Well, I will just come out and say it – Mrs. Max OOP is officially an American.
It has been a while since I’ve done one of these little updates here at Max Out of Pocket. That’s not to say we haven’t had a lot going on. The last time I did this I was writing about leaf-peepers descending on our town and now we are knee-deep in the snow writing about a new American citizen. I was planning on trying to keep up with these updates monthly for about a year, but the last two months just got away from me. We spent a good chunk of November down in Ecuador, so there wasn’t much more to update there. Then suddenly, it was the holidays. Now somehow, we are already in February.
We ended up spending Christmas in Saratoga Springs, New York. Mrs. Max OOP’s sister lives down that way and bought their first house over the summer. So, this was their first Christmas in the new house. We spent about a week with them and Mrs. Max OOP’s mom also joined us from New Brunswick. Their children had a wonderful Christmas and it reminded me of when I was a kid. After that trip, we were on to January and the roaring ’20s.
As I mentioned, probably the biggest thing going on in January was an update on Mrs. Max OOP’s citizenship status. Long time readers probably know she was born in Australia and raised in Canada. So, she has been holding citizenship for both of those countries for some time. She has now added a third country to the mix: America. We went to the ceremony at the federal court on January 17th where she was sworn in. It was really nice and there were 65 people getting sworn in from 37 different countries. Pretty amazing stuff here.
So after more than a decade of living in the United States, Mrs. Max OOP has finally been sworn in as an American citizen. Years of spending time and money worrying about the next visa opportunity are officially over. We were finally able to secure her “permanent residency” back in November of 2016. This was a big step on the road to citizenship and cost a few thousand dollars. Once someone becomes a “permanent resident” they must wait for 3 – 5 years to apply for citizenship. Since she was going through naturalization through marriage, we only had to wait 3 years.
The tail end of this citizenship process was incredibly organized. A lot of the communication and scheduling with the government was handled through an online portal. We could upload documents directly to the portal or review letters sent to us via snail mail right online. I did not need to be nearly as involved in this process since I already went through the screening when I sponsored her for the green card back in 2016.
Out-of-pocket cost for this last part of the citizenship process was about $750.00
Flexibility Comes With Being American
There are a ton of benefits to all of this, but our main interest was flexibility.
Mrs. Max OOP has been paying into the US tax system for over 10 years. This includes Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes. Although she likely would have access to some of those benefits even without citizenship, this move will all but guarantee her access to those benefits when she becomes eligible. That’s even if we were to relocate out of the country.
This gives us the opportunity for healthcare geo-arbitrage should we ever need it. This is something I plan to cover in detail here on the blog at some point. Since Mrs. Max OOP technically retains her Canadian citizenship, if she were to return to Canada for 90 days, my understanding is she would become eligible for the Canadian healthcare coverage again. In the event of a serious illness, she could move to Canada and secure healthcare without having to worry about losing permanent residency here in the United States. That’s not to mention she would avoid dealing with the twists and turns of the American healthcare system.
Lastly, we could now easily move to Canada at any time and we would not lose any progress on the citizenship process. Relocation to Canada is an idea we have been tossing around for years for a multitude of non-political reasons. Now that American citizenship has been finalized, that is one less thing holding us back from moving to Canada. This is likely a few years out since my skill set isn’t as marketable in the great white north.
Both of our jobs are still going well. Mrs. Max OOP continues to dabble in early retirement with her part-time teaching gig (0.6 of an FTE) which continues to offer flexibility and the opportunity to explore other things. Unfortunately, her afternoon side hustle came to a screeching halt for reasons outside of her control. But the timing of that couldn’t have been better considering everything we have had going on.
I am still grinding things out at my full-time job but enjoying several of the projects I have been working on. I have even popped in to work the last few Sundays of January to try and close out a few things. Haven’t done that in several years. As I mentioned back in November, I am probably more engaged and motivated with my job than I have been in quite some time. This timing is great too and I will likely cash-flow my W2 job for all of 2020.
