Real Life Family Finance: Insurance Underwriter

Sometimes we find ourselves in family life, struggling to maintain a budget, and think we are the only ones out there dealing with similar issues. I mean, it’s easy to look at the neighbor across the street with the new truck, your best friend who is excited to spend money for the entire bottle of wine EVERY time you go out with her, and even family members that seem to have it all together when it comes to their finances.

The truth is…things aren’t always as they appear…am I correct?I’ve been really nosey lately, asking questions about people’s financial lives…even some of the uncomfortable ones…so that we can all better understand that we are not the only ones struggling (or succeeding) when it comes to making the right financial decisions for our families, or powering through when times get tough.

It’s my pleasure to have the opportunity to feature Mark today. Mark lives in California with his spouse of 41 years and has two children and three grandchildren. Mark has a graduate degree and worked as an accountant for 25 years before retiring. His wife works as an insurance underwriter and is close to retirement herself. Now that he is retired, Mark spends much of his time blogging over at The Retirement Spot.

Tip: If you want some help getting your own budget off and running, grab this FREE Family Budget Workbook. Find it HERE.


One or Two Incomes?


What’s the biggest struggle your family has when it comes to income?

How much to save vs. how much to spend.

What method do you use to keep track of your budget and why?

I use Quicken on the computer and an app called Personal Capital. Quicken gives me the detail I want and Personal Capital gives me a snapshot on the Go and both bring all sources of my investments and banking to one spot.

What is the biggest struggle you are currently having related to your budget?

Cutting down eating out because I love eating out and making the choice to cut down on certain expenses even though I know I could.


What percentage of your income do you save each month?

It used to be 40% but is now about 20%.

Do you have an emergency savings account?

Yes, for about seven months’ worth of expenses. I have always had a good cushion. I think I was always paranoid something would happen.

Do you have special savings or “funds” set aside for vacations and/or other big purchases your family plans to make in the future?

No, I just spend for a vacation or a big purchase item out of regular savings.

What is ONE of those funds you know you couldn’t live without? (or if you don’t have one – what is one you could see your family creating?)

If we did have one, I’d have a travel budget.


Do you have debt that you are actively working to pay off?

No. I have never had debt except for a mortgage and, when we were first married, a car. I loathe being in debt.


Have you made short and/or long-term goals that you and your family are working toward? If so, will you share one or two of those goals and the steps you are taking to reach them?

Yes. They are usually in the form of vacations each year – the current one is Disneyland.

How did you come up with those specific goals?

We want to include everyone, including the grandkids.

Do you engage in a reward system for you and your family to celebrate the accomplishment of those goals?



What is the biggest success you have had to-date when it comes to your finances?

Paying off all debt and reaching “critical mass”.

Do you have other successes you’d like to share related to your finances?

The ability to save and invest has allowed us to retire early.


What is the biggest struggle you have had related to your family finances over the past year?

How to pay for everyone to go on vacation – kids and grandkids (three), and spouses-in-laws.

If you could pinpoint one major failure you’ve had in your finances over your adult life, what would it be?

Not keeping my first house which was a duplex. I should have kept it as a rental.


If you could go back and tell your young adult self how to handle finances differently in the future, what is the one thing you would most like to share?

Start saving earlier and more. There is nothing like compound interest.

What is one topic you wish you knew more about, related to budgeting or family finance?

Real estate

If you could share one piece of financial advice with those reading today, what would that be?

Investing in yourself (education) is your most important asset. It is the fastest way to grow and create wealth.

Anything I didn’t cover that you think should be included in this feature?

Take advantage of any opportunities that come your way and don’t be afraid to take risks.

I love Mark’s perspective on what he would have done differently in the younger years of his life. For those of us still a ways off from retirement, we should definitely take into consideration how much we are saving and investing during this point in our lives: it’ll matter going forward! If you’d like to connect with Mark, you can do so by visiting his blog, The Retirement Spot, or following him on Twitter.

Tip: If you want some help getting your own budget off and running, grab this FREE Family Budget Workbook. Find it HERE.