Advice with Small Windfall

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Advice with Small Windfall

Postby assumer » Fri Dec 21, 2012 11:36 pm

So I have received a windfall of $55,000 (life insurance; therefore, tax exempt) and I would like some advice on how to use it. Here is my current situation:

Currently a Ph.D. Student. Salary = $25,000 per year (stipend). However, sometime in 2013, I expect that salary to jump to approximately $100,000.

Student loans:
$13,000 - Unsubsidized at 7.8%
$22,000 - Unsubsidized at 6.8%
$14,000 - Subsidized at 6.8%
$5,500 - Subsidized at 6.0%
$3,500 - Unsubsidized at 4.75%

Assets:
Roth IRA at ~$10,000
Emergency fund at $2,000
Checking/Savings accounts: Now have about $55,000 in them.

Monthly:
Income = ~$1800 per month
Expenses = ~$1600 per month

--------------------------
Here are a few things I'm definitely going to do:
$5,000 - Emergency fund
$5,500 - Roth IRA contribution for 2013
$2,500 - Student loan interest (for the tax benefits since I believe my total salary will be <$60,000 for the total of 2013).
$3,000 - Put aside for a vacation in 2014

That is $16,000, which leaves about $40,000

Here is something I will probably do:
Pay off the $13,000 unsubsidized loan at 7.8%

Here is now what I am not sure what to do:
Possibly pay off the $22,000 unsubsidized loan at 6.8%
Alternatively, put some into a 3-5 year asset allocation investment (30% stocks, 70% bonds?) (in a regular brokerage account) for either a house down payment or a wedding, which will likely occur in about 5 years.

But I am not quite sure what others would suggest, and if there are any alternatives to my plan.

Thanks in advance.
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby BL » Sat Dec 22, 2012 2:30 pm

It sounds like a good plan to use for emergency funds, Roth, and pay-down of loans. I might consider a larger emergency fund, Roth, trip, then pay off high-interest loans with the rest. If you keep closer to grad-student living for a few years, it shouldn't be hard to save for those future expenses.
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby livesoft » Sat Dec 22, 2012 2:50 pm

What about 2012 Roth contribution? Is that already done?

One's Roth IRA can double as an emergency fund if one is not able to have both. The Roth is preferred if one is not able to have both.

After that, pay off the high-rate loans and don't bother with taxable account investing at this time. If loans had been low-rate my advice would've been different.

What is your field of study? I'm curious because jumping from a $25,000 stipend to $100,000 is very interesting to me.
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby assumer » Sat Dec 22, 2012 3:25 pm

Already maxed out my 2012 Roth contribution.

What do you consider a high interest loan? Anything >6%? The only downside is that decreases my liquidity.

I don't want to go into too much detail but it's a form of engineering.
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby livesoft » Sat Dec 22, 2012 3:32 pm

I would consider a high-interest loan to be any loan with a rate higher than 3 times the rate paid on 10-year Treasuries.
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby bertilak » Sat Dec 22, 2012 3:36 pm

assumer wrote:The only downside is that decreases my liquidity.

But does increase your net cash flow, which is a good thing which could be taken into consideration.
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby FNK » Sat Dec 22, 2012 3:45 pm

Frankly speaking, if I were paying 6% of interest these days and had the option of paying that off, I'd just do that. The insane rate would just keep nagging at me. There's no investment that can match that either.

If you're able to refinance your loans into something saner, that's a different story.
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby assumer » Sat Dec 22, 2012 3:59 pm

Thanks, good points. Unfortunately you can't refinance federal student loans these days otherwise I'd try to do that... Consolidation is the only option but that simply averages the interest rates, thereby not letting me pay off the high interest ones first.
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby Duckie » Sat Dec 22, 2012 8:40 pm

assumer, here's what I would do with the $55,000 windfall.

