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An American Millennial

Posted: Sat Aug 13, 2016 12:54 pm
by Viktor K
Entry 1
[Edit 1: Edited initial post to be a smaller summary to make it easier to read]
[Edit 2: Entire journal reformatting]

Sex: Male
Age: mid-20s
Personality type: ENTJ
Marital status: Single (living with girlfriend)
Children: None
Location: Nevada, USA
Employment: Grocery store and rock climbing gym
Salary: ~$24,000 USD/year
Housing: Rent significantly subsidized living with parent
Debt: $48,000 USD student loan at ~7.5% interest
Savings: ~$550 at journal start
401k: $1,700 USD
Permant life insurance: $800 USD cash value
Hobbies: rock climbing, hiking, traveling to foreign countries, eating healthy, personal finance
FI strengths: not materialistic, low living costs, cooperative partner, no kids, young
FI weaknesses: Spent $65,000 of wages and taken out $45,000 in loans over the last 5 years, student loan debt, low savings
Last 3 years: graduated with BA in International Affairs and Chinese, worked 6 months in personal finance company, worked at a restaurant, worked at a call center, started dating girlfriend, moved to and taught English in China, spent 1 month alone in Shanghai in a 10x10 apartment with new kitten (Chinese export requirements), moved back to USA, started working at grocery store and climbing gym, got serious about FI, started journal

I live in a suburb of Nevada, a desert state in the United States of America. I live with my mother , my little sister, and my long-time girlfriend. I am classified and identify as an ENTJ and I feel confident leading, tackling tasks, and marking my own path through life. Currently I work a less than glamorous job in a grocery store, while also quite enthusiastically working part-time at a rock climbing gym. I'm very committed to becoming financially independent. I planned my budget for the last 2½ years, but I have nothing to show for it!

Financial independence is a term I use everyday. I imagine a future in which I wake up and do whatever I want. I rest when I finish and then start again once I am rested. Adventure followed by recharge followed by adventure would then be my life.

My start
I have lived a transient life from home city to college city, college city to foreign city, and foreign city to new city. I lived expensively. Over the last 5 years, I have managed to spend over $65,000 of wages as well as take out roughly $45,000 in loans. That’s approximately $22,000 per year, or $1,833 per month. I have a modern day net worth of -$45,298.

My goals
  • Record progress monthly
  • Cut spending
  • Use long and short-term problem solving
  • FI in 6 years or less (2021)
  • Live the life I want today (don't sacrifice the present for the future)
Thanks for reading!

Re: Viktor K's Journal from Age 25

Posted: Sat Aug 13, 2016 1:57 pm
by Viktor K
~1 Week Deep
Here is the first update. It took a little to finish the charts, write it up, and figure out how to include the charts/images in the post.

C40, the animal, Mr Money Mustache, and zalo/olaz

Student Loans
I graduated college with roughly $45,000 in student loans. I was really blindsided by the reality of student loan debt, but that was 3-4 years ago now. My student loans are on a plan called pay as you earn whereby I make monthly payments for 20 years after which any remaining balance is forgiven. The annual payments are calculated as 10% of income minus 150% poverty line. Poverty line right now is $11,800, so 150% of that is $17,700. So if I make $20,000, my discretionary income $2300 and I pay 10% of that or $230. After 20 years of payments (I’ve made ~3) the remaining balance is forgiven, but the amount forgiven shows up as taxable income that year. I’m estimating to pay $30,000 + taxes over the next 17 years. My current plan is to continue payments for the 20 year period, but I’m open to reasons for paying it off sooner.

I earn roughly $24,000 per year… but it is always changing. I changed jobs a lot after college. My tax rate is something like 10-15%. I have about $3,000 split between an unmanaged 401k (all my own contributions), my savings, permanent life insurance, and my checking. My monthly expenses are averaging about $1365/month starting in May. I think I can get this to $800/month in the near future without making too many changes. Over the last three months I spent about $4,000 paying back a credit card, my girlfriend and mom from some money I borrowed earlier this year, and an old employer (the irony). This is misrepresented in my charts because I would sometimes pay more money for groceries or utilities at times as a form of payment whereas other times I would write a check or pay online. I have used a budget since 2013 but this is the first month I have tracked expenses. As such I don’t have all the data I need now but moving forward the numbers will all be up to date and accurate, whereas before I only used projections. I hope this change will help my finances.

I’ve kept a chart budget in Excel ever since graduating college in 2013 but I was often inaccurate. I’m keeping a record of my expenses now and I think it helps me be more honest with myself about what my actual spending is versus what I know or think it should be.

1. My first graph is a stacked line chart showing my monthly spending over the last few months. Some of the categories are over or underrepresented as some financial transactions (debt payments) are included in living costs.


2. My second graph is a pie chart of my spending in July broken down into more specific categories. Again some of the food and bills/utilities categories are actually debt payments.


3. Net worth is some -45,000 or so.

When reading through people's journals on these forums, I'm struck by how candid they are. It is really inspiring reading through these journals because I see people grow. I hope my journal will show the same sort of growth over time.

Re: Viktor K's Journal from Age 25

Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2016 1:04 pm
by Viktor K
In depth background

FI Strengths vs. Weaknesses (Financial)
I feel like I’m in a better position that most of America, but not as good as some others pursuing this path. I have a sliver of experience in financial advising. This mostly exposed me to how disorganized the average person is with their finances. Nearly every person I met with had to stumble through figuring out their budgets. It also exposed me to some of the brick and mortar when it comes to financial planning. This sort of started off my experiences budgeting. All throughout college I just aimed for enough money in my account at the end of the month to pay rent with. After my financial job I started really thinking about my finances. I also have some intangible strengths such as interest in a nomadic and/or minimalist lifestyle. My girlfriend and I aren’t really one for material things. Moreover, she recently got on board with the idea of downsizing to a van even! I’ll have to build on these strengths I figure or at least use them to my advantage.

