White Belt's Military Journey to FI

Where are you and where are you going?
white belt
Posts: 96
Joined: Sat May 21, 2011 12:15 am

Re: White Belt's Military Journey to FI

Post by white belt »


Well it's all relative, and my current location is actually significantly more populated than my last duty station so I can't complain too much. Also I travel frequently for work to more desirable locations.

Besides the fact that soliciting sex work is illegal in almost all of the US, I also think that my strategy financially is actually cheaper in the long run. This is because if I find a partner willing to participate in something like a friends with benefits situation, I really only have to pay for the first date which usually isn't more than $20-30. From there I can have frequent sex with this partner with virtually no additional associated costs until we part ways, at which time the process starts anew.

white belt
Posts: 96
Joined: Sat May 21, 2011 12:15 am

Re: White Belt's Military Journey to FI

Post by white belt »

August Report

Income: 7200
Savings Rate: 74%
Expense Total: 1850

Housing - 350
Insurance - 54
Cell Phone - 24
Internet - 15
Music – 10
Mail Box – 20
Dating – 221
Food/Restaurants – 780 (103 on groceries)
Gas – 22
Travel - 102
Shopping/other – 252 (bought supplements to last a few months)

I spent 14 days traveling for work this month and another 4 days traveling for leisure, which helps to explain my high food expenses. Note that my per diem for just those travel days actually exceeds my total food expenses for the entire month.

Financial Snapshot
Net Worth: $198k
Taxable: 57.1k
TSP: 74.8k
IRA: 32.5k
Cash: 35.6k

My numbers are decent for August and my net worth climbed significantly. Pending a major market correction, I should reach the $200k savings milestone in the next month. Although to be honest, I’m so focused on the present that I actually have a hard time conceptualizing what ~10 years of living expenses really means. I’m still locked in to my current job for the next 2-4 years and frankly I am really enjoying my lifestyle. My job is incredibly rewarding and pays me well, and I’m more physically fit than I have ever been. I’m also learning a lot of new things everyday.

Beyond mental exercises, the last time I had more than a week or two of unstructured time that I control was probably the summer after college. Right now I'm still leaning towards focusing on music after the Army, but that could change over the next few years.

Future Stuff
In 2 months, I get a pay raise that will increase my income by $1042 a month. This will be the biggest pay raise I’ve ever received and should help me to boost my savings rate.

I think I pretty much hit the work trip lottery as I will be spending 2 months in Tampa working on a project. That means I’ll get to enjoy a much nicer area and I’ll earn $3800 in per diem for the trip. I plan on staying in a hotel with a kitchen and bringing my cooking stuff so my food expenses should stay on the low side.

Things are starting to solidify for my work timeline. Looks like I’ll be moving to a new and slightly nicer area in the late spring of 2020. I anticipate my housing expenses are going to rise when I move because I don’t think I will be able to find another setup as cheap as my current situation. I’m considering getting my own apartment since I know I will be in an Army school environment, which means no work travel. I find my current living situation with 2 roommates much more palatable since one of us is almost always traveling. Additionally, I’m going to try living in the nicer downtown area, about 13 miles or a half hour drive from work. This violates the common ERE building block of living close to work to minimize commute time and automobile travel, and will also drive up my car costs. However, up to this point I’ve sacrificed some social and dating aspects by living on base. I’m finally moving to a desirable enough place that seems to have some kind of nightlife/culture downtown that I’d like to enjoy. Housing expenses look they’ll be in the $700 range for a studio/one bedroom in a prime location and I’m ballparking my car expenses will increase by ~$100 monthly, so overall I expect my expenses to go up by $800 a month when I move. That is a lot of money, however I also think living in a desirable downtown location will increase my quality of life significantly. I’ll only live there for 12 months so I can always change to cheaper housing when I move again.

From preliminary research it looks like the area may be viable for purchasing rental real estate. I have to flesh out my plan, but I’d like to spend my first 3 months there learning about the market and building connections. Then I can see if I can find properties with numbers that work and purchase one or two before I have to move to my next assignment. I will need a good system in place for property management and my business as a whole since I won’t be local to the area for very long after I purchase the properties. I don’t plan on house hacking there since I need a place to live as soon as I move there and I think that would introduce a lot of stress if I have to also move into a new house that I’ve just purchased while doing repairs, finding tenants, etc.

Rental real estate will be must first foray into legitimately diversifying my streams of income. I’ve noticed that since I’ve been traveling a lot more for work, it’s harder to focus on DIY skills/projects. I know I’m a true salary man at the moment, but I really want to move towards a renaissance man lifestyle and to me a big part of that is getting another source of income.

white belt
Posts: 96
Joined: Sat May 21, 2011 12:15 am

Re: White Belt's Military Journey to FI

Post by white belt »

Well it’s been way too long since updating this. Maybe I’ll work through tallying the last ~5 months of expenses but for now I just wanted to get an update out.

