I’m back on the blog after a long time away to write my next book, Wallet Activism, and to reflect on what’s actually worth saying after the last year. Though this wasn’t a break I intended, it taught me a lot about the value of stepping away for a while, something we can all relate to right now.
My last post was about how the discourse of the FIRE community upholds systemic racism, but today’s is much more personal. This is about how our choices as individuals — as investors, as people choosing where to live, as earners, as tax payers and as charitable givers — impact and likely harm others, especially those who are already impacted by racial inequality. Fortunately, there are plenty of steps we can take to do better, and to ensure that we’re not harming others in our quest to achieve work-optional life.
I’m gradually moving toward a less frequent blogging schedule, driven largely by the evolving way I’m viewing and experiencing life in early retirement. This second year of early retirement has been a lot different from the first, and as I learn and evolve more, I’m discovering new ways of approaching life and purpose that sometimes come with uncomfortable realizations. In other words: I’m finally having that reckoning of sorts of “What am I doing with my life?” that so many retirees experience much sooner.
Achieving a big financial goal like early retirement is made possible by committing to saving aggressively. But when I look back at our years when we were so focused on saving, the things I regret aren’t the times when we didn’t save enough, they’re times when we didn’t spend on once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Today I’m sharing one such instances, and the lesson I learned from it that it’s a mistake to let life pass you by just because you’re saving for a big goal.
I recently had an experience that offered a sharp reminder: despite years of saving (successfully!) and a year and a half of not blowing our early retirement budget, I’m still a spender at heart. But being a spender rather than naturally frugal doesn’t doom you to fail financially. You can still thrive and save at a high rate if you just structure your life in ways that set you up to succeed.
Today I’m sharing a deeply personal story about my early life that left a lasting impact on how I think about money, but even more importantly, how I think about financial advice. It’s not always fun, but it’s so worth it to dig into our financial past to consider how the experiences in our upbringing shape how we relate to money.
The choice of whether to buy on the basis of cost first, or on the basis of quality first, is a personal one, and in our case, we tend to go for quality as the first consider and price second. But that approach has taught us some hard lessons, both good and bad. Here are three examples of purchases, and the lessons we’ve taken away from them.
Part travel story, part advice, about the delightful benefits that come from slowing down and enjoying the present, even if you’re still working and saving for early retirement — maybe especially then! Don’t just stop and smell the roses, stop and spot the space invaders.
It seems that the period of stock market volatility we’ve been in the past few months is here to stay for a while. Does that have you feeling anxious? If so, you’re normal, but you don’t have to stay that way. Learning not to let the markets or their machinations affect you is surprisingly easy to do if you make that your intention. Let’s talk about how.
Traveling when very few others travel has loads of benefits, most notably lower prices, sometimes dramatically so. But it’s not without its downsides, as we experienced on our recent trip to France. So let’s talk about those downsides.
We’re supposed to save 2 times our salary by age 35, or is it 25 times our expenses to retire early? We’re supposed to ignore Social Security, but also claim it at 62 to hedge against market risk. We should try to get out of debt as quickly as possible, but also paying off a mortgage early is missing out on potential market gains. There is so much “truth” out there, so many “right” answers, and many of them conflict. How to make sense of them and decide which are actually true? Start by tossing out the whole notion that financial truth exists in the first place.
Whether you need to buy exchange health insurance for 2019 or you’re just planning for future years in early retirement, it’s worth doing your homework now on health care costs and factors. To make that easier, I’ve highlighted the most important factors to consider and how to do the best research based on your situation.
If you care at all about world travel, you already know all about planning your trips during off-peak periods. And while that saves money, it pales in comparison to being agnostic and opportunistic about where you travel. Here’s how to do it, and why you should.
You don’t have to agree on what’s causing climate change to agree that it’s happening, that it’s getting worse and that it will affect those of us who are retiring early (just like it will affect everyone on the planet). So how do you account for something as massive as climate change in your financial and life planning? What do you do with the doom and gloom news stories, besides throw your hands in the air and declare it hopeless? Let’s break it down into actionable steps.
Last week we talked about boredom in early retirement and the question to ask yourself to know if you’re ready to retire. Today we’re talking about how you can take action to prepare yourself well and head off that boredom to begin with.
Something that I think takes a lot of early retirees by surprise is that the things you always dreamed of doing when you were slogging through those saving years don’t automatically happen just because you subtract a job from your life. The minutes, hours and days still slip away mysteriously if we aren’t intentional about how we spend our time, and for those things that mean most to us, we truly have to make that time, which happens to be harder than ever in our distraction-filled world? This is one example of an area where we’ve made up our minds to make more time for something important, and an interview with John Zeratsky, co-author of the new book Make Time that’s all about this challenge. (Plus a book giveaway!)
Like it or not, boredom in both early retirement and traditional retirement is a real thing. Between accounts I read online and notes I get from readers, it’s a phenomenon I see occurring pretty regularly. So I’m digging into boredom with a two-part series, first looking at how your answer to one question in particular tells you if you’re ready to pull the plug on work and retire early.
Today we’re digging into the archives to pull out everything I think anyone pursuing early retirement should know, pulling from some of my favorite posts from the past that have been buried by dozens or even hundreds of posts since publication.