Some of my situation will make it more difficult. I have very low-income. My gym pays $10.00/hour and my store pays $11.30/hour. This only comes out to a few thousand more than $20,000/year. I also don’t have any hard skills - mostly due to a liberal arts education. If there is an opportunity to learn some hard skills, I would prefer it be in a field I’ll be interested in or use in my free time. I feel like there are potential outdoor guiding classes/certifications that may work well for me. I also have a negative net worth. I’m starting pretty far back in the race as far as I can see. These may push back my retirement worst-case, but they won’t prevent it.

Adventure/Wanderlust (Personal)
My interests consist of outdoorsy things and seeing the world. My main hobbies are rock climbing, hiking, and backpacking. Some of my spending will revolve around these, as I’ve mostly neglected these as of late. I climb fairly consistently at the gym, but I haven’t been outside since early summer. I studied International Affairs (IAFS) and picked up a couple foreign languages in college. I just love learning about foreign cultures. I find some of them very interesting, and I also enjoy learning/practicing different languages. This culminated in a trip to China with my girlfriend the last half of 2015. It was pretty fun. I miss the culture and the people for sure. I want to make sure I spend more time on these personal interests, at least more time than I’ve spent as of late.

Bicycle (Personal/Financial)
I don’t have a car so that helps (and hurts). Before moving back from China, we planned our new home to fit biking distance. This makes it easy to get around without spending gas. All of my work and shopping is within biking distance. This works well but summer is a slight inhibitor. Temperatures are reaching 110F here or 43C. Most of my commutes are short enough that this isn’t an issue, but it is enough that we haven’t braved any leisure rides lately. Also, my bike just broke. I was riding it and the derailleur mechanism seems to have fallen off. It looks like there was some sort of bolt that held it on, but I couldn’t find it. Just two holes now. If I knew more about bikes, I would probably fix this myself. Since I don’t, I may have to spend more money on this. I do want to fix my bike.

Jobs (Professional/Financial)
Grocery store work is easy and uses my strengths. The skills required are relatively easy to learn. I never feel challenged to do my individual tasks. The sooner I learn how to do more administrative tasks the sooner I can move up. Advancement requires learning new tasks as well as managing others. The latter half of this is easy for me, and I enjoy it. Plus, I’m currently in a managing role, but only when no other manager is working. A major con is that a lot of the older people here are falling apart. We’re lifting close to a ton (2,000 lbs or 907 kg) of product each day, which is hard on your body. A couple people at my store have already needed surgery since I started working 5 months ago. This could be lucrative and good experience managing people, but it is also dangerous.

I also work at the climbing gym. It is my first climbing gym working at but it seems great. I do many different things there. Some days I run summer camps, or coach youth teams, and other days I set routes. Routesetting feels like a hobby since we spend half the time creating new routes and the other half “testing” them. Unfortunately, I’m not sure what this would look like as a full-time gig. There aren’t enough routesetting hours, without going to multiple gyms. Moreover, since it is a new gym, there aren’t really any announced upcoming or soon to be available full-time positions that I know of. Sometimes this feels like hobby income (routesetting), but other times it just feels like a nice chill job (working with kids).

I have an upcoming online tutoring job which will pay much better. Current grocery job pay $11.30/hour and $10/hour. The online tutoring job will pay $10 for each 20-25 minute tutoring session. You can only do 2 of these per hour so its $20/hour. That’s near enough that it feels like double what I make now. This is a Chinese company and you make your own schedule (on China time). So the hours I can choose fall between 2:00AM-8:00AM or 4:00PM-8:00AM on the weekends. It is really flexible outside of the weird hours because I can select what slots I want and there’s no minimum. The demo session also felt very natural. One difficult thing with teaching is managing the classroom and also planning the lessons. With the tutoring the lessons are pre-prepared and it takes a miniscule to no amount of time to prepare. Just login on time and start. Still, it is a Chinese company so I am worried about stability/timeliness of the income. My experience in China was rarely well-planned out. School years started at the “beginning” or the “middle” of the month up until the day they started. IE we would find out we had to go to class the morning that we had to go to class. Already there have been issues in getting compensated for the demo session, scheduling training sessions, and even staying registered to work. This is one of those things that is really a “wait-and-see” at this point, but sounds like a great opportunity if it works out.

July Major Expenses in Depth (Financial)
I know those last sections were long and held a lot of background. This next one will be more of the “brass tacks”. I break my “expenses” into living, discretionary, and financial categories. The general rule to most Americans is 50/30/20 which means 50% of income goes to living, 30% to discretionary, and 20% to finances. That’s great and all for working til you drop or can’t anymore, but no thanks. You don’t need to read all of the above. If you’re more interested in the finances you can just skip down to here each monthly update.

Food spending is high. Food expenses included debt payments of $90.63. I split my food expense with my girlfriend, so if I spend $200 and she spends $100 on the food we share, she gives me $50. Since I owe her money from China and from moving back, I have “forgiven” what she owes me over the last few months, which lowers how much I owe her. Food expenses were also high because of convenience purchases. We just went vegetarian a couple months ago and this month we got lazy. Since we weren’t stocked with ingredients, we ran down to Wal-Mart and bought a bunch of processed, non nutritious, and what-seemed-like “cheap” quick meals. These added up. Vegetables are also expensive. Since it takes a lot of calories to keep me going, getting them all from vegetables can add up as well. We’ve started working on this in August and it's looking good. Food will really be split 2 ways moving forward. So some of my food bill may go to utilities or something if I overpay. But for the most part my actual consumption on food will be this category divided by 2. Alcohol spending is also included. In June I went 1 month no alcohol, and then July I started buying some once/week or so. I could cut this again because it really isn’t the best expense IMO. Food spending at the current rate is actually on track for $105 in August so far, or $210 for two.