Ski season is among us. Mrs. Max OOP and I joined a 10-week race series this year and are through week 5 already. We are total amateurs but really enjoying the races. Every Wednesday, we go down to the ski resort and check-in at the lift. It is only about 5-minutes from our house. We then take two runs and our best time is recorded for the competition. Then, we join everyone down in the lodge for drinks and raffles. Our results are posted in the paper the next day. Lots of fun, and another healthy benefit of being employed. My employer sponsors me for this event so there is $0.00 out-of-pocket cost on my end.
We are also in the midst of a 30-day plank challenge. The goal is to slowly increase our plank time until we hit 5-minutes on the last day of the challenge. We have both made it to 3 minutes and 30 seconds and only have 5 days to go. It is going to be difficult and a few of our family members have dropped out.
With a fresh new 2020 deductible and annual max out-of-pocket, we were both able to stay out of the healthcare system in January. Our out-of-pocket costs came in at $0.00. That said, I am scheduled to have some more minor dental work done in February that will certainly cost me. After saving $300 in 2019 by opting Mrs. Max OOP out of my dental insurance, we put her back on the insurance for 2020 to check in on things. Her first cleaning will be in February.
Unfortunately, I can’t say the same things for one of our cats. We were bummed to find out our cat Charlotte has something going on with her jaw/cheek. We took her in to the veterinarian and they seem to think it is likely bone cancer or an infection, but they are probably going to have a specialist have a look. She seems herself all around except for some swelling on the left side of her face. We are being told it is pretty serious but are hoping for the best. She is such a friendly and happy cat so we are very sad about this whole thing.
My healthcare REIT portfolio eclipsed $50,000 and I couldn’t be happier about it. I invested $1,000 into GMRE on 2/3/2020 even though that stock has been rising quickly. I am probably going to keep my dollar-cost averaging amounts down a bit while the prices are high. Even though I know I can’t beat the market and most of my portfolio is in the total stock market index, I am still enjoying this new hobby.
Our total net worth was up another 2.76% in November, 2.63% in December, and 3.89% in January. This includes investment returns and cash flow from our W2 jobs. Not too shabby. I am not front-loading my 403(b) this year so a lot of our W2 earnings are being dumped into a taxable brokerage account. About 3% of my income is going into my new Roth 403(b) account. The 3% match I get still hits my tax-deferred 403(b).
I am 3 or 4 months behind on tracking our expenses, so I plan to get that caught up very soon to see if we have any unexpected leakage or lifestyle inflation. I am sure a fancy trip to the Galapagos Islands didn’t help the numbers, but we aren’t afraid to spend money on the things we like.
My 2008 Honda Odyssey broke 200,000 miles in January, so I may be in the market for a new vehicle later in 2020. I bought it four years ago with 175,000 miles on it for about $7,000 from a colleague at at my old job.
Blog Update & Final Thoughts
I like these updates because it helps me review where we are spending our time and money and make sure it is lined up with our goals. We are looking forward to 2020 and have a lot more we want to accomplish. As of now, we don’t have any travel plans in the works and that is something we need to correct. We have also kicked around the idea of relocating again for other opportunities both professionally and to better line up Mrs. Max OOP’s side projects.
I have a couple of guest posts scheduled for February so hopefully we see an uptick in traffic and more people can see some of the work I am doing here at Max Out of Pocket. It is hard to believe I started this little blog project almost a year ago. I have learned a lot but generally still feel pretty green to this new blogging world. I have found a few other resources I have been enjoying:
- Unlike me, Kim over at The Frugal Engineers is actually keeping up with her monthly expenses. Her family spent $224 on healthcare in January. She includes her gym membership in the healthcare category which makes a lot of sense to me. I also love that they are pricing out healthcare services before purchasing them.
- The Healthcare Giants podcast has been great for road trips – lots of good audio content over there. I really enjoyed the episode with Dr. Josh Luke that was published on December 2nd.
- Dave over at Accidental FIRE published a nice map showing how many citizens in each state are on the Medicaid program. New York has over 33% of its population on the Medicaid program in September of 2019. Way more than I would have guessed.