Category Archives: Blog Updates

Our Early Retirement Didn’t Go As Planned… Our Net Worth Went UP Half a Million Dollars!

cruise-mexico-featured1

In contrast to early retirement modeling that looks for all the worst cases and failure modes, our actual life the past almost four years illustrates that good things can offset the bad events in life.

Financial planning for early retirement is pretty straightforward.  Figure out how much you plan on spending in early retirement then save up till you have between 25 and 33 times your annual expenses in your investment portfolio.  We initially planned on spending $32,000 per year plus a large lump sum for the three kids’ college tuition.  Using the 33x multiplier (which represents a 3% withdrawal rate), that means we needed $1,056,000 plus another $100,000 to cover tuition, or roughly $1,150,000 in total investments.  That’s about what we started with four years ago but now we have a lot more.

 

The Good:

We plan for the worst and hope for the best.  Fortunately, the past four year have been very positive.  Maybe we used our luck making machine.  Or maybe we aren’t as lucky as we think.  We’re earning more than we thought and spending about what we expected, and future expenses don’t look too bad.

More Work, More Money

When I quit working in 2013, we expected Mrs. Root of Good to join me in early retirement within six months.  Then her employer decided to be really really nice to her so she kept working longer than expected.  Her employer met her requests to take a paid five week summer sabbatical in 2014, and again agreed to a paid sabbatical of twelve weeks in 2015.  The sabbaticals were on top of a 40 hour work week with negligible overtime, four weeks paid vacation, two weeks of holidays, and unlimited sick leave.  After returning from the second sabbatical in 2015, Mrs. Root of Good submitted her resignation and tried to retire.

Unsuccessfully as it turned out.  Her employer offered a flexible work from home arrangement where she officially works from home for four 10 hour days per week.  The boss gave her a **wink wink, nod nod** and said she just needed to work enough each week to make sure nothing fell through the cracks as they worked toward replacing her.  She generally worked Monday-Wednesday for six to eight hours per day and some Thursdays, probably averaging 30 hours per week.  While still collecting full time pay!  This part-time-for-full-time lasted about six months before Mrs. Root of Good finally called it quits and promoted herself from part time work to full time retirement.

Mrs. Root of Good’s extra two years of work netted us around $120,000 after taxes and work-related costs in my estimate (she was earning $70,000 gross per year and we paid nearly zero federal income tax but we stilled owed payroll tax plus state income tax).  Toss that $120,000 on the pile and watch it grow!

Mrs. RoG enjoying her first day of sabbatical.

Mrs. RoG enjoying her first day of the flexible work from home arrangement that doesn’t include working on Fridays.

 

Who knew you could make money blogging?

I always wanted to do something “internet-y” and finance related while working but never found myself in a professional role that fit that desire.  About two weeks after retiring, I started looking into this whole blogging thing.  Mr. Money Mustache had a pretty sweet site so I figured maybe it would be fun to do something similar.  I spent the weekend reading and googling and youtubing all about how to start a blog.  How great is it to be able to jump into a new exciting project head first when you don’t have to deal with work all day?!

Two days after I started the intense blog research I figured out enough to register the Rootofgood.com domain name, set up my hosting service, and then I sat staring at that blinking cursor waiting for me to start typing.  The first couple of words I typed were “HELLO WORLD” (of course).  My little homage to all things programming/internet-y. Then I deleted it and got down to business (first ever real blog post and ALL THE BLOG POSTS EVER).

Almost four years and three million pageviews later, this blog is a little dynamo.  Root of Good currently receives an average of 50,000 to 60,000 visits per month.  In late 2015 I started offering Early Retirement Lifestyle Consulting.  Since conception, the net profit from the blog and related activities was:

  • 2013 – near zero
  • 2014 – $12,000
  • 2015 – $29,000
  • 2016 – $31,000
  • 2017 – roughly the same as 2016

Toss another $72,000 on the pile plus whatever we earn this year.

Though not all early retirees start a blog, many early retirees have a side hustle.  Some early retirees turn a hobby into something profitable.  Others retire from full time work while keeping the door open to very part time, flexible work arrangements by only accepting those projects or clients that fit into their early retired lifestyles.  I did both when I started a blog for fun that turned profitable within the first year and I started consulting an hour or two per week (less when the weather is nice outside).

When planning for early retirement many years ago, I occasionally used a “part time income in retirement” line item for forecasting purposes.  At the time I used a tiny annual income for this part time work.  In one model, I assumed I might earn $6,000 per year doing something one day per week for $15 per hour.  This was based on a little side hustle related to engineering data collection that I had some success with during college.  But more generally, $15 per hour represents a pretty broad swath of potential jobs and hustles, and eight hours per week isn’t a huge impediment to otherwise enjoying one’s leisure time throughout the week.  I could mow lawns, start a handyman business, repair appliances, run errands for the elderly and disabled, or drive for Uber (which wasn’t a thing when I was completing my early retirement models and forecasts).

The very part time work for $15/hr was more of a Plan B “what if” scenario.  Adding $6,000 income per year to supplement withdrawals from an investment portfolio means you can get by on a smaller portfolio using the four percent rule.

As fate would have it, I’m blowing that $15/hr threshold out of the water (ER Lifestyle Consulting rates are currently $125/hr and I’m considering raising those given the demand).  Total earnings from my side hustles are running in the $30,000 per year range right now.  And I don’t think I’m putting in eight hours of effort per week.  Life is good as is the financial solvency of my early retirement plans.

