Winter Came Early This Year!

Solar PowerAlthough the calendar says there are still almost three weeks until the beginning of winter, the weather in our neck of the woods says otherwise. It has been cold, dark, and snowy for the better part of the past several weeks.

While it was nice to experience a “White Thanksgiving” this year, our solar energy production took a big hit in November. In fact, the monthly production from our rooftop solar panels was the lowest we’ve ever experienced, as we generated about 6% less electricity last month than we did in December of 2017.

Consequently, we needed to make our second-largest withdrawal ever from the bank of solar energy credits we build up when the weather is sunnier to keep our electric bill as low as possible.

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Our Passive Income Takes a Punch to the Mouth

Passive IncomeFormer heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson was famously quoted as saying “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

While less than two months ago it seemed like we were in pretty good shape to hit our year-end passive income goal, recent events in the financial markets have negatively impacted our ability to generate passive income.

Fortunately, we’re doing our best to adapt to our changing circumstances. Turns out, it seems like we do have a plan for our passive income getting metaphorically punched in the face.

Even though he’s now in his fifties, I still don’t want any part of facing off against Iron Mike in the boxing ring, however!

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Our Solar Bank is Ready for the Winter!

Financial IndependenceOctober was a dark and dreary month in our part of the world, and the unpleasant weather negatively impacted our solar energy production.

For a third consecutive month, the value of the production from our rooftop solar panels was more or less equal to the cost of electricity our household used.

The optimist in me says our solar panels were doing their job by keeping our electric bill as low as it could possibly be.

But the pessimist in me is concerned our mediocre energy production in August, September, and October represents a lost opportunity to have built up more solar energy credits to keep our electric bill low this winter.

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Dumb Financial Decisions: Not Making The Buy Decision

FIREOver the past quarter century, I have bought and sold dozens of individual stocks in my brokerage account and through Dividend Reinvestment Plans.

Some of my trades have been big winners.

And some have been big losers.

But thinking back over a period of decades, even the biggest winners and the biggest losers tend to fade from my memory.

The trades I actually tend to remember the most are the ones I didn’t make.
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Q3 2018 Financial Scorecard: Another Milestone on the Path to Financial Independence

Financial ScorecardDuring the third quarter of 2018 we continued to make good progress in our pursuit of financial independence and early retirement!

Our efforts were helped by the strong stock market. The S&P 500 delivered its best quarterly returns in almost five years during Q3 18, climbing by more than 7% during July, August, and September! The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose by 9% during the quarter, while the Nasdaq 100 rose by over 8%.

Those great returns from the market gave our finances a boost, and we made progress on the Net Worth, 529 Account Funding, and Passive Income goals we are tracking to measure our progress. We even hit one of our short-term financial goals a quarter early!

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Our Solar Production Slows As The Summer Ends

Solar PowerAfter relatively weak production from our rooftop solar panels in August, things didn’t get much better in the month of September.

While we did produce slightly more energy during September, which was a nice surprise, we also used more energy during the month.

The end result was a very small deposit into our bank of solar energy credits. Those credits will help offset our electric bill during the coming winter, when our energy production will drop precipitously, driven by the shorter days and rooftop solar panels that will likely spend a considerable amount of time buried under ice and snow!

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Mother Nature Gets Her Revenge!

Home SolarLast month, I posted about how the sunny and dry weather in July led to the most productive month ever from our home solar panels.

Apparently, Mother Nature believed I was gloating and needed to be punished, because our solar energy production fell dramatically in August.

Our rooftop solar panels produced almost 30% less energy in August than they did in July. Although our power consumption also declined, as the air conditioning didn’t have to work quite as hard as it did the month before, we still had to tap into some of the solar energy credits we’ve been saving up for next winter since April to keep our electric bill as low as possible.

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Russians Don’t Want Their Pensions Touched Either!

Early RetirementWe’ve recently written a lot about the U.S. Social Security program and the long-term funding problems it faces. We’ve outlined the problem, talked about potential solutions, and discussed how I’m thinking about Social Security in the context of our quest for financial independence and early retirement.

While it won’t solve any of our domestic problems, it’s interesting to note the U.S. is not the only country where demographic changes are having a major impact on how politicians are thinking about retirement.

Last week, Bloomberg posted an article noting that Russian President Vladimir Putin has faced criticism at home following a proposed plan to raise retirement ages in his country he originally announced in June.

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How I’m Thinking About Social Security and FIRE

Retiring On My TermsOver the past few weeks, we’ve taken a look at the Social Security program’s future funding problems, as well as a number of potential solutions that could close the coming funding gap.

Today we’re going to get more personal, and discuss how I’m thinking about Social Security as we continue down our path towards financial independence and early retirement.

I’ve written in the past that I haven’t factored any potential Social Security benefits into the framework I’ve developed to measure our progress during our quest for financial independence and early retirement.

But I’ve also mentioned I do expect to eventually receive something from the Social Security program when I am old enough to claim retirement benefits.

So how do I explain this seeming contradiction?
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How To Fix Social Security

Early RetirementLast week, I wrote about some of the problems facing the U.S. Social Security program.

Although the combined Social Security trust funds had $2.9 trillion in assets at the end of 2017, demographic changes over the next decade and a half are expected to eliminate that surplus by 2034. At that time, anticipated tax income on workers is expected to fund only 79% of scheduled benefits to retirees and disabled beneficiaries.

Fortunately, there are a number of potential solutions that could help close the Social Security funding gap. The question is whether American politicians will come together to make some difficult choices today, or keep kicking the can into the future, when the problem will likely be more difficult to solve.

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