Paying for gender transition: Saving and investing

OK, you want to reach your goal, but time is money.

So, you have a choice: do you want transition to take more time, or do you want it to take more money?

  • If cheaper but slower is best for you, then savings is the way to go.
  • If you decide more expensive but faster is best for you, then credit is the way to go. However, this is contingent on being able to get credit. Everyone can save, but not everyone can get credit.

If you aren’t sure yet, read this page and the next one carefully and decide.


The equation for planning

The amount you need to reach your dream, minus the amount you have in reality, divided by the time you need to reach your dream, equals yourgoal. As an equation:

($d – $r) / t = g

Same example: I dream of getting a procedure for $12,000. However, in reality, I have $0 in savings. I dream of getting surgery in 36 months.

.VariableSymbol.
.Amount you need (dream)$d$    12,000
minusAmount you have (reality)$r– $          0
divided byTime you needt36 months
.Goalg$333.33 a month

Changing the variables in the table above will affect your goal. If I want to get the procedure in 18 months (half the time), my goal would be $666.67 (twice as much). See? The equation stays the same. If you can only save $111.11 (one third as much), it will take 108 months (three times as long).

If I sell my car for $6,000 (half the amount I need), I could have surgery in 18 months (half the time). See how it works?

Now, let’s add in interest from saving that much a month.


Calculating your savings goals

The sites and apps below have helpful free calculators for estimating credit for cars and homes, as well as for investment, savings, taxes, and retirements.

Calculator.net (Calculator.net)

Bankrate (bankrate.com)

Financial Calculators (fncalculator.com)

Bishinew (bishinew.com)


Saving

Open up a second web window or clone this page so you can have this and the calculator up at the same time.

Here’s the calculator we need to do the equation above, but including interest:

How much, at what rate, when?

Same example again: I dream of getting a procedure and need $12,000. However, in reality, I have $0 in savings. I dream of getting surgery in 36 months.

Without interest, my goal would be $333.33 a month.

Add one more thing: I find a savings account that gives me 6.5% interest. Now, fill in the calculator with the data from my dream:

  • Starting Amount ($r) = $0
  • Return You Can Earn On Your Savings = 6.5%
  • Total Amount You Need ($d) = $12,000
  • Length of Time Invested (dt) = 36 months
  • Click “monthly,” since we’ve got this plan set up for monthly budgeting
  • Then hit the “Press to see your results” arrow, and badda-bing…
  • “You will need to contribute $303 monthly to reach your goal.”

How cool is that? Just by throwing that money in the bank, I have an extra dollar a day, an extra $30 a month! That’s hormone money, baby! Or some groceries, EMLA, whatever…

OK, now that you see how the calculator works, try playing around with the numbers

Changing the time frame:

  • If I switch the Length of Time Invested (dt) to 24 months, I’d need $470 monthly.
  • If I switch the Length of Time Invested (dt) to 48 months, I’d need $220 monthly.

Changing the starting amount:

  • If selling my car for $6000 lets me switch the Starting Amount ($r) to $6000, I’d need $119 monthly for 36 months.

Changing the interest rate:

  • If everything’s the same, but the interest rate is switched to 8%, I’d need $296 monthly for 36 months.

And so on and so forth. Play around, try all the scenarios. This is about finding the best option for you, and only you can do that.


Investing

We were playing around with interest rates a minute ago. Let’s do an example of aggressive investing to see what happens.

Below I list some of the more common investments. Let’s pick a mutual fund as an example. We’re gonna bet on an aggressive one that has seen an annual average return of 15% over the last few years and hope that trend continues.

I dream of getting a procedure for $12,000. However, in reality, I have $0 in savings.

For comparison, we’ll use the $303 a month from above.

