Quarterly Financial Scorecard: Q2 2017

Early Retirement
Could early retirement really be just four years away? We still have a lot of work to do!

Last week, I outlined how I plan to measure our progress during our quest for financial independence and early retirement.

Today, we’ll open the curtain into our finances for the first time, and share where we stand in relation to our Net Worth, 529 Account Funding, and Passive Income goals as of June 30, 2017 – just four years before our target FIRE date of Friday, July 2, 2021.

I. Net Worth: 73.1% of Goal

Our net worth declined by 1.0% during Q2 2017. On the surface, this was a poor performance, as the S&P 500 was up 2.6% during the quarter. Not all of our assets are in the stock market, so the comparison is a bit unfair, but we’d still normally expect our net worth to rise with a strong stock market bolstered by additional savings and investments.

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How I’m Measuring Our Progress Towards FIRE

Early RetirementWhile there are many ways to measure progress towards financial independence and early retirement, I tend to focus on the numbers more than the less tangible aspects of the journey.

As we continue down our path to FIRE, I will post a Quarterly Financial Scorecard every three months, documenting our progress along the four dimensions I am measuring.

But before posting our Quarterly Financial Scorecard for Q2 2017, I want to outline what we are measuring during our quest for financial independence:

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Making Sense of the 4% Rule

4% RuleIt doesn’t take long for anyone researching retirement to hear about the 4% rule. There have been hundreds of articles written about it, many of which provide incredible detail around the history of the 4% rule, the mathematics behind it, and special considerations for those pursuing early retirement.

I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here today.

Instead, I’m going to share some basic information about the 4% rule, include links to several resources that provide much more information for those who are interested, and discuss our potential use of the 4% rule on our path towards early retirement and financial independence.

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Garage Sale

Dumb Financial Decisions: The Unplanned Garage Sale

For the first five years in our home, we successfully avoided participating in the annual garage sale our neighborhood holds every June.

The thought of hauling boxes of our junk outside into the driveway, then standing around getting sunburned while making small talk with strangers as they pawed through our stuff, before being offered pennies on the dollar for our belongings, really didn’t excite me.

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If Nobody Reads What I Write, Am I Still Blogging?

ROMT Logo Square

Over the past couple weeks, I have written several posts about our family’s decision to purchase a home solar energy system.

Although I have less than two months of blogging history to base things on, my posts on solar energy have proven to be among the least popular topics I have written about, based upon the number of people reading them.

Amazingly, someone has actually found and looked at everything I have posted on this blog, which is focused on our quest for early retirement and financial independence. But as a newbie, I am still struggling to determine what people are most interested in reading about.

Do readers want cold, hard facts about personal finance, or more entertaining articles about my family’s financial escapades?

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Can You Be Frugal If You Own A Lot Of Stuff?

Self Storage
If you are truly frugal, you probably won’t have stuff that ends up in a place like this!

Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an article about how the tech sector is trying to disrupt the self-storage business model (subscription required).

In the article, author Peter Grant noted startups such as Clutter Inc. and MakeSpace Labs Inc. are trying to use  logistics and technology to provide a more efficient and user-friendly self-storage experience than established companies like Public Storage, CubeSmart, and Extra Space Storage Inc.

The article noted Clutter charges $100 to $110 a month in New York to store a closet worth of stuff, in line with local self-storage facilities. Clutter differentiates itself from the traditional self-storage companies by packing up and photographing items before hauling them off to their storage facility, and then delivering them back to the customer’s home after they select the photographs of the items they want returned online.

For this service, Clutter charges $35 per hour per mover for on-site labor in the packing and moving process associated with pick-ups and deliveries.

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Our First Week With Solar Energy!

Solar Panel
We can track online how much energy is being produced by each of the solar panels on our roof!

Over the past week, I have written about our decision to go solar, as well as our recent solar installation.

Today we get into the fun stuff: how our new home solar energy system has performed during the first ten days of a (hopefully!) long and productive life!

Our inverter, which converts the direct current generated by the photovoltaic panels on our roof into the alternating current that can be fed into the electrical grid and used to power our home, is made by a company called SolarEdge.

While the science behind how the inverter works is no doubt fascinating, I am more interested in the impact the solar panels and inverter will have on our electric bill!

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Update: Chase Freedom Announces 5% Cash Back Categories for Q3 17

Credit CardLast month, I wrote about our Smart Financial Decision to sign up for the Chase Freedom Credit Card.

As a reminder, Chase Freedom offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases in specific spending categories each quarter, and 1% cash back on everything else. Our Fidelity Rewards card offers 2% cash back on all purchases.

We’ve now maxed out our spending on groceries, the current 5% cash back category for Chase Freedom, so we’ve switched back to our Fidelity Rewards cards for all of our spending.

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Our Solar Installation: The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

 

Solar Energy
Solar Facts, courtesy of a nutritional sticker on our solar inverter!

One of my favorite songs by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers is “The Waiting.”

I’m not usually that good at discerning the meaning of lyrics, but in this case I’m pretty sure Tom was singing of his anticipation about the installation of a new home solar energy system.

Last week, I shared my thoughts on our decision to go solar.

The process took several months from start to finish, and the waiting was definitely one of the hardest parts!

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Should We Go Solar?

Solar Panels
Not a picture of our home!

Over the past several years, I’ve noticed the installation of more and more solar panels in the area we live.

I’ve long been intrigued by the idea of solar energy, but as someone who tries to base most of his financial decisions on facts and numbers, rather than emotions or peer pressure, it never made sense to me.

A local solar provider recently offered an incentive program through my employer. While the incentive was modest, it was enough to get me to seriously run the numbers, and do some further research about the pros and cons of solar energy for our family.

The verdict?

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