Rich Examines Moving Expenses, Minimalism vs. Serial Killers, His Cat’s Shopping Habits, Modern Living, and The FIRE Desire

Dear Penny,

I thought it’d be interesting to compare our actual moving expenses with our estimated moving expenses. And I believe this will lead into a rant about modern living, early retirement, and education. We’ll see.

Let’s take a peak out the window of our new situation.

Is this home?

Before we moved, I estimated $30,000 in expenses. The big expense was our car, because now we need 2 cars as modern dual income working professionals. We also needed a bunch of furniture because all we owned was a couch, a bed, and an old dresser.

Well, the numbers are in — gaze upon them and be astounded:

Click on image to enlarge.

I’m not sure what’s astounding about this, I just wanted a dramatic transition.

Mrs. Rich told me my estimates were too low, and she was right. That said, I was expecting it to be worse. Every time we leave the house we spend a few hundred dollars on something. I’m not complaining at all — we knew we’d spend a lot getting a car and getting our apartment set up. $6,000 isn’t nothing, but I’m not going to lose sleep over it. I decided long ago I don’t want to lose sleep over money. 

Here are some observations about minimalism vs. frugality, modern professional living, and FIRE (financial independence / early retirement).

MINIMALISM VS. FRUGALITY

The personal finance blogosphere has already noted this apparent paradox, that minimalism (desiring fewer possessions) is often at odds with frugality (desiring inexpensive possessions). I think we’re a good example of this.

I was telling someone about the furniture we needed, and they commented, “You could find a lot of that on Craigslist.” I can’t remember what I said, but I was thinking, “Do people still buy second-hand merchandise from would be serial killers?”

But seriously, the Rich family doesn’t use Craigslist. Mrs. Rich and I agree that we don’t really want a cheap find; we want a quality piece of furniture that we enjoy and would like to keep. That’s minimalism vs. frugality. So when you look at the line items like Rug, Dressers, End Tables — that’s what you’re seeing.

Even the cat is getting into the act, showing an interest in Crate And Barrel!

Do not give this animal a credit card.

MODERN PROFESSIONAL LIVING

I would describe us as modern professionals. We’ve got the dual careers, the dual cars, the school activities, and the Vitamix. This is what we want. But in the midst of this tumultuous transition, I need to say something: I understand.

I understand the desire for simplicity — something you, Penny, have expressed over and over in one way or another. My life right now isn’t difficult, but it isn’t simple either. And this is mostly by choice, and the consequence of a life where one moves around.

We’re busy, juggling school related activities and work related activities. On top of it all, I volunteered to coach Kindergarten soccer. What was I thinking? Yet another activity.

Most of our stuff is still on a boat, so we’re eating take out on paper plates. At night we’re exhausted. It won’t last forever, but it’s been quite week. Or two.

I understand your mixed feelings about education in America. We went from a small cozy international preschool to a huge chaotic urban elementary school. Our boys, so far, don’t like it very much. All the rules, regulations, and impersonal interactions … I understand why you can’t stand it. Part of me wanted to pull them out after the second day, drop everything, and move to Finland.

THE FIRE DESIRE

I understand why people strive for FIRE — Financial Independence and Early Retirement.

Continue reading “Rich Examines Moving Expenses, Minimalism vs. Serial Killers, His Cat’s Shopping Habits, Modern Living, and The FIRE Desire”

Monthly Money Check: Rich Increased Net Worth By $200K in 2 Years And Bought A Car Online — August 2017

We bought this car online. It’s Mrs. Rich’s Mini Countryman, AWD. It’s cool.

Dear Penny,

First of all, you’re having another baby — congrats! We do have a lot to catch up on, obviously! But I will never catch you in terms of babies. We got the buy-one-get-one-free deal with twins and that’s plenty for us.

I have some stories to tell you about flying across the country with 2 crazy boys and a cat. And buying a car online. And a thousand different moving expenses. These will need to wait as I get back in the blogging groove. I should be able to start writing more again now that we’ve moved.

It’s time for the monthly money check.