Bills/utilities are really $414.46. The rent payment for July hit my account in the beginning of August. That makes the July category show up lower than average. Also $106.78 of the utility bills shows up as part of my “other debt” in finances for August, since I wrote a check including my money owed to my girlfriend. This category will certainly be more in August.

Overall living expenses will be similar next month. Food spending will drop, but bills/utilities will be higher (assuming rent for Aug hits in Aug). I’m not sure how much of a change this will make. It is kind of a bummer because I will have made progress on food, but because the numbers are skewed, it will look pretty close to the same. Summer time is still driving up electricity expenses. Our AC runs in the daytime until it shuts off basically because the city caps the usage. Our electricity bills were nearly ⅓ what they are now before summer started. Unless the food spending makes a larger difference than double rent payments, August living expenses will likely be pretty close to July’s.

Finances category is dominated by paying off the credit card. I started making major payments on my credit card a few months ago. It really wasn’t too hard to pay off once I made the decision. This seems like “large” sums to be contributing to my financial category, which is a good thing because I am now debt-free outside of student loans. Thus, it will feel better when these payments go from credit card to savings/investments/FI.

I have 3 different insurances. I have a whole life policy which costs $77/mo. This covers me some $50,000 if I die and builds up cash value. The cash value isn’t really anything significant yet. Payments stop at 65. I have health insurance through work which averages $122/mo. This is contingent on being full-time employed. If I want to work several odd jobs instead, I think my health insurance will actually go up since it won’t be paid for through work. I have renters insurance which costs $14/mo. I usually pay all of this, since I don’t pay any of the other utilities out of my account other than internet. This category won’t change much assuming I stay full-time at the grocery store.

Next month total financial spending will hopefully be a similar amount or more. Instead of debt payments this category will be dominated by savings/investments. That’s mostly why this felt like a good time to start the journal. I can actually start building what feels like finally. Right now my financial category is a “what’s left” plan. I spend more on my finances when I spend less on my living and discretionary categories. Maybe that’s obvious. At this point I started feeling like writing this all out was quite the labor, but it is almost done and I’m liking all the miniature conclusions I’ve come to already, at least in my own head.

This category totaled only $20.17. $8.17 of that were snacks from the gas station and the other $12.00 was printer ink. Again, convenience purchases adding up. If I want to support $10/mo in snacks from the grocery store indefinitely, that would require $3,000 in some sort of investment account. The printer ink I actually got back money for since it is my mom’s computer. This is a surprisingly slim amount of discretionary spending for July, but I also don’t feel I got much out of the month in terms of adventuring.

Discretionary will more often include things for my hobbies. There are a few basic outdoor climbing things I need. This will then lead to more excursions come climbing season. Once I get the basics, I don’t plan on many ongoing costs and the upfront costs will help me enjoy my hobbies and outdoor-time more. I am also putting together backpacking gear. I was able to pick up a couple things already in August, which I’ll share later. This helps fulfill the “adventure” goal I’ve set. I may need gas for travel, but we will also use our bikes for some of the traveling. When the backpacking gear is gathered, we’re planning on biking out to some camping areas around here. If we go any further, we’ll likely want to spend money on gas. Over the last few months, this category has been very slim compared to most people, so if I can keep the average to what it is now, I’ll be rather satisfied.

Re: Viktor K's Journal from Age 25

Posted: Sat Aug 27, 2016 1:05 am
by Viktor K
Misc. Thoughts

Writing my thoughts out like this is already making a difference on my daily thought process. Still, after posting only a couple weeks ago, I have so many more thoughts floating around in my head that I feel the need to write them down some more. It is cleansing in a way, and when you think of what a journal is supposed to be, it seems only natural to write my thoughts here, in my virtual journal. The only difference of course is that this journal is not private and is open to whoever happens to find it. I'm not sure how much that changes the writing dynamic and honestly I hope it doesn't too much. If I can't be honest with myself here then there's really no point in putting a false "autobiography" of sorts or writing down my "not totally candid" thoughts. I guess I could keep them to myself, too, or keep another journal elsewhere, but that doesn't seem like something I want to do. I'm not too worried about not being completely straightforward with myself in this journal.

I'm pretty excited for this upcoming online tutoring work. The only hope is that it turns out as I hope it does. I can't say I'm sure it will work out perfectly but I have a pretty good feeling that it will work out. I should know soon, it is supposed to start at the end of this month or beginning of next. The major drawback I see is it being on Beijing time. When I wrote out my potential schedule for the work, I basically found that my best option would be to sleep from 8am-4pm everyday. That's pretty far-fetched. I know I could do it though, especially because I would still have all evenings free. It is just a really weird sleep schedule to be on outside of working for the Chinese company since if for example I want to take a day off and go backpacking, I would be backpacking/hiking during the time that I would be used to sleeping. I'm not sure how that would work out. The other option is going to sleep by 7:00pm every night. I haven't considered this option much yet. Option C actually (which got me out of bed just now to write this entry) would be to go to China again and work this online job while saving ridiculously more than I could here. It seems great on the surface from an ERE perspective. I mean godly almost. I would be making a higher wage than I can currently make in America while living at a Chinese level of ERE.

