I love playing video games. In fact, one of the things I want to do when I achieve financial independence is to become a Twitch affiliate, and make some extra cash streaming my favorite games. That’s the dream for lots of us, isn’t it? I don’t have a lot of free time to work on this side passion right now, but luckily, it’s my boyfriend’s number one side project, so I get to ride his coattails and dabble in it while he takes it seriously!  Yay for having a partner!

What is Twitch?

I know a lot of you are into finance and not so much gaming (Hey, I can have layers, right?) so let me briefly explain Twitch.  Twitch is an online gaming platform that allows you to watch other people play games. It also allows you to stream when you play, so others can watch you. Streaming is all the rage in the gaming world, it’s a great way to connect with people who like similar games.  It’s a lot of fun too!

Lots of gamers also make money on Twitch. There are even a few big shots who stream video games as a full-time job! (living the dream there, right!). The first step to making money on Twitch is becoming a Twitch Affiliate.

What are the Requirements to be a Twitch Affiliate?

Twitch has a few requirements you have to meet before you can become an affiliate.  You have to stream for at least 500 minutes per thirty-day period (that’s a little over 8 hours a month) with at least seven unique broadcast periods. That means you can’t stream once per month for 8 hours and call it a day, you have to stream at least 7 days per month. It’s not just about time though, Twitch needs to make sure people are watching you before they let you become an affiliate. You need to have an average of three or more viewers per thirty-day period and you need to have at least 50 followers on the platform. This all seems incredibly daunting, but it’s totally doable!

 

"twitch requirements"

 

How Do I Become a Twitch Affiliate?

Dedication – Putting in the Hours

The first step to becoming a Twitch affiliate is actually streaming on Twitch. This can take a lot of time and dedication.

Time

The biggest hurdle for me to become a Twitch affiliate is time. I can’t find seven days a month to dedicate a few hours to streaming. But my boyfriend can! Since gaming is his passion, he dedicates the same amount of time to it as I dedicate to blogging. He put in over twenty hours of streaming during his first thirty days on the platform. You need that type of dedication if you want to achieve affiliation.

Putting in a lot of time can also hurt your chances of Twitch affiliation. Streaming for 100 hours with no viewers is going to hurt your average (remember you need 3!). So if you have having an off night with no viewers, it might be better to turn the stream off. 

Timing

The time of day that you stream is very important too.  He works nights, so he could easily stream during the day while I’m at work. But unfortunately, most of the people who would want to watch his streams are at work/school during this time. You have to stream when your audience is free to watch. In order to meet his audience at the right time, he streams at night after I have gone to bed, which is usually around 11 pm our time. The great thing is that we are on the East Coast of the US, so most of the country is still awake.  Once a week, I try to stream with him. When I play with him, we get online a little earlier so that our friends in the UK can stop by and hang out with us. Like I said, it’s important to stream when people are available to watch.

Schedule

Streaming is a lot like blogging in that you need consistency in order to keep your audience. If you stop streaming for three weeks, people are going to stop following you. You need to stream regularly, and unfortunately that makes streaming feel even more like job. Blogging is easier in that regard, because if I don’t feel like writing on Wednesday, I can do it on Thursday and no one will know the difference. It’s a bit more flexible.

If you want to be a Twitch affiliate, you have to stick to a schedule. Obviously, life comes first though. These past few weeks were a bit hard on Brian, because his days off got switched so he had to adjust his streaming schedule. That’s ok!  It’s ok to change things up when life happens, but maintaining a schedule is the best way to keep your regular followers happy.

 

Pro Tip 1: Be Entertaining!! Brian is Hilarious!

Getting People to Come

Ok, so you put in all this time and have a set schedule, now what?  One of the hardest things to do is to get people to stop by your stream. There are so many gamers on Twitch that it is hard to stand out.  You may have the most entertaining stream on the planet, but if people don’t know about it, they aren’t going to watch.

Social Media

The best way to advertise your stream is through social media. We primarily used Twitter, because it’s the easiest platform to connect with like-minded people and create a community. The Twitter gaming community has been fantastic! Both Brian and I have made awesome streamer friends on Twitter, and they are some of the most supportive people I’ve had the pleasure of engaging with. They are highly entertaining too!

If you are trying to become a Twitch Affiliate, you need to be on Twitter. You can share your Twitch link, advertise when you are streaming, and make friends who will want to support you. It’s an all-around win for everyone! There is no way that Brian would have become a Twitch affiliate so quickly without the help of Twitter.  Shameless plug:  If you are on Twitter but struggling with engagement, check out my guide on how to gain 500 Twitter followers in one month, it will show you how to build an engaged Twitter community (also feel free to reach out to me for advice, you can find me here!).

I’m sure you can advertise through the other big social media sites, particularly Facebook and Instagram, but outside of sharing a link to our friends on Facebook, we haven’t really explored those platforms yet. If you have a lot of gamer friends on those, it wouldn’t hurt to share your links whenever you play.

 

Pro Tip 2: Advertise!  People Need To Find Your Stream!

Game Choice

Another great way to get people to check out your stream is by choosing the right games to play. You will want to play something that’s popular, but not so popular that everyone else is streaming it. Right now, everyone is playing and streaming fortnight, so it might be hard to get noticed as a small streamer. There’s too much competition.  

But you also don’t want to play a game that nobody cares about. The one time I tried streaming on own account I played Bubble Bobble, an old school regular Nintendo game that hardly anyone has ever heard of. Nobody is searching for Bubble Bobble, nobody wants to watch someone play a game that they don’t know. I had a big fat zero viewers.

You need to find a balance between these two extremes. Brian played a lot of Dead Cells during his first thirty days. It’s a newer, popular game with a lot of action. But it isn’t so popular that you can’t be found by people who are interested in that game. It worked out, as he managed to average a few viewers per stream.

Keeping your viewers

Alright, so you are streaming a lot and getting people to stop by. Great! Now the last step is keeping them! How do you get people to stay and watch your stream? How do you keep your average viewer count up?

Be Personable

The first step is to be personable. I know it can be super awkward to talk to yourself, but you have to power through. No one is going to stay and watch you quietly play a game. They want to hear your voice! Talk about what you are doing in the game and why, talk about your day, tell jokes, have fun!  That’s why everyone is there. Brian is incredibly high energy so this comes easily to him. He can tell stories and entertain himself all day long, and that tends to keep his viewers entertained. It might take some practice and some stepping out of your comfort zone, but it will be worth it.