 

Spending is in line with budgeted amounts

We started out budgeting $32,000 per year for 2014 and increased it to $32,400 in 2015 to account for inflation.  In 2016 we bumped the budget to $40,000 in light of all the extra side hustle income and better than expected investment results.

Actual spending since 2014 remained pretty close to our annual budget:

We were over budget in 2014 by a few thousand dollars but under budget all other years so far.  That underspending comes in the face of an almost $9,000 major renovation in 2014, an $8,000 minivan purchase in 2016, and paying for the bulk of a $10,000 nine week trip to Europe in 2016 and 2017 (along with several other multi-week or multi-month trips in previous years).  In other words, we have a rather robust spending plan to fund a whole lotta living and the budget seems to be working out perfectly fine.

Four months of spending at just under $10,000 (Personal Capital screenshot).

Four months of spending in 2017 at just under $10,000 (Personal Capital screenshot).

And this is with three kids!  They are now age 5, 10, and 12 years old.  I’ll admit that we’re still a year away from the oldest starting the typically more spendy teen years, but so far we haven’t noticed a significant spike in spending as the kids get older.

Since we’ve already replaced the exterior siding and the windows, and we’re in the middle of replacing the roof right now, we don’t have a lot of major home improvement projects planned for the near future, so spending on the home should remain modest.  We just replaced the car last year, so that should last us quite a while too.  Those big house-related capital replacement costs are amortized and included in our annual budget.

Another area that can bust a budget is healthcare and dental expenses.  We’ve been fortunate to spend very little in this category other than a few doctor’s visits and routine dental checkups (plus a few minor procedures at the doc and dentist).  We haven’t used up our whole healthcare/dental budget in any year of retirement.

We track all our monthly spending in Personal Capital.  It’s a free, easy to use, and automatically pulls transaction data from credit cards and bank accounts so you don’t have to spend any time inputting transactions manually (or maintain another spreadsheet!).  Review of Personal Capital.  It’s also a great tool to consolidate and track your brokerage accounts, IRA’s, and 401k’s so you can track your asset allocation and keep an eye on mutual fund expenses automatically.  Tracking spending is in my opinion the best way to stay cognizant of where your hard earned money goes and what expense categories are dominating your budget.

 

College won’t cost as much as we initially budgeted

By most objective metrics, we are wealthy.  I assumed we wouldn’t qualify for any need-based financial aid for the kids’ college.  I was wrong.  I found out the FAFSA financial aid form doesn’t include the home value nor does it include retirement account values in determining financial aid.  As a result we look relatively poor on paper due to having over 75% of our financial assets in retirement accounts and a modest adjusted gross income around $40,000 per year.

Upon entering early retirement in 2013, I expected to pay around $100,000 in total just for tuition for 3 kids and almost triple that amount if we cover room and board, books, transportation, and other living expenses.

After crunching some numbers on college costs using a few different assumptions, it looks like the worst case scenario will have us paying around $162,000 total while the best case scenario (which isn’t that far-fetched) has us paying just $31,500.  Those are totals for all three kids.  The updated forecasts come from better assumptions about scholarships and grants our children might qualify for given their academic achievements to date, along with a better understanding of how financial aid formulas work.  When I first retired, our oldest two kids were in second and third grade, and we really didn’t know how well they would do in school once the academics grew more challenging.  Several years later and they are doing great!

yale-university-doorway

 

Great stock market returns

Since I retired early, the stock market has been on fire!  As measured by the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTSMX), returns including reinvestment of dividends are:

  • 2013 – 33.4%
  • 2014 – 12.4%
  • 2015 – 0.3%
  • 2016 – 12.5%
  • 2017 (year to date through May 12) – 7.0%

International investments haven’t performed quite as well over the same period.  Our portfolio still managed to swell from around $1.1 million right after I retired up to $1.65 million today.  That’s a $550,000 increase in value.  About $100,000 of that increase can be attributed to Mrs. Root of Good’s extra two years of paychecks and my blog earnings (after subtracting the roughly $100,000 spent on living expenses during early retirement).  That still leaves us with roughly $450,000 of investment gains in the past four years.  Thanks Mr. Stock Market!

The returns have been so great that since the start of 2017 I have moved $90,000 from equities into the Vanguard Total Bond Market Index Fund (VBTLX).  Those bonds plus the $30,000 we have sitting in money market accounts will provide a multi-year safety blanket should the market decide that the party is over.  A six figure low-risk fixed income portfolio will help me sleep at night regardless of market volatility.

 

Successful travel hacking continues

I’ve been scoring huge credit card sign up bonuses and collecting points and miles from credit cards for over a decade.  Upon entering retirement in 2013, I fretted over the eventual end of all these easy bonuses that translate to free trips all over the world, even for our family of five.

It turns out I had nothing to worry about after earning 1,265,000 points and miles from sign up bonus offers in the almost four years of early retirement.  This gravy train keeps rolling down the tracks and shows no signs of stopping!  Some of the rules of the game have changed (Chase’s 5/24 rule is a key example) but there are still plenty of fish in the sea. So cast your net wide and don’t let all these delicious morsels slip past you.  Our credit scores remain a killer 800-something (out of 850 points) and card issuers generally don’t bat an eye at extending us even more credit.