Some serious downsides of course. Number 1 being the air pollution. This is pretty killer for me personally and especially for my girlfriend. One workaround is less polluted areas. Number 2 problem is diet - where we were the first time around didn't let us eat exactly how we wanted. Number 3 problem is our cat. We actually bought a cat the first time around, did a 30-day quarantine to get out of China with him before making the 18 hour flight with him to get back here. I can't remember exactly but I believe the quarantine to get back into China is another 30-days. The one to get here wasn't terrible since it was an at-home quarantine. However, I wouldn't want our cat to have to go through some sort of Chinese hospital quarantine if it came to that.

There's a lot of thoughts in my head about moving back to China and how it would work. One major reason not to move to China, as a TEFL teacher at least (and from an ERE perspective) is the wages aren't necessarily the best. We went there on 9500 RMB or about 1400 USD/month (at the time). But there were smaller allowances over summer and winter. Our housing was paid for, which I sometimes assigned a dollar worth (housing cost $0 vs whatever it would be elsewhere). Still, even with saving, the dollars we could save annually is not very special. The most you can make as an English teacher there the last I checked and if you had experience would be 15,000 RMB or 2247 USD/month with housing paid for. I don't know if we could net this, but then we could save at a decent rate. If we worked through this online company however, we would be earning 3500 USD/month, but have to pay for housing (which is significantly less than America). Min-maxing our cost of living versus income would be easiest with the online company, since higher wages typically mean working in more densely populated/larger/more polluted cities. With the online company, where we lived in China would not be determined by where we could get work. Actually, where we worked wouldn't even necessarily be tied to China either. We could end up in any country really.

Alas, moving to China in order to escape an abnormal work/sleep schedule seems extreme. I would merely need to think about the people in the USA who work night shifts. It is doable. I haven't talked to any of these people, so I can't really say how much they mind or don't mind their nighttime work schedule, but maybe they don't mind it. Maybe I won't either. Maybe the job won't even work out and thus this whole thought process will be meaningless :P. We'll just have to see. I can say one thing about the way I think, though, and that is that when I do think about something that I can even get a little bit excited about, I typically think it into the ground. Oftentimes ideas I've strongly considered have even spurred me to make a verbal commitment to action, but then my interest rapidly decays and months later I'm not even interested in whatever it may have been any longer.

I will say that I bought a backpacking backpack and a small tent this month. I've got a tent that I think will fit me and my girlfriend. And the backpack is pretty big I think it is something like 65L. I bought them both off Craigslist. There are a couple more things I need now, and I think I'll buy some of them on eBay - the prices seem better. I figure I should be able to backpack successfully come October. I could probably be ready earlier but I want to make sure I'm not pushing it with the heat around here. We are dropping down now it seems, with average temperature in the high 90s/low 100s, depending on weather. It is much cloudier now, and sometimes it is allegedly raining somewhere nearby.

The gear will probably be ready. The season may take a little longer to change. At least I won't have to purchase everything all at once. Spending lots of money kind of makes me uneasy :shock:. I think I could really write in this thing a lot more. It just seems therapeutic in way to write your thoughts down. I don't know what it is about it. Maybe some great person has already penned this idea, and I'm only just naively discovering it for the first time. Maybe not, maybe I'm just weird. Or maybe it doesn't even make a difference at all and my ideas are always coming together like this and I never really realized it. I'm not too sure.

I am tired though. I think that's where I will end this entry. Working is hard and exhausting. One thing about work is it sort of dominates your free time. Like your only free time is when you're not working, and you then have to spend part of that free time by sleeping so that you're not too tired for your work. Or, even worse, that you're not too tired for your free time. I really want to be present for the people in my life. More than anything really. I think that's one reason that pursuing ERE is so important to me. It's enough for me now to just be with the people I care about. I think it will be enough at the end of this journey as well.

Re: Viktor K's Journal from Age 25

Posted: Mon Aug 29, 2016 1:11 am
by Viktor K

Re: Viktor K's Journal from Age 25

Posted: Mon Aug 29, 2016 2:30 pm
by Viktor K

Re: Viktor K's Journal from Age 25

Posted: Tue Aug 30, 2016 6:40 pm
by Viktor K
August 2016 summary

Summary: Good
This August went pretty well. I spent a little too much cash ($200) in the wrong places, but otherwise held it together quite well. I said "no" plenty of times to superfluous purchases and unnecessary and/or convenient food. Skills-wise I made little progress, and didn't follow through on a couple "goals".

Speaking of goals, I have been goal-setting since a month after I got back from China. April 24th, I set a number of goals to be completed within one month. Here is the original (minor edits for privacy) list:

  • $ Buy girlfriend a gift (wednesday morning)
  • $ Get new climbing shoes
  • $ Take catto the veterinarian (saturday)
  • Go on a hike
  • Go swimming
  • Go to second nearest scenic area (thursday)
  • Go on a bike ride (saturday?)
  • Start lead climbing (saturday)
  • Go to doctor (tuesday)
  • Get eye exam (?)
  • Gain 5 lbs (target weight)
  • Get girlfriend to visit doctor

  • Open checking account
  • Cancel term life insurance
  • Set up auto pays (internet, renters insurance, rent, life insurance)
  • Make a large payment on a debt (in progress)
  • practice duty 1 at work
  • Do task 1 more efficiently
  • Do task 2 more efficiently
  • Do task 3 daily
  • Do task 4 many times
The green were completed that month and the total came out to 15 goals completed (71%, 15/21). This was a pretty fun exercise that helped me get situated quickly and efficiently after getting back to America. So I went on to do this each month, with my results as follows:

5/24/2016 Finished 14 goals completed (53%, 13/26)
6/24/2016 Finished 12 goals completed (67%, 12/18)
7/24/2016 Finished 2 goals completed (33%, 2/6 or 22%, 2/9)

This last month my goals were largely composed of things having to do with going to college for a new (3rd) degree. I was thinking I would go back and get a technical skill set, but I was eventually put off by that idea. I added up how long it would take me on my current path to reach my target goal. I then compared that with how long it would take me to go back to school, start the new career and reach my target goal. These calculations came out roughly even. So long as I quit when I reached my goal net worth, it would take me just as long on my current path as it would if I went back to school for a technical skill. I was also considering getting a degree in something I didn't find interesting, and I realized this was an additional reason not to pursue more college at this time.

