FIRE Progress Report – September 2018

I’ll be honest, I’m not consistent about posting on a regular basis, but I’m going to try to post a monthly report about our progress towards FIRE. It will be short and to the point without a lot of fluff. I’ll also give a tad bit of an update on the different things we’ve got going on and changes that we’ve made along the journey.

We’ve got to have a starting point. I’m a numbers guy, so let’s dive right in.

The Numbers

22.0113%

This is our invested assets/target number. Our invested assets span across a variety of investment vehicles such as 401k, HSA, IRA, Roth IRA, and standard taxable mutual funds.

119

The number of months until my 45th birthday and our finish date.

113.16

The number of expected months until we reach our target number based on our current expected monthly contributions, assuming a 10% annual return.

Where We Saved This Month

401k – $2629 total (employee and employer)

HSA – $610

Next month we’ll start putting money into the Roth IRA again.

Mortgage done, what’s next? FIRE!

While it has felt like a long, slow journey to get the mortgage paid off, by most people’s standard, we’ve probably paid the mortgage off quickly. The actual total time was about 11 years and 4 months from beginning to end.

The question is…

What’s next?

First, FIRE stands for Financial Independence Retire Early. Some people focus on doing something that provides them an income where they have independence to do what they want when they want – Financial Independence. Others focus on not having to do anything at all if they don’t want to and their investments provide the necessary income – Retire Early.

I’m more focused on the Retire Early side of things, while using Financial Independence to fund splurges in lifestyle once we’ve hit our number. That’s why I’ve continued to grow the side business and will continue to do so to save more and have something to fund splurges in the future.

How you get to FIRE is essentially comprised of two basic principles.

  • Hack your spending to spend less money and develop a lifestyle you enjoy.
  • Save as much as you can (which also contributes to the first one because if you’re saving it you can’t spend it).

Once you’ve got enough money saved up to fund your lifestyle, you’ve achieved FIRE.

How long do I have?

The plan is to save consistently for the next 10 years until my 45th birthday, without making us feel like paupers. What that means is that we’re still planning on taking regular family vacations, but we won’t drive the latest cars or live in the size of house we technically could “afford”. (Our 2006 Prius almost has 230k miles on it and is running great.)

I’m tracking our investment savings each month in a spreadsheet and running calculations that give me an indication of where we should be at the end of the 10 years. If you’re interested in a copy of it for your own use, please let me know.

While I’m not yet comfortable sharing our final number, I’ll try to share a progress report each month to inform you on our progress.  This will let you know how we’re tracking towards our final number.

Why do all of this?

The answer is easy – time. Of all the things in your life, time is the one thing you have a limited amount of. You can’t buy more of it or manufacture it. Money comes and go, but time is a finite resource. No matter how you invest it, your returns will rarely ever come back in the form of more time. By saving for FIRE, I’m buying more time to do what I want.

I do want to clear one thing up that might not be immediately obvious. We’re a normal family that are just like most of you reading us. Right now, my wife stays at home, and I make a good salary as a software engineer. We’ve got 2 kids in school and have an average house. We could buy a bigger house or drive newer cars, but we value buying time versus those things. If we can do it, you can do it.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Normally about this time of the month I post a mortgage update giving all the details of how much progress we’ve made, how much longer we’ve got, etc.

Since it’s my birthday month, I decided to take a slightly different approach. We recently celebrated my birthday, and as a gift to our entire family, we decided to pay off the house early!

We were able to take some money from savings, rearrange some things with my first paycheck of the month that we would normally budget, and come up with a enough to knock the rest of it out!

What’s next?

I’ve posted before about FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early). Remarkably enough, the initial plan was to go full speed ahead on saving and investing for 10 years from this birthday. I thought originally that we might start a couple of months behind, but as it turns out we’ll be starting right on time.

The plan is to switch from mortgage updates to FIRE updates. I’ll share progress as we go and the strategies that we use. The progress will likely be slow going to start and may be hampered at times by the stock market, but we’ll keep the plan in mind to not get discouraged.

We have a specific number in mind that we’d like to hit. That number doesn’t include the value of our house, car, or college savings accounts. It’s mainly composed of what we have in savings and investments. For obvious reasons, I don’t plan on sharing that final number at this time.

