for reading, and I’m glad you found me!