1. Set aside $5,500 for the 2013 Roth IRA contribution.
2. Set aside $3,000 for the 2014 vacation.
3. Add $8,000 to the Emergency Fund to get it up to $10,000.
4. Pay off the $13,000 unsubsidized 7.8% student loan.
5. Pay off the $22,000 unsubsidized 6.8% student loan.

That leaves $3,500.

Option 1: Pay down the $14,000 subsidized 6.8% student loan to $10,500.
Option 2: Pay off the $3,500 unsubsidized 4.7% student loan. Yes, it has the lowest interest rate, but it would completely pay off the loan and free up monthly cash.

I would pay the $2,500 student loan interest out of regular income. You would have had to before the windfall, and by paying off over half your debt the interest may be less.

You don't need taxable retirement accounts until your income is higher and your debt is lower, much lower.
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby FNK » Sat Dec 22, 2012 9:46 pm

Duckie wrote:Option 1: Pay down the $14,000 subsidized 6.8% student loan to $10,500.
Option 2: Pay off the $3,500 unsubsidized 4.7% student loan. Yes, it has the lowest interest rate, but it would completely pay off the loan and free up monthly cash.

Option 1 is better in my opinion. Forced paydown is good for you.
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby Toons » Sat Dec 22, 2012 11:10 pm

Pay down loans :happy
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby campy2010 » Sun Dec 23, 2012 12:02 am

Here is what I would do:

1. 8K for emergency fund
2. Pay off high interest unsubsidized and subsidized student loans

Student loans:
$13,000 - Unsubsidized at 7.8% <----Pay Off
$22,000 - Unsubsidized at 6.8% <----Pay Off
$14,000 - Subsidized at 6.8% <----Pay Off $12k or save $12k in EF for the purpose of repayment when you graduate and loans begin to accrue interest (there is no longer a 6-month grace period - loans begin to accrue interest as soon as you graduate)
$5,500 - Subsidized at 6.0%
$3,500 - Unsubsidized at 4.75%

Saving for your 2013 Roth IRA doesn't make sense when you have high interest debt, your income is about to rise to $100k/yr and you have until April 2014 to make the contribution. Similarly, saving for a vacation in 2014 also doesn't make sense for the same reason. You can use future cash flow for these two things. Knock out the debt.
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby Bob's not my name » Sun Dec 23, 2012 5:56 am

The unsubsidized loans are all accumulating interest right now, whereas the subsidized are not, and the subsidized total is low enough that you can pay it all off very soon after graduating. So I would pay off all the unsubsidized loans. I don't know if you're eligible for the student loan interest deduction in 2012, but you could split the payoff between 2012 and 2013 (that is, January) so you have $2,500 of interest in each tax year.

Note that the student loan interest deduction as it exists now will not survive into 2013 under current law. The MAGI limit will be lower. (There's also a 60-month time limit.)

To compare the interest rates simplistically, if you will be able to pay off all loans in the summer of 2014, the 4.75% unsubsidized loan will cost you 4.75% interest, whereas the subsidized 6.8% loan will cost you only about 2.3% effective interest over the 18 months. The total dollar difference on a $3,500 loan is very small, however, less than a hundred dollars, so don't agonize over the choice.
Last edited by Bob's not my name on Sun Dec 23, 2012 6:08 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby Bob's not my name » Sun Dec 23, 2012 5:57 am

campy2010 wrote:there is no longer a 6-month grace period - loans begin to accrue interest as soon as you graduate
Isn't this true only for loans disbursed after 7/1/2012?
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby assumer » Sun Dec 23, 2012 3:57 pm

Bob's not my name wrote:I don't know if you're eligible for the student loan interest deduction in 2012, but you could split the payoff between 2012 and 2013 (that is, January) so you have $2,500 of interest in each tax year.


I've already paid the $2,500 interest for 2012 at the beginning of this year.

Bob's not my name wrote:Note that the student loan interest deduction as it exists now will not survive into 2013 under current law. The MAGI limit will be lower. (There's also a 60-month time limit.)


