What I Do That’s Mustachian?

Someone on one of the forums reached out to me asking what I do that’s Mustachian. My answer was pretty lame, I basically said I stop worrying about money along with a few other things. Coming from a position now of being able to fully articulate my thoughts.

1. 20% to Retirement – Even when the market is getting a beating I still contribute 20% of my gross wages in my 401k. 95% FSKAX and 5 % in bonds.
2. Take lunch to work – At least 3 times a week I bring lunch with me to work. Usually it’s a salad with some extra protein and toppings tossed in.
3. Get gas from Costco. Considering my round trip work commute is 35 miles a day x 5 or 175 miles a week that adds up. Car gets 24mpg so that’s usually 8 or 9 gallons a week at the bare minimum. Double that for everything else outside of that… So 18 gallons @ $2.40 for premium is $43, two other stations nearby are $3.00/gal which would be $54. So $11/wk savings or $572/yr
4. Cut the cord – I don’t pay for cable. My parents do and I log into their account for what I need. My boyfriend has Hulu and Amazon Prime so occasionally we will watch that.
5. Got rid of Amazon Prime – My subscription just came up for renewal. Prime is $119 per year. I rarely watch movies on there, dislike their music app and I don’t have a smart speaker. If I am patient with shipping and shop around I can often find product for cheaper.
6. Use points – With my Chase Freedom Unlimited card I’m getting 3% cashback on all purchases and 5% through my regular Freedom card in rotating categories.
7. Renting – I rent a 1br/1br apartment in a suburban neighborhood. It was built in the 1980s. It’s not the lap of luxury but I’m also not worried about getting shot at night as would be the case in Downtown Dallas… I pay about $915/mo. Not saying I will never be a homeowner again, but taxes alone for property I’d consider would run around $5k/yr. That’s 5 months of rent. Who knows what 2020 may bring. I do see folks coming down in price on their expensive homes though.
8. Use rewards points – When I do go out I try to use apps like grubhub or Ritual for takeout food. With Ritual I got $5 off my first order, frequently saw $5 off Deals and 20x points (every dollar equals a point and at 10k points you get a $10 off bonus coupon).
9. Intermittent Fasting – Ok so this one isn’t for money but I have some extra lbs I want to burn. Skipping breakfast makes that process a lot easier since my body uses its fat reserves. I do consume some tea however to help suppress my appetite.
10. Travel Hack – When I do travel, I will look up prices with a service like Google Flights or Expedia. I refuse to fly Spirit or any other airline where I will feel like a sardine stuffed in a can. I try to avoid travelling on major holidays because the prices can often be double. During my trip last month to Provincetown I did an AirBNB with 4 others and split the costs. The friends cooked a few meals at their home. Little things like that add up, $20 here, $50 there.
11. Buy Discounted Tech – I never pay full price for any of my products from an Apple Store. Sales Tax alone on a $2k mac is $180. Then the prices can be hundreds more than an authorized reseller. I got a Microcenter Apple certified refurb mid-tier MacBook Pro for about $1999 vs $2799 brand new. It looked brand new when I got it, screen is great, battery works fine, no issues with the keyboard.
12. Drink out less – Some years ago when I did go out to dinner I’d often get 2 or 3 drinks. Now I try to limit myself to one. I honestly don’t miss it, I can make myself a quick something or other at home.
13. Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. I could lease a BMW, Mercedes, or Lexus I wanted to. Maybe one day I will, but for the time being I am perfectly fine with my 3 year old Nissan Maxima.
14. Keep insurance. Without insurance I likely would be borderline bankrupt. Or struggling to pay $50k worth of medical debt. I hate paying the premiums, but it has saved me from huge expenses over the years.
15. Max out my HSA – HSA is a great concept. I get a tax deduction and can use it for things like a blood pressure monitor, orthotics for plantar fasciitis, my braces, normal doctor visits. Since I have a high deductible savings plan this is a also great buffer from unexpected medical expenses. Once I hit a savings certain threshold I can turn it into an investment account.
16. Avoid high interest and maintain good credit. Even with my student loans, after consolidation my interest rate was 4.25%. That allowed me to get ahead much quicker than others with 8, 9% or higher. My car loan is 1.9%… some people with subprime loans pay upwardsof 29%. Not blaming them, but it’s really a night and day difference.
17. Don’t lease a car – It’s different if you own a business obviously. If you have a monthly car payment that never goes away, you have no assets after 3 years. Then if your mileage goes over the terms you’re paying extra. I’m 76% done paying it off my car right now. Then I will own it, not the bank, not Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp.
18. $1-2 movies – Haven’t been in a while but occasionally there will be something that catches my eye. Occasionally I’ll sneak a snack in. Is it ethical? Maybe? But…I usually don’t like what the theaters even have.
19. Pay for a 12 month Apple Music subscription with discounted Apple Gift Cards Per month Apple Music is $9.99 ($4.99 if you’re a college student) . That’s $120 vs $99 for the annual one I have. I got a 33% discount on mine through Best Buy Rewards points, 20% sale on Apple Gift Cards at Best Buy, combined with 3% cashback on my credit card.
20. Get someone to cook for you. Food always tastes better when someone else cooks for you. Especially when they know what they’re doing. We can eat at home, then grab a drink somewhere out if we choose to. If there’s a Happy Hour special running, even better.
21. Buy Clothes on Sale – I like discounts. Clearance, sales, almost every retailer in America offers some type of deal. Even name brand designers should be on sale.
22. I wash my own car. Usually pay about $5 a week at one of those self serve bays instead of $10-15 by going to one of those modern car washes that often scratches your car.
23. I switched to a low cost energy provider. I’m projected to spend $73 this month, but typically average out to around $50.