AUGUST

Overall, I’m happy with August. A net worth gain of $19,530 in a month is nothing to sneeze at. We are currently ahead of the pace (to reach my goal of $1MM at age 45) by $26,735.

August was a good month mostly because we got paid 3 times. And we had a nice vacation at the beach. September will be interesting, and expensive, because of moving expenses, which I will detail soon. But I’ve got a nice buffer to work with.

Here are some highlights by category.

Cash: $15,832, decrease of $6,384

  • We bought a car! Online. Through Carvana. It was so easy. I’ll never go to a lot again.
  • The car purchase is net worth neutral because I’ll be adding back the car value under investments.

Debt: -$9,400, paid off $200

  • Nothing to see here. I’m waiting until we get settled in the US to decide whether to aggressively pay this or roll it to another 0% offer.

Investments: $230,919, increase of $16,815

  • As mentioned, the only real change here is the value of our new (used) car. We’re drawing down some alternative investments simply because they aren’t very tax efficient. The LLC value isn’t updated monthly.

Retirement: $419,354, increase of $8,899

NET WORTH CHECK

Here’s a chart showing my progress for the full 2 years we lived overseas. The blue line shows actual results, while the red line shows the pace required to meet my goal.

Click on image to enlarge.

I like that.

In 2 years, we were able to increase our family net worth by 44%, more than $200,000. This without a strict budget or a high allocation in stocks.

I have no idea how the next year will go. Back in the US, we have a huge rent expense (around $48,000 per year). However, we won’t be paying for preschool (which was $30,000 per year), so I’m optimistic we can at least maintain the pace for my goal.

More soon!

Rich

 

Monthly Money Check: Penny Punched By Back To School Expenses — August 2017

Dear Rich,

Looks like this summer has been keeping both of us pretty busy, huh? Neither of us has written very much. You, because you’re busy vacationing and getting settled back in the states. Me, because life is just busy, man, and I’ve been avoiding technology. But, now that September is here, I’m back to using technology a bit more again, and have been busy catching up on Norm MacDonald video podcasts on YouTube.

Also, I’m pregnant. Surprise! We’re expecting child number five sometime in the spring.

Now, let’s talk about my monthly spending.

This month was a bit of a doozy for us. A bunch of school-related expenses to deal with: tuition, a city bus pass, school supplies, all that fun stuff.

Here’s what it looks like:

And, here this is coming off a month where we set a record low in spending for the year. Oh, well. Our donations are a bit down just because we forgot to donate. We’ll probably make up for that later. Our mortgage payment went down from $843 to $747 because our insurance changed on that a bit.

I guess that’s about it.

Later,

Penny

Monthly Money Check: A Sunny Summer Update Of Rich’s Net Worth, Full Of Money Porn And Eye Candy … But BUDGETARY WINTER IS COMING — July 2017

Dear Penny,

This post will be full of detailed numbers (money porn) and cool graphics (eye candy) — because it’s summer, and summer is fun and bright and cheery. July was a sunny month for you and for us as well. Clear skies, no turbulence. As you can see, my net worth jumped by a happy $10,559.

Click on image to enlarge.

BUT … BUDGETARY WINTER IS COMING.

(SHUDDER. OMINOUS MUSIC. CLOSE UP OF NIGHT KING’S EYE.)

We’re moving back to the US in August, and our expenses will be going up faster than you can say “Littlefinger is a creepy douchebag.”

I’m not sure if you get these references to Game of Thrones, Penny. If you don’t watch it, you might consider it after your tech hiatus. You could binge during a free trial of HBO on Amazon Prime!

Readers, start your free trial of HBO by clicking above — no cost to you, a few pennies for the blog.  Full disclaimer on affiliate links here. 

Anyway, before I dump the cold reality on you, here’s a recap of July.

JULY

Cash: We’re building cash to buy a car in August. We’ve been living on one car overseas but we’ll need two in the US. My philosophy on cars is to pay cash. I look for cars that are 3 years old (or so) with under 50,000 miles. The “new” car will be for Mrs. R, and I’ll keep driving my 2006 Rav4 with 120,000 miles on it and deep stains from kid snacks.