In the last post, we talked about travel efficiency. And today we’re talking about what to pack — and what not to pack. In my million miles of flying and hundreds of hotel nights in all seasons and at all levels of formality, I’ve learned how to pack for carry-on luggage only, no matter what. Here’s how you can do it too.
If your early retirement goals include traveling, or if you travel for work to earn the big bucks to be able to retire early, then you can probably stand to travel a little more efficiently. I’ve learned a thing or two about optimizing every aspect of travel, so here are my collected strategies for max efficiency travel.
It makes total sense why the low-information diet is a frequent topic of discussion among current and would-be early retirees. There’s so much bad news these days that can feel overwhelming, and some well-known writers have argued in favor of tuning out. But is the low-information diet actually good for us? Let’s look at the science. (And then let’s look at how we can manage news and social media more healthily!)
Typical financial advice often focuses on learning to tell needs from wants. Which is great! But it only gets you so far. Most of the choices we make aren’t about needs vs. wants. They’re about wants vs. wants, or need-wants vs. want-needs. Rather than making your spending decisions based on this false binary, here’s why you should instead listen to the feelings of future you.
Back in 2015, with about two years of work to go, we decided to take a fairly radical step and ban all complaints about work. How did it go? What did we learn? Did it help? Read on to find out!
Today’s post is a personal one, digging into the biggest influence on me to retire early and — most importantly — on my own terms. Thanks to his disability, caused by a gene we both share, my dad didn’t get to retire on his own terms, and witnessing that shaped my priorities in big ways.
A topic we don’t discuss often enough as a society is how to help our parents as they age — what’s expected of us as adult children, what the emotional toll might feel like and how much time it will all require. But those things are real, and they’re crucial to incorporate into your early retirement planning.
It’s the big vs. small debate, complete with data. Which helps you save faster for early retirement: big cities, which tend to be more expensive, or small towns, which may be cheaper but may also have less opportunity and higher costs in some areas. Let’s break it all down, and weigh how your personal tendencies and interests play into it all.
Today we’re talking about the darling of the FIRE movement: the HSA. It sounds great from a tax perspective, but do you actually come out ahead? Is there no consequence to having a high-deductible plan? Let’s dig into the question.
We didn’t contribute to Roth accounts when we were under the income limit, and for years didn’t think it was a big deal. But now we’re filled with Roth remorse. Here’s why.
If we know we can’t achieve something the way someone else did, or the way we might have originally have envisioned for ourselves, it’s easy to throw up our hands and decide that it’s not even worth trying. Here’s how I let go of the idea of perfection to get on a better financial path, and some tips for how you can stop letting notions of perfection and imperfection hold you back.
You might be surprised to know when I truly felt financially independent, and it had nothing to do with leaving behind my career or being able to sleep until noon every day if I feel like it. (Though those are pretty great, too.) Instead, it was when I knew that Mark and I would both be okay financially whether we stay together or not.
Even though we’re not in the savings phase of our early retirement journey, we often talk about what we’d do differently if we were just now starting to save at this point in time. Here’s a rundown on what we’d change about our approach, and what we’d do the same.
It’s easy to observe that a lot of people — not just bloggers — end up working more than they expect to in early retirement, in large part because work feels very different when it’s by choice than when it’s by necessity. So why not plan for that and make your first year of early retirement a side hustle year? The benefits of doing so are potentially huge.
Some recent home organizing brought me to a bit of an archaeological find: a snapshot of my finances almost exactly 10 years ago, before Mark and I got married. I’ll bet they’re not what you expect, but what’s more, they show why it’s so important not to get discouraged if your financial progress feels slow in the beginning, or even for years!
“Simple living” is a term that I resisted for a long time because it felt so prescriptive and unachievable. Maybe it’s all Instagram’s fault, but it felt like there was a way living simply was supposed to look, and that wasn’t for us. But I finally saw that it’s up to each of us to define what simple living feels like, and that there’s tremendous value in doing so. (Plus, enter to win Mrs. Frugalwoods’ new book!)
Maybe it’s because I was confined to the couch all last week with a migraine, and maybe it was because there was recently a fresh wave of “Early retirement will kill you!” headlines, but I decided to really dig into this question of whether early retirement could actually be bad for us. Here’s what I found.
The biggest non-financial question we’ve been getting lately, now that folks know we’ve retired, is “Aren’t you scared?!” And you might assume that people who’ve made the big leap and given up the big paychecks would say, “Nope!” But that’s not true. We are scared. Just as anyone doing something big and at least a little bit risky should be. But we didn’t let that fear hold us back, and that’s what actually matters.
Do the roller coastering markets have you concerned about the your early retirement plan? Sequence risk is by far the biggest risk early retirees face, and that risk can come from market crashes, long-term mediocre returns and even rising health care costs. Fortunately, though, we can all put ourselves in a good position to head off that risk, without lengthening the timeline to early retirement, by making some smart choices with asset allocation and behavior.
I’m taking it on, you guys! 3000 words on why we aren’t fans of Bitcoin, and don’t think you should be either, if your goal is to build stable financial security or financial independence. There’s tons of research here, so come dig in!
We’re 10 work days from early retirement, and are now starting to consider new opportunities that look to the untrained eye a whole lot like work. The whole point of our early retirement was to be able to say yes more, and some of the things we really want to be able to say yes to, money aside. But there’s peril in that — taking on too much, and making it not really early retirement after all. Here’s how we’re thinking about setting new boundaries.