Here is where I’m sitting currently:

Financial Snapshot
Net Worth: $230k
Taxable: 61k
TSP: 93k
IRA: 34k
Cash: 42k

This past month is the first time in a year that I’ve spent 4 weeks at my office without any trips. I’ve settled back into life at my house, but I realize my frequent work travel has really atrophied my social circle here. I really don’t have many social activities on weekends, so I’m going to try to work on that. Luckily I do get a lot of social interaction from my job, but I definitely feel like I need some more recreational interaction on weekends other than going on dates with girls I meet on dating apps.

I’d say one of the big changes since my last entry is that I’ve gotten much more serious about my nutrition and training. I plan on competing in weightlifting and powerlifting this summer for the first time, so my training has taken on a lot more structure. I do really enjoy every session having a purpose at the gym; each session fits into a weekly plan that fits within a larger phasic structure. In fact, it’s been so effective at getting my to consistently lift that I’m thinking about how I could use similar structure to motivate me to practice guitar consistently.

I’ve done pretty well the past month with not spending money on eating out. It helps that I’ve been in a fat loss phase which means I’ve really had to dial in my macronutrient intake (which means I only eat out maybe once or twice a week). I find that serious training actually fits very well into my web of goals. I need to focus on getting better sleep, eating healthier, and really structuring my time so I can hit the gym. All this makes me overall healthier and reduces expenses since I’m not spending as much on eating out or alcohol. Additionally, I find that the amateur nature of weightlifting and powerlifting in the US means that many competitors are used to living frugally to fund their hobby.

The market continues to climb (I don’t really follow it closely) so I have no doubt that most of my net worth is inflated since ~70% is invested in stocks (in the form of index funds). My cash pile continues to grow as I’m still considering getting into rental real estate which would require quite a bit of cash on hand, in combination with the fact that I don’t really have an investment strategy beyond the index funds dogma.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’d like to diversify my income in some form. Right now all of my income comes from my full time job. I think rental real estate is a possibility, but I’m still unsure if it’s the right fit for me since I move so frequently. I’ve read of people having properties on the other side of the country, but it is a bit more complicated than investing locally. I’m going to do more research.

I’ve read quite a bit about multifamily property investing. I don’t really have as much interest in working on fixer upper houses myself, I think my interest and skillset lay much more in my research, analytical, and organizational skills than any sort of handyman abilities. I could develop that skillset, but I’d much rather develop a business that I can manage remotely since I know I’ll be moving around frequently. Maybe real estate isn’t the right fit since it’s hyperlocal. Either way I think I definitely need to find a mentor and get some first hand experience with the whole process before committing to an additional career path. I found a local meetup for real estate investors that I’ll attend this month.

white belt
Posts: 96
Joined: Sat May 21, 2011 12:15 am

Re: White Belt's Military Journey to FI

Post by white belt »

I know it’s not the end of the month, but I’d like to give an update and put down some things that have been floating around my head. I'll do a monthly recap next week.

To start, over the past month or so I’ve become more interested in real estate investing. I went to a local meetup and really enjoyed learning and the camaraderie. I have no idea the exact niche within real estate that I’d like to pursue, but here is my initial analysis for how it would fit in my web of goals:

-I am very analytical, and real estate investing scratches an itch I have to research and learn
-I have a high credit score, high income from a W-2 job, and access to some military benefits (VA loan) which means I have a lot of financing options
-I like the built-in inflation protection of real estate
-I like that real estate is a physical asset, which I find rewarding since I spend my 9-5 time almost completely in the digital world
-I like the sense of community that exists with local real estate investors, agents, landlords, property managers, etc and that I can work together with others
-I need to diversify my income streams since right now I am entirely reliant on my full-time job
-I like building and optimizing systems, and as far as I can tell most real estate strategies succeed based on system design

-real estate requires me to be tied to a specific geographical area, which may be challenging since I move around a lot
-some profits in real estate are made from leverage, which of course has its risks
-I have no relevant experience

With that said, I’ve been building my own curriculum. Based on everything I’ve read and my experience from the one meetup, the curriculum requires both individual academic studying and working with more experienced investors in my area to learn from them.

An ERE Real Estate Investing Curriculum

One issue I’ve seen with real estate media is that there are a lot of shitty gurus who are more interested in selling a course on how to make money in real estate than actually making money in real estate. There are resources out there that are not get rich quick schemes, but there’s definitely a lot of chaff to sift through. Additionally, there are loads of books on real estate investing, but I think a lot of them skip over strategy and dive right into tactics. Many of them are autobiographical and are strategies that worked in one specific niche in one specific market at one specific time. I’d like to get a firm foundation of strategies and big picture concepts before digging into strictly tactical books. As Jacob said in the ERE book (paraphrased): “It’s more important to do the right thing than to do things right.” If anyone has any other book recommendations, please let me know.