So there you have it. 😀

August 2019 – Financial Update

Things are going well for me. Turned 36 last week. Not fully where I want to be at this age, but I am continuing to make progress.

Last month I did go on a trip to Boston and Provincetown. Friends and I split the cost to rent a beach house on AirBnB. The biggest downside is the place had no A/C. It also happened to be close to 90° outside and extremely humid. I paid $300 To sleep on a fold out sofa bed for a total of three nights. The biggest expenses were related to food and beverage. Dropping $80-100 on food for a day is not what I consider to be normal. Couple of pictures from my trip.

It’s mentally freeing to go on a vacation from time to time. Especially when you feel a need to escape some of the more routine elements of your living situation. That said I haven’t planned my next trip yet, but somewhere scenic sounds super appealing. Grand Canyon maybe?

Summer is starting to wind down, kids are back in school, traffic to and from work is getting wild again. Time for a financial update.

401k – $55,543.85
Roth IRA – $4,011.71
HSA – $332.59
Total Retirement: $59,878.15

Total Debt:

Credit Cards – $1,065.84 @ 0%
iPhone X Loan – $561.76
Car Warranty – $1,034.= (8 payments left)
Car Loan – $7,552
Total Debt: $10,213.60

Total Net Worth – $49,664.55

I still am paying some expenses related to travel . Those will completely be gone in 2 weeks. Then I also have car insurance, normal living expenses, bought a $100 in Apple iTunes gift cards for $70 to cover Apple Music for the year. Honestly it’s been a struggle not to spend extra money on things. Especially when boredom creeps up.

Is there a recession coming??

I’ve heard so many pundits talking about the inverted yield curve and how it’s a sign of a looming recession. Basically investors can earn more from US treasury bonds over the short term vs the long term. Historically that has been a key indicator that a recession is looming. This happened in 2005 but the US economy didn’t really start to suffer until 2007.

Is this time around different? I honestly don’t think so. Closures in retail left and right, a student loan crisis, unattainably high real estate prices, continual lowering of the Federal Funds rate, economic uncertainty with China and our stubborn president… Reductions in shipping and manufacturing, a glut of oversupply in the automotive market.

For the record I’m in the camp of people who thinks we are due for a market correction and some type of economic recession. Will it be as bad as the late 2000s? Who knows for sure. What I do know is that I’ve been down that path before. https://apple.news/Am2QtY5VxTC2qllXbXWOumw

I was a student during the last two major economic blows in this country. A student with no real money in the marketplace and still operating with a certain naivety from my Gen X and Baby Boomer educators who were indeed able to live the dream on a working person’s salary. My situation today is quite different.

I’m not quite debt free, but between my contribution and my employer, $1600+ goes into my 401k each month. That’s not including a neglected Roth IRA with Betterment that I am presently lacking ample cash flow to fully fund alongside my other short-term obligations. If anything it’s in my favor for the market to go down, that way I can buy more shares of the total stock market index. (FSKAX) at extremely low expense ratios and a higher probability of asset appreciation.