The question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” has never been far from my consciousness at any point in my life. I asked it of myself constantly as a kid, and I never really stopped even as an adult in a career. Which might partially explain how I got on an early retirement path. But answering that question — and separating “be” from “do” — is really what financial independence is all about.
When we first moved to Tahoe, we ran the heat at what seemed like a reasonable cool temperature, 62 or 63 or so, but then got a three-digit natural gas bill that started with a 4. So began our quest to reduce our heating bill and to find how low we could go, but this isn’t about keeping your house cold. It’s about finding your version of “selectively harcore” and all the non-financial lessons that come from being strict with yourself in one way of your choice.
This post is about my long side hustle career teaching yoga, including the cautionary tale I’d give any would-be new teachers. But it’s filled with parallels for so many side hustles and jobs in the gig economy — and it’s worth asking if your side hustle has anything in common with the pitfalls of mine.
The most common question we got after revealing where we live was “But… California?! It’s such a high-tax state!” So let’s take a look at why we think California can be a great place to retire, as can many high tax states. Because there’s so much more to total cost and overall lifestyle than just income taxes, especially given that income taxes are far less relevant to early retirees.
Today we’re continuing the mini-series on Social Security and Medicare by looking at whether or not you should build Social Security into your retirement plan. We’re not counting on it, in part because we don’t need to, but also for some big reasons that are worth considering for everyone who wants a secure financial future. Give it a read and then let us know what you think!
The question of whether 4 percent is a safe withdrawal rate, as the “4 percent rule” suggests has been — and will continue to be — debated endlessly. Fortunately, this isn’t more of that debate. Instead, let’s look at whether the fundamental underlying assumption of the 4 percent rule — level spending every year — is actually realistic and safe to plan around. (Spoiler: it’s not.)
The financial aspects of the early retirement journey are well trod at this point: reduce your expenses, save at a high rate, invest in assets that create passive income, blah blah blah. What’s less talked about is the emotional journey, which means that a lot of us are stepping off the map, and heading into uncharted territory. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s our take on navigating those emotions, and why the unexpected ones are so valuable in guiding your financial plans.
Vicki Robin’s book Your Money or Your Life had a huge impact on how I view money, asking us to equate money we might spend with the life force it represents, in other words, the time it took to earn it. And while that’s a great starting point for shifting our thinking about money and spending, I have a different proposal for how we should think of that money to speed our progress toward financial independence, focusing not on how long the money took to earn, but on how much time it buys us back.
There is plenty of financial advice out there, including some very prescriptive advice about how to achieve financial independence or virtually any big goal you can think of. The only problem is: that advice, while great for some, is guaranteed to be bad advice for others. Rather than trying to follow advice to the letter — or give it out in a prescriptive way — let’s focus on the formula instead, a formula with three key ingredients that can get anyone in nearly any life circumstances to achieve big goals.
If you’d told me at the beginning of our early retirement journey that we’d be on the verge of retiring only six years later, and that we wouldn’t be miserable or feel like we’d lived a life of sacrifice to make it possible, I wouldn’t have believed you. But it’s true. And not because we haven’t dramatically cut our spending. We have. But because sacrifice is a perception, not an absolute, and we’ve managed to balance out cuts to our spending with additions to other parts of our lives. Here’s how.
Today I’m (finally) sharing something that I’ve wanted to write about for a long time, but haven’t tackled because there is no easy formula: how to determine what is “enough” to save for early retirement. “Enough” is perhaps the centrally important concept to early retirement, but it can feel overwhelming to quantify your own. Here’s a breakdown on how we calculated ours, and how you can do the same for your own circumstances.
Early retirement and financial independence are such huge goals that most of us can’t help but build them up in our minds, and that often leads to the totally normal tendency to get into magical thinking: believing early retirement will make us happier, or better people, or cure whatever else ails us. Today we get into why it’s worth countering that magical thinking, and how to do it.
We don’t walk around in the world feeling like some financial masters of the universe. I blog about money, of course, so I think about it a fair amount – though less than when I was more obsessive in checking our balances and updating the spreadsheets. But I […]
There’s a principle in medicine that the dose makes the poison. Which means, very few substances are good or bad for us no matter what. Instead, what matters is how much of them we take. And it’s exactly the same with money. It’s easy to make symbols of things like buying lattes or paying for cable, but those behaviors aren’t objectively a problem. What might be the problem, however, is the dose. Why we’re big believers in focusing on the dose, in context, and embracing a sense of radical moderation.
Over the past two and half years of blogging about our early retirement journey, we’ve had the pleasure of meeting and hearing from several dozen of people who’ve achieved financial independence. All the while, we’ve been going along on our journey, and noticing what spurs us along more than anything. Turns out our journey and those of others’ have one key ingredient in common.
Things have been moving quickly in the health care debate, which many of us on the verge of early retirement have been eyeing closely. Just this week, the latest Senate proposals to reform the Affordable Care Act and the later proposal to repeal it altogether were withdrawn. So where does that leave us all? What do we know? And more importantly, what do we still not know about health care and costs for early retirement? Let’s take a close look.
We’re coming up on six years of living in our soon-to-be-divulged mountain town, and we feel lucky every day that we get to call this place home. But it’s not perfect, of course. The place we call home is a place lots of other people call their vacation destination, and that makes for some interesting dynamics. We’d tried to look at it in terms of what lessons we can learn from those visitors that we can apply to our own life and early retirement, and it turns out there’s plenty to take away from it all.