So I dropped my classes before tuition was due, and have no plans to further my education (at least as far as paying tuition for anything) as of yet. It was a huge relief, but also meant I didn't reach a number of my easy goals for the month, which were largely college-focused.

I didn't set goals August 24th since I figured it would be best to post them here now. Here they are:

1 month goals (due September 31st)
  • $Go to the dentist
  • $Use vision insurance
  • $Buy sleeping pad
  • $Buy sleeping bag
  • Fix bike
  • Get cat litter
  • No cash purchases on medical
  • Transfer $1800 to savings
  • Spend less than $100 on groceries (my share)
  • Rollover old, unmanaged 401k
  • Spend less than $15 on alcohol
  • Maintain composure at work
  • Start new online tutoring job
  • Practice ordering product
  • Practice taking inventory
My personal best for completing monthly goals was 71%. I'd like to get 100% this month.





I think the charts are pretty explanatory. The pie chart for total spending gives the most information, in my opinion. You can see cash purchases taking up a lot of discretionary spending (pink/purple). This included two trips to the dispensary as well as a used backpack and backpacking tent off of Craigslist. The latter spending I'm quite pleased with. The former I would like to spend less on.

Living and discretionary expenses can be fine-tuned a little bit, but not much. Living expenses (green) took up roughly 1/3 of my bills. Food was technically less than shown because I bought a large portion of the girlfriend's food this month, but that difference is represented in bills/utilities (I didn't have to pay as much because I already bought food). Still this 30% is a sizeable chunk. I think the only way to reduce this further would be a) less food spending and b) living in a van. The former is pretty easy to accomplish, as alcohol and birthday presents from the supermarket (fell under food category) make up a sizeable portion. Housing and utilities however are averaging $500/month this summer, and those costs will drop in the winter (less A/C). The cheapest apartment I've seen around here is over $700/month. I think I could bring living down to 27% from 31%, and discretionary down from 15% to 5%. That would free up 14% of my income to put towards finances.

Financial spending accounted for >50% of my spending. I'm pretty satisfied with this. If I transferred a bit of cash to my savings today, this percentage would go up. I'm not going to do that, though, because it won't record right in my spending/tracking app, and would show up next month. But, hey, that's something to look forward to. With the changes mentioned above, I would end up somewhere around 68% of income scheduled for finances. I may be able to accomplish this or better next month. Some of the financial spending goes to insurances, but the rest will go to savings.

Pretty good month in my opinion. It wasn't perfect from an ERE perspective, but I feel I progressed. I feel I'll have even better progress to record in next month's update. I also plan on having all my backpacking gear together by the end of this coming month, but I believe it will still be too hot to do much here. Although there is a nice mountain a little over an hour away and it has cooler temperatures... Maybe I could pull something off.

Oh! And the butter turned out pretty well. I have dosed at just over 2 tsp and am quite satisfied with the effect. It feels more therapeutic, and I feel less foggy. If I continued at this rate however, the butter would last just over 1 month, far from the 3 months I was hoping for. If I can step down the dosage, or even halve it (I didn't feel anything from a half dose yesterday), then it can last maybe 1.5 to 2 months. I may revisit growing my own, but I would have to make certain of the legality. No plans to do so at this time.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Tue Sep 06, 2016 6:26 pm
by Viktor K
Goal progress
I was able to transfer $500 of this month's $1800 savings goal already. $1300 to go. My food spending has been a little high these last couple days, but I think food this week will include more staples. Thus, food costs should be more on track to meet goal. I also nabbed the easy goal of getting cat litter. As for the rest of the goals, these will take several days of active working to accomplish them. Going to the dentist would be sweet if it was as easy as buying cat litter.

  • $Go to the dentist Not started
  • $Use vision insurance Not started
  • $Buy sleeping pad Not started
  • $Buy sleeping bag Not started
  • Fix bike Not started
  • Get cat litter Completed
  • No cash purchases on medical On track
  • Transfer $1800 to savings On track
  • Spend less than $100 on groceries (my share) Iffy
  • Rollover old, unmanaged 401k Not started
  • Spend less than $15 on alcohol On track
  • Maintain composure at work On track
  • Start new online tutoring job Iffy
  • Practice ordering product Not started
  • Practice taking inventory Not started

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 2:27 am
by Matty
Hey Viktor. Nice to see another climber around here!

The good thing about climbing is that after an initial upfront cost, ongoing costs are minimal. I find that climbing hardware depreciates at a fairly low rate and lasts a long time if cared for, making the lifetime cost minimal. The killer can be climbing gym membership, but I assume you can climb for free as you work at one! As the weather warms up down here in Australia I have been trading in my nights at the climbing gym for extra time outdoors, saving money in the process!

Actually, working at a climbing gym would be an ideal semi-ERE job! Bit of social interaction, free climbing, maybe some gear discounts. Sounds sweet!

Good luck on your ERE journey!

