cmonkey's journal

Where are you and where are you going?
light_bulb_moment
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Re: cmonkey's journal

Post by light_bulb_moment » Wed Jan 10, 2018 4:28 am

Hi @cmonkey. Just zipped through your journal. Major garden envy :)

Hope I'm not buzz killing to ask how the Lending Club trial has panned out of late? That's been one of several threads in your journal that's given me for for thought.

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cmonkey
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Re: cmonkey's journal

Post by cmonkey » Wed Jan 10, 2018 12:42 pm

@light_bulb_moment, thanks! I wish I could be in my garden right now!

I've been pulling my money out of Lending Club as the returns have gone down significantly and I have decided I don't like having my money tied up for years at a time. Almost every month now for the past year I have had either flat returns or negative returns each month. Given I am on the back half of the age curve, it's pretty disappointing.

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Gilberto de Piento
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Re: cmonkey's journal

Post by Gilberto de Piento » Fri Mar 16, 2018 8:28 am

It's been awhile, how are things going?

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cmonkey
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Re: cmonkey's journal

Post by cmonkey » Fri Mar 16, 2018 1:20 pm

@ Gilberto, Hey! Things are going great, just enjoying life for the most part. Each day blends into the next. I haven't given up on FI, just been slacking on the updates.

March will see FAI of 6900 and FI funds of 190K. TTM Expenses are sitting at 14.5K. Plugging along. I think I will put out some charts at the end of the month.

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cmonkey
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Re: cmonkey's journal

Post by cmonkey » Sat Mar 31, 2018 7:02 pm

March 2018 Update


Some Life Updates

Time for an update I think, since its been a full quarter. We've made pretty good progress over the past 3 months, with a high savings rate of 86%. Our expenses have stayed pretty similar/flat as well. I'm finding it semi-difficult to trim much more from our budget without impacting quality of life I guess. Our TTM value has gone over 15K, but we had some higher months at the end of last year that are added into that. I think it's going to come back down in the second half of this year and rest around 13K-14K which I'm hopeful we can hover around going forward. I've only been tracking this value for a couple years so we'll see.

I've maxed out 2 IRAs for us this year and have my new employer's 401K with full match setup to max out for the year. I haven't contributed to my HSA yet, but will likely contribute for 6 months worth. I'll be switching insurance in June so I can have hernia surgery for cheap.

We ate out for the first time since like October last night! It was kinda fun, but kinda not. My stomach hurt afterwards and I had to drink a bunch of water afterwards. Mexican food is really salty, at least around here. Also, sitting around a bunch of other people eating and having a waitress hover over you just sucks.

Both DW and I have adopted an exercise routine of doing 30 minutes of cardio 5 times per week. I'm only down 3 lbs in the last 6 months, but I think it's because I've built some muscle. Same with DW, although not sure how much she has lost. I'm also not really overweight, either, so it's more difficult to lose fat I think.

We have also made some changes to our diets over the last 6 months. I have gone largely meat free, but have started bringing back some grass-fed beef. I'm definitely done with nasty processed meat and likely won't eat pork/sausage anymore either. Chicken isn't really that great either, I just don't like it. DW is bringing more healthy fats into her diet and both of us are cutting back on carbohydrates and baked goods. We aren't going as low as keto, but want to qualify as 'low-carb' as carbs make both of us sluggish and bloated.

I had to bring all our plants in from the greenhouse in early January. It got bitterly cold and there was no way to keep it warm enough. Plus it was costing a fortune. So all my arugula and lettuce bit the dust, except for 3 lettuce plants which survived. I've made a mental note for next year that that variety can overwinter unprotected so I'll plant a bunch. We have the greenhouse loaded up with a bunch of early spring seedlings right now, but spring isn't being very accommodating so things are growing slowly. We planted our potatoes today though and I've been doing a lot of other stuff in the garden.

Work has been going well. The past month has sorta sucked because I've been roped into "Mr Evening Deploy Guy" so I've been working a lot of evenings. But the work is super easy and the pay is stupid high so I can't complain too much. I just remind myself I could have a minimum wage job working in a factory.....or something worse? My hourly rate is probably actually like 2-3 times higher than it is in writing, because the work is just so damn...easy.


