M2aS’ Journal

Where are you and where are you going?
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Married2aSwabian
Posts: 37
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:45 pm

M2aS’ Journal

Post by Married2aSwabian »

Finally starting the journal here! This entry will not yet include detail on monthly expenses, but that will be forthcoming.

My wife and I are mid 50s, so as I’ve written previously, we’re going for FIR ... no more E.

We’re on the final approach path, but do still have our only child in college with one year to go. Tuition is mostly saved for in 529, but an important part of our decision on timing will be to see our kiddo graduate and have some type of gainful employment and stable start in life.

We have no debt. No mortgage for 3 years now. It does feel good to say that!

We downsized to a 1200 SF house at that time and are still doing some renovations. It’s a perfect lower cost place for us and even has relatively low property taxes for the area: $2500 / year.

I am fortunate to have a great job with great benefits and we will be saving around 70% in the next couple of years. That number has been closer to 50 - 60% in past 5 years. Our NW is around $1.1 ml now, including home equity. About $800k w/o. Monthly expenses are around $3000 and we are working continuously to reduce that. So assuming 4% SWR, we are getting close.

We love camping and hiking. An RV has been planned for when we retire. Why buy one prior, when it will sit depreciating for 49 weeks out of the year?! I tried to talk DW into full-time RVing as a way to FIRE earlier, but she wasn’t on board with it. After watching a bunch of cool YouTube videos (there are about a million now, thanks to Covid) on DIY retrofitting a van / RV, we have a new plan. I intend to do woodworking as side income in retirement. It has been a passion of mine for most of my life. I also need a vehicle for this, to transport wood and furniture. Why not use one vehicle for both purposes? The idea is to get a good used Transit or equivalent and build and install modular RV components that can easily be taken out and stored when not traveling, so it can be used for everything else when we’re home. That way, we’ll have a vehicle that is much lower cost and in full use all year! Very interested in ERE community’s input here. :)

I’ve read with great interest some of Western Red Cedar’s posts last month. Inspirational stuff! I will also be backpacking in retirement. DW may come along on the easier ones. For the more challenging ones, she will be waiting for me in our camper van. ;)

Obviously, at this point, staying healthy is the key to all of this. We’ve lost loved ones who were way too young. Each day is a gift and we are living them that way ...

Western Red Cedar
Posts: 307
Joined: Tue Sep 01, 2020 2:15 pm

Re: M2aS’ Journal

Post by Western Red Cedar »

Glad to see you've started a journal and I'm looking forward to hearing about some of your adventures. It sounds like you'll have a good balance of hobbies and interests to keep you busy in retirement.
Married2aSwabian wrote:
Sun Mar 07, 2021 8:20 am
Each day is a gift and we are living them that way ...
This is key to living a happy and healthy life. Something I try to remember regularly during the long journey to financial independence.

Married2aSwabian
Posts: 37
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:45 pm

Re: M2aS’ Journal

Post by Married2aSwabian »

Thanks, WRC. Yes, I’ve read recently that to be happy, we need, “someone to love, something meaningful to do and something to hope / dream for”. I think that’s pretty true.

So, I finally got around to tabulating monthly expenses for Feb. here they are:

Cars:

Gas $83
Maintenance (our cars are 8 and 14 YO) $388
Insurance $120 (fixed monthly)
Registration $25 (fixed monthly)

Subtotal: $616

Groceries. $646 (this included a $166 online order for stocking up on grains, lentils, dried fruit, etc)

Housing (taxes and insurance). $260
Crafts $ 61
Tracfone $22
Natural gas $76
Electric $102
Internet $60 (DW and i have spent a couple of hrs on phone with Spectrum haggling about getting better rate! 😊
Garbage $17
Entertainment (Netflix old school DVD) $11
Home improvement $136
Swimming $33 (in 2 months will be able to swim outdoors and this will go away until Oct.)
Term life (fixed monthly) $50
Home office $132 (employer will start paying for LI subscription, so this will be $63 less in future)
Medical $223
Clothing $27
Skype and ID Watchdog $33
Gifts and misc $44
Camping resv for May $74 (this is for 2 nights of tent camping at a state park ... WTF!)

Total: $2,623

We did also help out some family members in need ($1000) due to a sudden, unexpected death in the family.
I left this out of the above total.

That’s it for now...

Married2aSwabian
Posts: 37
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:45 pm

Re: M2aS’ Journal

Post by Married2aSwabian »

There have been many people who’ve been a positive influence in our path to simplifying, consuming less and saving more: Thoreau - Walden, Jacob - book and site, MMM, my wife and my Swabian brother-in-law.