One common rule that I’ve seen to find your number is to take your annual spending and multiple it by 25 (up to 50). That gives you a pretty good starting point. Our final number is about 37.5 times our annual spending to give us some extra room.  Given what we have invested so far through our 15+ years of working, we’re about 20% of the way to our final number. That means we’ll save the other 80% in about two-thirds the time it took us to do the original 20%. Pretty crazy, but entirely possible.

Final notes

What do you do to celebrate your birthday? What crazy gift could you give to yourself this coming year to change you and your families future forever?

May 2018 – Mortgage Payoff Update

mortgage blackboard

At the end of May, our remaining payoff balance was at 12.78% of our original mortgage that we took out in 2007. That is a reduction of 1.57%.

How much longer until the mortgage payoff?

Once all of May’s payments were applied, we’ll have reduced our mortgage balance by about $2138 this month. That brings our balance to almost $17k. According to our schedule, we have 3 payments left. That means our mortgage will be paid off on September 1, 2018.

We’re getting really close to this series of posts being wrapped up. I’ve been searching for ways to potentially just wipe the mortgage out right away because the end is near. It’s possible, but more likely that this type of action will happen in July and not June.

Progress slowed down a bit in May because I transitioned to a new position. That means the gaps in paychecks occurred. However, June should be back on track and the side business is really picking up steam. All of this happening at once could potentially push the mortgage to be paid off by the end of July! More updates to come and you can rest assured there will be a post the day the mortgage is paid off.

Budget Series

May has been pretty busy, but I still plan on covering our “activities” budget next.

April 2018 – Mortgage Payoff Update

At the end of April, our remaining payoff balance is at 14.35% of our original mortgage that we took out in 2007. That is a reduction of 3.38%.

How much longer until the mortgage payoff?

Once all of April’s payments were applied, we’ll have reduced our mortgage balance by about $4590 this month. That brings our balance below $20k. According to our schedule, we have 4 payments left. That means our mortgage will be paid off on September 1, 2018.

The side business is starting to be a bit more consistent, which means regular extra income coming in each month for it that is helping to promote paying down the mortgage. This last month was a bit larger than usual, but I’m looking forward to other similar sized ones in the future. After the house is paid off the extra income will help to move forward other goals, such a early retirement.

Budget Series

The next category I’ll be covering is “activities”. This is different than entertainment in our budget.

Savings at the pump with the GasBuddy card

GasBuddy Logo

I’m always a sucker for new ways to save some extra money without much effort on my part. That’s why when I found out about the GasBuddy card, I figured I’d give it a try.

How it works

This card works similar to the Target REDCard debit card. Essentially you link the card to your checking account and they give you a discount by processing the transactions. Unlike the REDCard’s 5% discount, GasBuddy gives you $0.05 off per gallon automatically when you use it at the pump.

After signing up, you’ll receive your card in the mail, set up a driver ID (which is essentially a PIN). Then when you go the pump, you just swipe your card and enter your driver ID and pump away. You can ignore the price at the pump and skip the receipt. GasBuddy will email you your final receipt and it will pop up in the GasBuddy app if you have it installed on your phone.

They’ll then deduct the final amount out of your checking account a couple of days later.

It’s easy!

I love how easy it is. It does require carrying another card around, but it’s not difficult to use. It’s worked at every gas station I’ve tried it at so far.

I’ve used cash back credit cards, but honestly, those tend to over complicate things in the budget and just don’t seem worth the effort. If I could find a cash back debit card, then we’d have a winner.

They also track your lifetime savings and tell you how much you’ve saved.

Final note

It appears that GasBuddy is now offering points through Shop Your Way OR the discount per gallon. I’ll continue taking the discount since it’s an immediate savings versus piling up points to buy something that I don’t really need.

220k and counting

car dashboard

No, that’s not our current net worth. That’s how many miles we have on our 2006 Toyota Prius, and we have no plans on replacing it. We could replace it if we wanted to and go buy a newer vehicle with all the bells and whistles…

…but we won’t

When you start to look at a vehicle as a tool to get you from point A to point B, you realize that any tool will do. Any car will fit the bill and any newer car we might purchase will do pretty much the same thing as our Prius.

