We’re well into June now, and the end of school is almost here. Our school year ends Wednesday, and then we’ll be spending entire days packing and getting ready for our big move to North Carolina. The weather in New Hampshire has been beautiful–cool mornings and warm days, with lots of sunshine. This time of year always has the power to hypnotize you with its beauty and leave you wondering why you were ever complaining about the weather.
On the home front, I’ve been finishing school work, packing, and doing graduate work (I have three courses more in my master’s program and I’m taking one in June and July). I’m so frayed that I’ve let all the non-important stuff go (you know, like dishes and laundry). Our house looks like we hosted a college frat party, minus all the empty bottles. We have all these random items in our corner, waiting for a yard sale, and there’s a dresser standing on its head in our entry, waiting for its Facebook buyer to come pick it up.
If you’re just joining, our family of four is on a three-year journey to double our net worth and become location independent. Each month, I record our progress on our net worth and our spending. Last year, we increased our net worth by 32% over the year before. This year, we’re trying to increase it by more than 65% from where we started in December 2016. Given the wild ride the market’s likely to take us on this year, I’m not sure it’s doable. But we’re going to try.
May showed us more steady growth. Much of our financial progress was on autopilot last month, as we found a buyer for our house and looked for places to live in our new town. We know that our net worth will take a big dip when we sell the house, so I’m enjoying these numbers while we can.
I recently ran across a USA Today article called “How Not to Run Out of Money in Retirement.” In it, the author shares the details of a new retirement plan, the brainchild of an actuary who’s been studying retirement for three decades.
It’s called the “Spend Safely in Retirement” plan, and the premise is simply that you wait until age 70 to claim Social Security and use the IRS’s required minimum distribution table to determine how much to take from savings each year. The Stanford Center on Longevity, working with the Society of Actuaries, published a study of hundreds of ways to create income in retirement, and this plan, one of the simplest, ended up being the most sound (surprise, simple things work well. Who knew?). Continue reading “Will This Plan Give You More Money in Retirement?”
Mr. ThreeYear and I have made plenty of mistakes during our financial journey, but one thing we did right was to start investing early. That boon of investing money early has given us a much higher net worth than we would have otherwise had.
The Early Years
I began to learn about investing in college. Unfortunately, I hadn’t yet learned about IRAs and didn’t save any of my job earnings. But, I did begin to learn about investing in individual stocks. This was around the time that Scottrade was founded, and my dad began to make individual stock investments. I did a very small amount of research and began to invest some of the money I had in individual stocks, which were mainly blue chips, or well-established companies that paid a higher dividend each year, like Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, and energy companies. I began my portfolio with about $4000 and slowly added to it during college. I did minimal trading and practiced the buy and hold strategy. Continue reading “The Boon of Investing Early”
A friend asked the other day if I recommended putting money into a certificate of deposit. We talked a bit about her goals and it struck me that with money, as in life, one should have a very clear idea of the purpose of your dollars before you make decisions about where to park them.
Mr. ThreeYear and I follow a simple financial plan with our money. It hasn’t been easy to simplify our savings and investments; we’ve had to eschew certain new accounts, consolidate investments, and roll over old 401Ks. The simpler things are, though, the less likely it is that I mess something up. The less likely I forget to make a contribution or pay a credit card bill. Money can be really complicated so in our experience, keeping things simple is clearer and easier.
We believe that our money goals should be equally simple, but unfortunately, sometimes they’re not. Sometimes we’re trying to accomplish multiple money goals at once and things get muddled.
It’s highly effective, in my opinion, to periodically take a step back and think about what it is you’re trying to do with your various dollars. What is the purpose of a particular pile of money? Then you can make better choices about where to put it.
It’s raining right now, which is a small hint that Spring is making its way, slowly, to New England. The start of April signifies that we’ve entered the fourth month of the year and our experiment continues.
If you’re just joining, our family of four is on a three-year journey to double our net worth and become location independent. Each month, I record our progress on our net worth and our spending (gulp!). Last year, we increased our net worth by 32% over the year before! This year, we’re trying to increase it by more than 65% from where we started in December 2016. Given the wild ride the market’s likely to take us on this year, I’m not sure it’s doable. But we’re going to try.
