After taking a little time off from the blog to promote Work Optional, I’m back with a more detailed post on one of our biggest learnings thus far in early retirement: that you might spend more when you’re not working than you think you will. Let’s talk about why that is and what you should do about it.
Here’s something we never considered in all the years of planning to leave our careers and saving for financial independence: Early retirement is a form of time travel. And not just to one point in time, but to many! Sounds wacky, right? But it’s true. Here’s how.
As total newbs to this whole early retirement thing, though admittedly newbs who’ve thought about this stuff a ton, we find ourselves now wrestling with a very practical question: Should we spend what we budgeted for this year, or aim to spend less, maybe a lot less? There are good reasons for either approach, so let’s talk about what those are.
In just two short months, we’ll be retired and living on a constrained income for the first time in ages. But we’re not worried, because we have a whole bunch of ways to live beyond that budget, especially once we have time to invest in research and deal-finding. (Plus, we can live a pretty sweet life for not a lot of money, so it doesn’t take much budget stretching to feel like we’re living a life of luxury.) Check out our plan for living beyond our budget — and then let us know what we missed!
Our early retirement might be right around the corner, but we still have a lot to do before the year is up to make sure that we’re truly ready to make the big leap. Then after we pull the plug, we have a different set of things to do. Here are our big lists of things to do before we retire early, and right after, as well as things we’ve already checked off the list this year. Are we missing anything? Let us know!
We’ve talked a little bit about upping our savings game, but we’ve only talked about it in general terms. Today, we’re going to get specific about how exactly we’re raising the bar, and especially what that looks like for non-budgeters like us.
There’s an issue that we’ve struggled to get our heads around, which we’ll call our optimal retirement income: a level at which we get a big Obamacare/ACA subsidy on our health insurance, we pay low taxes and we enjoy a comfortable standard of living. But calculating that number is not as straightforward as it seems. Enter the income vs. cashflow discrepancy!
While we’re making fast progress toward FIRE, it’s not because we are especially gifted in the discipline department. We still slip up and make occasional impulse purchases, even now, multiple years into our FIRE journey. But, we’ve found a way to fake discipline, through the motivating power of streaks.
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.
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 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.
it’s the most math ever! today we’re talking about how we calculated what we need to save for early retirement, since the 4 percent rule doesn’t exactly work as planned for all early retirees.
we’ve mentioned several times over the past few months that we’ve been working on a monster post on health care, obamacare/aca coverage and how the subsidy limits are affecting our retirement budget projections. but we’ve realized that the more interesting topic is the moral catch-22 of the affordable care act subsidies.
early retirement is a bfd. and it’s not for everyone. it’s a very different path from the one most people follow for a reason, and it’s not one we should go down without having our eyes wide open. early retirement won’t magically fix everything we wish was different about us or our lives, and it comes with its own set of pitfalls and stresses. to help sort this out, we’ve put together a list: the ten questions you should be able to answer before you retire early.
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.
today we’re sharing the clearest glimpse yet into where we are on our journey toward early retirement in money terms, along with a detailed breakdown of how we plan to fund both our early retirement and our full retirement. we’re talking percentages instead of absolute numbers, but are going into a lot more detail than we ever have before. that’s right: it’s all the charts.
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.
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.
we’ve been tracking our numbers for years now, and have always set annual goals for ourselves in terms of savings and mortgage paydown. but crazy as it may sound for us to say this, we’ve never defined those goals in terms of strictly what we would contribute. we’ve only defined our goals in terms of total balance. but with only goals about total balances, we now feel like we’re failing in the current market landscape, when the truth is that we’re saving more than ever. here’s how we’re adjusting our goals.
one of our earliest posts on this blog was about how we don’t share our numbers. it’s mostly because, one day not too far off in the distance, we will drop this whole anonymous charade, and we don’t want all the details of our finances attached to our names and faces. in our culture, money comes with meaning and prejudgments. having x amount means you’re supposed to behave a certain way, dress a certain way, spend a certain way. we don’t want those expectations to precede us.
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.
looking at things big picture, we’re astonished at how far we’ve come in a short time, aided in large part by jobs that overpay us. since we bought the house four years ago, our net worth has tripled, and the year-over-year gains are pretty big, owing to us getting serious about saving and about paying off the house quickly, as well as growth in the markets since 2009.
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.
don’t let any of our more philosophical posts fool you — we’re still total nerds, and we love tracking every possible aspect of our early retirement plan as much as the next guy. but, we don’t share our numbers here, which has sometimes made it tough to explain some of our more unique circumstances, like our need for a two-part retirement.
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.
Today: our reasons for being optimistic about our vision for early retirement, and for making things work in spite of the inherent risks.
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!