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 5:50 pm
by Viktor K
@Matty Thanks for saying hi Matty :). The climbing gym is a really good deal right now. While the pay is minimal, routesetting is tons of fun. I also have a lot of fun with coaching the youth teams, but that's not for everyone. There's additional opportunity to work at the front desk, but for me that sounds too much like work :p. Our gym has what's called a "woody wall", which is basically a 45 degree wall with another 2-3 feet at 90 degrees at the top and every bolt has a hold in it. For any climber interested in working as a routesetter (and getting that free membership), it is a great way to practice. I usually spend 20-30 mins there whenever I visit the gym to "set" a few different routes to the top. Routesetting is definitely something I could see myself doing even post-ERE (if the schedule would be flexible enough ;)). As for climbing gear, I totally agree, but right now I'm getting together my camping gear first and then I'll be capitalizing on the 40% off we get to pick up a rope, quickdraws, and a few other things!

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 5:57 pm
by Gilberto de Piento
There's a long history of dirtbag climbers living a low-budget lifestyle so they can climb all the time.

I've found good deals on "worn once" climbing shoes on craigslist, especially for women. People buy them in the wrong size or go to the gym once and never go back.

Your journal is a good read. Keep up the great progress!

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 6:39 pm
by Scott 2
Skimmed your journal - quick suggestion, apologize if I missed something.

You are working for businesses in low margin industries. They are going to pay poorly, simply because they do not have money. There's a big upside potential in your current earnings as a result. Select an employer like you would a stock, and you could potentially earn twice as much for the same effort.

This is a very accessible introduction to selecting profitable companies / industries

This is a no nonsense guide to what it takes to play their games for money: ... CAAJ&hl=en

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 9:26 pm
by Chris
Wow, you jump in with both feet, dontcha? (-:

I read the whole thing. I agree: you are already making some progress, which is great. And identifying a main driver (being present for the people in your life) is key. Good work.

Some comments:
I have a whole life policy which costs $77/mo.
Why do you have life insurance? Why is it a whole life policy?
I have health insurance through work which averages $122/mo.
Is this the least-expensive option available to you? I also notice that you mention "use vision insurance" as one of your goals. Is this separate or included in your health insurance?
If I want to support $10/mo in snacks from the grocery store indefinitely, that would require $3,000 in some sort of investment account.
An excellent way to think about that, and all expenses.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Wed Sep 07, 2016 9:51 pm
by Viktor K
@Gilberto de Piento
Gilberto de Piento wrote:I've found good deals on "worn once" climbing shoes on craigslist, especially for women. People buy them in the wrong size or go to the gym once and never go back.
I can totally see this! I was lucky and got my first shoes from the outdoor chain here REI which (used to) have lifetime return policy on all their gear. I was able to switch out my first pair when I wanted something more aggressive, and then switch out that pair for another pair when I realized they were so uncomfortable that it took all the fun out of it! That pair recently wore a hole through the toe, and so I picked up another which seem pretty solid. But I wouldn't mind getting a more comfortable shoe for when I don't want to do anything too hard. I'll remember to check Craigslist if I do, as I didn't even think about checking there a few months back when I got this new pair. And thanks a lot for the encouragement :D

@Scott 2 I actually had a talk with a friend about this very recently. I know I'm not earning my full potential right now, and it is partly due to circumstance and partly due to my own preference. As for circumstances, when I got back from China my finances weren't any better than they are now :cry: , so I just thought "Where can I apply that is nearly guaranteed to hire me?" That's how I ended up at the grocery store, and luckily enough they made me full-time shortly after I started. The climbing gym I picked up because its just my favorite hobby over the last 4-5 years and working there really just feels like fun for me.

Still! I may need to take a look at these websites you sent me. It sure would speed up distance to ERE :) . One thing that I like about the grocery store is that it is such easy, easy work. I don't really like using my energy at work, but rather using it at home with my family or friends! So if I can find a way into a better paying industry where I can just as easily get by on positive attitude and good work ethic, then that would be a great opportunity for me! I'm hoping this upcoming tutoring job will fit that bill since it will effectively double my hourly rate. Once that happens (or if something goes wrong and it doesn't) I'll have a lot more to consider as far as what I do professionally. And then again, maybe I'm just shooting myself in the foot by not just going for the highest dollar. If I could reach my goals in 2 years versus 6, for example, that would probably be enough for me to make a change... Thanks a lot for the input! You've given me a lot to think about 8-) .

@Chris I try to! I think that's why I think so much about things before taking any action (and also why I can be so flip-floppy in conversations) because when I take action on something I usually never look back! So I'm happy to analyze the whole life policy and find out if it is right or not for me. I ended up with a life insurance policy while I was working with a life insurance company. I sold it to myself, which means I also ended up with the commission for it (essentially a discount on the first year's premiums), and then I've kept it since. As far as the insurance is concerned, it is for $50,000 on death, which I would have going to my family to help with final expenses. Of course I won't be here when I'm dead so I'm not sure I would even know they got the money for my death... but that goes down a different line of thinking. Financially, it is building cash value, and eventually the premium should be covered by the increase in cash value each month (around year 5-7). Around year 13-15 I should have more in it than I've paid into it. If that makes it worth it, then I plan to keep it. If it doesn't make sense, then I would be open to cashing it out and putting it somewhere else. To date there's about $800 in it. I pay premiums til age 65. There's certain tax considerations but I don't remember them anymore. I'll have to do some research!

The health insurance is the cheapest at work unless I drop some of the other insurances. I believe I have health, dental, and vision. They're all included in that total, and when I say use my vision insurance I'm referring to purchasing either eyeglasses or contacts. The contacts I have I'm nearly out of, and they're actually not even fitted, and my glasses are really on their last legs. I was using super glue for a while, but that doesn't work anymore. For now they're being held together with tape. Yes, I only where them at home. No, I don't go out in public like that (usually :P ).

I like thinking about things that way, especially while at the store. The logic seems to work pretty well on my girlfriend to - most the time! Now you got me thinking that way about my life and health insurance too! And thanks a lot for the kind words :).