My brother-in-law in law is single, 56 years old, and lives for his motorcycles and the sense of freedom they bring him. This may have something to do with living in a country with just maaaaaybe a few too many rules (but that’s another journal entry)! He’s still working, but I doubt has has to. He bought a townhouse in the Stuttgart area over ten years ago with the primary requirement being that it had a garage big enough for his various bikes and parts. He does all renovation and repair himself, of course. For frugality street cred, he can also boast that nearly all his furniture, dishes and even stove are from Oma and Opa (1960s era)!

Over the past thirty years, he has come to the US to visit us many times - probably at least a dozen. He has either had one of his bikes shipped over, or bought one here used and stored it for tours out west after we visit.
Germans get a lot of vacation - 6 weeks! I enjoyed it when I worked over there, too, for a few years. So he will often come to the US for 4 or 5 weeks, visit us for abut 5 days or so, while getting his bike ready for the road, and then head out for a 3 week + road trip. He camps - everything needed is in an old Bundeswehr canvas duffel bag. Sturgis, Colorado, Utah, Montana and Wyoming are just a few of the states he explores. Sometimes a friend comes with him, other times it’s a solo trip. The stories and pictures are always great!

So I have to admit, during one of his summer visits about 6 years ago, as I’m working from my home office and my wife and I were checking Google maps for his current location, the thought finally crossed my pea brain, “how can we do this?”. Time is the ultimate luxury. All the money in the world isn’t worth shit if you don’t have time to enjoy it and be free. So, we finally started more intently on the path to retire sooner...better late than never. I’ve gotten to hear quite a few “I told you so’s” from my Swabian better half. ;)

In our case, we’ll go with a DIY camper van and tent instead of the Harley ... but the freedom will be just as sweet!

Married2aSwabian
Posts: 37
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:45 pm

Re: M2aS’ Journal

Post by Married2aSwabian »

Here is a cool idea my wife came up with to help us save thousands on new windows in our (50 YO) house.

In both bedrooms, the windows (4 total) are about 5’wide x 3’ high double pane, but an uncommon design: They’re side by side gliding Andersen windows and well-made. They’re as old as the house. Of course, the glass is single pane, so when it gets very cold in January, there is some condensation on the inside. Storm windows would be the best low cost solution, but for two of the windows, I’d have to try to work off a ladder to install - no thanks. At this point, many folks would be thinking of just replacing them (not ERE folks, but the spend thrift kind!).

We were thinking of making our own storm windows out of 3/16 plexiglass, when DW came up with he idea of just putting the Plexi storms inside. Works great! Had to measure each one exactly and got them cut to fit. Then I put thin window weather stripping around the sill and trim. No frames. They’re held in place with small plastic turn-buttons. Total cost was about $350. New windows would have been about $8000 installed min. We can easily put them in when needed and remove when temps warm up again. Problem solved.

The icing on the cake was the blackout blinds she made. If you’ve ever slept in a German house, you are familiar with the great window Rolladen that you put down at night - it’s dark and quiet! Those are pretty hard to find in the US and harder to install here. For our place, we didn’t want drapes - since we’re in the woods, it’s dark enough already. DW just found Heavy Duty blackout fabric and cut pieces to hang in each window at night for privacy and dark room. Put them away in the morning and we’ve got maximum light / view again. Simple and ....scho wieder Geld gesparrt! :D

Married2aSwabian
Posts: 37
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:45 pm

Re: M2aS’ Journal

Post by Married2aSwabian »

Here are the happy totals for March:

Cars:

Gas $57
Maintenance (our cars are 8 and 14 YO) $0
Insurance $120 (fixed monthly)
Registration $25 (fixed monthly)

Subtotal: $202 ... Better!

Groceries: $801 ... pretty high.

Housing (taxes and insurance). $260
Crafts $ 33
Tracfone $22
Natural gas $85
Electric $95
Internet $60
Garbage $19
Entertainment (Netflix old school DVD) $11
Home improvement $200
Swimming $33
Term life (fixed monthly) $50
Home office $15
Medical $40
Clothing $0
Skype and ID Watchdog $33
Gifts and misc $0
Camp stove - Coleman $45

Total: $2,004

Not too bad and an improvement over last month for DW and I. We’re vegetarians, so go to one local store for fresh produce and it adds up. 40% of expenses this month! But, hey, gotta be healthy...more energy for all the DIY stuff. ;)

Concern over reading Barron’s article yesterday talking about 50/50 stock bond portfolio not yielding enough return to support 4% SWR, not even 3%. Plan to watch that over next months, as we have “set it and forget it” Vanguard strategy with that allocation now. Article is touting going to a blue chip dividend stock portfolio as an alternative. Interested in feedback here!