All these free points and miles explain how we’re able to travel the world for weeks or months each year on a modest $5,000 to $10,000 annual budget.  Without free points and miles we would be incurring an extra $5,000-$10,000 expense per trip based on the past few trips.

two-years-early-retirement-mexico

 

No more work = no more work related costs

I’m sure we save a small amount on lunches out and simpler wardrobes (shorts and polos just don’t cost that much, guys).  But the biggest work-related cost that disappeared was our second car.  We questioned whether we could cut back to one car and it turns out it’s not a problem at all with our current lifestyle.  It’s been almost a year since we dropped to one car and there have been just a few times where it would have been nice to have a second car.  But we made it work with just one car.

This one car does it all for us.

This one car does it all for us.

We walk, we can take transit, Uber is always a few clicks away (though we’ve never used it so far).  Postponing or combining trips and smartly scheduling appointments help.  We also enjoy spending time at home or within walking distance in the neighborhood, so there are multi-day stretches were our car doesn’t leave the driveway (but our feet still do!).

The money savings are unquestionable – maintaining one car costs half of what it does to maintain two cars. One set of tires, one set of oil changes, one set of routine maintenance, one set of inspections, registration/licensing, insurance, and taxes.  The time savings are even more important – fewer trips to the auto shop for repairs and maintenance.  It takes less time to check the tire pressure and fluid levels in one car versus two cars.

For us, simplifying saves time and money without being a detriment to our lifestyle.  Of course others’ experiences might differ.  We only drive about 300 miles per month (unless we’re on the road completing a multi-thousand mile road trip).  Many destinations are walking distance in the neighborhood. Our kids aren’t overloaded with after school and weekend activities (though we stay busy!).

 

The Bad:

I feel like we need a counterpoint to “The Good” so I’m sticking “The Bad” in here.

 

Health Insurance in a Post-ACA World

The future of health insurance is our biggest unknown going forward.  There’s a new sheriff in town and he’s adamant that the Affordable Care Act is horrible and must be repealed and replaced.  The replacement bill, the AHCA, recently passed the House and now sits with the Senate for further sausage-making.  What will we end up with?  Your guess is as good as mine.  The following is an excerpt from my April 2017 Financial Update article where I opine about the current health insurance situation in the US:

“Let’s look at the details of the AHCA as passed by the House.  Here’s the best summary I’ve seen of the current version of the AHCA compared to the ACA (courtesy of the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation).

Main takeaways:

  • ACA premium subsidies continue through 2017, 2018, and 2019 (so it’s not an immediate “repeal”). Your subsidy declines as your income increases up to 400% of the federal poverty level.
  • Starting in 2020 those buying individual coverage get a $2,000 to $4,000 tax credit per person for qualifying insurance (and policies don’t have to be purchased through the official Healthcare.gov Marketplace to qualify for the tax credit). Tax credits vary with age (older = larger credit) but not with income, however there are income limits where the tax credit phases out
  • Cost sharing reduction subsidies disappear in 2020 (currently available to those earning under 250% of the federal poverty level – it’s what makes my deductible $100, max out of pocket $1,200, and my copays $5-20)
  • In 2018, HSA contribution limits double to $13,100 for family coverage.
  • If a state chooses to allow it, insurers can charge more for pre-existing conditions for those that have a lapse in coverage. Possibly much, much more. Maintaining continuous coverage seems to be the way to go to avoid paying a lot more for pre-existing conditions.
  • Increase the age banding of premiums so that the premiums paid by older people aren’t capped at three times the premiums charged to the youngest people (under AHCA older people will pay five times what younger people pay – while only getting an extra $2,000 in tax credits)
  • No more individual mandate to have health insurance retroactive to 2016

Those are the basics but trust me, I’m leaving a lot out.  Medicaid and Medicare are tinkered with too.

The Senate will most likely make significant modifications to the AHCA, so it’s pure speculation as to what we’ll actually end up with once all the sausage is made.

My main takeaway as a 30-something early retiree that will be 40 by the time the ACA premium subsidies go away in 2020 is that I’ll be paying more for health insurance that will come with higher deductibles and copays.  Mrs. Root of Good and I will each get a $3,000 tax credit to use toward insurance that will probably cost $4,000-$5,000 per year per person for a basic plan, and possibly much more if healthy people choose to go uninsured (since the individual mandate will be gone and many people will pay more for health insurance, making it less affordable).  I don’t know what the kids’ policy pricing will look like or if they’ll end up on Medicaid (if that’s still an option given the possibility of AHCA-related changes to Medicaid), but I understand they’ll be eligible for $2,000 tax credits too (based on their age) if we purchase individual policies for them.

In conclusion, I’m mentally penciling in an extra $4,000 or so for health insurance and healthcare costs starting in 2020, but also accepting that a lot can change with the AHCA before passage (or it might fail altogether).  There might be a subsequent health care bill passed later on in 2018 or 2020 as the political winds change that could put our costs back in line with where they are currently under the ACA.” (end excerpt)

If this bill passes then the near-term damage of this law won’t be horrible.  But it’s still a lot of uncertainty in our early retirement financial plan.

