SWB's path to financial independence

Where are you and where are you going?
SavingWithBabies
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Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2015 2:50 pm
Location: Midwest, USA

Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies » Thu Sep 26, 2019 8:32 pm

We moved to Marquette. We ended up renting a U-Haul truck and a dolly. We put some things in the boat and my wife drove the SUV pulling the boat. Most our things* went into the U-Haul truck and we towed the sedan on the dolly. I did most of the moving with some help from my wife on the big things (our foam mattresses).

The job I turned down then they convinced me to be in a holding pattern ended up falling through. They apparently had hired some people locally but I think it was some kind of political struggle between an older manager employee who wanted local and the new higher level manager who wanted to do more outsourcing. It's always hard to tell from the outside but frankly it felt like I dodged a bullet.

So what to do next for employment? I'm not sure. I have some easy low stress options like be an employee ($120k + benefits) or a contractor ($120/hour) at one prior employer. Or try to find some contract work through a developer network ($150-160/hour). I could also go back to one of the companies I interviewed with but didn't end up going with (but I have to think that through -- kind of like dating where you don't want them to think you're settling for second best). I ping some other direct leads for freelance so we'll see if anything shakes out.

I've been enjoying not working. Only stress has been ensuring we have medical coverage. We qualified for subsidized health insurance when we were near Ann Arbor however at first my income estimate put our kids on medicare. I fiddled with the estimate and put in a more correct one which I think would have none of us on medicare and a roughly 50% subsidy on the monthly premium but I somehow need to get proof our kids aren't on medicare. I don't really know that they aren't so it's confusing plus when I ran the healthcare.gov application up here, it looked like the subsidy wasn't the same. So I have some work to do to chase down things and figure out what is going on there.

I thought I'd be more stressed about the monthly burn. But I'm not. It's just money. Logically though, I know I'm not at ERE/FI yet and I need to keep accumulating so let's see what happens on the making money front. In the meantime, I'm trying to enjoy my time off as much as possible.

* On the things front, we did a good job of downsizing however we also ended up moving a lot of things that clearly need to go. The majority of that type of thing is my hobby things but there are also some kitchen appliances/misc and other things that we just don't need anymore but we also didn't want to throw away. So it made sense to move them and then try to get rid of them up here. So that's the plan with a bunch of extra things. It would be great to move back into an RV in a year with nothing in storage. Or at the very most, the smallest storage unit possible. The RV experience made it very clear we don't need so much stuff and anything we need we can always buy again (typically used).

SavingWithBabies
Posts: 581
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2015 2:50 pm
Location: Midwest, USA

Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies » Sat Oct 05, 2019 8:06 pm

Housing

With the move, our housing costs have gone down quite a bit. We're paying $1275/month for the apartment which includes everything except electricity. Overall, the apartment is nice although we're not used to sharing a structure with another tenant so we have to get used to hearing other people's music (but they have to hear our kids so we probably have the better end of the stick). Unlike our prior rental, the washing machine is coin-driven so our laundry expenses will go up a bit however the water/electricity/gas for the washer and dryer is not on our bill so maybe it won't make much of a difference. We bought our $130 laundry machine[*] we were using in the RV into our rental and have it setup in the bathroom so we'll use that to do a fair amount of the laundry. It's one of those light plastic machines that cost about $90-140 on Amazon. They have a spinner to get most of the water out and then you need to hang dry.

Negatives on the apartment are a beat up over-the-range microwave (handle broken off, some of the corner trim cracked off, some paint missing where grabbed in leu of handle) and a worn out linoleum floor in the kitchen. But, and somehow I'm very proud about this, I found almost the exact same microwave at a thrift store in practically new condition (impressive as it was made in 1997) for $9.99! It's a slightly newer model of the existing one so it used the same wall mount. I swapped out the beat up microwave and now I don't have to look at an eyesore every time we use the kitchen (and the lights work in it too).

My brother suggested asking the landlord if we an do the linoleum floor ourselves and take the cost of materials out of the rent check. I think that is a good idea and I'd be happy to do the work myself to have a nice new floor. So that is the next project.