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Sat Sep 10, 2016 8:37 pm
by Scott 2
My experience has been working conditions are easier in companies that have money. Since they're not scraping the bottom of the barrel to make payroll, they can afford to hire when needed, provide decent benefits, develop staff, etc. Not to say that all will, but the odds are better.

You're obviously a smart guy, I think you could manage a "hard" job without getting drained. In my experience, it's the people that fail to realize they are playing a game, that struggle. Understanding the rules and using them to your benefit is far more effective than being an expert or a hard worker.

Totally understand on the climbing gym. Hobby jobs are super fun. I worked in the gym during college and really enjoyed it. Some of my friends worked in the game room and literally spent most of their time getting paid to play pool and point pong.

If working at the grocery store is something you just really enjoy, I don't know that I'd change it only for money. I imagine someone with your attention to detail stands out there and will be quickly asked to lead.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Tue Sep 13, 2016 10:25 pm
by Viktor K
@Scott 2 That makes a lot of sense. I feel aware that I'm playing a game, but I don't know how much effort I want to put into it, if that makes sense? It could just be my young age and wisdom showing itself, but for now I feel like I've got a pretty good grasp on my professional life. We're crossing our fingers here (the GF and I) that this Chinese tutoring gig kicks off. Sometimes it feels like wishful thinking, but at $20/hour, no min./max. working hours, and online... it feels like the best opportunity we have at this time. We've been talking more lately about going abroad when the tutoring job starts, since we can take advantage of lower costs of living without worrying about lower rates of pay. Let me know what you think about that. I don't love the grocery store in any way at all, but I do enjoy the casual atmosphere and interactions with my coworkers. It also seems like an easy place to "win" by moving up the ladder and hitting a salaried position.

Goals update
I did want to admit that I committed a financial blunder today. While checking off "Use vision insurance" off my checklist, I ended up dishing out $80 for an eye exam and contact fitting, and still have no new pair of eyeglasses nor contacts.I misinterpreted my benefits, and ending up having to pay for the contact fitting, which I had thought was covered. I also have an astigmatism, and I wasn't aware until after the fact that getting a contact fitting with that costs extra.. and is also not covered by vision insurance. I will followup with my insurance company to make sure that there weren't any mistakes in my billing, but otherwise it looks like I'm $80 out with nothing much to show for it.

On the bright side, they were able to repair my old, outdated prescription glasses from 2009. They don't have to be held together with tape anymore.

Reviewing the goals again here, I am in pretty good shape. I do want to comment that "Transfer $1800 to savings" was a strange goal, as I only make about $1900/mo. We'll see what happens. Also, "Start new online tutoring job" was a poor choice for a goal as it is largely out of my control.

  • $Go to the dentist On track
  • $Use vision insurance Completed
  • $Buy sleeping pad Not started
  • $Buy sleeping bag On track
  • Fix bike Completed
  • Get cat litter Completed
  • No cash purchases on medical On track
  • Transfer $1800 to savings Iffy
  • Spend less than $100 on groceries (my share) Iffy
  • Rollover old, unmanaged 401k Not started
  • Spend less than $15 on alcohol On track
  • Maintain composure at work On track
  • Start new online tutoring job Iffy
  • Practice ordering product Not started
  • Practice taking inventory Not started

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 9:04 am
by Scott 2
I have no experience with tutoring, living aboard, or working in a grocery store :) The raw numbers are what caught my attention. Here's a good Mr. Money Mustache article with another take on them: ... ee-part-1/

Ultimately though, if it works for you, that's all that matters. I've got a friend that moved to Hong Kong after college, to voice anime for mainland China. He's done quite well selling his American accent, has been there almost 10 years now. Has a lot of down time and is able to vacation all over south east Asia for cheap.

My company uses VSP for vision insurance. I signed up one year, then learned I was paying to be funneled into optometrists with over-priced glasses. The VSP site for optometrists makes this obvious. Even after the VSP credit, the cost was higher than Costco. There's a good chance you are using it right, and it just isn't helpful.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Fri Sep 16, 2016 12:52 am
by Viktor K
@Scott 2 I actually have read that article before! But I clicked anyway, unknowingly, and went ahead and read it again just to see if my perspective has changed. For the most part - "I'm not interested in any of these" crossed my mind at one point during the reading of part one. Lo and behold, however, on part 2 down near the 50th career choice: "tutor". I definitely had a little :lol: to myself when I saw it. This made me think, "Well, if this online tutoring gig doesn't work out, I'm still at least somewhat on a decent track!"

But yes. That's a cool career choice for your friend. Fortunately (because I love her), the GF is a little turned off by most of Asia right now, but we've discovered many more modern-but-still-cheap countries/regions where we can still get out travel in. It's highly valued by both of us, and probably by your friend as well.

Lol. It's ridiculous what these people charge at the optometrist. I was sat down at a little table with a saleslady after my appointment. She read off my balance line by line for a year supply of new contacts. I waited. When she finished it was all I could do from just shaking my head and saying, "Nah :|." Yep, the insurance isn't too helpful. However, I did save $40 on the trip (via insurance), and I've paid only maybe $12 into it, so that is an approximate savings of $30 on the $80 I spent getting the prescription and contact fitting (bringing the total to $50 so far)*. Now I just need to figure out: contacts or glasses?

* Covered up to $110
* Voids benefits for lenses/frames

* $150 retail for frames (I already have a pair) (covers $47 out of network)
* 25$ copay for lenses, the rest is covered (covers $45 out of network)

My vision is pretty bad as well, so some sort of correction is necessary even just to legally drive. I have 1-2 months worth of contacts lenses in my possession now, so there's some time to think about this.