Investment Strategy
-Economics by McConnell and Brue
-Investment Analysis and Portfolio Management by Reilly and Brown
-Investments by Bodie
-Real Estate Finance & Investments by Brueggeman and Fisher

You’ll notice that the first three are pulled from the from the “Startup curriculum for finance, economic, and investing” from the ERE blog. I basically took that list and just dropped the ones that dealt with corporate finance. The fourth text comes highly recommended and as far as I can tell is the best textbook directly related to real estate investing.

Real Estate Tactics
-What every Real Estate Investor Needs to Know About Cash Flow by Gallinelli

Jacob recommended this one in a blog post and I’ve seen it on just about every best book list for real estate investing. One could argue that this is actually a strategy book, since understanding cash flow and being able to analyze a property is important for just about any real estate strategy.

There are a few other tactical books I’ve seen recommended, but I think a lot will depend on what kind of strategy I am pursuing, so I’ll likely worry about that list later.

Hands On (Practical Experience)
-Shadow experienced real estate investors in my area
-Get a feel for which strategies work in a specific market
-Get a feel for which strategies match my temperament/skills

It seems like real estate investing isn't very popular on this forum, but I'd like to share my journey in case anyone has considered exploring it as well.

Edit: I'm not sure about the order of the strategy books. Even if I'm reading 100 pages a week, each textbook will take me 8 weeks. So if I were to read those textbooks in order, it would take me 6 months just to get to the Real Estate specific stuff. I'm not sure if I should change up the order or what. I already have the McConnell Economics book so I'll probably start with that one no matter what.

white belt
Posts: 96
Joined: Sat May 21, 2011 12:15 am

Re: White Belt's Military Journey to FI

Post by white belt »

Well as is the case with a lot of folks, COVID has me thinking about my overall systems and web of goals. Isolation at home is relatively easy for me as it already fits quite naturally with my lifestyle. The two things that require me to leave the house are groceries and lifting weights. I think in the future I may move towards getting a home gym, but right now I live on base so I have access to a lot of free facilities. I do plan on accumulating a two month stockpile of food and Berkey water filter so that I’m more resilient towards these types of events in the future.

The lockdown has me thinking about my ideal lifestyle again. In my mind, here are the things I need to reach self-actualization (there’s a thread talking about how happiness is far too nebulous of a term, so I think self-actualization is probably more accurate). Let’s call them the three principles:

1. I need to be learning and improving towards a goal
2. I need to be physically active
3. I need to connect with friends, families, and the community

On this forum there seem to be a lot of INTJ types and I believe the desire for mastery and effectiveness is a common for our ilk. Note that as my job has forced me to be more social, I believe I have drifted more towards E, but I am still introverted (just not as extreme as when I was younger).

This has me thinking about what an ideal day in my life would look like if I assume money is not a factor. The exact times are somewhat arbitrary, but it made it easier to model a day:

1000 – wake up/meditate/eat breakfast while enjoying the outdoors
1100 - practice mastery or work towards goal
1300 – lunch while enjoying outdoors
1330 - practice mastery or work towards goal
1600 – practice mastery/work towards physical goal
1800 – eat dinner with friends, unstructured social time, dating, free time, etc
0100 – sleep

This is a relatively simple schedule, but to me right now this is what I dream of as an ideal weekday. I think the weekend may allow for some variation or more unstructured time, but I’m not sure at the moment. I deliberately kept things as vague as possible since I believe specific activities and interests will change, however this basic structure will likely still appeal to me. I plan on batching things like cooking, cleaning, laundry, and maintenance for the weekend (this is my current practice and I rather enjoy the time saved of not having to cook everyday).

Just for reference, I’d say my actual schedule while working a 9-5 looks something like this:

0630 – wake up/eat breakfast
0800 – work in the office (provides social interaction, ability to learn, and working towards goal)
1630 - exercise
1830 – eat dinner at home
1900 – random activities at home
2230 – sleep

You may notice that this is actually quite similar, except for the fact that I can’t pursue mastery of hobbies unrelated to my current job while I’m working. Additionally, I don’t really have a developed enough social circle at my current location to have activities to do every night, but working at the office scratches the itch for social interaction to an extent.

I think my first move will be to try to dedicate some of my time at home to activities and hobbies I’m interested in. Up to this point I haven’t had a structured plan for those things, so by the end of the day I sometimes just end up mindlessly surfing youtube or these forums instead of working towards things I want to do. I also want to develop my social circle, but at the moment that’s not viable.