Engage with your chat

People really like to be seen and heard. One of the best ways to get someone who is just checking you out to stay is to talk to them. When someone new joins your stream, say “hi” and thank them for joining.  Monitor the chat, ask your viewers questions, have them help you while you are playing the game. Make friends with your viewers and your followers. They are much more likely to stay and to come back if they feel a personal connection with you. And you get to make new friends in the process!  Everyone wins.

Party Games

Another great way to get your viewers involved is to play party games. They can play along with you! We love to play Jackbox, which is an assortment of short party games that anyone can play along with via cell phone. This is a great way to engage with viewers. It gives you something to talk about and keeps them involved at the same time.

Obviously, you don’t want to only play party games. You want to play your favorite games. But having a party game session every now and again is a great way to mix things up and make new friends. We’ve had people come and join us just because we were playing Jackbox who decided to follow and come watch us play different games. They stayed because we followed the other two rules above, we were personable and engaging while playing the other games. We treat everyone who watches like friends who are in the same room with us.

Pro Tip 3: Be Supportive!  People Will Help You if You Help Them!

Be Supportive

Twitch, like blogging, is not just a one man show. It’s a community. One of the best things you can do to gain and keep followers is to support other streamers. Follow other streamers on Twitch, engage with their chats, and retweet their links when they are streaming. Doing these things will not only make you feel good (because it’s always nice to help others) but it will come back to you as well. Support others and they will support you. Make friends with others in the community and they will support you.

I think one of the main reasons that Brian achieved affiliation is quickly is because of how supportive he is. He is constantly on Twitter engaging with his streamer friends, even when he doesn’t have time to stream. He makes sure that he hosts his Twitter friends on his channel when he isn’t playing.  In addition, he follows people and watches their streams.  He’s a great Twitch friend to have, and his quickly growing community proves it.

Give yourself a head start

The last thing you can do to reach affiliate status in thirty days is give yourself a tiny little boost. Brian and I both have twitch accounts, so whenever he was streaming, my tablet was signed into my account and it was watching him as a follower. That counts as one of the three average views you need to reach affiliation.

It also helps in another important way. Humans are naturally drawn to groups. Someone who is just browsing is way more likely to check out a stream that already has viewers than one that has no viewers. It’s just human nature.

You can also ask any gamer friends you have to come hang out with you while you play. Brian’s best friend enjoys playing games as well, and will often come over and hang out while he plays. And you guessed it, his phone is usually on, signed into his Twitch account, and following along. He’s engaging in with the chat while also hanging out with Brian. He’s also providing additional entertainment to the online viewers. Don’t be afraid to invite your real-life friends over for a night of gaming, and have them follow along on your Twitch account. It will definitely boost your viewership and be a more entertaining stream for your viewers.

You Can Do It

Becoming a Twitch affiliate is hard work, but as I said before it is doable. If you follow these guidelines, you will get there in about thirty days. If you need any more advice, feel free to reach out to Brian on Twitter, he’s always willing to help smaller streams gain their affiliations. Let’s Partner together to be Twitch affiliates!

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"kids and fire"

 

When I first started thinking about having kids, there was one thing that I couldn’t wrap my head around. How do kids and fire go together?  I thought about how having kids would affect my own fire goals, but that wasn’t enough. I wanted to know how everyone else was planning on achieving financial independence with kids!

Bloggers speak out: Kids and Fire

First, I reached out to the blogging world. I knew my blogging friends would have awesome advice, and they didn’t disappoint!

 

Tread Lightly, Retire Early

For some people, having kids is the catalyst for pursing financial independence.  Tread Lightly, Retire Early discusses how having her first child and trying to “do it all” (as women are told we should) was exhausting, so something had to give. She was able to cut down to part time work and “live like she was financially independent”. Find out how she did it!

 

Retiring To the Road

Katie from Retiring to the Road wrote an amazing guest post about how she is able to reach fire with kids at Millennial Money Man. Her and her husband have “learned to enjoy the simple pleasures, instead of just the material BS that screams at us all day long” which I think is just fantastic. They are also raising their kids to value quality time over material items. I’m loving her plan and her advice. Read the full story here.

 

Median Millionaire

Sam from Median Millionaire also has some wise words when it comes to having children. According to Sam, “Children add to our riches, though it may take us a bit longer to retire”.  He also outlines ways to save money while raising children, which is super helpful for someone wondering how it can be done. Find out his full thoughts on kids and fire here.

 

Financial Samurai

I also found an amazing podcast on the subject. The Fire Drill Podcast interviewed Sam from Financial Samurai about the timing of kids and Fire, and he brought up some very interesting points. He admitted that kids can mess up your financial plans, but he also said that you can always readjust your finances, but you can’t always have kids. That kind of makes me worry that maybe I waited too long to figure out that want kids!  Listen to the full interview here.

 

Kids and Fire: Non-Bloggers

But I wanted to hear from non-bloggers too!  So of course, like any good journalist, I went to Reddit. I went to the FireyFemmes sub-Reddit, which is dedicated to women in pursuit of financial independence. This is the best place to get advice on all topics surrounding financial freedom from real women who are pursuing it. I got some amazing honest responses to my question there (and if anyone from there is reading this, thank you!)

Redditors Speak out

First, pretty much everyone agreed that kids can be expensive (especially childcare!). One Redditor said she was paying nearly three thousand dollars a month in childcare expenses alone!  That can really slow down a FIRE plan. Most parents had already included the cost of children into their plans though, and many chose the stay at home route to reduce costs. It was a relief to see that there were so many different ideas and options available for childcare and to mitigate the other expenses associated with raising children. 

Some parents did admit that I might not be able to achieve some of my other goals if I decide to have kids. Some children just don’t travel well. Redditor ParcelBobo explained that her child screams during car rides, and nothing she does will calm her down. I do have to accept that fact that my children’s personalities will play a role in how my future unfolds, and I’m extremely grateful to ParcelBobo for the honesty.

Many parents timed their early retirements with having kids. A lot of the answers in the thread discussed leaving work or dropping to part time when the kids reached a certain age. This gave parents the opportunity to spend more quality time with their kids. It also meant saving and paying off debt prior to having kids.