Add one more thing: I find a mutual fund that might give me 15.0% interest. Now, fill in the calculator with the data from my dream:

  • Starting Amount ($r) = $0
  • Return You Can Earn On Your Savings = 15.0%
  • Total Amount You Need ($d) = $12,000
  • Length of Time Invested (dt) = (leave blank)
  • Click “monthly,” since we’ve got this plan set up for monthly budgeting
  • Then hit the “Press to see your results” arrow, and badda-bing…
  • “It will take you 33 months to reach your goal.”

So, by increasing the investment return, I could get the procedure 3 months sooner.

I’d have to decide if getting surgery 3 months sooner was worth the risk of losing money on the mutual fund investment, which could very well happen.


Choices for saving and investing

I’m getting into terra incognita here, so please just consider this a very general overview. You should discuss these choices with a financial professional. Some of these definitions are from a good site called InvestorWords.

Obviously, the higher the interest rate, the better. However, generally speaking, a higher interest rate is accompanied by higher risk or more restrictions for your investment. You will need to determine the level of risk you are comfy with. Some people like to invest aggressively, and they can either win or lose big. However, if you are too timid when saving or investing, your return might not even keep up with inflation

The following saving and investing options are sort of listed from lowest risk (and lowest return) to highest risk (and highest potential for profit or loss).

Savings account

  • Most banks as well as savings & loans are insured by the federal government against going under. When they say “Member FDIC,” they are referring to the government’s Federal Deposit Insurance. FSLIC covers S&Ls. A savings account is a nice, safe, generally stable place to save money at a low to moderate interest rate.

Certificates of Deposit

  • Save the CD jokes… A certificate of deposit usually has a slightly better rate than a savings account, but you are usually not allowed to touch your money for 6 months, 12 months, 24 months, etc. without incurring a huge tax hit (aka “substantial penalty for early withdrawal.”). Since you are doing some long-term saving, this is actually a good option for those who might otherwise be tempted to dip into their money and mess up their spending plan.

Bonds

  • A debt instrument issued for a period of more than one year with the purpose of raising capital by borrowing. The Federal government, states, cities, corporations, and many other types of institutions sell bonds. A bond is generally a promise to repay the principal along with interest on a specified date (maturity).
  • US Savings Bonds are issued by the government and are generally the lowest risk investment and one of the lowest returns. You buy a bond that matures after a certain number of years. During that time, you can’t mess with the money. On the other end of the spectrum are junk bonds, which can sometimes skyrocket in value or plummet to near worthlessness. Bad junk bond investments in the 80’s led to the insolvency of many savings and loans.

Mutual Funds

  • An open-ended fund operated by an investment company which raises money from shareholders and invests in a group of assets, in accordance with a stated set of objectives. Benefits include diversification and professional money management. Shares are issued and redeemed on demand, based on the fund’s net asset value which is determined at the end of each trading session.
  • Mutual funds come in all sorts of types, depending on the outcome the investor seeks. For instance, some might invest only in environmentally-friendly companies. Others might specialize in high-tech stocks, or overseas investments. Each kind has benefits and drawbacks. Common types include the  aggressive growth fund, balanced fund, bond fund, equity fund, international fund, index fund, money market fund, prime rate fund, regional fund, sector fund, specialty fund.

Stocks

  • Investing in a company’s stock gives you a share in the corporation’s assets and profits proportionate to the amount you purchased.

Options

  • The right, but not the obligation, to buy (for a call option) or sell (for a put option) a specific amount of a given stock, commodity, currency, index, or debt, at a specified price (the strike price) during a specified period of time.

Futures

  • A standardized, transferable, exchange-traded contract that requires delivery of a commodity, bond, currency, or stock index, at a specified price, on a specified future date. Basically it’s a bet on whether the price will go up or down, and you get money by guessing right.

Commodities

  • A physical substance, such as food, grains, and metals, which is interchangeable with other product of the same type, and which investors buy or sell, usually through futures contracts. In a more general sense, this also include foreign currencies and financial instruments and indexes.

Don’t take my word for it…

If you plan to save or invest for transition, I strongly urge you to speak with a financial professional about your options. Doing so might get you to your goal much more quickly. Good luck!

Next: Loans and credit