A silver lining of the Republican controlled White House and both houses of Congress: tax cuts.  I’ve heard mutterings about higher child tax credits and larger standard deductions, which could save us some money on taxes to partially offset higher health insurance costs (or, rather, lower health insurance tax credits versus what we get under the Affordable Care Act).  Tax cuts can potentially benefit the economy depending on how they are structured, so it’s possible we’ll see investment gains too.

Stop and smell the roses

Stop and smell the roses

 

Have we reached the top in the stock market?

I’ll be the first to admit I have no clue but I know it’s been on a winning streak the past four years.  That’s not to say it can’t keep going up for several more years.  However, there’s a lower chance of strong continued gains year after year simply because there’s less room to grow when the market is already at high valuations compared to long term historical averages.  It’s the exact reason you would have expected big stock market gains in the long term back about 2009 when the market was valued at a third of what it is today.  From deep valleys rise tall mountains.

Our portfolio might experience several years of sideways movement or suffer a double digit percentage decline.  Either of those scenarios are fairly common in the recent history of investing and it’s most certainly not different this time around.  That’s not pessimism speaking but rather realism.  It won’t mean the end of everyone’s early retirements but it will certainly mean we will keep a closer eye on expenses and income.  However our $120,000 of bond funds plus money market funds will provide a lot of stability for several years in the event of a market downturn.

 

Spending more on travel

I roughly doubled our travel budget from $5,400 when I first retired to $10,000 today.  We didn’t really know how much we would travel since our working lives were filled with work work work and just a few weeks of vacation time each year.  Travel is our safety relief valve – when our portfolio fills up to the top, this is where we let out the monetary steam.  We spend more on travel.  If we have to tighten our belts we can cut back in this area.

We’re also taking advantage of geographic arbitrage by traveling to places where the foreign exchange rate makes everything cheaper.  In 2015 that was Mexico (though we would have saved even more by waiting till 2017!).  In 2016 that was Canada.  2017 is a perfect time to visit Europe with the euro trading at the cheapest levels of the past decade.  If foreign currencies grow significantly stronger (= overseas travel becomes more expensive) then we might knock a few US destinations off our bucket list.

And if our portfolio drops by a half million dollars, we can cut out a huge chunk of spending simply by traveling less or choosing less expensive destinations.  I’m sort of looking forward to spending a lazy summer at home at some point in the near future, and a financial reason to skip a summer filled with travel wouldn’t be entirely unwelcome.

Spending more on travel is a good thing because it’s so easy to trim this spending versus other areas of the budget that are more rigid like housing costs or transportation costs.

Wouldn't mind a summer hanging around our house at all. :)

Wouldn’t mind a summer hanging around our house at all. 🙂

 

Almost four years into retirement, where are we now?

In a few months I’ll celebrate four years of early retirement.  From a financial perspective we are doing great.  We earned close to $200,000 extra that wasn’t anticipated due to starting this blog and Mrs. Root of Good working a couple years longer than expected.  Our investments have grown by an even larger sum.  And we’re keeping our spending generally at or below budget.

Our living expenses in retirement are funded from roughly $10,000 dividends and interest per year plus $30,000 income from Root of Good.  That means we don’t really have to sell any investments on a routine basis for living expenses.  Nor do we have to worry about withdrawing investments from IRA’s, 401k’s or my 457 account.

It also means the Roth IRA Conversion Ladder I planned to set up is partially on hold for now.  I still managed to convert around $4,000 from traditional to Roth IRA in 2016, whereas my Roth IRA Conversion Ladder plan called for conversions of $24,000 per year.  However, I was able to contribute $18,000 to my solo Roth 401k and $11,000 to his and hers Roth IRAs during 2016.  Yes, I have a Root of Good 401k plan and I play a shell game by living off the income from Root of Good while shuttling taxable funds into the Roth accounts.  You could say I’m “living off my portfolio like a real early retiree” and saving the $30,000 Root of Good income, which is also a legitimate way of describing my early retirement finances if one wanted to downplay the significance of the side hustle income (I don’t).  It’s a game of semantics.

The net result is $33,000 of additional Roth assets from conversions and contributions during 2016.  In other words, I didn’t follow my original plan but I accomplished a similar goal – increase the amount of funds in the Roth space so I can withdraw the contributions/conversions penalty free and tax free well before age 59.5 should that be necessary.

The unexpected income from Root of Good also means my decision to choose the Roth IRA Conversion Ladder over the competing 72(t) Substantially Equal Periodic Payments method of withdrawal was a sound one.  The 72(t) method is extremely rigid in the amounts you must withdraw each year once you start your initial withdrawals.  However, I knew going into early retirement that my income needs would vary year to year and there was always the chance I would have earned income (or get bored and go back to some form of work).  As a result, I rejected the 72(t) withdrawal method mainly because of the lack of flexibility in withdrawals.  I would really hate to be taking $30,000 of 72(t) taxable IRA withdrawals while earning another $40,000 between this blog and dividends and interest.

 

Now where are we headed?

Things look pretty rosy.  I took my financials and dumped them into the wonderful early retirement calculator at cFIREsim.com and determined that we could spend somewhere around $65,000 per year with almost zero chance of running out of money before age 90 even when we make conservative assumptions about income from the blog and other side hustle income.  Helping shore up the forecast is roughly $25,000 of expected Social Security income that we’ll start drawing in a little less than 30 years.