I have an opportunity this week to test drive my ideal schedule. I will be teleworking so I should have more time on my hands. I will be missing out on social activities, but perhaps I can schedule some digital social activities.

white belt
Posts: 96
Joined: Sat May 21, 2011 12:15 am

Re: White Belt's Military Journey to FI

Post by white belt »

Over this past week I've been able to do a bit of a test run of my ideal lifestyle.

Working on my projects has really given me daily satisfaction. I think I underestimated how much I was doing just to feel "productive" because I wasn't actually learning/improving towards a goal. Now that I have a little more structure of my free time, I find that I'm spending far less time surfing the web, watching youtube, researching products, etc. Currently my big projects are studying for a certification related to my career, studying McConnell's Economics textbook, playing guitar, and of course my weight training. I find that guitar is a nice change of pace and good to put towards the end of the day. It's easier for me to focus on studying earlier in the day.

I've modified my Real Estate Investing curriculum below:

Investment Strategy
-Economics by McConnell and Brue (April)
-Investment Analysis and Portfolio Management by Reilly and Brown (April/May)
-Real Estate Finance & Investments by Brueggeman and Fisher (June/July)

I removed the Bodie book because after skimming the table of contents, it looks like it's going to dive way deeper into securities than what I'm looking for at the moment. I may still read it later, after I read the Brueggeman book.

I've been reading at a clip of 2 chapters (30-40 pages a day) which takes me an hour. Then it's about another half hour of further research, compiling my thoughts, reading forum threads on the chapters, and posting. I should be able to maintain this pace until I have to work in the office full-time again, which I predict will be May at the earliest. I might even be able to maintain while working full time if I am disciplined.

Apartment Homesteading
I've done a little bit of research into microgreens after reading through this thread. Ultimately, I think I'm going to hold off on doing any home production of vegetables at the moment.

After a bit of introspection, I've come to the conclusion that I'm wired in pretty similar ways to Jacob when it comes to DIY and homesteading. I enjoy DIY as a means to an end, but I don't particularly enjoy the process. For example, I like the satisfaction that comes from changing my oil on my car after the fact, but I view the actual process as a chore. Therefore, when looking to design my web of goals and ideal lifestyle, I think I want to avoid things that require a ton of maintenance or recurring work like a homestead, because I just don't get much satisfaction from that kind of work. Obviously there is a balance here because I'm not just going to outsource everything, but I want to be deliberate in minimizing the amount of extra work I'm creating for myself with my choices. At the moment I'm most interested in working on my various projects.

white belt
Posts: 96
Joined: Sat May 21, 2011 12:15 am

Re: White Belt's Military Journey to FI

Post by white belt »

March Report

Income: 6757
Savings Rate: 53.5%
Expense Total: 3142

Housing - 350
Health/Fitness - 212
Insurance - 54
Cell Phone - 24
Internet - 15
Music – 10
Mail Box – 20
Education - 97
Dating – 53
Food/Restaurants – 944 (807 in groceries)
Gas – 15
Car - 98 (routine maintenance parts)
Travel - 0 (actual was $66 but my card fully reimbursed)
Shopping – 980
Guitar - 270

Today was a high spending month, but a good chunk of that is from stocking up on a supply of food for COVID19 isolation and a few large purchases that I had been planning for a while.

Recurring Expenses
I'm working with a online coach now for my lifting, which is steep at $200 a month but I think it's worth it for the progress I'm making because of it. Ditto the food tracking app that I'm using. It's been a while since I've done basic maintenance on my car, so that explains the purchases of filters, wipers, bulbs, etc.

One Time Expenses
I've been hemming and hawing for a while on updating my home office setup and I finally took the plunge. I actually did this at the beginning of March completely unrelated to COVID19 teleworking reality, but the timing ended up working at perfectly. I ended up getting an external monitor ($110), laptop stand ($21), docking station ($75), and a LifeSpan TR1200-DT3 Walking Treadmill ($707). So far I really enjoy it and find myself way more productive. I enjoy being able to walk while using my computer, which fits into my web of goals a lot better because sitting all day was restricting the mobility I need for weightlifting. I also like the cardiovascular and recovery benefits of walking, but it's been a challenge doing it while working a desk job. I don't plan on bringing my treadmill to the office at my current position, but I may use it at my next job.

I've been playing guitar a bit more and I'm looking to get back into the regular habit. I sold off some old equipment that I haven't used in awhile and purchased a multi-effects pedal which should enable me to play any style I want for years to come.

Financial Snapshot
Net Worth: $198k
Taxable: 47k
TSP: 79k
IRA: 32k
Cash: 40k

My net worth is down 14%, which is actually better than I was expecting. Of course since I don't plan on withdrawing any money I have invested anytime soon, it really doesn't matter much to me. I'm still holding a lot of cash and making my routine contributions to my tax-free accounts this year (I max out my IRA and TSP every year). I'm holding the rest of the excess in cash because I may purchase some real estate in the next 6-12 months.

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