Last week, my Personal Capital app told me I had over a 100K in net worth. This week, Personal Capital told me I’m walking around with much less. I was already hyper aware of the status change, but having a software app show me my new truth in pretty colors made it real (and then I ate chips and dip for breakfast and then I stepped on the scale at work and dammit, I’ve gained three pounds).
What happened? How did I manage to go backwards? grumble. bullshit. life. unchecked spending. addiction. ego. alcoholism. conscious uncoupling for one person. unconscious uncoupling for the other. For the sake of self-preservation and growth, 14 months ago, I took “disruption” to a whole new level.
A couple of weeks ago, my ex bought me out of our property. I got one-half of the equity. The property buyout is only one of the next steps towards my version of financial independence. Eh, retiring early. That’s up for debate.
My biggest step or leap towards FI was the marriage walk out. Facing an uncertain financial future and all the other things that go along with being single is paralyzing. Throw in gender and ageism and talk about comatose. I weighed the costs and benefits over and over and the cost of not leaving was far greater in the long term than the cost of leaving. Far greater.
I left the household and managed to double my housing costs by renting an apartment. Leaving meant I would have to find a way to live on one-half of the income and twice the monthly housing cost. I found a way. Necessity is the mother of invention. No doubt. Enter a level of frugality that I didn’t know existed.
10 Months into my FI Journey. How is it going? Where am I on the FI plot line?
Not being the one that acts too rashly and after a few months of plundering the Mr. Money Mustache blog, the associated forum and listening to key Choose FI podcasts, I went into action to disrupt my life some more. What fun? I looked at Dave Ramsey and although I admire that he helps a lot of people go debt free; there are some things about his delivery and abhorrence of credit cards that doesn’t sit well, so I swiped left on him.
The Goal ~ End Game
What feels like endless work 24/7 over the past many months to plan and pave for ~
- a non-homeless
- financially independent retired existence
- in eight years
I’m tired from all this work. At long last, I feel I’m at a turning point. I’m at the wave’s crest and at a place where I think I can put things on cruise for a little bit while I’m in the trough.
Listed below are the FI steps as I took them chronologically. I was already intuitively doing a few of the steps before I knew about FI/RE.
The Objectives – The Tools
The Side Hustle ✔
Or second or third job. Pfft. I’ve had a side hustle since before it was called side hustle. My current side hustle is cleaning a beach house during tourist season on the North Carolina coast. It’s a good gig. I would recommend it if you live in a seasonal beach area.
Buy Used Cars ✔
I haven’t had a new car since the 90’s and I haven’t had a car loan since 2011. My worth and value isn’t tied into a shiny, new car. Yeah, no. And no thanks on a car loan. I’ll be driving my Toyota Avalon until repairs begin popping up too often. I will most likely buy a new used car more sooner than later.
College Hacking ✔
I bestowed my daughter with the Florida Prepaid College plan upon birth and paid into it every month for 16 yrs. She will not start her adult life with a negative net worth. She has one more year of undergrad to go and I believe there will be an excess in her pre-paid account upon graduation. Suweet. College hacking win! She is my mini-mustachian. She doesn’t have a car. She saves every penny. She makes me smile. She has bonds and a 529 tax-advantaged vehicle and she is only 20. And a free ride for graduate school. 🙂
Cut the Cable Cord ✔
We quit cable in 2012, bought an antenna and a ROKU. All our friends and family were astonished.
Sever any Relationships that Fail to Support a Healthy Financial Future ✔
Go Minimal/Live Simply ✔
This was my starting point. I moved into a new apartment with my dog, a chair, two beds, my clothes, art pieces, travel treasures, minimal kitchen supplies and a lamp. It’s a year later and I’ve added a dining room table from facebook marketplace, a couch my sister gave me and a bike.
Lower Your Grocery Bill ✔
I can see where lowering a grocery bill can be a challenge. If was a foodie or a chef or a fancy eater, then this pillar of FI would prove difficult. Fortunately, I’m not a chef, nor am I a foodie or a fancy eater, so Aldi and I get along fine. I don’t have an anxious feeling of food scarcity. I’m OK If there is only a sip of milk and a hot dog in the refrigerator. My grocery bill hovers at around $200.00-$250.00 a month.
Buy Only the Necessities ✔
Choose to buy what brings the most value to your life. I kept quality skin care products, hair salon visits and a gym membership. It’s been almost a year since I purchased a new dress, blouse or pants. I sent most of my wardrobe to ThredUp last November. I gave up my gym membership for four months and was miserable.