I don’t know that we’ll spend $65,000 per year but it’s reassuring to know that money isn’t a real constraint to our lifestyle.  We could increase our budget by 50% to cover a lot of unknowns such as higher health care/insurance costs and higher kid-related costs during the teen years.

Four years into retirement and our potential standard of living is approximately double what it was when I quit working.  It’s not entirely surprising given the conservatism of the worst case analysis performed under the “four percent rule”.  Most of the scenarios modeled in the four percent rule (which is closer to a three percent rule for very early retirees) leave the retiree with several times their initial portfolio value.  End result: a growing net worth in real terms for most very early retirees.

However I keep in mind that we might be at the top of a stock market bubble that’s about to burst and that we might see hundreds of thousands of dollars of our net worth disappear in a short period of time.  In that case, I’ll have to revisit what we are able to spend.  Until then, I’m not gonna worry about money and I’ll keep an optimistic but flexible attitude toward the future.

 

 

Any early retirees in the audience that ended up with substantially more than they started with?  Or did early retirement lead to new ventures or interests that turned profitable?  For those planning on retiring soon, do you have any plans to hustle on the side?  Let me know!

 

 

Looking in the Rearview Mirror

Wouldn't mind a summer hanging around our house at all. :)

Here we are at the tail end of 2015.  I wanted to pause and reflect on where we are today and what we’ve been up to during the year.

I started out 2015 with a post asking Should We Conceal Our Wealth?  This post got a lot of social media shares because it addresses a concern that faces those who are accumulating wealth while trying to fly under the radar undetected.

Then I explained Why We Chose The Worst School In The District.  At the time our oldest kid started kindergarten, it was the worst school out of over 100 elementary schools in our school district.  If you know me, you know I’m all about taking calculated risks.  Fast forward almost six years and it turns out our gamble paid off because the school made a 180 degree turn and is actually a very good school that has been recognized nationally.  And it’s a leisurely ten minute walk from our front door.

I took a look at our Ten Largest Purchases of 2014 because you know how I love putting our spending under the microscope.  Not surprisingly, the largest five expenses for the year were housing and travel related which closely matches our largest budget categories.  The top expense was an $8,700 major home renovation that included new exterior siding, new windows, and a major roof repair.  Fortunately we budget for those long term major house projects so it wasn’t a shock to the budget at all and we finished 2014 just slightly above our budget for the year.

My first paycheck. $29.62 for a month of delivering the weekly newspaper when I was 13.

In the article From Paper Boy to Engineering Manager to Early Retiree I shared every single job I’ve had and how much I made since receiving my first paycheck for $29.62 delivering newspapers when I was 13.

In Cost Effective Investing With Motif I explored the Motif investment service that lets you pick a pre-mixed basket of up to 30 stocks based on a particular theme (a “motif”) for a single brokerage fee under $10.  They even offer $0 commissions on some baskets of low cost index fund ETFs which is why I find Motif’s service offerings particularly compelling for the style of investing that I prefer.

In My Version Of Financial Independence As A 17 Year Old I thought I had life figured out at age 17.  Here’s how I was planning to reach financial independence before I really knew anything about reaching financial independence:

  • Save up $120,000 by working extra shifts at a minimum wage job (you get paid time and a half for overtime!)
  • Invest the $120,000 at my credit union in a CD earning 6% interest
  • Earn $600 per month ($7,200 per year) from that CD
  • Live on $600 per month forever

Glad I didn’t stick with that plan.

In A Day Of Early Retirement – Going on a Walkabout I showed how a mundane day of “doing nothing” can be incredibly awesome if you let it.

Then came Summer In Mexico: The Next Big Adventure.  We spent seven weeks in Mexico traveling with three kids.  And everyone lived to talk about it.  I shared our $7,668 trip budget and cost saving tips in The Cost of Seven Weeks in Mexico (And How to Minimize it).  We ended up spending only $4,450 of the budgeted amount as it turns out (but still had a lot of fun).  We saved a ton by using airline miles and hotel points from credit card sign up bonus offers.

All other posts on our Mexico trip:

As we walked out our front door and down the sidewalk to start our seven week adventure in Mexico, I reflected on What Will We Miss About Home While On The Road.

pyramid-of-teotihuacan

Totally climbable. Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan, Mexico.  Those little black dots at the top are people.

To get back to serious early retirement finance topics, I revealed exactly how we’ll spend our 401k and IRA funds decades before turning 59.5 without ever paying a penalty in Climbing The Roth IRA Conversion Ladder To Fund Early Retirement.  This is another very popular post at Root of Good.

Next up was another hard hitter where I showed the optimal income levels to maximize health insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act with caveats about making just a little bit too much.  Don’t Fall Off The Affordable Care Act Subsidy Cliffs.

Those new to the blog might not realize that Mrs. Root of Good is still working.  She took a paid three month break this summer as I discussed in The Sabbatical – A Mini-Retirement.  That’s how we were able to take off for seven weeks to bum around Mexico.  She also spent the month of May at home chilling with us.

Mrs. RoG enjoying her first day of sabbatical.

Mrs. RoG enjoying her first day of sabbatical.