* It's funny; in China we didn't even need/have to pay for a prescription. Just head on down to the guy on the corner, test your vision for free, and pay for the contacts. The contacts were much cheaper as well. [6/8/2017 Editing note: Super ironic reading this now!]

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Sun Sep 25, 2016 12:08 pm
by _JT
You may not want feedback (you haven't asked for it that I've seen); if that's the case feel free to ignore it.

1) You're way underemployed. You're obviously a smart guy with good communication and people skills, and a college degree, who speaks multiple languages and is physically healthy. WAY underemployed. This is a common problem for millennials, as I'm sure you know. I suggest you keep the PT gig at the climbing gig (since memberships are crazy expensive you're basically getting paid to do your most expensive hobby for free -- this is great FI behavior), but ditch the grocery store gig. I mean, not at once, but immediately start looking for something better. For someone with your skillset I'd suggest you could make a lot more money in sales, or by working with a local real estate investor who would take you under his/her wing and train you as a project manager. Vegas real estate is still a great market with a lot of action, so you should be able to find a local investor who flips or does rentals that needs a solid person to help them out. If the tutoring thing ever comes through, great! Dump the grocery store job and devote as much time to it as possible. If you could do 40 hr/wk at $20/hr, you're making 40k annually. I don't think the tutoring gig will get you there, but I think 35 - 40k should be your target yearly income. I think you might also like finding some seasonal work (summers doing construction or firefighting in Idaho/Montana -- bonus: great climbing, or commercial fishing in Alaska). You could probably find a way to make 15-30k in a summer (the high end is for commercial fishing). Additionally, you like working with the little kids at the gym -- is there an opportunity for private coaching/training? Way more money there if so.

2) Student loan debt is killer. You owe 50k at 7.5%. The LAST thing you want to do is pay minimums and wait for the 20 year forgiveness. You should come up with a 3-5 year plan to crush this debt. If you go with high paying seasonal work you could probably just apply the money from your summers to paying the debt off in 3 years. You can't really make any progress towards FI when you owe 50k and make 20k. And no investment is going to beat an immediate 7.5% return (which is what you'll get from paying off loans). I'd set your first big bright goal as POSITIVE NET WORTH, within the next three years.

3) You can reduce your expenses even further pretty easily. Life insurance is a no brainer. You own nothing and have no dependents -- you don't need it. You're wasting nearly 1k per year on this. Health insurance at $120/mo is way too much for you. That's what mine costs, and I'm 36. You need the minimum catastrophic plan for ~$40/mo. If you can swing those two things you just freed up $1800/year for yourself.

4) I think you've correctly identified your strengths: no car, relatively low living expenses, understanding significant other. Those are all HUGE, so kudos to you.

5) You have youtube, which means you can fix your bike.

Re: An American Millennial

Posted: Thu Sep 29, 2016 5:50 pm
by Viktor K
@_JT - Let me be clear then, I'm definitely looking for feedback! I could keep this journal on my own, but then I would get nothing back from posting it on here :) I really appreciate the insights you gave and I've been thinking about them the last few days. Any response to my thoughts (from you or others) would be awesome, but don't feel obligated :).

1) I appreciate this first point quite a bit in the sense that it makes me feel good about myself. I've broadened my job search to include sales and real estate positions, although I'm searching somewhat blindly right now. One big issue with sales is that I've crashed and burned before already; I took a financial services job right out of college. If I can find a product that I really like, then I'm game to take another shot at sales. However, I would want to look for a sales position that included a base salary, and no tapping my personal network. Jobs fitting the above criteria are proving rarer than their counterparts - outside sales, cold calling, building your own network, commission only gigs, etc. I'm also not sure how much of a limit having no car is to a sales position. As for real estate, I'm still looking, but I know so little about the industry. One of my best friends has started working real estate, I may need to ask him more about it next time we talk. To the other points: coaching/private training is definitely something I've mulled over recently, although for soccer rather than climbing. Both may be an option. For now I'm sticking with the grocery gig in case nothing else comes to fruition. After a solid year of self-focused training and I figure I could advance to a position making $40,000/year, but it would be laborious. Still hoping the online tutoring comes through, or that I find and job that is and get hired to do something better.

2) I think this is a great argument for net worth. However, I've done some of my own calculations that seem to support waiting rather than paying. The main argument for waiting is that my monthly payments drop to $0 when earning below poverty (i.e. earlier this year and last, ERE period), and that the total paid would amount to a few thousand now and then only a percent of what's forgiven in ~18 years. Here's the chart. I hope more people and yourself will help more with this component of my plan as it is the part I'm least confident in. Here's what I'm working off of:

Case for waiting:

3) I'm thinking to implement both of these suggestions next month. The life insurance I have been considering dropping as of late. I recently dropped my term life insurance policy, and was holding on to the permanent for final expenses and/or an alternative investment vehicle. When working in financial services we sold this as a "non-correlated asset" averaging 5.7% over the last 25 years. Right now I just lose money each month as it is still paying off commissions/fees, but in 3-4 years it is projected to increase by more than I pay each year. It can be used as alternative funds should any investments be down during my ERE. As for health insurance, I'll need to shop around. I'm averaging around $250/mo in health expenses and/or insurance premiums which I find tragic.

4) Thank you sir. I somewhat came up with "ERE" on my own shortly after graduating while somewhat aimlessly plugging in numbers to Excel thinking "How much longer do I really have to work this horrible job?" When the numbers seemed to show that ERE was possible is when I went searching the internet and stumbled along this site, MMM, index investing, etc. Little changes over the years have helped me develop a smart financial psyche relative to the rest of America, but as stated in my first post, I still saw no savings and/or investment returns over the last few years. Lots of work still to do.

5) Bike fixed :D