We’ve evolved a ton in our vision for early retirement, starting with only a vision of what we were retiring from, to now having a clear vision of what we’re retiring to, and making a big shift in the role we see work playing in our post-career lives. But even though we plan to work after this year, we see it as so different from “real work,” because unlike almost everyone else out there, we will be totally free to fail at whatever we do. A look at our new and revised definition of early retirement, and how the freedom to fail has helped us get here.
The world of today is full of ever-increasing conveniences — cooking boxes full of pre-measured and pre-chopped ingredients that let you whip up delicious meals at home, personal digital assistants that keep a virtual ear open for your every request, apps that tell you exactly what you need to know so you don’t have to think. And while these things do make life easier, the question is: Is an easier life actually good for us? Is it good for our long-term brain health?
The most recent debates on health care reform have brought out a sentiment that has reared its ugly head before: the idea that health is totally within our control, and therefore anyone who’s not entirely healthy is somehow at fault. Why that’s both false and bonkers, and why it matters.
I spend a lot of time talking about the nobler aspects of early retirement like how it will give us time to do more volunteering. But can we all be honest? We can do noble things in retirement, but the reason doesn’t have to be noble at all. For us, it’s all about what is most fun, and the answer is: not working. We want to retire early so that we can go back to being kids, but the paradox is that we’ve had to grow up big time to avoid growing up.
It is a natural thing to want to save money, and those of us pursuing huge financial goals innately find the idea of saving even more powerful. The problem comes when marketers deliberately blur the line between saving and spending, convincing us we’re doing one when really we’re doing the other. Today, recognizing when saving money is actually spending money, and how to keep the focus on the saving itself.
The world is full of rankings telling us where the best places are to retire, but they tend to focus a lot on state tax rates and weather, even though surveys say that people care less about taxes and weather than other factors like overall cost of living and health care quality. This post explores the health care quality factors we should all be weighting more heavily in deciding where to live in retirement, including some factors that none of the rankings take into account.
Some possible fighting words today, as we delve into the question of whether it makes sense to think of both taxable funds and tax-advantaged retirement funds as one big pool of money. Why does it matter? Because there are a bunch of potentially huge downsides to withdrawing traditional retirement funds early through Roth conversions or rule 72t distributions (or different approaches that exist in other countries). Fortunately, there’s another great option if you’re willing to do a little more math.
For years, I labored under the cozy illusion that there were “safe” choices in life and “risky” choices. And of course I was drawn to the ones that felt safer. Until I saw with my own eyes, in my own finances and my own life, that sometimes the safest choice of all is actually the most risky. And that realization changed everything.
We’re all getting conflicting signals right now: From financial analysts predicting lousy returns for the foreseeable future, and from early retirees reporting how they’re beating their projections every quarter. We could take away two very different lessons from this dissonance: that we need to make sure our plan is extra solid and based on low projected returns, or that we’re probably overthinking it all and working longer than we need to. We have an opinion on this (always do!), and share why we’re taking the more conservative approach, because: recency bias.
In the last several months of contemplating leaving work, while doing a better job of saying no and setting boundaries (woot!), I’ve come to realize something: I truly love what I do. Bad news for a soon-to-be early retiree, right? Not at all! You can definitely love your job and still want to retire early — no insanity required! Here’s why.
I’m sharing a personal story today about why the oft-used term “financial freedom” has always meant something totally different to me. (Spoiler: You’re almost certainly already financially free.) Let’s talk about freedom!
Maybe this is true for most of us, but we tend to focus on what’s right in front of our faces. On the journey to early retirement, that means thinking about how we treat our money now, and not always thinking back about how we used to relate to it. But today we’re taking a little look back to see what has surprised us most about pursuing financial independence, both financially, and in terms of our mindset.
A question we ask ourselves all the time is: Do we just want to retire early because deep down we feel bad at working? Even though we’re nothing close to bad at our jobs — we’ve very good at them — we’ve never quite been able to muster the right attitude to do them with total commitment. Which makes us wonder: for those special few who are seriously incredible at their jobs, would early retirement even enter their minds? Come share your theories!
Reaching financial independence is, more than anything, a waiting game. Especially for those who follow a passive investment strategy like indexing, there’s very little thinking to do once you set your plan in motion. But, the journey still takes years, often many years. Here’s why it’s so critical to pace yourself on that journey.
I think of myself as a naturally curious person, and that means that the list of things I want to do in retirement is longer than I’ll ever be able to get through. But even for the naturally curious, it’s worth cultivating both more curiosity and conscientiousness — to achieve success, however we define it, and to give a longer, healthier life.
I never took a break between high school and college, or between college and starting my career. And so for years, I thought I’d missed my chance to do something awesome, as though that’s something only young 20-somethings can do. But seeing people in our mountain town piecing together lives of adventure in all different ways made us realize: we haven’t missed out on anything. In fact, we’re probably doing this the better way, because our life of adventure will be built on solid financial footing.
Today’s post is more philosophical, looking at what has happened (at least for us) as our numbers have grown over time. It has been wonderful to celebrate a steady string of financial milestones over the years, but outside of those moments of celebration, it all actually feels less real, not more real. Is it just us? Let’s discuss!