In The Early Retiree’s Weekly Schedule I broke down how I spend my time during a typical week.  Some folks aiming for early or traditional retirement are really scared of getting bored when they ditch the job that sucks up 40 to 70 hours of their time each week.  Here’s how I spend my time to stave off boredom:

  • Work – 13 hours
  • Physical Activity – 18 hours
  • Fun – 35.5 hours
  • Social – 7.5 hours

 

early-retirement-daily-schedule

Next up was a guest post from John C who blogs at Action Economics. John told us about his Semi-Retired Summer.  He works mainly during the fall and spring in seasonal nuclear power plant maintenance, and enjoys mostly work free summers and winters.  He also has more kids than I do, and a lot of his summer was kid-related.

I shared Why Dropping Out Of School Was A Great Choice For Me.  After finishing law school, deciding not to practice law, and then working in engineering for a couple years, my employer asked me to go back to school to earn a master’s degree.  That was a poor choice in hindsight, and I wisely dropped out of the master’s program before spending any more time pursuing a degree that wouldn’t have helped me very much.

In Should Our Family Drop From Two Cars To One? I questioned our continued need for two cars since I’m not working and Mrs. Root of Good is slowly leaving the workforce.  We still haven’t made any moves to drop to one car but I’ve been thinking more about it lately.

In Celebrating Two Years of Early Retirement, I look back at my first two years of early retired life and finances.  In addition to the big Mexico trip mentioned earlier, we also took a major road trip up the east coast of the USA and into Canada during the summer of 2014 to take advantage of Mrs. RoG’s paid five week mini-sabbatical.

I don’t talk about investing a lot here at Root of Good simply because I don’t spend much time in my own life managing my investments.  Passive index funds just don’t require a lot of daily oversight.  But I did happen to log on to the computer right as the market opened on August 24, 2015 and took advantage of The Mini Flash Crash of 2015, or, How I Made $5,000 in 30 Minutes.  Dozens of exchange traded funds were trading 25-40% off of fair market value so I bought everything I could with my cash on hand before the deals vaporized not long after market open.

I show how we save hundreds of dollars by completing DIY projects ourselves instead of hiring them out in How To Save $375 On Air Conditioner Repair in Two Hours.  Pretty simple stuff to check if your AC stops working.

In Mrs. RoG’s First Attempt at Early Retirement you find out about the fantastic deal Mrs. RoG worked out to keep her full time pay while working four days per week from home.  She actually submitted her resignation in September 2015 but the employer’s counter offer was good enough to retain her (for a while).

In addition to self-paced slow travel trips to places like Mexico and Canada, we also enjoy cruises.  A lot.  And we always get ridiculously good deals on cruises.  In this four part series I reveal all I know about cruises and getting the best deals.  And there’s a gratuitous food post for those that enjoy eating.

View from our cabin's balcony

View from our cabin’s balcony.  Costa Atlantica.

With Zero To Millionaire in Ten Years I almost broke the internet.  That post went viral, received around 500 social media shares, and got picked up by Business Insider where it’s been viewed almost a million times.  To me it’s nothing particularly noteworthy – just the story of us saving half or more of our fairly ordinary (for college graduates) salaries for ten years which brought us to millionaire status and Financial Independence.

To answer some questions and clarify some points raised in that article, I followed it up with How We Reached Financial Independence In Our 30’s.  I showed in more detail exactly how we’re able to save half or more of our incomes (hint: low expenses on housing and cars plus low taxes).  And I addressed the question of whether our lifestyle sucks.  You’ll have to read the full article to find out what I think.

In order to answer another common complaint about early retirement, I pulled together How Early Retirement Affects Social Security to examine the specific impact of retiring after just a decade or two of full time work.  If you don’t really understand how the Social Security benefits formula works, then it might be a surprise to find out that retiring early doesn’t reduce your benefit nearly as much as you would think.  I’ll be receiving a little over $1,000 per month from SS.  If I worked an extra 30 years I could double my monthly benefit.  No thanks!

For Thanksgiving, I celebrated with Tis the Season of Thankfulness.  I’m thankful for all the ordinary things everyone else is also thankful for: health, family, and friends.  I also call out all the incredible technological advances we enjoy today that we didn’t have not too long ago.  I’m also thankful for political stability here in the US (and most of the rest of the developed world).  It’s a lot easier to plan for the long term when you don’t have to worry about imminent threats of civil unrest and violence, a fact we take for granted.

If you get bored or inquisitive and have some free time head over to the Root of Good Archives where you can find all of my posts since I started this blog in September of 2013.

 

Update on our 2015 Financials

We enjoyed an $88,000 increase in net worth for the year through November 30, 2015 ($1.437 million at the end of December 2014 versus $1.525 million in November 2015).  A rough start in December has lowered our net worth, so there’s a chance we’ll end the year close to where we started the year.

Our expenses have been very moderate, with spending of only $21,436 through November 2015 compared to our $33,400 annual budget.  I publish a detailed accounting of every expense we incur, and you can see all of those financial updates here:

We use Personal Capital to track all of our expenses and income (review here), and it does a great job with very little input from me.  For free.  You can say I like it a lot.  And it’s pretty.  Personal Capital also does a great job tracking and integrating all of my investments at multiple brokerage firms.

Crushing it with another ~$1,000 expense month.

Crushing it with another ~$1,000 expense month.

 

Where are we headed?

In 2016, I expect Mrs. Root of Good to finally cut ties with her employer and join me in early retirement.  The exact timing isn’t set yet, but you’ll know when something awesome happens.  Maybe they will double her pay and cut her to two days per week and she’ll work another year (I hope she didn’t read this far down the article).