Next month, the dreaded budget buster ... new tires ... are on the agenda! We’ve gone with Generals lately and those seem to be v good value. I guess this would be where going down to one car and using bikes a lot more would come in handy. Since pandemic started, we’ve only put 6k miles on ea vehicle, so pretty low. It makes a big difference in the budget and a big difference in wellbeing. Racing around with a bunch of folks in the rat race who are all running late kinda sucks. :D

Married2aSwabian
Posts: 37
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:45 pm

Re: M2aS’ Journal

Post by Married2aSwabian »

...forgot to add that our savings rate for March was a new record at 88%! That includes payroll, Covid stimulus and tax refund. Without the latter 2, we were still at 80%. ;)

Stasher
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Joined: Thu Mar 18, 2021 11:23 am
Location: Vancouver Island BC
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Re: M2aS’ Journal

Post by Stasher »

Do you have a good relationship with a local tire shop? I have always had good luck getting killer cash deals on "take-offs" as often people will come in and trade the stock dealership tires for fancy new ones or trade in their tires when they still have over 50% tread life left. I did this on my SUV last year and saved 60% the cost of going new and got tires with 70% tread life left. That normally doesn't happen but is worth trying first.

Married2aSwabian
Posts: 37
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:45 pm

Re: M2aS’ Journal

Post by Married2aSwabian »

Thanks, Stasher. I asked around about “take offs”, but unfortunately doesn’t seem possible around here. Will just have to check for best deal. At the rate we’re driving now, they should last for 10 years!

As I continue to practice mindfulness, I’m amazed at how well it dovetails with ERE and minimalism. Making a “clearing” in the mind and heart, leaves room for so many more important things. Stuff that really matters!

Western Red Cedar
Posts: 307
Joined: Tue Sep 01, 2020 2:15 pm

Re: M2aS’ Journal

Post by Western Red Cedar »

Married2aSwabian wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 11:03 am
As I continue to practice mindfulness, I’m amazed at how well it dovetails with ERE and minimalism. Making a “clearing” in the mind and heart, leaves room for so many more important things. Stuff that really matters!
Beautiful - well said!

DutchGirl
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Joined: Tue Sep 06, 2011 1:49 pm
Location: The Netherlands

Re: M2aS’ Journal

Post by DutchGirl »

Married2aSwabian wrote:
Wed Mar 31, 2021 8:18 pm
Concern over reading Barron’s article yesterday talking about 50/50 stock bond portfolio not yielding enough return to support 4% SWR, not even 3%. Plan to watch that over next months, as we have “set it and forget it” Vanguard strategy with that allocation now. Article is touting going to a blue chip dividend stock portfolio as an alternative. Interested in feedback here!
Here's my two cents: financial experts need money. To get money, they need attention. To get attention, they need to state something shocking and/or they need to make a bold prediction after looking in their crystal ball.

Don't let it get to you, too much.


...

One completely different thing: what is the status of your social security rights, for both you and your wife? And any pension rights, perchance? (Maybe even from Germany, given that you worked there for a couple of years?). Taking them into account (somewhat) could help with your FIRe plans...

Say that you find out that you'll get $4k/month from social security starting at age 70... now even taking that with a grain of salt, I'd say that it's very likely that you'd get at least $2k/month by then. That would mean that your portfolio at age 70 only needs to provide another $1k/month to cover your costs. And that in turn would mean that it would feel much safer to retire when you have say $900k of net worth (excluding the house), because even if the value of your portfolio goes down a bit over time, social security will come to the rescue in a couple of years.

Married2aSwabian
Posts: 37
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:45 pm

Re: M2aS’ Journal

Post by Married2aSwabian »

Thanks, DutchGirl. BTW, I’ve visited the Netherlands several times on vaca (mainly Amsterdam) and it’s one of my favorite places in Europe! ...also have Dutch heritage, so I’m biased. ;)

Yes, with late FI types like me, we’ve got SS $ coming in in the not too distant future. In our case, I’ll start taking it at age 62 and DW at age 67. It will be around $2000 and $1000 respectively. I had my German Rentenversicherung paid out after both stints working there, so no more for me. DW has a small German SS coming - we sometimes say that, “das versaufen wir”, even though we’re not really drinking anymore!

You’re right, $900k of NW without home equity is more than enough at current spending rate. We need to get our kiddo finished up at school and started on a semi-independent life, which should happen in next year +. So that is a bit of a variable. With international marriage, we need to have $ available for coming over to Europe as needed, too. My Swabian in-laws are all frugal enough that they have no guest accommodations in their homes!

I think you’re spot-on about Barron’s article and wanting to sell something to get index investors off their game. Actively managed funds have been dying a slow death for about a decade now.

Married2aSwabian
Posts: 37
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:45 pm

Re: M2aS’ Journal

Post by Married2aSwabian »

Today, I am very happy to post this number:

155

...my total cholesterol!

That is the lowest it’s been in 25 years - since I started having it checked. At around 200, the Dr. will typically start trying to push some cholesterol lowering drug on you.

Me: “Oh, how long do I take that for?”