As for the old microwave, it works but it's pretty beaten up and it is old (neither have the rotating plate feature) so I'm leaning towards ripping it apart and using the transformer to build a spot welder for battery cell welding. I want to build some lithium battery packs for the camper/boat/car to get some practice as one day I'd like to have an off grid cabin with solar. In the meantime, I can equip the camper with solar and more battery capacity. But first some smaller projects with batteries to get started. I also think I might have some other uses for a small spot welder but have to do some experiments to see what it can do.

Housing: Furniture

The only piece of furniture we bought new was a shelf. We bought some used things: a heavy duty wood dining table and four chairs for $50, two table lamps for $10, a framed poster print for $5 and (another) shelve for $10. Otherwise, we were able to use what we had. And oddly enough, we actually like the used items we bought more than what we would have been able to buy new. Being flexible both on timing (not having to have it right away) and style resulted in finding items we like and that fit our needs.

Health

I went off my keto diet when we started RVing. I've slipped weight-wise back to about 245 pounds. I know now that roughly 5-8 of that is water weight but I was at one point near 217 but probably closer to 220 when I stopped keto. But that is still ~20 pounds. I'm ready to go back to keto though as I miss it and I don't feel as good. I'm also starting to find carbs to be sort of like how we find restaurant food -- nice to try every once in a while but not something I want to consume regularly (we prefer our own cooking).

We joined the YMCA here as my wife wants to go back to her classes. They also have very affordable childcare while you're using the facility (can't just drop them off) which as a bonus gives our kids some social time with other kids (and away from a parent). It's also time for the kids to learn how to swim. So I think this time around, I'll be doing keto and start to do some more regular exercise (including bicycling).

* This is our portable washer: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01ALBMIEI/

SavingWithBabies
Posts: 581
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Location: Midwest, USA

Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies » Tue Oct 08, 2019 10:40 pm

Travel Trailer/Camper

I decided to attack the alignment issues that allowed mosquitos to invade earlier this summer (until I figured out where to block the entry places but that adds 10-15 minutes to the setup and teardown times). I got the shells aligned to fix the problem at the top of the roof between the front and the rear. So that is at least part of the problem gone. Long story short, there are a 4 points on each shell where one can adjust them up or down and of course changing one doesn't simply change that one area. But I think I got things overall better than they were before and I've thought of some simpler/quicker ways to block the remaining problematic areas.

Boat

My desire to learn more about fiberglass boat maintenance is now being fulfilled. I discovered a significant amount of water in the hull of my boat. The way it was built there is a big area between the cabin/cockpit and the hull that is sealed off and has flotation foam. But over time, water makes it's way in and gets stuck and then there is the freeze-thaw issue and fiberglass gets cracked and plywood becomes saturated with water and begins to rot.

So today I poked a screwdriver through an area after finding some water intrusion in an odd spot. The screwdriver went right through and I sucked another ~9 gallons of water out with the wet vac on top of the other ~5 I'd already sucked out of some storage lockers.

The timing isn't the greatest but I'll rip out the rotten wood and get a solid idea of what is ahead of me in the spring. The edges of the cockpit floor is a known weak spot as it tends to crack over time as the tub was not well supported from below. So I suspect that will be part of the repair and that is the most visible part (the rest is mostly out of sight).

It does look like someone tried to repair this boat before and didn't do that great of a job (just kicked the can along to the next owner). Realistically, that is probably to be expected however I do want to learn more about fabrication of panels (potentially using vacuum forming) and gel coat repair so I'll probably go above and beyond to meet my goals instead of what some might argue makes sense to settle for.

SavingWithBabies
Posts: 581
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2015 2:50 pm
Location: Midwest, USA

Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies » Wed Oct 23, 2019 5:55 pm

Employment

With Winter coming, it seemed like a good idea to start adding more money back to the coffers. I landed a contract via the developer network I mentioned before. It's twenty to forty hours per week at a good rate. Even if I only work the low end of that, it'll more than cover our expenses. Plus I can still contribute the rest of my employee 401k limit for the year ($2500 to go) and do something like 20% of the total revenue as an "employer contribution". As this work typically involves video conferencing, I signed up for faster internet ($65/month for 400 megabit cable connection). There is also a coworking place in Marquette that I might try to get out of the house and meet local people.