Paying off our mortgage last week has gotten us thinking a lot about debt, and how differently we all think about it — but also how we *feel* about it. Today we’re diving into those thoughts and feelings, and — because we got so many questions about it — diving into why we did pay off the mortgage on our house but why we’re not paying off the mortgage on our rental anytime soon.
Anyone aspiring to retire early can list off a million reasons why we want to quit working, but what’s interesting is that most of those reasons have to do with work culture, not with work itself. On some level, we all crave the meaning and satisfaction that come with work, but the realities of modern work are very different from that work ideal. Learning to recognize the difference between work itself and work culture — and likewise the difference between job burnout and a true dead end career — can help us zero in on why we want to retire early to begin with.
Today: a nudge. Not just to tune in to your gratitude, and to express it (out loud!) to those who have impacted your life for the better. But to go beyond gratitude to real generosity and action. Our world depends on it!
This is a non-political post at a politically charged time. When the news conflicts with our world view, it’s all too easy to avoid clicking on those stories, or to unfollow or ignore the people sharing their perspective. And while that may seem harmless, it’s a slippery slope from “unfollow” to unknowingly creating our own echo chambers. Here’s why that’s so consequential in retirement.
Today we’re sharing stories we haven’t talked about before: the early retirees we’ve known in our lives, and how their experiences retiring shaped their retirements. Spoiler: Though all of them retired early, none of them retired completely on their own terms — and stats show that that’s the norm. The majority of people are forced to retire before they want to. Here’s what we’ve learned from seeing their experiences.
Almost a year ago, we realized that we’d reached financial independence. And reaching it hasn’t been anything like what we might have expected. Our FI life is still life, with all the usual ups and downs. Some things are better, but most things are the same. This year has taught us: Financial independence is a good goal, but a bad goalpost.
Our early retirement plan has gone through a lot of iterations, but one thing has remained constant: our insistence that we never want to have to work again. But we’re starting to realize that we’ve been thinking about this the wrong way. Come join us as we trace our journey to our recent epiphany that we will earn money in the future, even after we retire.
We are not the poster children for frugality or for minimalism, but we are constantly surrounded by people who have bought all these things. And we want to shout: you don’t need any of it! It only makes you look like you are good at something, versus actually being good at it. Here’s how we learned to separate the things that only add cachet from the things that add actual value to our lives.
We don’t pretend to know whether what we do with our money will work just as well for other couples, but today we’re talking about something we do know for sure: We are going to be able to retire earlier because we have fully combined finances. We’ll also trace our history of money management as a couple, and look at the money-related feelings that give us extra momentum toward FIRE.
Today we’re talking about hustling — both of the generating business variety (ever-present in our careers) and the oft-discussed side hustle. We’ve done a lot of both, and will share what we’ve learned along the way — including giving you permission if you want it to stop side hustling altogether.
As early retirement gets closer, something that we find ourselves getting especially impatient about is the arbitrary nature of deadlines. The notion of being free from deadlines can be extremely appealing, especially for procrastinators like us. But is a deadline-free life really a good thing?
This Labor Day, we’re reflecting on the ever-speeding progress of labor and productivity in the developed world, and looking at our own longing to slow things way, way down. Can you relate? We bet you can! (Bonus: lots of geek-worthy charts and graphs!)
Today we’re sharing the story of our rental property, but we wouldn’t recommend that others follow our lead on this one. The decisions that went into it were about a lot more than the bottom line.
We feel lucky every day to wake up a place we love, but it’s not all perfect either. Mountain towns come with their own set of challenges, and today we’re sharing ours.
Today, a short list of things you can do right this very second to make a difference in the world.
We like to plan for pretty much every possible eventuality, and given that we’ve already put about as many contingency plans in place as we can, we’re still thinking about the question, What if things don’t go as planned? But now we’re on to the more metaphysical answers, not the financial ones, like: What are our early retirement deal-breakers?
It’s so easy to second-guess our past decisions, or to blame ourselves when things don’t turn out as we’d hoped. We’ve recently had a reminder in real life of why it’s so much better to let that stuff go and focus on the future instead.
Today we’re kicking off a new periodic series called The Retirement Lie. We recognize every day how lucky/fortunate/privileged/rare we are for being able to pursue early retirement, primarily because we also recognize that just being able to retire at all is becoming increasingly unlikely for a large majority of people. In this series, we’re delving into the forces that are keeping people from retiring confidently and securely, beginning with the way media talk about retirement savings.
We’re huge believers that there’s no one “right way” to do personal finance. Your own finance philosophy should follow out of what makes you truly happy. But we all have those quirky habits that don’t jive with our own philosophy, and today we’re fessing up to some of ours!
Though we weren’t personally all that impacted by the 2008 financial crisis, we learned a lot of lessons from it second-hand. As we get closer to early retirement, we’re reminded of the biggest one: We can’t always bank on being able to go back to work if we need to.
The massacre in Orlando reminds us that nothing is guaranteed, and while we can’t do everything, we can do those things that are most important. So today, a call to action. Whatever you’ve been putting off, stop putting it off. Do it now.
Before we left the big city we used to call home, we felt like we’d never be able to afford an actual house, which made us feel “poor” even though we had money saved and earned a good living. And now, we feel comparatively “rich” despite earning about the same. Today we discuss the impact of where we live *and* its culture on how relatively wealthy we feel.
