Happy May! How are things going for you? We finally have no snow on the ground as of yesterday, and that is not an exaggeration. Winter definitely held on as long as it’s ever held on this year, which is my eighth winter in New Hampshire. For the past seven winters, we’ve had all snow melted by April 23rd (even if we’ve gotten a freak snow storm in May afterwards) but this year, we had snow cover for a whole extra week (lucky us!).
We did get some beautiful 70-degree days at the tail end of this month, which made everything feel hopeful and Springy. Our crocuses have bloomed (all 2 of them) and our daffodils are pushing up, as well as our alliums and the dahlias. We spent this month doing a variety of activities, some of which I’ll be revealing down the road (hint hint!). It’s been a busy month. Over Spring Break, Mr. ThreeYear and I took a fun trip to Portland, Oregon, while my mom flew up from sunny South Carolina to watch the boys. She had horrible snowy, icy, weather, so we appreciate her sacrifice even more!
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.
Last month, even though we enjoyed more lackluster results from the stock market, we got a huge jump in net worth since Mr. ThreeYear’s annual stock gift was given out. Each December, his privately-owned company, which is 100% employee-owned, invites outside auditors to set the stock price. Given the wild surge the stock prices took in December, his company’s stock was given a much higher valuation than the year before. That meant all of the stock we currently hold in the company rose substantially, and we received more stock (valued at more money).
Have you ever dreamed of having the freedom to live wherever you’d like? Have you thought about moving to a warmer/cheaper/bigger/smaller town or city? Have you dreamed of being able to travel for longer than two weeks a year with your entire family?
Our family is pursuing a dream to become location independent, in order to be able to be closer to our families who live on two different continents, enjoy warmer weather than we currently do in New Hampshire, and travel for longer stretches of time.
Location independence is a term used to describe a lifestyle in which you’re not tied to one location. You are free to travel for long stretches of time, if you so desire. You’re not tied to a place because of your job. You don’t have work obligations that mean you need to report to an office each day. You may live in one city, but you’re free to choose that city. You’re able to practice geographical arbitrage, and live in a region of your country or the world that costs less.
It’s generally a term that’s used when people are still working, and haven’t yet reached financial independence, but because of the way they’ve structured their lives, they’re able to work from anywhere, or almost anywhere. Location independence for families is building a lifestyle where your entire family can come with you. Whether you’re a family of 2, 5, or 25, location independence can work for a family, but extra planning IS required. Continue reading “Your Complete Guide to Location Independence for Families”
Continuous improvement is an idea that comes from the business world. After World War II, Japanese manufacturers invited W. Edwards Deming, an American engineer, professor, and management consultant, to their country to help them improve their manufacturing and production processes.
Before the war, Japan was synonymous with cheap goods and shoddy craftsmanship. Deming taught leaders that improving the quality of their products would reduce expenses while increasing productivity and market share.
“It’s simple. You just take something, and then you do something to it. Then you do something else to it. And then something else. Keep this up and pretty soon you’ve got something.”
-Jasper Johns, Twentieth century American artist (who, incidentally, grew up near my hometown)
In 1982, Deming published a book, Out of the Crisis, outlining his philosophy. “Long-term commitment to new learning and new philosophy is required of any management that seeks transformation. The timid and the fainthearted, and the people that expect quick results, are doomed to disappointment.” Continue reading “On Continuous Improvement”
Mr. ThreeYear and I have, over the course of our ten years of paying attention to finances, amassed a pretty decent net worth. We have done it by prioritizing spending in the areas that we care about (like saving for the future) and cutting spending in other areas. Many times on the blog, I write about the things that we do spend money on, like travel, and I can’t help but get excited and implore you to adopt similar spending habits. However, the truth is, this is a mistake on my part, and I apologize for it. You should not necessarily spend your money on the things I spend my money on. Nor should you save your money for the reasons that I save mine.
Why? Because you and I have different values. I’m sure some of our values coincide or else you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog for very long, but it is almost definitely true that you and I value some different things. Your values are based on where you grew up, how you grew up, the challenges you faced, things that went well for you, and special circumstances you currently have in your life. You prioritize your spending based on those values.