The joy from a newer car (or new anything) will wears off in time and you’re left with the realization that the money is gone, never to come back. We’re not going to magically get better gas mileage or lower cost of ownership by buying a newer car and the fun will wear off in about 6 months or so.

 

Benefits of driving our current car

You may be thinking, “new cars have these great features that make driving so much better!” But really, driving our existing car has a ton of great “features”.

  • We’re no longer losing much, if anything, in depreciation
  • When we get a dent or scratch, we don’t fret over it
  • Newer cars have issues too, but over the course of having ours, we’ve put in a relatively small amount into repairs
  • Car payments are a thing of the past
  • Money saved from not buying a newer car is worth a lot more later
    • $10,000 invested at 10% is worth over $16,000 after 5 years! That’s an extra $6000 we can make by not buying a newer car.

But what should you do?

I’m not sure what your car situation is. Maybe you’ve got car payments or have been without car payments for a long time. We made a decision several years ago that we were never going to have car payments ever again and so far we’ve stuck to that.

The best place to start is decide what you want your future to look like and then take the necessary steps that will move you in that direction. If you want to retire early or save more money, you should ask yourself if purchasing something moves you in that direction. “Stuff” will fade away, but relationships and special experiences that create memories can last a lifetime.

Final note

If you look above, I didn’t say “new” car very often, but instead used “newer”. That’s because we plan on only purchasing used cars in the future after they’ve lost a large portion of their value in depreciation. We also purchase vehicles know for reliability which ensures they’ll be problem free well into the future.

That being said, you don’t need to be like us. Someone needs to purchase the new cars that we will buy a couple of years later at a discount on the used car lot.

You budget how much for gifts?

gift

In this post, I’ll be discussing how much we budget for gifts each month.

Get to the point already!

We budget $100 for gifts each month. Over time, this amount started around $50 a month and has increased to $75 and now $100. We’ve kept it at $100 for quite a while now.

How do you stick to it?

Given what this category covers, we can generally stay under this amount pretty easily each. Sometimes we’ll have an amount that carries over and other times we might spend slightly over this amount.

What all does it cover?

As you would expect, this category covers gifts.

  • For birthday parties our daughters are invited to
  • For extended family members
  • Random acts of kindness or pick me ups for people
  • Cards and gift bags

It does not usually cover Christmas or birthday presents for the immediate family. We oftentimes use savings for that.

Checkup

How much do you spend on presents each month? What other categories would you like me to cover? Let me know in the comments below.

You can also see how much we spend on other budget categories here.

March 2018 – Mortgage Payoff Update

At the end of March, our remaining payoff balance is at 17.73% of our original mortgage that we took out in 2007. That’s a reduction of 2.19%.

How much longer until the mortgage payoff?

Once all of February’s payments are applied, we’ll have reduced our mortgage balance by about $2971 this month. That brings our balance to just above $24k. According to our schedule, we have 5 payments left. That means our mortgage will be paid off on September 1, 2018.

We didn’t have anything extra of significance to throw at the mortgage this month, just some small amounts here and there.

I’ve had some projects wrap up with my side business and have gotten paid for them. That’s how we’ve been able to cut off an extra payment. In order to reach the September 1 deadline, we were going to have to use some money from savings. From this point forward, anything extra we throw at it over what is planned, will reduce what we take out of savings to achieve the September 1 goal. Once we don’t need anything from our savings, then we’ll work towards cutting off an extra payment.

Budget Series

I’ll be publishing an update on this soon!

February 2018 – Mortgage Payoff Update

shack

At the end of February, our remaining payoff balance is at 19.92% of our original mortgage that we took out in 2007. That’s a reduction of 3.46%.

How much longer until the mortgage payoff?

Once all of February’s payments are applied, we’ll have reduced our mortgage balance by about $4713 this month. That brings our balance to just above $27k. According to our schedule, we have 7 payments left. That means our mortgage will be paid off on October 1, 2018.

We made significant progress this month thanks to a small tax refund and we kept our spending in check so we were able to put the full amount we plan on each month towards it.

We’ve had a project put on hold with my business, but nothing that can’t be made up with a new project or two. Once a project or two wraps up, we should be able to cut another payment off and be done by the beginning of September.

Budget Series

I haven’t forgotten about this, but the side business has kept me pretty busy. The next category I’ll be covering in the budget series is still going to be about gifts.