I recently had a realization that I now think has been influencing the entire direction of my life without me realizing it. And it’s completely related to our plans to retire early. Turns out I have always resisted mixing creativity and money — here’s why.
Today is a “clip show” post of sorts, putting together for the first time all of our money beliefs and actions that have gotten us where we are today. We spend a lot of time looking forward, and projecting future health care needs, where our income could come from and of course all the feelings. Today we’re sharing the master list, the grand compendium of everything that’s helped us get this far in our journey to early retirement.
Right now we have some issues in our house that need fixing. We want to DIY them, but haven’t had the time, which puts us in an uncomfortable spot: stay frugal and somehow magically find the time, or use common sense and hire people to fix the problems. Today we explore those times when frugality may not be the answer.
Lately I’ve been trying this experiment where I treat weekends like mini early retirements, instead of like days to get a bunch of stuff done. I decided to take this one step farther to test the theory that we crave unstructured time in retirement. Come see what we learned!
Over the years, we’ve gotten better at travel than just about anything else. So today we’re going off the financial path for a sec to share our best life hacks for staying healthy while traveling. Questions welcome!
We’ve gotten a lot of money advice in our adult lives, and quite a lot of it seemed totally convincing… until we examined the philosophical question underlying that advice. How we learned to tell whether that reasonable-sounding advice is actually good or not.
We all know that tomorrow is not a guarantee, but let’s be practical. We simply can’t do everything. But sometimes we let that fact be the source of extra excuses — excuses not to focus enough on fitness, or not to spend time with family. But that ends soon!
We value our health pretty much above everything. If we had a such thing as a “health portfolio,” it’s safe to say we’d value that above its financial counterpart. Something we are thinking a lot about is how we’ll ensure that we always have access to good quality medical care at every stage of our lives. Here’s the rundown of options we’re currently considering as the landscape keeps shifting.
One of the funny things that happens when you’re open about FIRE plans is you get some questions that might seem ridiculous on their face, especially from people who haven’t yet had their minds blown by how achievable some form of early retirement is for plenty of folks, or who have never allowed themselves to dream about a life without the necessity of work. Rather than dismiss those questions out of hand, let’s actually dig into them.
We all tend to talk about saving money and reducing needs in ways that make us focus on the aspiration to be income-poor. But there are some important times when we should instead think like a rich person, since any aspiring FIer eventually becomes one!
We constantly come across new tips on how to get to “optimal frugality,” and while we think it’s great to continually try to optimize your spending, something that we now know to be true is that there’s never a point of ultimate optimization, a point when we have everything figured out perfectly. Rather, it’s an ongoing process of dropping habits and adding new ones. Here are some we’re happy we’ve dropped.
For a long time, we were big fans of dollar cost averaging, the notion that you hedge against market losses by not buying a whole bunch of shares at one time, but rather in smaller increments over time. There’s only one problem: Mathematically, it turns out dollar cost averaging is not that great a strategy after all.
Do you think there is a meaningful difference between the terms financial independence and early retirement? Let’s dive into this distinction without a difference, and what it means for the personal finance community.
When you’re saving like crazy for early retirement, any money not going into the savings pool can feel like a setback. But there’s more to life than just future goals, and those goals should never trump your values or your joy in the present.
A lot of what we talk about here is specific to people on the early retirement path, but today’s topic is something every single one of us should have as an important part of our financial plan: an emergency fund. We think of our emergency fund not as a one-and-done kinda thing, but as something that has evolved upward and downward over time. And now, as we’re approaching early retirement, we’re once again rethinking how much we need to have saved in our e-fund when we hit our magical date.
We’ve noticed something surprising. We’re super happy to talk in detail about finances and our retirement plans with strangers… but we don’t do the same thing with people we know in real life. Why is it so much easier to spread the word about FIRE with strangers?
I have a super visceral memory related to taxes that I still carry around with me. My parents divorced when I was in high school. The divorce itself was fine, but what was not fine was watching them get audited post-divorce for a year in which they had been married. It was the worst I ever saw of my parents, but it was also an important lesson in dealing with accountants and the IRS.
We are often most afraid of what we don’t understand. Whether it’s fearing flying because we don’t really know how it works, or fearing investing because the markets feel like a mystery to us, the solution is simple: Learn all you can.
We really aren’t frugal by any reasonable definition of the word. We never consider forgoing things we need. But I decided to look at our lives and see if there was any area in which we truly are frugal, and ask what that means for us. And there is one example: the thermostat. Here’s what keeping our house cold has taught us.
A tension we notice a lot in PF blogland is the question of whether to prepay the mortgage, or sink as much money as possible into market funds, and it’s a question we struggle with, too. In some imaginary world in which we could see into the future and see how the markets will perform, it would be an easy decision to make. Let’s dig into how we answer this question in reality.
in honor of valentine’s day, we got to talking about how we’ve grown as a couple financially. neither of us started out as a financial role model. instead, we let ourselves figure out the money stuff together as we went along.
tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of our first ever post here, and as the tradition goes, we’re going to reflect a little about our first year of blogging here at our next life, as well as take a big look forward… and share some totally goofy facts about ourselves. but most of all, we want your feedback! we’d love to hear from you about how we can keep improving in year #2. so please chime in in the comments!