Doctor: “The rest of your Life”,

Me: “That sounds like a shitty deal!”

With our wonderful western medicine, the solution that is quick, convenient and massively profitable for the big drug companies is the one that gets promoted. Just pop a pill and keep eating the same burger, fries and ice cream!

Last time I had it checked over two years ago, it was around 185. In 2015, prior to going on vegetarian diet, it was 222! After just 6 months of veg diet, it dropped to 185. My doc said that it was the biggest drop he’d ever seen without meds!

I credit the further drop to being home for past year with DW cooking healthy meals all the time to the further drop. (No more going out for lunches once or twice a week with colleagues). Also have been able to continue swimming 1-1/2 miles three times / week. Last big change was cutting out most alcohol starting in fall 2019. No particular reason other than feeling more headaches from it and better when leaving it out. Having a family members get cancer (oral that he survived) and Mayo Clinic Dr telling them that alcohol is a carcinogen also woke me up!

Anyway, I know many here are too young to worry about this shit, but I’m celebrating and just wanted to pass it on!

Time to go swim now. ;)

ertyu
Posts: 1702
Joined: Sun Nov 13, 2016 2:31 am

Re: M2aS’ Journal

Post by ertyu »

Congratulations!

Stasher
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Location: Vancouver Island BC
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Re: M2aS’ Journal

Post by Stasher »

Well done M2aS , this is a journey that is most likely more important than the financial ERE journey. Life is finite and if by simple choices of not indulging in that which is bad for you can help take hold of what lies before us, then we must. Eat well, live well & get outdoors every single day is the simple formula I strive for, all best to you and congratulations on taking hold of your health.

Married2aSwabian
Posts: 37
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:45 pm

Re: M2aS’ Journal

Post by Married2aSwabian »

Thanks, @ ertyu, thanks @Stasher. Yeah, health is important...just trying to carve out some time in this life where I’ve got money and the time and health to enjoy it. Great community here to reinforce that! It’s kind of sad how our society (in US especially) places more importance on lawn and car maintenance than wellness. Western medicine is pretty f’d up. Like so much else, it’s all about the Dollar.

I think one thing that’s helped my wife, son and I on our journey to date is adapting to disruption. My wife and I have each moved around twenty times over our lifetimes! You kind of get used to change. As kids, for both of us, it was due to Dad’s job and then divorce. Since we’ve been married, it’s been due to job, international family and finally (thank God) optimizing our lifestyle for an “earlier” retirement. Adapting to a self-imposed change can be fun: learning a new language, a new culture, making new friends and seeing new places. Externally-imposed change, like a pandemic, not so much. I do think the former experience helps greatly in adapting to the latter.

In adopting a more ERE lifestyle, we’re working to implement more positive change all the time. As Jacob has written - if you’re able to live in a boat or RV full time, you can make do with / enjoy a minimal amount of stuff! We’re not quite there, but working on minimalism. This disruption is different in that it’s often gradual, self-imposed and counter to what “everyone else is doing”. It’s also one of the most rewarding. ;)

Married2aSwabian
Posts: 37
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2021 7:45 pm

Re: M2aS’ Journal

Post by Married2aSwabian »

Well, I’ve really screwed up the budget for April now! It’s FUBAR ...

When we moved to Germany ten years ago, we sold the small farm and all the (power) tools that go along with it. This included parting ways with a nice wood shop and many woodworking tools. That was painful.

Upon returning to the states in 2013, I thought it would be easy to reacquire good used woodworking tools by scouring CL, eBay, etc. wrong. Very seldom does anyone sell something for a low price that’s been well taken care of! At least around here.

Yesterday, I came across a Jet planer that is in excellent condition and perfect for the 2 car garage shop - not too big and on a mobile base. Since it was local, just 10 min drive away, I had to go look. So now, $750 later, I am the proud owner of a planer!

But this is not the type of asset that just sits around depreciating. It will help me turn beautiful hardwood boards into furniture and trim like this:

https://postimg.cc/gallery/SkTNV5d

As I’ve written previously, I hope to do a lot more woodworking after I’m done “working for the man”, as it has been a hobby and passion of mine since I was a kid. (I made the the wooden bird in the window sill when I was 8 ;) )
During the financial crisis, I was out of work for about five months. While I was searching for new job, I posted an ad on CL looking for woodworking gigs with a few pics of my work. I was surprised to get a job pretty quickly designing and building a table that paid $1000 (customer supplied all material). I ended up putting around 40 hours into it, so not too bad. It was very rewarding and fun and customer was happy with end result.

Another thought that starts creeping in when you’re in your fifties is, “What legacy will I leave?”. That’s a topic for another post, but I hope that includes some well made furniture that lasts a while.

So, the the planer could pay for itself rather quickly. Right now, it will be used to make DW happy while building equity in our house....finish carpentry needs to be wrapped up. :D

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