My Biggest Inspiration 

The thing that stuck out with me the most was the way most people thought about having kids. Nobody in the thread said they avoided having kids to achieve financial independence. In fact, for most people, the entire reason for pursing financial independence was their children!  But what struck me most of all is the fact that most people’s life plans included children!  I know, this is probably normal for most people, but it was strange to me!

My favorite answer was from Redditor Sugoi2, who said that one of her life goals was to have a kid. The entire point of pursuing financial independence is to live the life you want, and having kids is part of living the life I want. Sugoi2 made it so easy to understand:  I don’t need to see it as a negative, like if I have kids my goals will be pushed back. Having kids is the goal!  Thank you Sugoi2 if you are reading this, your answer was truly an inspiration to me.

Financial Independence and Kids can go together!

As you can see, there are tons of paths to financial independence that include having children. Most of them revolve around having children!  I’m really glad that I asked this question and did this research. Hearing other people’s stories, struggles, and triumphs really re-affirmed my decision to have kids. Knowing that kids and Fire really can co-exist makes it so much easier!!  And if you have a story about how having kids fit into your goals of financial independence, I’d love to read about it in the comments!

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As you know from my post about having adult conversations before moving in together, I’m all about getting difficult conversations out of the way before they are 100% necessary. So of course we would have plenty of conversations before having kids! We already had quite a few talks about what our lives would look like with children and how we would raise them.

Childcare Vs Stay at Home Parent

Given that childcare is one of the biggest contributors to the outrageous cost of having children, our first conversation was about whether one of us should be a stay at home parent.

The first thing to consider is whether it would make financial sense for one of us to stay home. With daycare costs averaging over $900 per month in the United States (and being higher in cities!) one of us could end up working just to pay for the daycare!

But there are more things to consider than just the financial. First, we would have to think about what’s best for the baby. I would assume that a parent would be more attentive to the baby than a day care worker, but maybe we could find a super awesome daycare. And, the child might miss out on some early socialization with children its own age if one of us stays home.

Another consideration is whether whoever stays home with the baby will be fulfilled in doing that. I wouldn’t want either of us to be miserable. I make more money than my boyfriend does and my job provides much better benefits. It would make more financial sense for him to stay home than for me to stay home.

But would he be happy staying home? This is something that we have discussed at length. He does love streaming video games, and being a stay at home dad would give him an opportunity to grow his audience even more. He’s more than willing to give it a try, and we are both understand that it’s something we will have to continuously readdress to make sure we are both happy. If it turns out that he hates it, we can make other arrangements.

Priorities

Many relationships suffer after having kids. There’s suddenly this brand-new person who basically requires all of your time and energy. We understand that the first year will be hard, because obviously the baby won’t be able to take care of itself. But we also understand that we have to prioritize our relationship.

I think a lot of parents get their priorities wrong. A lot of parents prioritize the kid’s needs, kid’s wants, parent’s needs, then parent’s wants. I don’t think it’s intentional.  It’s just as easy to get the child’s needs and wants confused as it is to get our own needs and wants confused.

We are going to make a concentrated effort to adjust our priorities. Our goal is to have our priority order more like this: child’s needs, parent’s needs, parent’s wants, child’s wants. We know it will be difficult, but I think it will ensure that we continue to have a healthy and happy relationship. And I think that is important for the kid’s sense of stability. A child needs to see a healthy relationship between his parents more than he needs to be coddled. At least that’s my opinion, and that is what we are going to strive for.

Discipline and Parenting Styles

It’s important that you and your partner are on the same page in regards to parenting styles. Is one of you going to be a helicopter parent while the other is more hands off? What will the rules be as the children age? How much independence are you comfortable giving them? These are things that should be discussed before having kids.

One of the reasons I didn’t want to have children is because lots of parents treat their kids like best friends, and don’t want to be the bad guy. This is not going to fly with me! I will not raise my kids to be entitled spoiled little brats who think the world revolves around them. I will also not raise my kids to be helpless. You hear horror stories of mothers going to job interviews for their kids, or still doing their laundry when they are in their twenties; and that just isn’t going to happen. I am going to be more of a free-range parent, and teach my kids independence from an early age. Luckily, my boyfriend feels the same way. We know we are going to have to adjust as the kids grow up, but I think having a game plan beforehand will make things go smoother.

Religion, Values, and Morals

I am not a religious person, and neither is my boyfriend. So, we already know that we won’t be raising our children with any religious affiliation. But what if you and your partner come from different religious backgrounds? Will you expose the children to both or will you choose one? This is an important thing to talk about before having kids.

We both want to raise our children to be good, kind people. You don’t need religion for that. We will show them by example that being compassionate and caring is the way to go, even if you don’t get anything in return.

We do differ on our political affiliations, he is a conservative country boy while I’m a liberal city girl (It’s funny to label ourselves that way, but we both lean more towards center). We both want our children to grow up thinking for themselves though. We want to provide them with the relevant information and show them how to look critically at both sides. We don’t want them to be sheep, voting for a party just because we do.

What Else should we discuss before having kids?

Obviously thinking about what we need to talk about before having kids is brand new to me. Outside of these things, I don’t have a clue! Help me out!  What am I missing? Am I way off base? What do we need to talk about before getting pregnant? Are there any disagreements that you and your partner have had that you wish you would have resolved before having kids?  Did anything pop up that you didn’t expect at all? Let me know in the comments, so we can have that adult conversation before trying for a baby!

 

 

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"biological children"

 The thought of not being able to have biological children has been weighing heavily on me since I made the decision that I want to have kids. What if I can’t? What if I waited too long, and now the window is closed? I know I can’t know the answer to that until I try; and I know I’m not ready to try, but I kind of want to try to know if I can. Does that make sense?

Why I may not be able to have biological children

Age

I’m worried that I’m getting too old to have healthy children. This is one of the driving forces for me wanting to start now even though I know we aren’t ready. I’m not getting any younger. At 35 (almost 36) I’m way too close to the age where any pregnancy will be a high-risk pregnancy. I’m also at the tail end of my most fertile years. According to USA today, as women reach age 35 and beyond, it gets harder and harder to conceive. And according to Baby Center, a whopping two thirds of women over forty have fertility issues! 