We don’t have any big plans for the summer of 2016 yet, and it might be one where we mostly stay at home other than a few small road trips.  Or we might hop on a jet to a different country on the other side of the world.

2016 will be an exciting year here on the blog.  I’m planning to have posts on:

  • different choices for withdrawal rates
  • our updated and expanded budget
  • a series on retirement calculators
  • how to optimize college savings and approach student loans

If you want to see anything else on Root of Good, let me know in the comments!

christmas-2015

Yeah, Mrs. RoG is an overachiever and has all the gifts already wrapped and placed under the tree.

With that, I’ll close this article by wishing everyone a Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Festivus and/or a Happy whatever other holiday(s) you celebrate.  Root of Good is taking a couple weeks off to tirelessly pursue the goal of doing a whole lot of nothing.  See you in January 2016!

 

 

How is 2015 treating you?  Did you have any turning points in your life this year? 

 

 

February 2014 Blog Update

Risk black and white

Root of Good February 2014 Blog Update

February marked another great month at Root of Good.  Traffic was down compared to January but still higher than December 2013.  I was expecting a 10% decrease in traffic versus January because February has 10% fewer days than January (I’m a math expert).  The traffic numbers were slightly worse than expected, with 15% fewer visitors in February than January.  Seasonal variations?  Bad winter storms on the east coast?  Who knows, right?

The solid trend for social media subscribers continued in February.  Last month I noticed that across all social media channels I tend to get about 100 new subscribers each month.  February was eerily consistent, with 103 new subscribers, bringing the total social media subscribers to 564.  If you haven’t subscribed yet and want to ensure you don’t miss any Root of Goodness, make sure to subscribe on Facebook, Twitter, or by email or RSS reader (in the column to the right).

 

Stats for February 2014:

 Dec-2013Jan-2014Feb-2014Change (Feb vs. Jan)
TRAFFIC
Visitors120281512012769-2351
Unique Visitors757289287016-1912
Pageviews230782850724656-3851
Alexa Rank (lower = better)676866018956638-3551
SOCIAL MEDIA
Facebook61718716
Blog email list50677912
Twitter14517621640
Feedly10714718235
TOTAL SOCIAL MEDIA363461564103
REVENUE$1,508$826$1,071$246

Most popular pages:

$150,000 Income, $150 Income Tax

Early Retirement at 33: An Overview

Reaching the Summit of Financial Independence

 

Revenue: $1,071.  Another great month.  This includes $250 from January that didn’t update until late February.  I also have some unreported February revenue due to switching around some advertising (I’ll put that revenue in the March update).

I am anticipating some revenue from freelance writing for the Daily Capital blog, but for now I’m leaving it out of the Root of Good revenue summary.  You can check out the awesome post at Daily Capital that shows three households that make decent salaries yet pay zero tax here.

To put Root of Good’s earnings in perspective, $1,071 in monthly revenue represents 40% of our budgeted retirement spending.  At this rate, we won’t have to dip into our investment portfolio nearly as much as anticipated.  This income was completely unexpected when I decided I was retired six months ago.  So far, this means our cash balances keep growing.  Hopefully we can blow some of this money on a nice long summer vacation, and I might look into a solo 401k to hide part of all of the income from the tax man.

Even though Root of Good is still a hobby, I’m definitely loving the supplemental income that comes from monetizing the content.  I know the real value to readers comes from figuring out how to make their own finances more efficient, and I hope the advertising here isn’t overly intrusive.

 

Looking Ahead

I published six posts in February, which is within my “one to two posts per week” goal.  However, the last half of February was mostly devoid of any new content.  Hey, I’m early retired!  I’m not supposed to work too hard, right?

I’m working on a couple of lengthy posts on early retirement with kids.  Those posts plus my usual monthly post on “what I’m up to in early retirement” and my February household financial update will kick off March with a bang (in case you have been eagerly awaiting new posts from Root of Good!).

In March, I’m doing a Google Hangouts interview/podcast with a group of people from the Mr. Money Mustache Google Plus group.  I’ll be the first guest on their new show.  First guest or guinea pig – you decide.

 

January 2014 Blog Update

Backyard lake in snow

Root of Good January 2014 Blog Update

January was a sweet month for Root of Good.  Overall traffic increased by about 20-25% compared to December.  The search traffic has really increased in the last month.

I’m starting to notice a trend for social media subscribers.  Across all social media channels I tend to get about 100 new subscribers each month.  It’s been pretty steady month to month.  Now that I’m including Feedly subscribers in my social media count, I’m just short of 500 social media subscribers.  I’m feeling good about those numbers since Root of Good isn’t quite five months old yet.  What is even more amazing is thinking about where Root of Good might be as 2015 rolls in.  Maybe 1,600 subscribers?  So “hi” to all who are currently subscribed, and thanks for following.  To the rest, make sure to subscribe on Facebook, Twitter, or by email or RSS reader (in the column to the right).

And don’t forget to share!  If you see something awesome here, please harass your closest friends on facebook, twitter, or email and share the RootofGoodness with them!  Unless you don’t want to let them have a better life and grow wealthier like you.