Once you forgo the spendiness, the thrill of the shop loses it impact and putting the money (you would’ve spent on something you don’t need) into the bank becomes the thrill. The sheer satisfaction and personal victory in this step is crazy good.
Cut the Cellular Cord ✔
I struggled here. I had Verizon for a very long time and was a professional data sucker. We were consistently going over our monthly data. I thought we had unlimited data? The monthly cost was a killer and so unnecessary. I paid off the iPhones and switched to Google Fi. I learned how to use (not use) data like the rest of the world and am averaging about $40.00 a month ($130.00 a month savings). I think Americans are the only ones that suck massive amounts of data. Everyone else uses wi-fi.
The saving began only after all the above were in full operation. I have a full time job with a medium income, so the side hustle is a must do. I live in a medium cost of living area. Coastal NC isn’t HCOL nor is it LCOL either.
There I was, starting with next to nothing. All my 401k money from previous jobs gone, obliterated. I also have a new job and the opportunity for before tax savings isn’t an option for a year, so I opened up a traditional IRA, a brokerage account with Vanguard and a high yield savings account with Ally. I think I started out with like $50.00 per account. I didn’t get myself into any of the Vanguard funds, but I had to start somewhere, right? Just start.
For forever, I’ve had a portfolio manager and I noticed the fees and thought they were alarmingly high, but I never questioned because I didn’t know there were options. Learning about Vanguard and Fidelity changed that.
Right now, I am saving about 30% of my net monthly income. Next month, I will be saving 37%. I’ve dialed everything down as much as I can, I think. I guess I could bike to work, but I’m not male or 25 or live in a bike friendly place.
Emergency Savings Fund ✔
I’ve become a huge believer in an emergency savings fund. Work on building up 6 months of expenses. The feeling of security and comfort that comes with an emergency fund is priceless. Gone is the fear that your car will break down and you can’t get it fixed or you have to bring your pet to the vet and don’t have the funds to pay. Or oppositely, gone is the dread of an emergency that you have to pay for with a credit card knowing full well it will lead to a carried balance with stupid interest tagged onto it.
Low Cost Index Fund Investing ✔
VTSAX and VTIAX for now. I found out you can scan checks directly into your account in Vanguard’s mobile app. My side hustle money goes directly to brokerage.
Low Cost Housing ✔
In May, the house hacking begins. I resisted the idea of a roommate for months and will be sharing this cost soon. I felt like I was going backwards to college life after living a semi-luxe life and then I remembered that worrying about people’s opinions of my choices will not pay my bills or pad my savings account.
Accountability Partner ✔
Find one. They help keep you in check and are good to bounce ideas off of. They will lead you back onboard if you stray. Also, become a part of the FI community. It’s a rich resource of invaluable support and information from those that have gone before.
I’m still learning what this means. I need a course in tax optimization. Something about capital gain and losses and leveraging that somehow and earning less income and raking in investment income. Those are the key words that sunk in for now. I think this step is probably the most important in the long term. This may make or break you.
My sticky wicket. Paying for travel wounds my soul. I am a bona fide travel hacker and for the last 5 years I’ve had to pay to go on vacation. Having excellent credit is the cornerstone of credit card churning and travel reward utilization. I’m working on it and have brought up my score 124 points since the credit repair work started in November.
I made a promise to myself that I will not go on a trip until I can hack my way there (with the exception of a trip to visit my kid this summer). This is a hard step. Repairing shit boxed credit is slow and arduous and complicated. I also want to go somewhere really bad. Grrr. But instead, I have to build up the amount of credit lines I have and lower my credit utilization score. The goal is to increase my score to 760. Get the Chase Sapphire. Start to travel hack again.
What’s Her Point?
I still have a ways to go to full financial independence. I’ve run the numbers and I won’t be able to actually fully retire early. In a few years, I WILL be able to bump down to part time and live comfortably and I definitely would NOT be able to start working part time soon if I hadn’t instituted this life change.
What I Do Know Is This…
- I still have a lot to learn.
- If I want to, I now have the financial freedom to go wherever I want, whenever I want.
- I don’t have mountains of debt holding me prisoner in one place.
- I worked damn hard to get in this position.
- FI is possible as a single person.
- I’m debt free with a surplus and that is an AWESOME place to be in life
“Change, shit. I guess change is good for any of us.” – Tupac Shakur