Within a year god willing I will free up some cash flow. $545/mo on a car gone, $129/mo on a car warranty gone, $55/mo for a cell phone gone. That’s $729/mo. for me to live on, use to travel, build up my emergency fund, potentially save towards the down payment on real estate should the right opportunity come along. As I get older and see where each of my dollars is really going, it’s a wake up call how much things depreciate.

I still am staying the course with investing. I get the tax benefit now, it’s great to use compounding to build up a nest egg, a declining market allows me to buy equities at a “discount”, there is an annual limit on how much I can put in a 401k annually, and I have no plans to retire in the next couple years. If anything it’s more like 14 to be retirement optional in 2035.

2008 me invested in penny stocks such as DPDW, which I bought right as it peaked and lost about 50% of my hard earned cash on. I also owned shares of companies like Apple but got too skittish with each and every company announcement, press release, etc. I doubt I will ever buy single stocks again unless I have a huge surplus of cash laying around.

July 2019 – Financial Update

Good and Bad.

Good – I’m killing it with my retirement account. The balance and my net worth are both the highest they have ever been in my entire life. Considering I didn’t start until age 30 and had $39k of student loan debt at that time I think I’m doing alright.

Total Retirement:
401k – $53,772.74
Roth IRA – $4,165.07
HSA – $367.99 (balance not yet high enough for investing and limited growth due to monthly orthodontist payments)
Total Retirement: $58,305.80

Total Debt:
Credit Cards – $1,542.26 at 0%
iPhone X Loan – $617.92 at 0% (11 payments of ~56.16 left)
Car Warranty – 1,163.25 (9 payments left)
Car Loan – $8,572.93 (72% done with payments, about 17 payments left $545)
Total Debt – $11,896.36

Total Net Worth – $46,409.44 (not including any assets outside of retirement)

Bad –
My credit card balances are high temporarily due to some gadgets I purchased.
-Ordered a paid of Sennheiser PXC 550 Headphones. I don’t own a pair of non workout wireless headphones and haven’t been able to focus while in public places like coffeehouses due to the loud noise. $172 after a few discounts
-iPad Air 2019 – This replaces the iPad Mini I bought in 2015 for $199. The device originalyl was released in 2013, I got a whopping $70 for it at Best Buy. I did make an attempt at trading my 4th Generation Kindle but they wouldn’t even give me $1 for it. It’s old tech yes but it works completely fine. The iPad has helped drive my love of reading again. Get free digital magazines through the RBDigital app any my local library. The 10.5″ screen doesn’t feel cramped at all. It was $438 with tax, plus another $130 for the Pencil, keyboard+case, and a screen protector.
-Going out – I went on a staycation two weeks ago and decided to treat myself. Nothing too lavish and extravagant but just some fun places, and good eating.
-Upcoming Trip – I had to give a friend $295 for an AirBnb we will be splititng the costs of later this month. Not bad for 3 nights, but still money that I won’t be applying toward debt. My flight is already paid for at least.
-Clothes – I wouldn’t say I have a shopping problem per say but it’s a drag to wear the same clothes every single week for months and months. $2-300 on upgrading my wardrobe I don’t think is a bad investment.

My card is at 0% so barring something crazy happening it will be back at a $0 balance over the next 30 days. Just need to stop buying expensive things… If you haven’t seen Graham Stephan’s channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCa-ckhlKL98F8YXKQ-BALiw) , take a look at his Millionaire Reacts series. Both educational and worthy of a good chuckle.

I am continuing to set limits on my social media consumption. It’s easy to fall into that trap of comparing yourself to other people. The amazing groups of close friends they have, a seemingly endless series of trips, the seemingly perfect life. Heck a few of the ones I follow are professional models, completely ripped with a six pack, gorgeous smiles, and 30k followers minimum. Consuming too much of that stuff though is no good. I’m hoping society wakes up to how they are being manipulated through it, the highly addictive nature of it all, and how it in many ways negatively impacts attention span, mental acuity, and contributes to varying levels of depression.

Love yourself, love others, and remember life isn’t all about money. It’s about the whole experience.

A Non-Financial Update

An acquaintaince of mine in Dallas is struggling for his life. While on vacation in Hawaii he was driving a car with his mom and it suddenly caught on fire. His mom jumped out of the car while it was moving at 45mph but the guy I know stayed in the car until it came to a stop. He currently has burns on 85% of his body, is fighting infection, and has a temperature of 104°. I donated to the family charity via a church tithing site and hope that science and prayer will allow him to pull through.