Camper

We paid to store this in an indoor storage facility. We drove about 1.5 hours away to get a $55/month rate. We should only need it for 6 months.

Boat

Still need to decide if I'll store it at the city marina (they let you store it in the parking lot there) or join the yacht club and pay to store it there. I have to go get the numbers to compare. I'm starting to think I should have joined a yacht club and done racing just to get better at sailing as I think this journey might be me learning as much as I can to sail and then bringing the rest of the family on board. So the yacht club might make sense? And it might be within 20-30% of the city rate (both the membership and the storage fee at the club).

SavingWithBabies
Posts: 581
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2015 2:50 pm
Location: Midwest, USA

Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies » Mon Oct 28, 2019 9:21 pm

I was happy to receive a check in the mail today from our prior landlord for our security deposit and a month's rent that we accidentally double paid (deposit included the last month's rent). It has been 6 months since we moved out so I was worried we were going to have to go to small claims court which would be a big hassle as we moved 7+ hours north of where we lived before. So it was great news to avoid that.

Looking back, I enjoyed my time off. I didn't always make the "best use" of it but I did that somewhat intentionally as I wanted a break and to recover my energy. I think I did that for the most part. The money aspect was odd -- our net worth seemed to stay the same as the markets went up. Our spending without rent was quite a bit less although if you average the cost of the travel trailer out over the ~2 months... But we'll not do that as I do expect to use it more or sell it. I didn't have a problem spending money though. I mean in the sense of not having income and having to spend the money accumulated to live.

In the big picture though, I'd really like to get to FI so going back to working towards that makes me happy. I just have to figure out how to actually work part time on a part time contract (as opposed to accidentally working full time but only billing part time). I'm curious to see where this contracting goes. The current contract is with tiny company that aims to get acquired within 2-3 years and if things go well, there is the opportunity for employment and getting a cut. This business actually makes sense so I wouldn't be opposed to taking a gamble on it to some degree. Or just moving on to the next contract if it doesn't pan out/make sense.

I have thought about my goal number of $1.2M. It feels like there are a lot of single people here who have the luxury (in my eyes) of having a goal that is for solely their own needs. But my goal includes my wife and two kids along with buying a $100-200k house. So perhaps it is a bit low but I also see these things offsetting the goal (and perhaps making it too high):
  • at 42, I'm 23 years from the 65 year social security bracket
  • my wife is probably going to be working when the kids are a bit older (and she'll have benefits and ideally I'll be on her plan)
  • I'll probably keep on consulting/contracting/trying to make successful businesses
  • if we knocked out rent by buying a house (and of did DIY for maintenance and of course still had tax and utility bills), our expenses would go down quite a bit...
Perhaps the flip side of this is two young kids, future college costs and so forth. So my inclination is to leave the goal as is but become more flexible in how I get to that goal. Ideally, that flexibility will end up in me finding my work more fulfilling (monetarily but more so making use of my skills without having some of the drudgery of regular employment). It is early days on the solo contracting so I'll see how it goes. If it eventually makes sense, I'm okay with going back to regular employment (particularly for benefits) but I'm going to ride out this contracting angle for now.

SavingWithBabies
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Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies » Mon Nov 04, 2019 9:38 pm

Progress: 55.3% ($664,000/$1,200,000)

SavingWithBabies
Posts: 581
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2015 2:50 pm
Location: Midwest, USA

Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies » Fri Nov 08, 2019 7:21 pm

So a couple weeks into doing remote contract work and... It's not bad? It's a rescue project with a short timeline to an initial integration testing phase with a partner. So the pressure is on me to deliver. But I don't mind it. It feels like a fair trade for a high hourly wage. First invoice should be paid at beginning of December so I'll have enough time to max out my annual 401k contribution (putting the remainder of that amount into my solo 401k as employee along with 20% of net income as employer).