Stuck in Limbo

I feel like writing about this and seeing what the community thinks. DW and I are becoming increasingly disenchanted with living in the Quad Cities. It's really not a special place at all and the only reason we live here is because I took a great job here. Neither of us really enjoyed the area from the get go, but we just made do with it because...job! Neither of us have friends in the area either and no family, so it's just us, hanging out at home now, day after day after day after day. Good thing we get along pretty well. :D

Well that great job turned into an even better job with no geographic ties! So we have nothing keeping us here anymore other than the time and money we've sunk into our home and gardens. Our closest family is 500 miles away and we definitely miss them all the time.

The straw that broke the camel's back, though, was taxes. I've been researching the difference between Illinois taxes and Minnesota taxes and it would be STUPID to stay in Illinois much longer. Suffice to say, Minnesota taxes are based on Federal "taxable" income (after deductions and such, so you get the same deductions at the state level as the federal level) and Illinois is based on AGI, so no federal deductions. The maximum deduction we get is 4K for Illinois and so we'd end up paying a shit ton more if we live here long term. Particularly when I start pulling out IRA funds, I'd probably pay something like 6-8K bucks in state taxes. I'd also pay 1K + annually after retirement going forward. NTY!

One other HUGE benefit would be lower cost of living.

So we have decided we are selling our house and moving closer to family. This means small-ish town Minnesota. Think 10k-15K population.


The only problem we need to figure out is how to do it and when to do it. I know for sure I don't want to take out a mortgage, so this means paying cash. DW is pretty set on not buying another fixer upper and I am whole-heartedly in agreement. I enjoyed this project house but don't want another one. The only difference between what DW and I want is our definition of 'fixer-upper'. Between the two of us we have a range of anywhere from 80K to 200K, and will likely meet somewhere in the middle. I'd prefer to stay under 150K so I can unlock some of my current equity and put it to work for FI, but there's no guarantee of getting that much for our current house, so I'd really like to stay lower.

Given that range, at a minimum, we are about a year away from being able to pay in cash. We currently have 80K in our taxable account, and I am thinking I will just start accumulating cash going forward. Since valuations are so high anyway, why not?

I'm not sure how I feel about using FI funds to buy a house on the hopes that I can replace the FI funds by selling my current house. I mean, we could achieve FI first, then save for the house. We would achieve that in about 3-4 years at a minimum. But we aren't getting younger, and DW's folks are approaching 70 already. :?



Numbers!

Number for January through March -

Expenses/Savings


Total Spend - $3731.87
Total Savings - $22,219.26 ; 86%

Years Saved - 12.44
SWR - 8.04%

TTM Expenses - $15,086.32(+ $2,722.68)
Total FAI - $6,973.81(+ $1,070.71)

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C40
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Re: cmonkey's journal

Post by C40 » Sat Mar 31, 2018 8:02 pm

Yeah... Illinois.... Sounds like moving to MN is a good idea.

If you were staying in the Quad Cities, I think it seems the Iowa side is significantly nicer, but, I've spent most of my time there over on the Iowa side (many visits for work, and lived there as a child).

Maybe one potential issue is, if you go buy your 'forever' house in Minnesota, is there a chance you'll change jobs before retirement and have to relocate?

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cmonkey
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Re: cmonkey's journal

Post by cmonkey » Sat Mar 31, 2018 8:11 pm

Iowa side is nicer, but taxes are just as bad over there. They have higher rates, and almost the same deduction amount as Illinois. Property taxes tend to be lower though.

Losing this job would suck big time, because it's a great job. I think the chances are fairly low at this time though, mostly because we are really busy and I seem to be well liked by the right people. If my current assignment had to let me go for any reason, the consulting firm has a lot of work lined up currently that they'd put me on. The company is only about 1.5 years old and made 1.1 million last year and on track for 2.5 million this year. We're up to about 30 employees now from about 10 when I started. We are doing really well.

I think I'd stick to remote jobs until I retired though, there is a fairly solid market for remote positions in tech work. I might have to travel a bit, but it would be a job. I've gotten spoiled on this type of work. :P

thrifty++
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Re: cmonkey's journal

Post by thrifty++ » Sat Mar 31, 2018 8:18 pm

I dont really know much about the quad cities - I just looked them up. But I have been totally amazed by your savings rate and the price you paid for your house. I live in an absolutely spectacular city but its also extremely expensive and pay is not high like San Fran or NYC or Switzerland. So its very hard to become FI here. So I guess there might be quite a trade off between cheap places to live and how nice the city is. But it seems like you and your wife seem to have a really nice homesteading lifestyle which I somewhat envy.