Debt: This is 0% debt. I’d like to pay it, but I want to wait until we get settled back in the US. We always pay our debts.

Investments: I didn’t add new money to taxable investments, but I adjusted the value of my LLC holdings upward by $1,730 after doing a detailed breakdown on the blog.

Related Post: How Rich’s LLC Turned $30,000 into $200,000 — A Story About Brothers, Bubbles, and Prairie Dogs.

Retirement: Maxing out 401k and IRA accounts is really the key to our low risk ride to $1MM. This alone will probably ensure a decent sized nest egg in 15 years or so. We won’t need to rely on BINGO.

Related Post: Rich’s Retirement Plan: Playing BINGO Will Not Be A Source Of Income. (Part of the #DrawdownStrategy chain)

What I like about July’s report: A 5 figure net worth gain is nothing to sneeze at, even if you have allergies.

What I don’t like: If I were paying $4k in rent, my gain would only be $6,500, which is not quite enough to stay on pace for my goal.

THE COLD REALITY

When we move back to the US, we will start paying out the nose for rent and parking. As in $4,000 per month. I’m not complaining, we’re happy to spend more so we can live in a walkable city neighborhood rather than commuting from the burbs.

Related Post: Rich Is Preparing To Move. He Enjoys Moving. Wait … He’s Paying HOW MUCH On Rent???

Additionally, we’re going to need some odds and ends like beds for our boys, a couple other pieces of furniture, work clothes, and that car.  

Here’s my list of upcoming expenses; I might be estimating low. 

Click on image to enlarge.

By the end of August, I’ll have enough cash to cover most of this. Besides, we won’t buy everything at once. That said, I expect the budget to be tighter the rest of the year. I don’t follow a strict budget, but with such drastic changes coming up, I wanted a rough idea of what our spending should look like. This is what I came up with.

Get ready for a bunch of graphical eye candy:

Click on image to enlarge.

Some of the items, like the HSA, won’t kick in until the new year. What do you think of this budget? I rather like it. So colorful and symmetrical. No idea yet if it’s realistic.

Here’s what it will look like for a complete year.

Click on image to enlarge.

So what does this mean for my savings and my net worth goal? 

Continue reading “Monthly Money Check: A Sunny Summer Update Of Rich’s Net Worth, Full Of Money Porn And Eye Candy … But BUDGETARY WINTER IS COMING — July 2017”

Monthly Money Check: Penny Had Her Lowest Monthly Spending Of The Year! — July 2017

Dear Rich,

Hey, guess what? I wasn’t even thinking about it, but when I totaled up my numbers for this month, I FINALLY made it under the $2,000 bar that I had set (kind of lukewarmly) set for ourselves. I guess that’s what happens when no major expenses come up. It won’t be that way for long though… big school bills coming up next month.

Before I get into all that, let’s talk about where the rest of our money is at. The last time I explored this was in April. In April, our student loans were at $147,037. We haven’t been able to put any extra money toward this since our tax refund, so it hasn’t moved much. It is now at $145,421, because we do pay a little bit more than the interest rate acquires every month in our automatic withdrawals.

Related: Penny’s 13 Year Plan to Repay $173,000 in Student Loans

One thing we are going to start doing, in response to advice from a reader, is instead of taking $1,000 out one time a month, we are going to have $500 withdrawn two times a month. This will help save since the interest is compounded daily on student loans. (My husband just has to make a phone call, which I keep reminding him to do…)

We have also built up more equity in our house since April. Back then, it was valued at $214,000. Now, it is valued at $229,460. (I come up with this figure by taking an average of the Zillow estimated value, $252,421, and the property tax estimated value, $206,500.) So, take that amount and subtract the amount we owe on the house ($88,670), and it looks like $140,790 is the current equity we have in the house.

Here’s a snapshot of our current net worth:

That’s up $25,318 from our net worth in April, but that’s basically because our home is valued $25,000 more than it was in April. If we took that out of the equation, our net worth would be basically the same.