Now would I chose to do this if the alternative was doing something else? Right now, I would. I enjoyed my time off but ultimately, even if my goal feels somewhat arbitrary, I still want to get to it. Plus working on other people's projects always gives me ideas of things I could make (of course, always very tangentially related to the project -- nothing around the same core area so not a conflict of interest). And the recent work is no exception. If I was to calculate out the hourly wage to a year, it's a ridiculous number but I don't see that as particularly likely/viable. It's great though as a roughly 50-70% time kind of thing with me being able to do as I wish with the other time. At least that is the theory. Let's see how it holds up for a year or so? In the short term, it's full time and maybe a bit more which is nice in terms of catching up for the time off (even though our net worth didn't go down -- we definitely did have expenses though so we ate up some of our gains).

SavingWithBabies
Posts: 581
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2015 2:50 pm
Location: Midwest, USA

Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies » Wed Nov 20, 2019 4:35 pm

Contracting turned into a rush job but I figured out over time it's probably on an schedule dictated by the partner without any solid reason for the schedule. The partner is a big name insurance company. My peek from the outside into their inner workings and their internal APIs confirms I'd never want to work directly at such a place. No offense meant to any that do -- it's a career path to work at such a place and I've gone nowhere near that path. Perching on the outside, looking in from a contracting position, it's easier to try to ignore some of the employees subtle pokes and jabs[*]. I think when you're in such a place, you likely have no context of the bigger outside world and just how behind the times it feels for those looking in who have a wider range of technology experience (skewing towards the more marketable/recent). To put it one way, they are using some tech that was modern about 20 years ago.

That said, there is good reason not to pursue new tech for new tech's sake. Building on a platform with common consistency of method and protocols is a sensible choice. But there has to be someone inside of this company or some group who looks at changes on the outside and how they might move their internal systems in the direction of best practices perhaps a decade behind current tech (so they can pick the winners). With the short term focus on money making, perhaps this group doesn't exist. At a certain point, the methodology of software development within such a company is going to shift more and more towards being a liability (in the vein of banks needing Cobol developers).

A more pressing concern is that the 20-40 hours/week turned into a mad rush for a deadline. I did push back a bit and I accepted it but I'll have to be more careful about this going forward as it's required much more time on my side than anticipated. I can do this for now and packing away a bunch of money to then have some time off is great but that time off has to come. And it would be nice to have it a little more balanced. So that is an area I'll focus on going forward.

* Not explained well there but I mean flippant remarks to questions about the basics that reveal you don't have institutional knowledge.
Last edited by SavingWithBabies on Wed Nov 20, 2019 8:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

classical_Liberal
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Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by classical_Liberal » Wed Nov 20, 2019 8:00 pm

SavingWithBabies wrote:
Wed Nov 20, 2019 4:35 pm
With the short term focus on money making, perhaps this group doesn't exist. At a certain point, the methodology of software development within such a company is going to shift more and more towards being a liability (in the vain of banks needing Cobol developers).
Sounds like a future opportunity for a business! Just don't over do it, we semi-retired folks need our time. :lol:

SavingWithBabies
Posts: 581
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2015 2:50 pm
Location: Midwest, USA

Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies » Wed Nov 20, 2019 9:03 pm

I don't think I could do it. It requires a certain fortitude and interest in long term political maneuvering that would be very draining for me! Although maybe you're joking and that's the joke :).

SavingWithBabies
Posts: 581
Joined: Mon Aug 31, 2015 2:50 pm
Location: Midwest, USA

Re: SWB's path to financial independence

Post by SavingWithBabies » Wed Dec 04, 2019 1:22 am

Progress: 55.5% ($666,000/$1,200,000)

Not including $27k in outstanding invoices for consulting (1099 so before lots of taxes).

We spent Thanksgiving at my brothers in Wisconsin with our travel trailer in tow (not setup). This weekend, the plan is to try to drive as far south as possible in order to get to campgrounds that have running water (and aren't too cold). Then slow travel to New Orleans. The wedding we're going to is right around Christmas so we have a week reserved in a noisy-but-right-in-the-French-Quarter RV park. I've been there once before but in the heat of summer so it'll being there in December will be interesting. Plus this time I'll have a vehicle so we can explore a bit more. Our kids are excited to be going back to camping again.

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