Today I had a testing moment. I get to work and one of the managers at my apartment complex says they never received a rent check for July. My initial thought was WTF, I sent that over via Bill Pay on May 28th. Then today the online Bill Payment for August went through. I am proactive about paying it early for a reason. The check was never cashed though.

Went through a series of about 10 steps – Calling the apartment complex, calling the bill payment company who told me to call my credit union, calling my credit union and having them cancel the transaction, calling the complex back, asking to speak to the lady’s manager, e-mailing screenshots of my online bill payment and August payment to the manager (who I emailed just a few days prior for the amount owed for August), sending an email to corporate and the manager, pulling money from my line of credit to transfer to my checking account, linking my debit card to the resident services account, making a payment for what I owed, calling the complex manager back to inform her that the payment was made…. Needless to say that little debacle stressed me the fuck out.

All along this process I was accruing fees. $50 the first say, $10 the day after that, then $20, then $30. Firm but polite has always been my way of dealing with situatinos like this. Luckily I got all the fees reversed and asked the manager to take my work number off my account completely. Had they just called my cell phone and left a message, all of this confusion would have been avoided. Going forward I’m just going to give them a physical check and be done with it. It’s strange though I basically have been going through the same system for over 4 years with no issues.

June 2019 Update

May flew by, starting off the second week of June. Quick update:

401k: $51,300.56
Roth IRA: $4.012.38
HSA: $102.60
Total Retirement: $55,415.54

Current Liabilities:
Credit Card: Effectively $0 since I pay it off monthly
Car Loan: $8,585.91
Car Warranty: $1,292.50
iPhone X : $674.08
Total Debt: $10,552.49

Something a bit disturbing happened recently here in Dallas. We had some very powerful storms go through, lots of downed trees, one of my friends had no power for 24 hours. Friends with a restaurant had no power for 48 hours. I was fortunate though, had electricity the whole time, no property damage. Others not so fortunate though…


Crane Fell into an Apartment Building
Crane Fell into an Apartment Building

A crane fell on an apartment complex not very far from where my Boston friends used to live and is visible from the parking garage I use daily. One person died, a beautiful young lady of only 29 years of age. I considered moving to this complex back in 2017 but decided not to because it was out of my budget. From what I’ve heard lots of people had to evacuate the building within a matter of minutes and many weren’t allowed to return. It sounds like a small thing, but… 534 people are displaced from their homes, in many cases they will only be able to carry a handful of smaller items with them. TVs, furniture, beds, in some cases vehicles too. All left behind.

Coincidentally my lease is up for renewal. I strongly considered moving closer to work but it just wasn’t in the cards. I really don’t like the Downtown area, my bf lives close to my current place, and my rent is still pretty cheap. My new 12 month lease will be $880/mo plus ~$25 for water / sewage / trash. Even in some of the hotter days my electricity bill is under $60.

I am still thinking about the future though, possibly buying a 2 bedroom townhouse / condo is what I will do. Something big enough to be comfortable, with fairly low overhead, and sellable if that needs to happen. I have been talking about home ownership for a while but needed to get my foundation solid. Will I ever return to New York? Not with my current salary, the high rents, taxes, congestion. I’ll continue to visit though.

Recently I discovered one of my former coworkers was arrested for fraud and could be facing up to 20 years in prison. There was a previous incident but in my mind I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I held this individual in high esteem, he was a bit of a role model to me earlier in my career. Charismatic, a person of color like me, educated, drove a nice luxury SUV, had a 3 bedroom house, was able to put his kids through college. I think of the video with Tyra Banks – We Rooted For You. Honestly disappointed he didn’t make wiser choices in life.

Outside Feedback & Investment Order

They say a mark of greatness is to gather advice from those wiser, older, or more successful than himself. So that is exactly what I did. I laid all my cards out on the table, I let myself be vulnerable. Why? Because I needed it. Couple of conclusions.

1. Retirement – Stop paying the 1.9% automobile loan off early and max out retirement. Now. Stop. Do Not Pass Go. Do it now. Plus I need to lower my tax burden. I don’t consider myself super wealthy, but I shouldn’t be able to buy a new car each year with what I pay in taxes.
2. My commute is out of control and draining me of my life force. Getting to work early has made things a lot better. About 35 minutes in and 40 coming home. Previously it took me about 45 minutes and an hour. Best case 6 hours of commuting each week, worse case almost *9* hours a week. In an automobile stopping and going. 300-450 hours a year. When I think about it that way, it kinda makes me sick. The alternative however is paying roughly $400-$600 per month in rent, plus $500 ish in moving expenses, $500 in pet deposit, an extra $10-$15 monthly in pet fees.