Continue reading “Monthly Money Check: Penny Had Her Lowest Monthly Spending Of The Year! — July 2017”

Monthly Money Check: Rich’s Low Risk Ride To $1 Million — June 2017

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Dear Pennifer,

Before I begin this monthly money check, I want to briefly revisit why I’m writing these updates. Quite simply, my purpose is to track my financial progress and think through how I’m doing with regard to my goals, perhaps clarifying my goals along the way. My purpose is not to brag about finances or elevate money to supreme importance. Human happiness isn’t about money (although money well spent, arguably, can help). I’m also not trying to be an example for anyone. Everyone’s situation is different. This blog is mostly for me, and secondarily for you.

As you know, my goal is to reach a $1 Million Net Worth sometime during my 45th year of life. I gave myself the whole year for the margin of error. I didn’t set this goal for my 45th birthday because, frankly, I didn’t think I’d make it. I’ll be 45 in 39 months, approximately, and I still have nearly $400k to go. It’s a tall order.

However, I’m starting to think it’ll be close. The month of June is an example of why I think this.

JUNE NUMBERS

From May 31 to June 30, our net worth jumped by $14,885. This is encouraging because there was nothing incredibly unusual about the month. Income was normal, with a little extra for overtime.

What’s more, there were no abnormal investment returns or risky market returns inflating my results. My largest investment — ownership of an LLC along with my brothers that primarily holds farmland and commercial real estate — was flat on the month.

It may sound strange to say that I’m encouraged by a lack of returns, but to me this shows that my financial goals are not dependent on any short term risks. As I’ve noted, I hate the broad stock market right now. I think it’s a bubble and I refuse to buy shares at these valuations. (Actually, I might buy some individual stocks opportunistically, like Nintendo before Christmas season, but I’m not buying the broad S&P 500 index here and now). The beauty of it is, I don’t need stocks. Investing, to me, is about risk and reward and meeting goals. If I can meet my goals without undue risk, I will.

Anyway, financially speaking this was a normal month, and it was a good month. When we move back to the US, we’ll need to pay a whopping $4,000 per month in rent, but even with that expense this would still have been a good month.

2017 NUMBERS

Widening the lens, I can’t believe half the year is gone! Let’s see how 2017 is going, with some observations by category.

OVERALL

Net worth is up by $72,837 in 2017. More than half of this is in retirement, so it’s not money we’ll be touching anytime soon. The next largest portion is from debt destruction. It’ll be nice to get that completely out of the way. After that, a bit of cash and investment gains.

Continue reading “Monthly Money Check: Rich’s Low Risk Ride To $1 Million — June 2017”

Monthly Money Check: Penny’s Budget Blew A Gasket in June 2017

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Dear Rich,

I’m still here. Still on-call. Still carrying around a cell phone. Still checking the internet. Still being bothered by it all. But the good news is that I was able to read your latest post on your four commandments of technology. That was good stuff! I really enjoyed it.

Now, onto this month’s money report. Once again, things keep popping up. This month it was an exhaust gasket that needed to be fixed, high school uniforms, car insurance, a new tent, and a bunch of other little stuff. I’m starting to think that we might not be able to meet our goal of putting another extra $5,000 toward the student loans for this year. I was going to do it when we got our property tax refund in September, but now I’m starting to think we might need that money to help pay school tuition bills and whatever else pops up at that time (as things always do, as demonstrated here).

Oh, well. As I’ve said before, I would rather spend money on things that I value (like private school education for my kids and new tents) even if that means adding a little more time in paying off our student loans.

Anyway, here is where my money went this month:

Not very impressive.

Here’s how that looks when lined up with the other months from this year:

I’ll write again with my Happiness Report in the middle of the month.

Until then,

Penny

Rich Is Preparing To Move. He Enjoys Moving. Wait … He’s Paying HOW MUCH On Rent???

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Hey Pen,

Mrs. R and I are getting ready to move for the 6th time in 9 years of marriage. Even by my transient standards, that’s a lot of moves.