I know the older I get the harder it will be to conceive. I’m lucky (and thankful) that I changed my mind about it before the window was closed for good.

PCOS

But wait, there’s more!  Age isn’t my only issue. I have also been diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a hormonal disorder that affects a women’s reproductive system. It affects the ovaries’ ability to produce and release eggs. Most women with PCOS, even young women, have trouble conceiving because our ovaries don’t produce monthly eggs the way that healthy ovaries do. It’s sporadic at best.  And because eggs aren’t being produced, many women can go months without menstruating.

Fortunately for me (I think) I’ve always had fairly regular periods.  The longest I’ve had to wait is about 2 weeks. I’m hoping this means that my ovaries do regularly produce eggs, even though they have the little cysts in them. But it’s also possible that I’m one of the unlucky few who gets periods but no eggs. If I’m not going to get eggs, I’d rather skip the period all together.

 

                                                                                     

Other Options

Fortunately, there are plenty of options available for people who struggle with fertility. Fertility treatments and in-vitro fertilization are available to help people have biological children, while adoption and fostering help people who can’t have biological children have families. I’ve given thought to all of these options. 

Fertility Treatments

Fertility treatments are going to be my number one option. My doctor said that the majority of patients with PCOS can get pregnant with basic fertility treatments. I’m hoping that if I can’t get pregnant naturally, I will be able to get pregnant with the help of fertility drugs. I’ll just have to take a pill regularly, and as a bonus my insurance should cover the bulk of the cost. It’s easy and affordable, so hopefully if I have trouble conceiving, it will be fixed with these treatments.

 

                                                                                       

In-Vitro Fertilization

If fertility treatments don’t work, I could also opt for In-Vitro Fertilization. They harvest eggs and sperm, make embryos in a petri dish, and then implant these embryos back into the uterus. The technology behind In-Vitro has really come a long way, and tons of people get positive results.

The big disadvantage to In-Vitro is that it’s still very expensive. One In-Vitro session can cost between 12 and 15 thousand dollars! And unfortunately, most insurance companies don’t cover it. Honestly, I don’t think I would pay that much money for the chance of having a biological baby. If my insurance covered most of the cost, I might give it a try, but it isn’t something that I would pay out of pocket for. Raising kids is crazy expensive as it is, I don’t want to add an extra twelve grand on top of that!

Non Biological Children

Given all of the above, I may not be able to have biological children. But there are still options for being a parent!

Adoption

The first option everyone turns to when they find that they can’t have biological children is adoption. Many want-to-be parents want a baby to take care of, and adoption is the best option for this. Unfortunately, adopting a baby is just as expensive (sometimes even more so!) as In-Vitro, and has a lot more hoops.

 

                                                                                       

 

If I were to chose adoption, I think I’d try to adopt an older child in need of a good home. Adopting an older child out of the foster system is the least expensive option.

 

Fostering

Given that, I think I would chose fostering over adoption if I couldn’t have biological children. Foster children have things rough. Their parents might be in jail, or on drugs, or abusive, or negligent. Their situations are usually very sad. But it’s these kids that need the love of a stable parent the most. These kids need guidance and support to prevent them from going down the same path that their biological parents went down.  I also think I would have the opportunity to help more children if I became a foster parent than if I adopted.

Don’t get me wrong, I know this is the more difficult path. I can only imagine how heartbreaking it will be to love and protect a child, and then have to watch them return to their abusers. However, if I can provide just a few months of stability, a few months of love, and a few months of showing a child that the world can be better, it will be worthwhile. And maybe I can end up adopting some children out of the foster system. Hey, I might even foster some kids if I can have biological children.

 

                                                                                    

 

What are your thoughts on being unable to have biological children? If you’ve had experience with this issue, I’d love to hear your story!

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having children will affect my fire goals

One of the things that I needed to consider when deciding whether or not I really wanted to have children is how having them would affect my path to financial independence. Kids are crazy expensive, and take a lot of time. How could I reconcile that with what I wanted to do in life? Obviously, having children will affect my fire goals, but to what extent?

FIRE Timeline

My original plan was to quit my job in 2021. I was going to retire at 38! And by retire, I mean quit my high stress high paying job and go barista fire. In three more years, I will be fully vested in my pension and I will have earned enough to collect $1000 a month at full retirement age via pension payments. Three more working years will also ensure that I have a healthy very well-funded 401k. In fact, I’m already at coast fire for a lean fire in my 401K! Meaning that if I stop contributing now, by the time I’m 65 I’ll have enough money to withdraw about 40K per year throughout retirement. Not too shabby!

 

 

Three more years would also give me time to shore up my non-retirement savings. This would help me fill any gaps between my living expenses and my new, variable income for the next 30 years. I knew my barista fire lifestyle would come with financial concerns, and that I’d have to work to fill the gaps. But I was ok with that. I’d love to do work camping, or work part time at a nature center, stuff like that. Sounds like fun!

New Timeline

I know I will have to work at my current job longer if I choose to have kids. There’s absolutely no way around it. I have amazing health insurance, which they will need, and a solid income which will definitely cover some of the outrageous costs. However, I will not stop working towards independence. My new plan is to work until they are about school aged. This will ensure that they have amazing health insurance during the most terrifying stages when they are basically helpless, and it will also ensure that we can afford all the expensive baby stuff. I’ll also start college savings plans when they are born, and continue to fully invest in those until I retire.

My new early retirement age is about 45. I can live with that if it means I get to experience the joy of parenthood. It will also benefit me financially in numerous ways. Eight more years of pension contributions and eight more years of 401K contributions are going to add up in a big way. I won’t have to be lean FI in my old age!

Things I wanted to Do

There are some things that I wanted to do with my life after achieving financial independence that probably aren’t going to be feasible with children. The biggest one that comes to mind is my goal of traveling from Chicago to Santa Monica on historic route 66 via bicycle. That was a rather ambitious goal, and let’s be honest it probably wasn’t going to happen anyway. It’s definitely not going to happen when I’m in my 60s and the kids are finally in college!

