Browse Tag: Financial Independence

Financial Independence

Q1 2018 Financial Scorecard: Volatile Equity Market Takes Its Toll

Early RetirementWhen I think back on our finances for the first quarter of 2018, I have to quote Charles Dickens.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

The good times included getting paid my annual bonus for 2017, going on a great family trip to Walt Disney World, and, ultimately, making some modest progress on our Net Worth, 529 Account Funding, and Passive Income goals.

The bad times included paying for that vacation in Florida, missing on some of our short-term financial goals, and a volatile stock market that finally reminded us equity prices don’t always go up!

Although the S&P 500 Index was down only about 1% for the entire first quarter, the market had fallen nearly 10% from its January peak by the end of March.

Market volatility was at elevated levels during the first three months of the year. To put that volatility into perspective, consider this:

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) has been calculated since the late 19th century.

Two of the five largest daily point gains in the DJIA’s history occurred over the past three months.

And three of the five largest daily point losses in the DJIA’s history occurred during the first quarter of this year.

Fears of an all-out trade war with China have continued to spook investors in April, and it seems like we are always just one tweet away from a 500 point move in the market!

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Retire Early and Live Longer?!?!?!

Financial IndependenceIn February, I wrote a post about a recent Stanford University study that examined the trade-off between saving more money today and working longer tomorrow.

Last month, Steveark at Slightly Early Retirement took things to another level, writing an interesting post in which he asked Will Early Retirement Kill You?

While Steveark didn’t find a definitive answer to his question, he posits that a longer life – regardless of whether one has retired or is financially independent – might be driven by two things: taking care of one’s health and identifying one’s purpose.

As a Baby Boomer who has already retired early, he suggests that Gen Xers and Millennials pursuing financial independence and early retirement might want to spend some time thinking about what’s next once they achieve FIRE, in case his hypothesis that purpose is correlated with longevity is accurate.

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Solar Energy Update: Spring Kicks off with Stunning Productivity

Financial IndependenceSince we didn’t have solar panels installed on our roof until June of last year, we missed out on several months of strong solar production last spring. As a result, we ran out of credits to subsidize our electric bill over the winter in January.

Because of this, the reduction in our electric bills for both January and February were smaller than they hopefully will be in future years, when we’ll have a full bank of solar energy credits on the books heading into the winter.

Although we had no credits heading into March, our solar energy experiment still turned a major corner last month. With the production of our system increasing as the days got longer, we ended up with our smallest electric bill since December, and had our best day of production ever!

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Dumb Financial Decisions: Little Things Add Up Quickly

Early RetirementLast week, a colleague mentioned to a group of us at work that he had just signed a contract on a new home.

While answering lots of questions and accepting lots of congratulations, he casually mentioned that his new commute would only be seven or eight minutes longer each way.

The consensus of my co-workers was that amount of time was essentially irrelevant.

Driven by my FIRE-focused brain, I, of course, immediately grabbed my calculator to start quantifying the impact those “meaningless” seven or eight minutes would have over the course of a year.

The results were not pretty.

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ROMT’s Updated FIRE Prowess Scores for 2001-2017

Early RetirementLast year, The Green Swan introduced a new FIRE metric that received a lot of attention, the Swan FIRE Prowess Gauge.

I, and many other personal finance bloggers and readers, calculated and publicly reported on our FIRE Prowess scores on our own blogs and in the comments section of The Green Swan’s original post explaining the concept of FIRE Prowess.

Since I recently completed my income taxes for 2017, I now have all the data needed to update my own FIRE Prowess score for last year. I’ve been keeping track of my finances for a long time, and we discovered last year that my FIRE Prowess history was one of the longest ones reported.

Last year was another good year for the ROMT family’s pursuit of financial independence and early retirement, and our FIRE Prowess score for 2017 confirms we’re continuing to move in the right direction!

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Update: Chase Freedom Announces 5% Cash Back Categories for Q2 18

Financial IndependenceLast year, I wrote about our decision to open up a Chase Freedom credit card account.

It remains a Smart Financial Decision for the ROMT family.

We haven’t changed our spending habits to take advantage of the 5% cash back rewards Chase Freedom offers on up to $1,500 in spending in rotating categories every quarter. But we have reaped the benefits of switching normal spending from our Fidelity Rewards card, which offers 2% cash back on everything, to our Chase Freedom card when we can earn 5% on purchases we would have made anyways.

Chase Freedom offers 1% cash back on purchases that aren’t in the specific spending categories eligible for 5% cash back, so we still use our Fidelity Rewards card for most of our spending.

Since we started using the Chase Freedom card last spring, our family has received over $350 in sign up bonuses and cash back!

Chase recently announced the 5% cash back categories for Q2 18, and they should once again work out well for the ROMT family.

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Smart Financial Decisions: Money Wins From Our Trip to Walt Disney World

Smart Financial DecisionsLast week, I outlined some of the questionable financial decisions the ROMT family made while on vacation at Walt Disney World.

After spending a week at Walt Disney World, it’s tough to for me to claim from a purely financial perspective that it was a wise decision to go there for vacation. Every piece of the vacation seemed to have a significant price tag associated with it, and when it all was added up, it was a material expense.

Not one that we couldn’t afford, thankfully, but certainly one that will delay our FIRE aspirations by a couple of weeks!

That said, we had a great time together as a family, and we also did our best to make some Smart Financial Decisions while on vacation.

In today’s post, I’ll focus on some of the choices we made that saved us money while vacationing in Orlando.

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Solar Energy Update: Mixed Results, But In Line With Expectations

Solar EnergyAs I mentioned last month, our bank of solar energy credits for the winter ran dry in January.

Since we didn’t install solar panels on our roof until late June last year, I figured we probably wouldn’t have enough credits built up to keep our electric bill at minimal levels for the entire winter.

Unfortunately, I was right.

Next year, the situation should be better, as I expect we’ll start generating significant solar energy credits for the winter of 2018-2019 in the coming months. Our electric bill will still probably be larger than normal in March, but my hope is that by the time we get to April, a combination of longer days and (hopefully!) little or no snow on the panels will once again yield a surplus situation as far as our energy production versus usage.

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Dumb Financial Decisions: Financial Fails From Our Walt Disney World Vacation

Financial IndependenceLast month the ROMT family made our first trip to Walt Disney World!

While both Mrs. ROMT and I had visited in the past, this trip was the first time our elementary school-aged children visited Florida and the House of the Mouse.

All in all, we had a great family vacation and made lots of memories with one another. We’ll share some of the highlights in this and future posts.

Along the way, we also made a number of smart – and dumb – financial decisions.

We’ll focus on the poor financial decisions associated with our vacation in today’s post, and save the good financial news for next time around!

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What the Media and Academics Don’t Understand About FIRE

FIRELast month, Stanford University Professor John B. Shoven, and three former Stanford students, Gila Bronshtein, Jason Scott, and Sita N. Slavov, published a paper entitled “The Power Of Working Longer” through the National Bureau Of Economic Research.

One of their key findings was “that working 3 to 6 extra months has an equivalent impact on the affordable sustainable standard of living as saving one percentage point more for 30 years.”

Their “primary conclusion is that working longer is relatively powerful compared to saving more for most people.”

The media jumped upon their research, with Bloomberg View columnist Justin Fox gushing that a 49 year old “could take the drastic step of upping your retirement savings by 10 percent of your salary. Or you could achieve the same result by retiring two years and five months later than you had been planning to.”

Which left me shaking my head.

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