Have you thought about just renting instead of buying? At least for a while? Why do you feel the need to buy? Do you think you might end up moving again from the next place? It seems maybe to make more sense to rent rather than buy if you dont know you have found your lifelong home town/city - unless it makes you richer from buying than renting when crunching the numbers.

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cmonkey
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Re: cmonkey's journal

Post by cmonkey » Sat Mar 31, 2018 8:29 pm

Hey thrifty++ !

People in the midwest don't even know what the Quad Cities are. :) It's definitely a cheap area to live if you pick your location carefully. When we bought the place, we had no money and only bought it because it had land and we wanted a garden. Ha!

There are places around here with 500K to 1,000K+ homes.

I don't know if I could go back to renting actually. Being able to do what I want to my house or land is a nice feeling.

I actually forgot to mention above, but we also want to be kinda strict with how much land we get with the house. We don't want more than what we have now, but would like to be able to homestead, so something between 0.5 and 1.5 acres is ideal. Having a ton of garden space with chickens is awesome.

We seem to be settling into a 5-10 year span of time before we might need change, having lived here for 7 years now.

thrifty++
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Re: cmonkey's journal

Post by thrifty++ » Sat Mar 31, 2018 8:32 pm

Oh cool. Sounds like you want to carry on homesteading so I understand! I will watch with anticipation from the confines of my tiny little box inside a high rise that I pay a fortune in rent for ! :)

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cmonkey
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Re: cmonkey's journal

Post by cmonkey » Sat Mar 31, 2018 8:37 pm

Yes. Actually what we want to do is to hire a dozen helicopters and pick up our entire house and 1.5 acre and just set it down up in MN. :lol:

ffj
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Re: cmonkey's journal

Post by ffj » Sun Apr 01, 2018 10:56 am

Did I miss something? Are you quitting your new job to move to Minnesota and living off of your investments?

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cmonkey
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Re: cmonkey's journal

Post by cmonkey » Sun Apr 01, 2018 11:04 am

No, not quitting the job. We're about half way to FI. We want to move to MN, yes, but just not sure when. As of now, there isn't anything in the area we'd like within a good price range. We'll likely be FI before we find anything we actually like enough to buy, but who knows.

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cmonkey
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Re: cmonkey's journal

Post by cmonkey » Mon Apr 30, 2018 9:50 am

Milestone!

As of today we have 200K in FI funds. Yahoo!

wolf
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Re: cmonkey's journal

Post by wolf » Mon Apr 30, 2018 12:22 pm

Congratulations to you cmonkey! You are half way there. Keep on saving, (but celebrate a little ;-)

Jason
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Re: cmonkey's journal

Post by Jason » Mon Apr 30, 2018 3:28 pm

If I read things correctly you went up 10K in two months in a volatile market. Nice job.

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cmonkey
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Re: cmonkey's journal

Post by cmonkey » Thu May 03, 2018 2:47 pm

@Jason and @wolf, thanks guys. Of course, now we are back under 200K a few K. Thanks volatility! :D It's nice to have crossed it. Another couple months and we'll be over for good.

April 2018 Update

We spent 2 weeks in MN with family during April. We had a wedding to go to, but an historic April blizzard closed all of southern MN for that weekend, so we made the trip for almost nothing. It was nice being back up there though. We looked at one house, but it definitely wasn't for us.

Finances were very good, slightly lower than April 2017, so our TTM dropped slightly. This will drop more in the next 6 months.

We crossed 7K in FAI. Yay!

We are starting to have meaningful dividend growth contributions to our FAI. For the year we are at $190.23, which is about 3/4 of a month. April was $74.55

Our Expense to Income numbers are getting closer and closer to overlapping for the first time. I feel like this will happen in 2018, but not until December. My big dividend months are March, June, September and December and I have home insurance/tax payments in all those months except December, so my expenses are higher than the average. My "month 3" number is now $752, and will grow by a lot before December.