Some people hate moving. I’ve heard of people sticking with a crappy house or boring neighborhood just to avoid moving. The boxes! The packing! Getting everything organized! Changing your life!

True, moving is a lot of work. But I actually enjoy it.

Moving forces me to think about what I want to keep and I can do without. I’m forced to consider what I want my life to look like in terms of location, living space, and culture. In a sense, I’m choosing my destiny. And if I choose poorly, I can just move again. There’s a freedom to it. It can even be exciting.

Here’s the list of our moves:

2008 – East Coast apartment to East Coast apartment: From one apartment to another in order to get DirecTV and the NFL Sunday Ticket (needed a south-facing balcony). Yes, that’s why we moved.

2009 – East Coast to Denver, CO: Work assignment.

2012 – Denver back to East Coast: Work assignment.

2014 – East Coast rental house to East Coast apartment: We didn’t like our suburban house or our landlords after a tree almost killed me during a storm (long story).

2015 – East Coast apartment to foreign country: Work assignment.

2017 – Foreign country to East Coast apartment: Work assignment.

2020 or so – hopefully moving again!

Much of my financial planning energy right now is going toward the move. I alluded to this in my latest money check. Here’s what we’ll need to do over the next few months, along with cost estimates.

Click on image to enlarge.

Unfortunately, this means I’ll need to put a lot of my savings plans on hold until the end of the year. That’s life. No one should cry for me and I’m not complaining.

I should address the elephant in the room here, which is that rental price of $4,000 per month. How in the world is this reasonable? Well, first let me tell you a little about our area and then I’ll tell you more about our apartment.

We had a few priorities when choosing where to live. These priorities were non-negotiable.

  • Short commute. Commutes in our area can be up to an hour each way in traffic if you live in the burbs, leading to 11 hour workdays, less time with family, and general misery. Our commute will be 15 minutes.
  • Close to a good school. We will be able to walk to our kids’ public elementary school, which is Spanish-English immersion.
  • Walkable to good food and activities. We’ll be able to walk to the grocery store, to restaurants and coffee shops, and to the subway.

Right off the bat, there are only a few neighborhoods meeting all these criteria. It turns out we’re not the only ones who want to live in such a neighborhood, and this is reflected in the cost of living. I’m not going to give away where we live, but here are some data for our zip code according to Trulia:

Averages in my zip code. Click on image to enlarge.

So it looks like we’re right in line, even slightly under, the average monthly rent.

What do we get for $4,000 per month? Again, I’ll list the non-negotiables.

  • 2 Bedroom, 1200+ square feet, with a decent layout. Our apartment is a 2BR + Den clocking in at 1246 square feet. The layout uses space well. Some modern apartments have weirdly curved walls and such that make them difficult to arrange.
Our floor plan.
  • Gym and pool in the building. The pool is outdoors but will come in handy for the kids during the summer. The gym will come in handy for me.
  • Garage parking. 2 spaces will run us $175 per month. Indoor parking is great in winter.
  • Intangibles. These are not necessarily non-negotiables, but they are factors that are difficult to measure, like the culture (is it full of rowdy yuppies?), the quality of construction (are the walls paper thin?), and building management (are they responsive?). Our building scored well on these points.

There are a bunch of other amenities — like free coffee, a “cyber lounge”, convenient package and dry cleaning delivery, etc — that are also included.

I admit, $4,000 per month is a huge number. To make sure I wasn’t insane, I Googled “How much should I spend on rent?” The rule of thumb is no more than 30% of household income.

Click on image to enlarge.

It turns out, $4,000 is only 18.5% of our monthly income, so you could say we’re being frugal. Hardy hoo hoo.

You might say, “Hey Rich, with that monthly payment, you could easily buy a house!”

Sure. Let’s say I did that.

Continue reading “Rich Is Preparing To Move. He Enjoys Moving. Wait … He’s Paying HOW MUCH On Rent???”

Penny Says No To The No-Spending Challenge Because It Is Stupid

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Dear Rich,

For the sake of research, I had contemplated doing one of those “No-Spending Challenges” for this blog. At first glance, it seems like kind of a fun idea. But then I thought about it a bit more and I realized how stupid these challenges are.