There are tons of other things I want to do. I have a lots of reasons for pursing financial independence, and I always thought that having children would hinder these goals. I want to slow travel through Southeast Asia, spend a summer reading tarot cards at a Renaissance Faire, spend months work camping at national parks, live in a cabin while writing the Next Great American Novel. My boyfriend and I have so many hobbies, side interests, and life goals. Working a day job really interferes with a lot of them. I thought that having children would interfere with those things as well, but now I’m not so sure.

Who says we can’t bring our children with us to Asia?  Is there a rule that kids can’t live in an RV for a few months?  Can’t I home-school the kids for a few years while we, as a family, engage in these adventures?  And what an amazing childhood that could be! We would be providing our kids with a lifetime of experiences at a young age, teaching them about the world, and teaching them that life is for living. I’m sure they will teach us valuable life lessons as well.

 

Viator 

Partner’s Goals

Being married and having children also means that I have to take my partners goals into consideration. He’s totally on board with most of mine (though the bike thing and the Renaissance Faire thing both kind of freak him out) and is more than happy to do them with me. But he has goals too, and we will need to work together to balance our life goals with the main goal of raising happy, healthy, well-adjusted children.

Fortunately for us, neither of shy away from having adult conversations about our plans for the future and where things are heading. We talk at least once a week about our future goals, and we are both super supportive of the other. That’s one of the reasons why I feel comfortable having kids with him in the first place!

Having Children will affect my Fire Goals

There’s no doubt about it. Having kids will change the plan. Even considering having kids changes the plan. But I’m ok with that. Being financially independent is about living my life on my terms. My terms have changed, and that’s ok.

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Ok, so I missed one very important reason for being childfree in my last post, and that’s the insane cost of having children. It’s alright though, I did it on purpose! The exorbitant cost of having children deserves it’s own post.

Kids are expensive!

I mean like, really, really super expensive!  According to the latest data, the cost of raising a kid is approximately $233,610. And that doesn’t even include college! That breaks down to a little less than $14000 per year. That’s a lot of money, especially when you have other financial obligations.

Childcare

The bulk of this outrageous cost of having kids is childcare. This cost can vary wildly by state and by metropolitan area, but the variation tends to follow variations in minimum wage and income, so families everywhere are feeling the crunch. Childcare costs around $500 per month in Alabama, and almost $1000 in California, on average. In a lot of places, childcare is more expensive than rent!

No wonder so many families opt to have one parent stay home with the children while the other works. A second income would barely cover the cost of childcare in many cases. Some families are lucky in that they have a grandparent other family member that can help with the childcare while both parents work, but I always knew I would never be able to depend on my family for that. If I had a kid, I’d have to figure out how to balance working with caring for her. This is something that my boyfriend and I will need to discuss when the time comes.

Hospital Bills

Birthing children is expensive too, and apparently hospitals even charge you to hold your own baby! All jokes aside though, the physical act of having a baby can cost anywhere from $6000 to $70,000!!  That doesn’t even include caring for the infant after birth! I have decent insurance through my work, so this shouldn’t be too much of a burden for me, but not everyone is as fortunate as I am. And they wonder why so many people are turning to mid wives and home births.

But hospital expenses don’t end with the birth. Kids get sick. A lot. They run into stuff and bang their heads open. The eat things they shouldn’t be eating. They fall down. And most parents would rather be safe than sorry, so they bite the bullet and take their kids to the hospital when these things happen. Hello hospital bills. 

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Stuff and Things

Kids need stuff too. Lots of stuff. First, they are going to need the basics: food, clothing, diapers etc. But they are also going to need furniture and cribs and bottles and bibs and toys and educational stuff and probably a million other things that I haven’t even thought of. And they grow so quickly!  I haven’t bought myself new clothes in years, but I’d have to buy a baby new clothes every few months!  That can really add up.

Then they need to go to school, so you have to buy them all their school supplies. And you don’t want your kid to be an outcast, so you have to buy them decent clothing by the time they are school-aged. They will probably also join a few after school clubs and activities, so they will need all the appropriate equipment and gear for that.  I’m hoping my kids join the chess club; a chess board is way cheaper than sports equipment or musical instruments.

Travel/Vacations

As you all know, I love to travel, especially to exotic locations. Airfare for one is bad enough, could you imagine having to pay for three seats on an international flight?  My travel budget wouldn’t be able to handle it! I know a lot of people don’t take this into consideration when thinking about the cost of having children, but honestly it was one of my reasons for remaining child free. But I decided to really look into the feasibility of traveling with children and read a bunch of blogs from family travel bloggers who are doing just that. If they can find a way I’m sure I can too!

Related: The Exorbitant Cost of Having Adventures

College

I know I don’t technically have to help my kids out with college expenses; student loans and grants exist for a reason. But do I really want to saddle my kid with outrageous debt when they are just starting out in life?  College is crazy expensive, and the cost seems to increase exponentially year after year. By the time my non-existent kids go to college it may be upwards of 100K on average!  I’d definitely encourage my children to explore non-4-year-university options, but if they are hard working with an aptitude for academics, I’d want them to be able to study wherever they chose. Therefore, I’d feel obligated to start a college savings plan for them when they are born, to ensure that they have those options. It’s going to be expensive though.

The exorbitant cost of having children

I know I didn’t cover everything. Random expenses crop up everywhere. Kids need a lot of stuff, and some kids need special attention – tutoring, therapy, private schools, medication, whatever the case may be. But there is no doubt in my mind that having children is insanely expensive. The advantage I have is knowing that and having a stable job to pay for some of it prior to having them. And hopefully, it will be 100% worth the cost.

What did I miss about the cost of having children?  I’d love to hear about your experiences!

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One of the first things I had to consider when I was changing my mind about having kids is why I was childfree in the first place. It took a lot of soul searching and introspection, but I think I know at least part of the answer.

My Father

I grew up in a lower middle-class household. I had a decent childhood. However, one thing that I will never forget is my father drilling into me (and my siblings!) the idea that having kids would ruin our lives. He had his first kid, my sister, when he was a teenager and had two more kids before he turned thirty. Having us at such a young age did limit him. He wanted to move to California and pursue acting. But he couldn’t do that because he had kids. He wanted to take time from work to write a book. Yet another thing he couldn’t focus on because he had kids.