Can you elaborate on both points?
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby assumer » Sun Dec 23, 2012 3:58 pm

Bob's not my name wrote:
campy2010 wrote:there is no longer a 6-month grace period - loans begin to accrue interest as soon as you graduate
Isn't this true only for loans disbursed after 7/1/2012?


Sources? Also my loans were all disbursed prior to 7/1/2012.
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby Bob's not my name » Sun Dec 23, 2012 4:08 pm

assumer wrote:
Bob's not my name wrote:
campy2010 wrote:there is no longer a 6-month grace period - loans begin to accrue interest as soon as you graduate
Isn't this true only for loans disbursed after 7/1/2012?
Sources? Also my loans were all disbursed prior to 7/1/2012.
I just Googled it. Campy seems to be an authority on the subject so I was just asking him if my first Google hit -- or my reading of it -- was wrong. This was my first Google hit: http://studentaid.ed.gov/types/loans/su ... subsidized What was yours?
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby Jacotus » Sun Dec 23, 2012 4:11 pm

This is easy. Wipe out the loans.
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby assumer » Sun Dec 23, 2012 4:14 pm

Bob's not my name wrote:I just Googled it. Campy seems to be an authority on the subject so I was just asking him if my first Google hit -- or my reading of it -- was wrong. This was my first Google hit: http://studentaid.ed.gov/types/loans/su ... subsidized What was yours?


Okay, the first site I looked at was this: http://www.studentloanborrowerassistanc ... e-periods/ but now I see this page: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012 ... e-students so that's unfortunate.

I now realize the first site I looked at had this quote:
Be advised that this grace period “interest subsidy” was eliminated for Direct subsidized loans made on or after July 1, 2012 and before July 1, 2014.


so that doesn't apply to my situation.
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby Bob's not my name » Sun Dec 23, 2012 4:15 pm

assumer wrote:
Bob's not my name wrote:Note that the student loan interest deduction as it exists now will not survive into 2013 under current law. The MAGI limit will be lower. (There's also a 60-month time limit.)
Can you elaborate on both points?
I just Googled this, too.
Beginning in 2013, the 60-month rule returns and the AGI phase-out ranges (before adjustment for inflation) will be reduced to $60,000 – $75,000 for joint filers and $40,000 – $55,000 for other filers (except married couples filing separately who are barred from claiming this deduction).
Edit: I don't consider this to have come from an authoritative source, and another non-government source I read said $55,000 vs. $50,000. I do find the government sources exasperating when it comes to finding out what next year's tax rules will be under current law, but maybe I don't know where to look.
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby Bob's not my name » Sun Dec 23, 2012 4:19 pm

assumer wrote:
Bob's not my name wrote:I just Googled it. Campy seems to be an authority on the subject so I was just asking him if my first Google hit -- or my reading of it -- was wrong. This was my first Google hit: http://studentaid.ed.gov/types/loans/su ... subsidized What was yours?
Okay, the first site I looked at was this: http://www.studentloanborrowerassistanc ... e-periods/ but
That's interesting. When I Google "subsidized student loan" my top hit is the United States Department of Education. I know Google personalizes searches, but you'd think that would be everybody's top hit.
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby assumer » Sun Dec 23, 2012 4:27 pm

Bob's not my name wrote:That's interesting. When I Google "subsidized student loan" my top hit is the United States Department of Education. I know Google personalizes searches, but you'd think that would be everybody's top hit.


I searched for "subsidized student loan grace period" actually but the results did change when I turn off personalized searches.

Anyway, it looks like my path forward is clear.

Interesting most people have recommended a total of $10,000 emergency fund. The reason that I didn't put my emergency fund this high is (1) I have a credit card with a high enough limit which can double as emergency funds in a true "emergency" situation, and (2) I can use my Roth as somewhat of an emergency fund.