So, the premise with these challenges is that you don’t spend any money for an entire month. But this is stupid because people just re-allocate their spending to other months. Like, they’ll stock up on groceries, they’ll pay their bills in advance, that sort of thing… the same amount of money is being spent, it is just being done in a different month.

Or, if you’re doing this challenge and you really want to buy a new pair of pants, you just wait until the challenge is over and then go out and buy the pants the next month.

I have no idea what this challenge is teaching anyone.

When I was visiting my mom one weekend, I read about some ladies who did this challenge in the Fargo Forum. These ladies weren’t going all in and stocking up on groceries or anything, as they had set an allotted amount for expenses and bills and such (apparently you can do this with this challenge as there are not any hard and fast rules). Their results were especially stupid. Instead of spending money to go out, they would continue to go out, but their boyfriend or their parents would end up footing the bill. Or they would use gift cards that they already had.

Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

I like how this blog post on The Financial Diet sums up this stupid challenge:

“Personally, I feel it’s a way for well-off people to congratulate themselves on struggles they haven’t personally experienced. Poor people aren’t making a statement when they don’t buy coffee every morning, it’s simply their reality.”

I can’t believe I wasted my time entertaining this idea. Don’t do the No-Spend Challenge, everybody. Budget accordingly. Spend money on what you value. Live a good life. That’s all you need to know.

Later,

Penny

Monthly Money Check: Rich Spent More On 4 Items Than Penny Spent On Everything — May 2017

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Dear Penny,

Your lack of spending is really astounding. As we’ve said many times, the point of making money and spending money isn’t money itself, it’s to get something of value in return. At first I thought maybe there just wasn’t much that you valued because you spend so little. I think that’s partially true. You don’t value vacations like I do, for example. You don’t value clothes at all. You don’t, in general, value many things that cost money. But when you do value something, like education, you’re willing to pony up.

Turns out I value plenty of things in life that cost at least a fair bit of money. I value travel, eating out, a short commute to work (because I value work) and so on. Even though I’m not going to detail all my expenses (waste of time), I can still sneak some money porn into the post by highlighting a few things Mrs. Rich and I specifically valued in May. To wit:

Click on image to buy on Amazon.
  • Vitamix Ascent A2300 Blender: $380.30. Because we value healthy smoothies.
  • A beach house rental for the summer: $653.22 (partial payment). Because we value family beach vacations.
  • A deposit on our new apartment: $1,100. Because we value an apartment close to school, close to work, and close to enjoyable activities.
  • A painting by a local artist: $410.88. Because we value art, and we value a beautiful reminder of our 2 years overseas.

According to many personal finance blogs, this is just craziness. We spent $2,500 on a few things and what did we get, really? A glorified blender, a painting, and some overpriced places to stay?

Yes, actually. That’s what we got. I do realize this kind of spending will prevent us from retiring early. But I don’t want to retire early if it means no smoothies.

I also realize that we spent more on these 4 items than you spent on everything in May. That does seem a bit crazy. How could we be so different? Which one of us belongs in the looney bin?

Most of all, I value going through life without worrying too much about money. I like thinking about money and managing money, but not worrying about money. I value financial security. Financial security is the basis for my goal of reaching a $1 Million net worth at age 45.

NET WORTH PROGRESS

Let’s check on that goal. Going into the month of May, I had a net worth of $603,982. Therefore, I still need $396,018 with 53 months to go. I need to average an increase of $7,472 per month. In May …

Click on image to enlarge.

… my net worth increased by $7,749. Ding! In 2017, I’m up $57,951 , or $11,590 per month. I won’t keep that up but I think I’ll stay on track for my goal. Here’s a chart showing my progress since I started tracking it in September 2015.

Click on image to enlarge.

Now, let’s look at each net worth category separately to see how I’m maintaining this upward trajectory.

Continue reading “Monthly Money Check: Rich Spent More On 4 Items Than Penny Spent On Everything — May 2017”