I know my dad doesn’t regret us. I know he loves us, and didn’t want us to make the same mistakes he did. He wanted better for us. Our dad wanted us to go to college, pursue careers, and enjoy our lives before settling down. He never meant for my sister and I to internalize the idea that having children is the most terrible thing we could ever do. What he actually meant was that having children at a young age could ruin our lives. Unfortunately, that message wasn’t entirely clear, as we both are well into our thirties and terrified that having kids will ruin our lives.

Other Family and Friends

It wasn’t just my parents who had their lives disrupted by having children. Some of my family members and high school friends had kids at fairly young ages as well. It seemed as though everyone who had kids struggled, while everyone who did not have kids did pretty well for themselves. Even as I grew older this seemed to be the case.

 I look at my brother as the best example. We are about the same age, we are both pretty intelligent, both college educated. But he had kids immediately upon graduating college and I did not. He continues to struggle, and I do not. I know that he loves his children dearly, and wouldn’t trade them for anything, but is it really worth the struggle? 

He’s definitely not the only one! I’ve seen other high school friends and family members struggle through life after having kids. To a younger me, it seemed as though my dad was right. Having kids would ruin my life.

The weird thing here is that I also have family and friends who have kids and are doing perfectly fine. They don’t seem to be struggling and they are super happy with their lives and their families. I guess I was always looking for the negative due to my father’s message.

Things I want to do

Outside of the internalized message I heard growing up, I had my own reasons for being childfree. There are so many things that I want to do with my life, so many personal goals that I have, and I think having children could really hinder that. I want to travel, I want to do some crazy adventurous stuff, and I want to live my life to the fullest. Hell, that’s why I’ve been pursuing Financial Independence! There’s so much that I want to do, and I know having children will prevent me from accomplishing all of it. But I’m not going to go into that right now, as my next post will be dedicated to how having children will change my FIRE goals. I will say that having kids may prevent me from doing some of those things, but they also may provide me with experiences that I never even considered.

Viator

On disliking Children

My final reason for being childfree is something that I really had to give a lot of thought too.  I really didn’t like most kids. But as I thought about the reasons why, it turns out that it’s not the children I don’t like, it’s the parents. I’ve seen too many examples of parents letting their kids do whatever they want. I see kids running around tables knocking things over at restaurants and being little jerks to whomever they please. My siblings and I would have never gotten away with acting like that when we were a kids!

 I think some parents view their kids as a friend or an accessory; and therefore, they refuse to discipline or actually parent their child. I’ve seen other parents that are just so worn out from all the struggling that they’ve just given up. Those are usually the parents that had a bunch of kids at a young age. But the more I thought of it, the more I realized that it really is the parents (or parenting style) that I don’t like. In fact, one of my best friends has two young kids, and they are incredibly respectful and well behaved. I like those kinds of kids, and I hope that if I have kids, that’s how I will raise them.

Understanding my Childfree stance

Being introspective really helped me understand where my hesitation to have kids came from. Now I know that I internalized the message that having kids would ruin my life, even though that wasn’t really what my dad was trying to say. I looked for examples that supported my cause rather than looking at the entire picture. I realize that now, and I realize that having kids when you are ready, both financially and emotionally, can make a positive impact on your life.

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I may have too many bank accounts. Are you familiar with the envelope method?  You know, that budgeting method where you put all your cash in separate envelopes for each need?  Well I might do that with bank accounts. I have a bit of a collection.

How many bank accounts do I have?

I have two separate banks and with 6 accounts between them. This isn’t even counting my investment accounts!

I know most people only have one main bank, but having two has served me very well. The biggest advantage to having two banks is to protect yourself in case of identity theft. I’ve had my identity stolen twice, and the first time they got into my main bank account. That was a pretty awful experience, and the only thing that kept me afloat was the fact that my other bank was spared from the attack.

Why So many?

Ok, It may seem like overload, but each bank account has a very special and specific purpose. And I need all of them!  Well, I probably could consolidate, but I don’t want to!

Transactions

Ok, lets start with checking accounts. I have two of them. The first one is for all my regularly monthly transactions. This includes my direct deposit for my pay check and all of my bills. It also includes my ATM withdrawals for my weekly cash allowance. I use it the same way most normal folks use their bank accounts.

Big Purchases (and Paypal)

My other checking account is a staging area for big purchases. I know that I’m going to need to buy something big every few months or so (Currently I’m saving for a new water heater) and I need a place to store that money so I don’t spend it on other things. This is a great strategy to budget for those big expected costs.

I also use this account for Paypal for some reason. It seems like my paypal should be tied to my main transactions accounts, and while that makes the most logical sense, it’s not. The reason for this is that I initially set up my paypal for my Ebay Sellers account, and I was saving all the money I made. Therefore, it had to go to this bank in order to go into the correct savings account.

Related: A Tale of Three Vanguard Funds

Short Term Emergencies

The big known expenses have older meaner cousins. These are the big unexpected costs. It’s hard to budget for them because you don’t know exactly what, when, or how much it will be. It may be as simple as a flat tire, or as complicated as broken refrigerator (or worse!). I have a special bank account ready to go with a few thousand dollars in it for just such short-term emergencies.

Long Term Emergencies

Unfortunately, a few thousand dollars isn’t going to fix everything. That’s not really going to help much if I lose my job, or if I can’t work for some reason. Enter my long-term emergency fund. I currently have enough money in it to pay 6 whole months of living expenses or one full year of my mortgage. My goal is to get it up to 1 full year of living expenses.

Travel

We all know I love to travel. So, of course I have a separate account dedicated to that!  I put a little bit of money aside each paycheck to fund my next adventure. I usually have my trips planned out (at least in my head!) months in advance, so I know how much I’ll need. Egypt is going to run me about five thousand dollars, so I have to put up a little more each month for that. But it’s super fun to see my travel fund grow and know I’m getting closer and closer to that awesome trip!

 

FIRE Goals

This is the bank account that I’ll probably get some question marks on from my personal finance friends, but hey, I have to do me. I have one savings account that’s dedicated to all the things I want to do once I quit my job. This includes going back to school, studying Tai Chi in China, buying an RV, and all the other crazy stuff I want to do once I’m job independent. I need to save up a whole lot of money for these things, and I know a lot of my finance friends will tell me that keeping this much cash in a bank account is a terrible idea. I know, it’s not going to grow in the bank. But this money isn’t for growing. I have investments for that. This money is earmarked for specific goals, and I don’t want to risk losing it.