I really looked at a bunch of different options. The safer neighborhoods generally cost a lot more. Areas close to work are in old buildings with some issues, such as leaks, poor sound deadening, crime, growing homeless situation, difficult to find parking. Rent is up for renewal now at $880/mo. Close to work would be around $1400/month. $16,800 a year to rent a 1br or studio apartment with 0 equity? No thanks. The newer complexes near me seem to have poor parking too and are a target for thieves.


3. Stop eating out as much. I said $400/mo dining out (including activities) and another $400/mo for groceries. I cut back quite a bit the last few weeks but it still wasn’t easy. Kinda felt down being cramped inside the apartment. I’m realizing getting out and going to nice places every once in a while is something I enjoy and will shift things around here and there in order to cover it. When I do go out now I’m more prone to go to $ or $$ restaurants, never $$$. Coupons or happy hours are a plus too. If someone else is going to drive or I will be there a while, pregaming is always an option.

I almost always bring my lunch with me to work now. Salad, some protein, some carbohydrates. When I do have lunch with coworkers, friends, etc. I have 0 guilt.

4. Car overhead  –  Overall it costs me an estimated $1000/mo to drive. That’s kind of insane, even with my decent salary. So I’m hacking that too. More Costco fill-ups, pay for gas with cash back cards. Skip tollways when it will save me less than 5 minutes on a commute. Just today I dropped $271 on a transmission fluid change, and an oil change. Car accelerates / decelerates much more smoothly. Hope the preventative maintenance works out in my favor. Still have a warranty for 5 more years.

The best thing for me to do now is save on the things that don’t matter, automate my investments, focus on traveling a bit more.


On one of MMM Forums I came across the Investment Order, I thought it would be helpful too anyone reading this post.
“This ordering is appropriate for investors in the US.

In the lists below, thinking “first your governmental 457 (if you have one), then your 401k/403b/SIMPLE/etc.” wherever “401k” appears is likely correct –
unless your governmental 457 fund options are significantly worse than those in the 401k/403b –
due to penalty-free access to governmental 457 funds at retirement, even if younger than 59 1/2.
Non-governmental 457b plans have deficiencies, including the inability to roll the balance into an IRA.

“Max _____” means “contribute up to the maximum allowed for _____, subject to your ability to pay day-to-day expenses.”

Differences of a few tenths of a percent are not important when applicable for only a few years (in other words, these are guidelines not rules).

Current 10-year Treasury note yield is ~3%.  See

0. Establish an emergency fund to your satisfaction
1. Contribute to your 401k up to any company match
2. Pay off any debts with interest rates ~5% or more above the current 10-year Treasury note yield.
3. Max Health Savings Account (HSA) if eligible.
4. Max Traditional IRA or Roth (or backdoor Roth) based on income level
5. Max 401k (if
– 401k fees are lower than available in an IRA, or
– you need the 401k deduction to be eligible for (and desire) a tIRA deduction, or
– your earn too much for an IRA deduction and prefer traditional to Roth, then
swap #4 and #5)
6. Fund a mega backdoor Roth if applicable.
7. Pay off any debts with interest rates ~3% or more above the current 10-year Treasury note yield.
8. Invest in a taxable account and/or fund a 529 with any extra.

0. Give yourself at least enough buffer to avoid worries about bouncing checks
1. Company match rates are likely the highest percent return you can get on your money
2. When the guaranteed return is this high, take it.
3. HSA funds are totally tax free when used for medical expenses, making the HSA better than either traditional or Roth IRAs for that purpose.
At worst, the HSA behaves much the same as a tIRA after age 65.
4. Rule of thumb: traditional if current federal marginal rate is 22% or higher; Roth if 10% or lower, or if MAGI is too high to deduct a traditional IRA; flip a coin otherwise.
For those willing to expend a little more energy than it takes to flip a coin, consider comparing current marginal tax saving rate vs. predicted marginal withdrawal tax rate.
If current > predicted, use traditional.  Otherwise use Roth.
See Credits can make Traditional better than Roth for lower incomes and other posts in that thread about some exceptions to the rule.
See Traditional versus Roth – Bogleheads for even more details and exceptions.  State tax (or lack thereof) should also be considered.
The ‘Calculations’ tab in the Case Study Spreadsheet can show marginal rates for savings or withdrawals*.
5. See #4 for choice of traditional or Roth for 401k.  In a 401k there are no income-based limits for deductions or contributions.
6. Applicability depends on the rules for the specific 401k.  See Mega Backdoor Roth IRA.
7. Again, take the risk-free return if high enough.  Note that embedded in “high enough” is the assumption that your alternative is “all stocks” or a “fund of funds”
(e.g., target retirement date) that provides a blend of stock and bond returns.  If you wish to consider separate bond funds, compare the yield on a fund
with a duration similar to the time remaining on the loan, and put your money toward the one with the higher after-tax interest/yield.
8. Because taxable earnings will still help your FI journey.  If your own retirement is in good shape, and you choose to provide significant help for children’s college costs,
a 529 plan may be appropriate.  Similar to “put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others,” do consider funding your own retirement before funding 529 plans for children’s college costs.