while it’s easy to paint a pretty picture here in blogland, the truth is that, despite all that counseling, and reading that book and others, and even despite being in complete and total lockstep with regard to our early retirement and life goals, we aren’t always on the same page about every aspect of our finances. we think it’s important to acknowledge that. here’s how we’re dealing with our current disagreement.
we’re here today with a post we’ve been hinting at for a while: the full rundown on why we decided to go against conventional wisdom (and the well-grounded advice of many of you!) to make a personal loan to a family member. we wanted to make sure we had everything squared away before sharing the details, but now that time has come.
we think it’s easy to feel a bit hopeless in the face of financial hurdles if you’re not a person for whom financial virtues comes easily. if you’re not a natural saver, you’re not doomed to a life of financial misery. but, you have to know what your weaknesses are, and develop a system to work around them. here’s how we’ve built a system that doesn’t rely on willpower at all.
today we’re telling the story of the city condo we once owned, and which we’ve struggled to define as a “good” investment or a “bad” one. it’s a reminder that it’s not always easy to tell good decisions from bad decisions — or good investments from bad investments — but rather it’s about what those decisions do to your trajectory, and what other decisions they influence.
today’s post is a short one to share three little tidbits: 1. we are up with an fi interview on even steven money. 2. we have a slightly epic money fail to share. 3. an update on my bonus.
we’ve been thinking about entitlement, and the ways in which being entitled is actually good when planning for early retirement, and the ways in which it can be detrimental. please help us add to the list!
this week and next are scary weeks for us. these are the weeks when we’ll find out if we’ll be doing a happy dance that we hit our year-end goals, or making sad puppy faces at each other for the next few weeks because we missed the mark. yep, it’s bonus time.
one of the misconceptions we used to have about frugality was that frugal people were cheap at all costs. it’s easy to view frugality as all or nothing, or to see frugality as trumping other values. but it doesn’t have to. a breakthrough idea for us was reframing how we see frugality in terms of the business term triple bottom line.
we are huge believers that life is so much better and we’re so much happier when we approach things with a spirit of gratitude. but telling people how much we love and appreciate them is not something that most of us do enough, us included. but what better day than thanksgiving to break out of that pattern and let people know how much they’ve influenced our lives, even in little ways.
we talk a lot here about redefining ourselves in early retirement, especially making sure that we consider before we actually leave our jobs how we’ll obtain self worth and fulfillment post-career. but we recently realized that redefining isn’t really the right word to use at all. in thinking about the life that we truly want to live, and how we will thrive within that, there’s truly no re. the right word is simply “define.”
we’ve both come across a seemingly frequent but also puzzling (to us) phenomenon while perusing new blogs. when aspiring early retirees are telling people in their lives about their plans to retire early, they’re getting negative responses. one of which has us utterly befuddled: the assertion that the accumulation of assets required to retire early constitutes pretty much the worst quality we can imagine: greed. here’s our response, in manifesto form.
so many of us have had the experience, before we got smart about our finances, of not knowing where our money went. as i was reading another blogger’s post about that last week, i had the thought: “where did the day go?” where did the money go? where did the time go? these are not such different questions. here’s how we’re changing our mindset around time, to see it as our most precious asset.
we are as guilty as anyone of upsizing our spending at various times, mainly on restaurants and travel, but are thankful that several key factors have kept us from permanently inflating our lifestyle, namely our anchors, named for the anchoring effect or anchoring bias in psychology.
last week on an early morning flight, i flew over a line of cars on a major commuting artery, already in bumper-to-bumper traffic before the sun was up. and i wondered: how many of those people, as kids, dreamed that, one day, after slaving away at school for more than a decade, going to college and doing all the right internships, their reward would be this: soul-crushing traffic? that they’d rise before the sun for the privilege? that this would be their destiny?
we’ve mentioned many times that we live in a small town, and very deliberately moved here as a part of our early retirement plans. while we for sure could have still saved for retirement in the expensive city we came from, it would have taken longer, and we wouldn’t have had the lifestyle we wanted. and we’re happy living in our small mountain town, though it’s not all sunshine and roses. here’s our breakdown of the pros and cons.
for early retirees, if our marriages don’t work out, there’s a high likelihood that our early retirements will fail as well. that’s why we should invest as much in our marriages as we do in our index funds or our dividend stock accounts — maybe more. we should see our marriages as our most important investments, and nurture them accordingly.
we have a clear vision for the life we want to lead when we retire, and that means living in the mountains and having a permanent home base, which don’t come cheap. we’re okay with those expenses, but have given up lots of other things to make our early retirement dreams a reality.
one of the things that’s different about us, compared to lots of bloggers in the pf community, is that we are not frugal by nature. at some point, we realized that all of that spending, even if it wasn’t on stuff, was still locking us into needing our jobs, and needing them for a long, long time. and since we value time more than anything, and were in a position to make early retirement a reality, we knew we’d regret not changing our ways. but it hasn’t always been easy. here’s how we lived to tell the tale.