March is always my least-favorite month of the year. The rest of the country is enjoying the first signs of Spring, and we’re still covered under snow. This year, March lived up to the adage, and came in like a lion, with storm after storm that buffeted us with snow and left the skies gray and damp. It went out like a lamb, with a few days at the tail end full of blue skies and (slightly warmer) temps. But April has brought wind storms, more cold weather, and a reminder that here in New England, there is no such thing as Spring.
Our family has been planning to become location independent and move for a while, now. Our dream is to double our net worth by the time I’m 40, and find jobs that will allow us to travel more, split our time between two continents, or live in a foreign country for a few years. Because… we only have one life, right? And the kids will be little for like ten more seconds and then they’ll be grown… but making the decision to sell our house? It’s not easy.
One of the reasons we travel so much is to remind ourselves that there is another way to live than the way we currently do. We are a family of habit, and it’s easy to become so immersed in the routine of our daily lives that we never question our decisions or habits.
But one question that Mr. ThreeYear and I have had nagging at the back of our minds for a while now is… should we sell our house and find a smaller place to rent?As I wrote about in The Best Way to Avoid Lifestyle Creep, keeping your housing costs low is key to financial independence. And we’ve had the unsettling suspicion that our house is a little too big for us for awhile.
After we got back from Chile last week, that suspicion was confirmed. We spent most of our time in Santiago staying in a less-than-600-square-foot (52 sq. meter) apartment. It was small, and with three bedrooms and two bathrooms, was extremely space efficient. Yes, it was a little tight sometimes, and cooking was a bit difficult. But there were definite benefits, as well. One benefit was the shared space. We were able to go downstairs and use the common areas for the Junior ThreeYears to ride their scooter, or swim in the pool. There were tons of other kids playing, too, and while there wasn’t a lot of interaction, because of the language barrier, that would definitely change if the kids had spoken the same language.
While we were in the apartment itself, we didn’t get in each other’s way, surprisingly. The boys each had their own bedrooms, and they’d take their few toys we had packed and go play or read in their rooms. We did homework each morning on the small round breakfast table, then would move the school books to another part of the apartment when it was time for lunch. I even lost Junior ThreeYear in that tiny space at one point! (He was on the balcony, reading, and I didn’t see him because of the curtains).
The thing that was so nice about the small space was that we were together, we were cozy, and we were able to enjoy each other’s presence. Our current house is so big that we can’t see or hear each other when we’re in our rooms, and it can feel lonely. Most of our time is spent in the common area, our dining and living rooms, which are basically one big space (and are larger than the entire apartment in Chile, by the way).
Little ThreeYear has grabbed my hand at several points since we’ve been back and asked me to come with him to some remote part of the house, “because I’m scared to go to the basement alone, Mama.” Our basement, by the way, is not a dark, bare-boned forgotten space in the bottom of the house. It is finished, carpeted, and filled with Little ThreeYear’s toys, as well as a comfy couch and chairs. But after all that togetherness in Chile, Little ThreeYear feels lonely in the vast swath of basement without another person.
But does it make sense to sell our beautiful home, which we bought in a short sale at a very good price, with its spacious backyard, forest hiding-spots, and ample space for visitors, to move to a condo with no garage (a huge negative during New Hampshire winters), much less space, and community fees? Continue reading “To Sell or Not to Sell?”
At the beginning of 2017, our family of four started a three-year journey to double our net worth and become location independent. Doubling our net worth in just three years is our family’s big, hairy, audacious goal, and becoming location independent is a work in progress. We’ve still got to figure out where to move, what jobs we’ll have, how our kids will go to school, and lots of other decisions. We have many ideas that we’re working on, but we don’t have one clear decision made about what we’ll do at the end of 2019. But big, life-changing goals are like that sometimes. We muddle through and take each step on faith, hoping that we’ll eventually see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
Personal finance can be overwhelming. There are so many steps, dos and don’ts, behaviors to adopt, what have you. Once in a while it would be nice to have a fail-safe, simple solution to follow to make sure you have enough for retirement.