If you have kids, no matter their ages, chances are you’ve thought about college expenses.
Unless you live outside of the US.
Why is college (or university) so expensive in this country? We’re all pretty familiar with the statistics at this point. College tuition costs in the US have increased by 498 percent between 1985 and 2011, which is at four times the rate of inflation.
And there’s little chance that costs will decrease any time soon, since there are so many government subsidies and low-interest loans thrown in to cushion the shock of those high costs.
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.
Life loves to mess up your best-laid plans, doesn’t it? At the ThreeYear house, we’ve been dealing with some curveballs that have been thrown our way lately. I can’t really go into details, because I don’t yet know how they’ll all shake out, but I can say that Mr. ThreeYear and I are currently feeling all the feelings.
How do you keep moving on, working towards your goals, putting one foot in front of the other, when things feel unsettled and unsure?
People have lots of good, well-intentioned advice like, “Just don’t think about it.” “Count your blessings.” “A year from now this will all be a distant memory.”
This is all terrible advice because it doesn’t work: don’t think about a tropical beach with sandy white beaches. How well did that work for you?
When you’re unsettled, when you’re reminded that life is all about continual changes and things happening that you’d never expect, it’s hard to focus. You start imagining fifty different scenarios for how a particular situation could resolve itself. You have no clarity. You’re in limbo.
Limbo is a hell of a place to be. It pretty much sucks.
Several years ago, I went out and shopped to deal with my feelings. Or drank a bunch of wine. Or ate a bunch of cookies.
Now, I just eat a bunch of cookies. 🙂 I repeat to myself, “This, too, shall pass” and eat lots and lots of sweets. Or potato chips. I also know that going on a run or two, preferably with friends, is a really good idea. Continue reading “Curveballs”
Most of us, when we hear we’re getting a 3, 4, or 5% raise, go out to dinner to celebrate and then, without even realizing it, slightly adjust our spending to the “new” income level.
One of the most powerful tools you have, though, especially if you find it hard to save, is your yearly raise. For the last six years, Mr. ThreeYear and I have used every cent of his annual raise to increase our savings and investing.
Why? Because we live a very good life at our current level of spending, and we don’t need to spend more. If we want to go out and celebrate, take a trip, or spend the money some other way, it will be waiting for us in the savings account. If we didn’t squirrel the money away where we didn’t see it, we’d spend it without even realizing it, and then all the effort behind earning that raise would be for nothing.
We’ve frittered away money over the years in exactly this way, and it always made me feel powerless over our spending. “But where did that raise go? How do we spend more now? Where is that money?” Now, as I watch our savings grow, I realize that we’re the ones in control of the money, and we’re holding on to it until we’re ready to use it in a thoughtful way (or invest it, which is my favorite thing to do with our money besides travel!).
Today I’m taking part in a “traveling book review” written by Rockstar Finance bloggers. Each day, a different blogger will review one chapter of one of the best money books I’ve ever read, Your Money or Your Life. Written by Vicki Robin and Joe Dominguez, Vicki’s original coauthor who’s since died, the updated version contains timeless wisdom and current, practical tips for anyone working to make sense of their finances, their work/life balance, and life in general.
If you’d like to read reviews for each chapter, I recommend reading Rockstar Finance’s introduction post with links to reviews of each chapter.
The American Dream–on a Shoestring
Chapter 6 is perhaps the most relevant chapter to my life of the entire book. “Laurie,” it seemed to be saying to me the whole time, “read these words and internalize this message: if you want to achieve true freedom, you must learn to control your spending.”
A few years ago, I would have scoffed at this notion. “As if,” I can hear old me saying,”I’m going to earn more and buy whatever I want.”
This would be a terrific strategy if it worked–if it allowed me to increase my net worth, say, or even my happiness. Then we could get all the stuff we wanted just by working harder, and that would make us happier, and we’d all live happily ever after. All the millionaires and multi-millionaires would never declare bankruptcy or feel sad. Hollywood stars, paid millions per film, would never divorce or go through public scandals.
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.