Garden Photos at the bottom!!!

Finally, both of us have been busy busy busy having fun outside. It was a very long winter/late spring here in the midwest. We didn't get regular temps above 40F until 2 weeks ago in mid-April. The greenhouse is packed! I built a second bench and have some more changes planned.



Expenses/Savings

Total Spend - $877.51
Total Savings - $7,251.58 ; 89%

Years Saved - 13.23
SWR - 7.56%

TTM Expenses - $15,062.26(- $44.84)
Total FAI - $7,275.02(+ $329.71)

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Chicken Mulch!!

The past couple of years I have thrown most of my grass clipping and oak leaves in my chicken run. Going forward, I'm putting ALL of it in there each year.

Well here is the result! They compost better than I do. I was able to cover 3 garden beds at 2-4 inches deep. Probably about 200 square feet. The soil in our beds is getting pretty good because I've put down organic matter on a lot of them.

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The mulchers! We still get but loads of eggs. We give them to family and sell them at our garden club. And eat a lot of them. :P

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DW has espaliered a couple of old variety apple trees in front of the coop. They are coming along nicely.

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Mulching Lessons

I've learned a lot about what works and what doesn't when it comes to mulching over the past year. We have huge VOLE problems where we live. Anywhere that is undisturbed and has ground cover quickly becomes infested. This past winter a large chunk of our largest hostas were 90% eaten because they were covered by leaf litter that I didn't clean up.

Last year, I mulched a lot with grass clippings and the voles moved right in as well. So this year all the grass clippings are being composted by the chickens, because they don't work well in the compost bin either.

Wood chips don't work in annual beds! Don't do it! I don't think they tie up nitrogen so much as people think but they make it IMPOSSIBLE to do anything with vegetables. So they are confined to the paths, the hedges, fruit trees and the fruit garden.

The ONLY thing that I will mulch with on flowers and veg beds is finished compost and finished leaf mould. Also, no deeper than 4 inches because then the voles cannot tunnel under the mulch. They have to make entry holes, at which point I can destroy their tunnels and they leave.

The key to vole management is -

1. NO ground cover
2. Keep everything 'disturbed', meaning work the beds from time to time. Vole hate being disturbed and leave very quickly.

I love the idea of no-dig, but it just doesn't work for us for the most part. I am not turning soil over anymore, but I do disturb the top 2-3 inches.


So here is what our beds look like now. I love them.

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I finally have our fruit garden cleaned up after about 3 years of always falling behind. It just needs some more free woodchips. Working from home has given me so much more time!

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I'm a bit behind on my composting operation. I bought a chipper/shredder on craiglist for $100 bucks and will be using it to shred this stuff.

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I have so many flowers in my orchard and I don't even need to tend them! They just keep coming back. :mrgreen:


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Greenhouse!

My second bench. It has helped tremendously and I need to get another built for the other side. I'm also going to build a small plywood cabinet for storing pots, labels, tools, etc...

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As you can see, we go overboard. But we find room for everything! Growing in the greenhouse is going extremely well compared to kitchen growing. No fungus gnat issues yet! We saw a few today and so set everything outside so the wind will blow them away.

jennypenny
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Re: cmonkey's journal

Post by jennypenny » Fri May 04, 2018 10:16 am

Your garden pictures always make me jealous.

Jason
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Re: cmonkey's journal

Post by Jason » Fri May 04, 2018 11:16 am

cmonkey wrote:
Thu May 03, 2018 2:47 pm



The mulchers! We still get but loads of eggs. We give them to family and sell them at our garden club. And eat a lot of them. :P

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I never realized how varied chickens can look. I am assuming the red head with the blow dry staring straight into the camera is the hen.

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cmonkey
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Re: cmonkey's journal

Post by cmonkey » Fri May 04, 2018 1:29 pm

jennypenny wrote:
Fri May 04, 2018 10:16 am
Your garden pictures always make me jealous.
:( They are supposed to inspire. ;) I don't think my gardens are so great most of the time but it's probably because I see them every day.

@Jason, I'm guessing you are talking about the one on the bottom right? I'm pretty sure he'd kick you for calling him a hen. ;)

After we came home from MN, he kicked me every time I went to get eggs. Gotta move sloooooow.

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