Or maybe I just don't like the idea of more money sitting in a liquid account earning almost no interest when I hope I never have to touch it :happy
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby Bob's not my name » Sun Dec 23, 2012 4:34 pm

I agree with both your points and I am generally less conservative than the boglehead median when it comes to EF. However, in your situation I don't see much of a dilemma. There is no incentive to pay off subsidized loans that are not accruing interest. Furthermore, even though you are likely to have excellent job prospects as an engineer, you can't be absolutely certain in the economic miracle we're living in, so it makes sense to stay liquid. Finally, you should prepare for the extraordinary liquidity challenges of starting out after graduation (moving costs, possibly a car, apartment first and last months' rent, etc). All of these factors argue for keeping the cash until you are employed and the grace period is over.
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby assumer » Sun Dec 23, 2012 4:39 pm

Alright, yeah I can always reevaluate when my future becomes a bit clearer, so I'll keep that $10k emergency fund.
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby Bob's not my name » Sun Dec 23, 2012 4:44 pm

You may find this useful, even if some of the conditions will be different in 2013: http://thefinancebuff.com/how-to-save-4 ... taxes.html
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby campy2010 » Sun Dec 23, 2012 9:33 pm

assumer wrote:
Bob's not my name wrote:I just Googled it. Campy seems to be an authority on the subject so I was just asking him if my first Google hit -- or my reading of it -- was wrong. This was my first Google hit: http://studentaid.ed.gov/types/loans/su ... subsidized What was yours?


Okay, the first site I looked at was this: http://www.studentloanborrowerassistanc ... e-periods/ but now I see this page: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012 ... e-students so that's unfortunate.

I now realize the first site I looked at had this quote:
Be advised that this grace period “interest subsidy” was eliminated for Direct subsidized loans made on or after July 1, 2012 and before July 1, 2014.


so that doesn't apply to my situation.


Yup, you're right. The new rules only apply to post 2012 loans. Too many new rules in the student loan programs to keep track of all of the changes. Apologies.
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby hq38sq43 » Sun Dec 23, 2012 9:37 pm

Five years?
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby Watty » Sun Dec 23, 2012 10:25 pm

Currently a Ph.D. Student. Salary = $25,000 per year (stipend). However, sometime in 2013, I expect that salary to jump to approximately $100,000.


I would wait until you actually have started your job to make any big decisions.

In addition to the chance that you might not get such a good starting salary their could also be issues with not having a paid relocation. You could even find a great but lower paying job at somplace like a start up company and having the money in the bank could allow you more flexability in which job you take.
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby Naikansha » Mon Dec 24, 2012 7:42 am

[quote="assumer"]Alright, yeah I can always reevaluate when my future becomes a bit clearer, so I'll keep that $10k emergency fund.[/quote]
Yes, this is the best plan, as well as paying off your loans. AFTER you get that large salary, you can then plan on what to do with anything left over and how to create your retirement accounts. Not a good idea to anticipate you will be living well before that happens. Good luck!
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby assumer » Mon Dec 24, 2012 10:46 am

Watty wrote:I would wait until you actually have started your job to make any big decisions.

In addition to the chance that you might not get such a good starting salary their could also be issues with not having a paid relocation. You could even find a great but lower paying job at somplace like a start up company and having the money in the bank could allow you more flexability in which job you take.


Would you just park it in a savings account until later in the year?
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Re: Advice with Small Windfall

Postby Naikansha » Mon Dec 24, 2012 1:50 pm

I didn't see if you have a rainy day/emergency fund yet, but if not, 'parking it in a savings account' would be a perfect use for what is left over after the loans are paid off. Then, when you begin salaried work upon finishing school, you can think of what kind of IRAs to create. In the meantime, you can also write your investment plan statement which should clearly state your goals - short term, intermediate, long term - and describes an asset allocation suitable for your age and those goals, as well as justification for specific investments. Notice the investment choices come last. As others have written, this doesn't have to be a permanent unchanging statement but will be a good thing to have as you begin your new life.
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