What do you have?

So now you all know my dirty little secret. I hoard bank accounts. Is this normal?  Does anyone else have more than 2 or 3 bank accounts?  Let me know how many you have in the comments!

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Bad Investments for Beginners

As a companion piece to our Beginner’s Guide to Investing, I thought it would be nice to flip the script and write about some bad investments for beginners. Keep in mind, none of these are bad investments in general (except the shady ones at the end!). They are definitely things to research and consider when you achieve intermediate investor status. However, as a beginner, these are things you should steer clear of until you have a bit more investing experience.

Individual Stocks

I have a few individual stock holdings, so don’t take this to mean that buying company stock is a bad thing. It’s not!  It’s an awesome thing!  I don’t think they are the best investment for beginners for a couple of reasons:

Expensive

Sure, you could buy penny stocks for decent prices, but those are terrible investments (they are more of a gamble). If you are going to buy individual stocks, you need to focus on strong companies that pay dividends. Unfortunately, these stocks usually don’t come at bargain basement prices. In addition, you have to pay a brokerage fee every time you buy and sell, and you can’t set up automatic investing (Well, I’m sure there are websites that let you do that, but it will cost you the brokerage fee each time, and that’s ridiculous). 

Not worth it unless you have lots of capital

Not only are individual stocks expensive, but you need also need a lot of them to see any investment gains. You have to buy at least 100 shares to see any real gains, even on dividend paying stocks. And 100 shares of a quality stock can get crazy expensive! 

Story time! I bought 1 single share of Microsoft stock back in 2010 (ish) for about $26. You know what that stock is worth now? Seven years later, that single share swelled into a whopping 1.25 shares!!  And my investment gains are sitting at around $70!  Can you imagine how much money I’ll make off this investment in another 20 years if the market keeps going the way it is?  You guessed it: Not much.

So why did I buy it?  Honestly, I was just trying to experiment with buying stocks. I had maybe $100 bucks to invest, and instead of putting into a mutual fund, I decided to try my hand at the stock market. So, I bought 1 share of Microsoft for a quarter of my money, then I bought a bunch of useless penny stocks. I guess I got back to my initial investment with Microsoft, so it wasn’t a total loss.

Non-dividend paying stocks are even worse. You could buy 100 shares and never see any investment gains. The one positive side about the Microsoft stock is that it pays dividends, so eventually I’ll have 2 whole shares, and eventually that will grow into more shares. I’ll have something to leave to my niece and nephew, because it may actually be worth some good money by the time they retire.

Risky

Another big drawback to buying individual stocks is that they come with a huge amount of risk. Sometimes companies get bought out and sometimes they go out of business. There may be an economic crash that certain companies just can’t recover from (who remembers Circuit City?) You can risk losing your entire investment if the company that you picked goes bankrupt. You can also lose your entire investment if the company you picked ends up on an episode of American Greed. It sounds funny, but it seriously happens! 

 

Investing in Stocks

Because of those three things, I wouldn’t recommend investing in individual stocks until you are fully reaping the match of your employer sponsored account and invested in some low-cost index funds. I also would recommend getting familiar with the market before making any stock investments. Sign up for Investopedia’s free stock market game  and practice investing with virtual money. Once you have it figured out, take some real money and pick some individual stocks. Start with highly reputable companies that pay dividends.

Bank accounts

Bank accounts (checking and savings) aren’t investments. They are safe havens for your money. If you live in the US and have under two hundred and fifty thousand dollars in the bank, all of your money is insured by the FDIC even if the bank goes under (the only exception would be if the United States collapses, and if that happens I’m pretty sure we will have more serious problems). So bank accounts are awesome safe places to store your money.

Unfortunately though, we are living in a time of low interest rates. According to Bankrate the national average interest rate on savings accounts is just under 1%. That’s ridiculously low! You won’t even beat inflation with that!

Now I’m not saying not to store money in the bank. They definitely have their place. Having liquid cash in accessible accounts is extremely important, but it’s not going to make you any money. Therefore, its not a good investment.

Other Investments

Are you extremely risk adverse but looking for better gains than a bank account?  Well I have two options for you!

CDS

CDs are very similar to bank accounts, but they usually pay a little bit more in interest (though with interest rates so low, they have been fairly close in recent memory!). CDs are long term investments though. The bank is agreeing to hold your money and pay you a higher interest rate than you would get with a savings account, while you are agreeing to not withdraw your money for the life of the CD. There are shorter term CDS (as short as 3 months) and longer term CDS (3 or more years!). In general, you will get higher interest rates with longer terms. You will also find higher rates on the CDS with higher minimum investment amounts. The best CDs are paying about 2.5% interest right now, and while that it better than nothing, it probably isn’t enough to beat inflation in the long run.

Bonds

Bonds are basically loans. There are two types, corporate and government. When you purchase a corporate bond, you are lending money to a company. When you purchase a government bond, you are lending money to the government.

Bonds are way safer than stocks. They are a great investment that helps keep large portions of money safe while still offering a bit of growth to combat inflation. Unfortunately, safety comes at a cost. You won’t grow your money very well if you invest in bonds. This investment type is best for someone who is close to retirement age and wants some protection against market volatility in their final stretch. It’s a bad investment for beginners.

Shady Things

Shady things are bad investments for everyone, not just beginners. But when you are just starting out, it may be harder to spot the red flags. Some examples of shady investments are: a “hot tip”; a friend’s amazing business opportunity, pyramid schemes, non-reputable investment firms, and companies in which the only information you can find about them are obviously affiliate links (you’ll know them when you see them!). It’s unfortunate, but there are tons of people out there trying to get a piece of your money in nefarious ways. My recommendation to avoid this is to always do your research and utilize well established, highly rated firms for all of your investment needs.

Does anyone else have any examples of bad investments for beginners?  Let us know in the comments and lets all partner together to help each other achieve financial independence!

 

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Beginner’s guide to investing

Do you want to start an investment portfolio but aren’t sure where to start? We are here to help you! In this beginner’s guide to investing, you will learn what type of plan to use, what the best investments for beginners are, and how to how to actually invest the money. After all, what are Partners for?