Gifts are on our minds because we just celebrated a birthday. Not spending money on gifts is something aspiring early retirees are big fans of, but right-sizing pseudo-minimalists also aren’t into acquiring more stuff. Here’s how we cope come gift time.
it’s easy to get frustrated, wishing we’d figured out our early retirement plan at a younger age. but what would that get us? it sure wouldn’t make us retirees at this moment! we’d much rather go with the “better late than never” way of thinking, and be grateful that we found this path at all.
just as we did for u.s. independence day, we want to take a moment to reflect on what the labor day holiday means, especially for those of us planning to leave the labor market as soon as we can!
today we’re sharing our blogging philosophy, and lots of lessons we’ve learned along the way. come tell us what you think we could do to grow!
sometimes, life forces us to sit up and pay attention. we recently had one of those experiences in a big way, on what would have seemed to be an ordinary flight for work.
if you’re reading this blog, it’s pretty likely that the word “frugality” is a part of your vocabulary. maybe you don’t use it much in real life (like us), but it’s probably something you think about and read about at least a little bit. none of us can […]
we have always loved doing things ourselves. what’s funny in retrospect is how little the money piece has mattered to us in questions of diy, at least with the small stuff. but of course that was then. and this is our running-like-hell-toward-early-retirement now. money matters. especially the saving of it. so now when we diy things, it’s just as much about saving money as it is about the joy of making something.
we never hide that we are not frugal by nature, we’re not budgeters, and we’ve really only succeeded at retirement saving by employing a pay ourselves first approach that is essentially tricking ourselves into thinking we have far less to spend than we actually do. that is all well and good for now, but things will definitely have to change once we quit our jobs at the end of 2017.
this is the best kind of chain letter. we answer some questions posed by those who tapped us, to share more personal info on ourselves, and then we pass it on and pose some new questions. fun!
last week we wrote about what we’ll lose when we stop working, which in our case includes a lot of perks. and today we’re sharing the flipside of that. what we most certainly will never ever ever miss about our careers.
this was our sliding doors weekend. you know the concept: you rush into a train station, and just barely catch the train. but then in an alternate reality or parallel universe, you rush for the same train, but the doors close before you can hop on. that triggers a sequence of events that leads you to a completely different future.
the movement to live simply is all around us. minimalism. tiny houses. the push to reject consumerism. the urban homesteading movement. slow food. we’re all in on simple living, but that doesn’t mean we’re minimalists.
another weekend gone, another week begun. we’re both the type of people who were never eager to grow up, who always wished time would slow down. one of us remembers turning eleven, and saying aloud to the assembled celebrants, “okay, i’m good now. i don’t need to get […]
lots of being healthy is absolutely free: getting outside to exercise in the fresh air, choosing not to smoke, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding toxic people. and we do all of that stuff. but we also spend out on our health in some big ways, and plan to do even more when we’re retired. some of these expenditures may not seem health-related, but we see them that way, and that makes them worth it to us.
despite not following a budget, we have still learned how to trick ourselves into saving a ton and staying on track with our ambitious financial goals without much struggle, and today we’re sharing how we do that. our strategy: paying ourselves first.
we like the thought of doing something different, and bucking tradition. it makes us feel like we’ve figured out some secret. but we’re still down with tradition in some pretty big ways.
this independence day, we’re sending some gratitude out to all those in the history of this great nation who’ve made it possible for us to pursue our financial independence.
that impulse buy was a reminder that, even if we’re living way below our means, we still have to improve our habits if we’re going to be able to live within our early retirement allocations in a very short two and a half years’ time.
once we started planning in earnest for early retirement, we quickly realized: financial calculators all take a one-size-fits all approach. but what if your finances don’t fit neatly into this one-size-fits-all box?
the whole idea of early retirement of course feels like a risky proposition. but here’s the thing, to misquote the princess bride: life is risk. anyone who says differently is selling something.
we’ve realized in recent years that the world is divided into people who think of themselves as campers, and those who don’t. and the latter group may find the very concept of camping intimidating for a whole host of reasons. we’re here to tell you non-campers that it’s much easier than you think, it’s not as dirty as you might imagine, there are ways to make it plenty comfortable, and you can really take camping to any level you want, starting simple and working up to more advanced forms.
for us, trying to follow a line-by-line budget feels both overly restrictive, and too much like a diet in which you’re tracking calories. it’s not sustainable. following a budget makes us constantly want to cheat, or wonder when the diet is over. but we’re doing just fine without a budget!
the word “badass” gets thrown around a lot in personal finance/financial independence circles. that’s not the full story. all of us who are working toward or have achieved financial independence have one big thing in common. we’re lucky.
when we travel now, we do just about everything we can to keep expenses low, so that it doesn’t set us back in our early retirement savings, and so that we don’t get used to “travel inflation” that would make it hard to adjust once we’re on our early retirement budget. here’s how we travel without setting ourselves back financially.
we frequently see articles about great places to retire based on cost of living, and we think to ourselves, “wow, if we sold our house and moved to one of those places, we could retire now.” but we decide again and again to stay put.
we like to remind ourselves that early retirement is a marathon, not a sprint, and the worst thing we could do is burn ourselves out early in the process by being too strict or restrictive. the key is knowing yourself, and what you need to be successful and stick with something.
we’ve noticed something: the higher up people get in their careers, they more they seem to embrace making themselves helpless. seeing that has helped cement our view that we need to act differently in our own lives.
everything in our house that needs fixing or replacing means fewer dollars into our retirement savings and is, in other words, a direct assault on our escape plan, our freedom. but now, we’re trying to think of this as a lesson in impermanence.
why doesn’t work travel feel “real”? and, more importantly, how can we make it feel more like travel travel? stand back. we’re about to spew some advice.