The Golden Rule of Building Wealth

Everyone wants the magic formula, the hat trick, the secret, to becoming wealthy. And no, it’s not “you attract to you what you think about.”

The golden rule of building wealth is simple. It’s so simple, it’s been repeated ad infinitum by the personal finance community, financial planners, and people who actually have wealth.

It’s been systematically attacked, hacked, subjugated, by practically every other entity in our society.

Ready? Here it is: spend less than you earn.

Oh, and we can’t forget the corollary: invest the difference.

Boom. We’re done.

Oh, if only, dear reader. If only it were that simple. If only I hadn’t felt dread course up and down my body yesterday as I calculated how much we’ve gone over budget in March. If only Payday Loan Centers didn’t sprout like fire ants across the small rural communities of this country.

If only we didn’t have the hear the siren call of advertisements fill our every waking moment, to peruse the endless streams of social media promising you’ll be better, faster, and stronger, if you click here and buy it now.

Spending less than you earn, as simple as it sounds, is one of the hardest things to do as a human being living in our modern (especially first world) society. It involves saying “no” one hundred, one thousand, ten thousand times per day to what can feel like everyone and everything around you. It involves staying true to a distant goal for a distant self, living like you’re in a different economic class, developing copious amounts of will power over time, and not letting it all fall apart if your life becomes unglued, through death, divorce, or some other tragedy.

It sometimes feels like an impossible task. And yet, people accumulate wealth every day. People save; people retire; they pay off their mortgages.

In my experience, as a reformed spend-a-holic, we’ve been able to slowly accumulate wealth in the face of all these temptations because of a couple of behaviors that have allowed us to practice “The Golden Rule of Building Wealth” while still existing in a consumerist society.

Continue reading “The Golden Rule of Building Wealth”

Will We Spend Less in Retirement?

About nine years ago, when Mr. ThreeYear and I began to wise up about our finances, we visited a financial planner and filled out a detailed survey. We didn’t have many assets to speak of, at the time, since we’d just gotten out of debt, but if the dude had been wise, he would have nurtured the relationship with us because he could have had very good future clients. He was not and we now manage our own investments, a scenario I am more than happy with. 

Even so, it was interesting to hear his predictions that we’d need about 80% of our income at retirement. Where did that number come from? In the years that followed, as I filled out online retirement calculators, I heard the figure repeated. 

Then, I began to learn more about the 4% rule, the oft-cited retirement rule-of-thumb (based on the Trinity Study) that cites evidence that if you withdraw 4% of your portfolio per year in retirement, adjusted annually for inflation, then your portfolio should easily last you 30 years (or more). Another way to look at the rule, popularized by the incontrovertible Mr. Money Mustache, is that you’ll need 25 times your annual spending invested in order to retire. This rule assumes that you’ll keep your spending relatively level in retirement, that is, you’ll spend a similar amount in retirement as you do now.  

Continue reading “Will We Spend Less in Retirement?”

July Net Worth Update

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I am happy. I know I’m in the honeymoon phase of our move, but I am so glad to live in North Carolina. We see my sister, brother-in-law, and niece, maybe three times a week. We spent the entire weekend with them last weekend. I know we’ll start school and get into routines and not see them as often, but my niece now thinks that when she comes to my house, she is supposed to eat marshmallows and watch Captain Underpants on my bed with her cousin.

We drive through the streets of our little town and I just smile, because it’s so cute. And we picked it! We didn’t get carried by the circumstances of life to a place. We picked the place we wanted to be and moved there. It’s an incredibly freeing feeling. I am also really enjoying Mr. ThreeYear working from home. Yes, he starts early and works hard, but we get to see him more, because he finishes earlier (no commute!), eats lunch with us everyday, and pops out for coffee breaks. He’s there when service people come by the house, which is reassuring.

Financially, I am not happy, because moving has cost an arm and a leg, and we’ve spent another arm and a leg doing repairs on our new house. Carpet cleaning, painting, air conditioning repair, stocking the fridge, paying neighborhood dues, etc.

I’m trying to keep in mind that this month’s spending has been an anomaly, and because we’re not moving again for a very long time, we will not incur these expenses again for a very long time. Despite all the spending, we managed to increase our net worth. Let’s take a look.

If you’re just joining, our family of four is on a three-year journey to double our net worth and become location independent. Since we’ve achieved the latter goal, we’ll be primarily focused on the former in each of these reports going forward. 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 our move and the market, I’m not sure it’s doable. But we’re going to try. Continue reading “July Net Worth Update”

Our Secret Weapon Towards Financial Independence

On our journey to financial independence, most of us know by now that we need to spend less than we earn and invest the difference. There is no magic formula for building wealth, other than focus, restraint, and patience.

Or is there?

Our Secret Weapon Towards Financial Independence--www.thethreeyearexperiment.com

It’s been said that personal finance is 90% behavioral. For our family, that was definitely true. We understood the how of personal finance pretty quickly, and in fact, the more we simplified, the better results we had. Pay off debt, max out retirement accounts, invest in low-fee index funds. The why of personal finance was much more difficult. It’s been much harder to curb our desire to spend in the here and now for such a distant goal. Continue reading “Our Secret Weapon Towards Financial Independence”