Speaking of things to do first, see Getting started – Bogleheads if this is all new.  Working through that post and the links therein is also a good refresher, even if personal finance isn’t completely new to you.

The emergency fund is your “no risk” money.  You might consider one of these online banks:

It is up to you whether to consider “saving for a house down payment” as a “day to day expense”, vs. lumping the down payment savings in with “taxable investments” at the end.

If you are renting, you may not be throwing away as much on rent as you might think.  See
for some thoughts.

For those concerned about “locking up” money in retirement accounts until age 59.5, see How to withdraw funds from your IRA and 401k without penalty before age 59.5.

If your 401k options are poor (i.e., high fund fees) you can check
for some thoughts on “how high is too high?”

The MAGI calculation for Roth IRA purposes is https://www.irs.gov/publications/p590a#en_US_2018_publink1000230985
Then see Retirement Topics IRA Contribution Limits | Internal Revenue Service.
The MAGI calculation for traditional IRA purposes is https://www.irs.gov/publications/p590a#en_US_2018_publink1000230489.
Then see IRA Deduction Limits | Internal Revenue Service

If one can swing the cash flow, getting in and out of an ESPP is ~”free money”.  But if one has to make a choice between deferring income in a 401k vs. taking the income and using it for an ESPP, it isn’t the same.  The benefits of employee stock purchase plans (ESPPs) relative to other opportunities is highly dependent on tax rates, because ESPP benefits all occur in taxable accounts.
– For someone paying 12% tax on ordinary income, and 0% on dividends and capital gains, ESPPs can be very favorable, perhaps competing with high interest rate loans in step 2.
– For someone paying 22% tax on ordinary income, and 15% on dividends and capital gains, ESPPs are not as favorable, perhaps coming between steps 6 and 7.

Priorities above apply when income is primarily through W-2 earnings.  For those running their own businesses (e.g., rental property owner, small business owner, etc.),
putting money into that business might come somewhere before, in parallel with, or after step 5.

Why it is likely better to invest instead of paying a low interest rate mortgage early, if you have a long time until the mortgage is due:

*Estimating withdrawal tax rates is not an exact science, but here is one approach:
1) Estimate any guaranteed income.  E.g., pension you can’t defer in return for higher payments when you do start, rentals, etc.
2) Take current traditional balance and predict value at retirement (e.g., with Excel’s FV function) using a conservative real return, maybe 3% or so.  Take 4% of that value as an annual withdrawal.
3) Take current taxable balance and predict value at retirement (e.g., with Excel’s FV function) using a conservative real return, maybe 3% or so.  Take 2% of that value as qualified dividends.
4a) Decide whether SS income should be considered, or whether you will be able to do enough traditional->Roth conversions before taking SS.
4b) Include SS income projections (using today’s dollars) if needed from step 4a.
5) Calculate marginal rate on withdrawals from traditional accounts using today’s tax law on the numbers from step 1-4.
6) Make your traditional vs. Roth decision for this year’s contribution
7) Repeat steps 1-6 every year until retirement

The steps above may look complicated at first, but you don’t need great precision.  The answer will either be “obvious” or “difficult to choose”.  If the latter, it likely won’t make much difference which you pick anyway.

Note the possibility of self-defeating predictions:
a) predict high taxable retirement income > contribute to Roth > get low taxable retirement income
b) predict low taxable retirement income > contribute to traditional > get high taxable retirement income

Also, if you pick traditional and that ends up being wrong it will be because you have “too much money” – not the worst problem.
If you pick Roth and that ends up being wrong it will be because you have “too little money” – that can be a real problem.
Thus using traditional is a “safer” choice.”