Investment Plans/Accounts

The first thing you need to learn in the Beginner’s Guide to investing is what type of plan or account you should be investing in. The three best account types for beginners are employee sponsored plans, individual retirement accounts, and brokerage accounts.

Employee Sponsored Plan

If your employer offers any type of match, then the first thing you absolutely need to invest in is your employee sponsored plan. Many employers will offer matching contributions of up to 5%!  That’s like getting a 5% pay raise!  It’s basically free money, but you only get it if you contribute. So, if you work somewhere that offers the match, take it!  Start there!

Individual Retirement Accounts

Regardless of whether your employer offers a plan or not, you should be putting money away for retirement. Luckily, most investment firms offer Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) to let you do that! There are two types of IRA, the traditional one (usually just referred to as IRA) and the ROTH IRA.

There are two major differences between the IRAs, and whichever you chose will depend upon your individual situation. The traditional IRA is a tax deferred account. That means you can deduct all of the money you put into it from your taxes each year. It also means that you will be penalized for taking out any money before you hit 59 and a half years old. When you reach retirement age and start withdrawing, you will have to pay taxes on your withdrawals as if they are income. If you need the money before you reach the minimum age, you will have to pay the taxes and an early withdrawal penalty. You definitely want to avoid that!

The ROTH IRA is different in both of those regards. You cannot deduct your contributions from your taxes (because you are investing post tax dollars), but you aren’t penalized for taking any of your initial investment out (you are penalized for taking out any profits). You also won’t have to pay taxes on anything that you withdraw when you reach retirement age (as long as you’ve had the account for more than 5 years. There are lots of withdrawal rules for the ROTH IRA, and you can read about them all here

The main thing you should take into account when deciding upon which IRA type you want is your tax strategy. Do you want to pay the taxes now or do you want to pay them later?

IRA problems

The biggest issue with both types of IRA is the contribution limit. You can only put $5500 into any type of IRA account per year if you are under age 50, and only $6500 per year if you are 50 or over. If you want to save more than that (and you should!) you need a different type of account.

 

Non-retirement Brokerage accounts

The last main account type for investing is a brokerage account. These are great because not all of our investments are meant for retirement. You may be on a path to financial independence, so you may need to start withdrawing money from your investments before you get to the traditional retirement age. There are plenty of companies that offer non-retirement brokerage accounts. Some banks even offer them as well. Vanguard is my favorite, but there’s also Fidelity, Merril-Lynch, Edward Jones, and a whole lot of other investment management companies (you can also open IRAs with these companies, if you want all of your investments in one place). 

Types of Investments

Ok, so you’ve decided upon what type of account you need to open. The next step in our beginner’s guide to investing is to decide which type of investment is best! There are basically only three different types of investments that I would recommend to beginners. These are: index funds, target date funds, and mutual funds.

 Need a ledger to track your investments? Check out this accounting book on Amazon* 

Index funds

Index funds are my favorite type of investment. They are low cost funds that track certain market sectors. They usually aren’t actively managed, so whatever companies are tracked in the fund are the ones that you are invested in. One of the most well-known index funds is the S&P 500,  an index fund which tracks about 500 of the biggest companies in the US.

Related:  Which Vanguard total market fund should you pick?

My favorite types of index funds are full market index funds, because they basically track the entire stock market. I highly recommend Vanguard’s total market fund. It is well diversified and has a super low expense ratio. That means that it won’t tank if only a certain sector of the market tanks and it doesn’t cost a lot to maintain. Additionally, it is very very rare that a total market fund will completely go out of business. The markets may have a correction and go down, but as long as you stay invested you probably won’t lose money over time. Remember losses aren’t real until you cash out.

Target Date Funds

Target date funds are index funds that automatically adjust the amount of risk they are exposed to as the fund holders get closer to retirement. This means that they will slowly sell off equities and move into bonds as the target date gets closer.

 My work has 6 different options for target date funds: 2025, 2030, 2035, 2040, 2045, and 2050. Every five year a new fund gets created. I have some of my money invested in the 2040 fund, because that is when I’ll be close to retirement age. My older coworkers are invested in the 2030 or 2025 funds, because they are much closer to retirement.

The target funds are the absolute best for people who hate actively managing investments. If you want to be a “set it and forget it” investor, this is the best type of fund for you.

"Beginner's guide to investing"
 

Mutual Funds

Mutual funds are another good investment for beginners. Usually, a mutual fund will track a certain sector of the market. Some mutual funds are dedicated to certain sized companies while some invest in certain industries. Mutual funds are usually actively managed, which means that somebody is working every day buying and selling stocks to try to boost the fund’s performance. This also means that they have a higher expense ratio (cost more!). All of the people invested in the fund are paying the fund manager to make those trades. Sometimes this ends up being beneficial, and the fund outperforms the general market. Sometimes it doesn’t. Investing is inherently risky. If you do decide to invest in mutual funds, be sure to diversify and pick a few different ones. That way, you are protected if something happens to a certain sector.

How to invest

The last main step in our beginner’s guide to investing is how to invest. There’s really only one option that I like, and that’s dollar cost averaging. With this method, you take a regular amount each paycheck/month/week and invest it. I have $100 per paycheck automatically going straight to Vanguard, regardless of what the market is doing. Sometimes you are buying when the market is up, and sometimes you are buying when the market is down. It averages out over time.

Its also super easy to do. You just have to set up an automatic withdrawal from your checking account or bank account. Most investment firms have an online step-by-step, so it’s super easy to set up. 

The other methods are lump sum purchases and investing when you have the money. Investing at some point is better than not investing at all, but if you make it a regular thing it’s easy to stick to. Also, with dollar coast averaging, you don’t even think about timing the market, so it’s great psychologically too.

Beginner’s Guide to Investing

So there you have, a quick and hopefully easy beginner’s guide to investing. I hope this helps you start your own journey to financial independence. We also published a post outlining the bad investments for beginners,  check it out to learn what not to do!

If you have any additional investment ideas or tips that would help beginners out, please feel free to share them in the comments!

 

*Links with this next to it are affiliate links. That means I’ll receive a small commission if you decide to click on it and buy something. Don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you anything extra! Also, I am not in anyway affiliated with any of the investment firms that I mentioned (outside of having accounts with some of them). I recommend Vanguard because I use them and I like them, not because they pay me to!

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