 

Stats for January 2014:

Visitors: 15,120 (+3,092 vs previous month)

Unique Visitors: 8,928 (+1,356)

Pageviews: 28,507 (+5,429)

Alexa Rank: 60,189 (-7,497 and lower is better!)

Most popular pages:

Dividend Investing

$150,000 Income, $150 Income Tax

Running Out Of Money In Early Retirement

 

SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook subscribers: 71 (+10 versus December 2013)

Blog email subscribers/followers: 67 (+17)

Twitter followers: 176 (+31)

Feedly readers: 147 (+40)

 

Revenue: $826.  Blog earnings are down by almost half compared to last month.  There have been a few issues with advertisers being slow in updating their reporting, so I anticipate the revenue figure to be higher in February to reflect earnings that actually occurred in January.

To put Root of Good’s earnings in perspective, $826 in monthly revenue represents 31% of our budgeted retirement spending!  That’s almost a third of our retirement budget funded by what’s basically a hobby (that happens to be monetizable).  Many days I don’t really do anything related to Root of Good other than approve a few comments and post a few comments in response.

It still boggles my mind that I can generate revenue from writing about the things that cross my mind and then publishing these thoughts on the web.  The extra revenue is also another layer of security in our early retirement financial plan.  Here’s what I said in my December 2013 blog update:

If I can continue funding half of our budgeted retirement spending from Root of Good revenue, it means I won’t have to withdraw much from our investment portfolio.  The portfolio will continue to grow even more, thereby providing an additional margin of safety for our early retirement.  As I outlined in my recent article on running out of money in early retirement, getting a little side income flowing is awesome for two reasons.  Side income helps avoid the psychological stress of watching investment values decline and it reduces the financial stress of pulling money out of investments when they are down in value.  Throughout 2013, investments have done nothing but go up and up.  That’s not usually the case, and eventually I’ll be watching our portfolio go down, down, down.  Having a little cash flow coming in won’t make pulling small amounts out of the portfolio as painful.

I never got around to writing the prescient blog post about “the stock market is really fun when it goes up forever, but less fun when it takes a dive”.  I’m not sure if January’s minor correction constitutes a dive, but it certainly was a wake up call that what goes up can go down.  We lost about a year’s worth of expenses due to this minor correction, but we aren’t really worried about it, especially since I’m able to generate revenue from Root of Good.  Hopefully the money keeps flowing throughout 2014.

Looking Ahead

In February, Root of Good will have at least one guest post that I’m excited to share.  More details coming soon.

In the mean time, I hope to keep publishing a post or two each week.  That seems to be a good pace to adequately share what’s on my mind without preventing me from my other idle endeavors.

 

December 2013 Blog Update

Backyard lake in snow

Root of Good December 2013 Blog Update

December was a good month for Root of Good.  I have been told that Decembers are usually slow in the blogging world.  People are busy celebrating and recreating with friends and family and not surfing on the internet.  Hey, no problem, see you in January!

Not too surprisingly, Root of Good experienced a slight dip in traffic this December.  The days around Christmas were particularly slow.  I also didn’t have any big mentions in the media like my AOL Daily Finance interview in November.  The “background” traffic seems to be as high as ever, which bodes well for January.

Root of Good was feeling the love in December as social media subscribers increased at a rate slightly faster than in November.  I added 64 new followers, likers, or subscribers in December.  I’m not sure how to track RSS subscribers but I figure there might be 150-200 subscribers based on visitor statistics.  I just visited Feedly for the first time and it indicates “107 readers” so I’ll add Feedly to my social media stats going forward.

 

Stats for December 2013:

Visitors: 12,028 (-1,614)

Unique Visitors: 7,572 (-1,882)

Pageviews: 23,078 (-3,300)

Alexa Rank: 67,686 (-34,314 and lower is better!)

Most popular pages:

$150,000 Income, $150 Income Tax

Running Out Of Money In Early Retirement

Early Retirement at 33: An Overview

 

SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook subscribers: 61 (+12 versus November 2013)

Blog email subscribers/followers: 50 (+17)

Twitter followers: 145 (+35)

Feedly readers: 107 (+??)

 

Revenue: $1,508.  As I am learning, blogging revenue has the same issues as regular business income.  It takes a long time to actually get the money after it is earned.  I’m in no hurry, but I always figured, “hey, it’s the internet and everything happens instantly”.  In reality, there’s a period of one to two months from revenue creation to receiving payment.  I work for free and I don’t have any employees to pay, so cash flow isn’t an issue.  I’ll hold off on hiring a part time CFO for now.

I’m still surprised that it’s possible to make money blogging.  Sam the Financial Samurai used my relative success as a case study in an article on “how to monetize your blog” at Yakezie.com.  Thanks, Sam!  After that article went live at Yakezie, I have received a lot of inquiries asking for suggestions on the art of blogging and monetization.  I have responded to a few requests and have a blog post on the subject in draft form. 

To put Root of Good’s earnings in perspective, $1,508 in monthly revenue represents 56% of our budgeted retirement spending!  The December revenue is down slightly from November along with overall traffic.  But the December revenue figure is still awesome in absolute terms.  I initially started Root of Good as a hobby, but now I’m starting to see the potential to generate a decent side income doing something I enjoy.

If I can continue funding half of our budgeted retirement spending from Root of Good revenue, it means I won’t have to withdraw much from our investment portfolio.  The portfolio will continue to grow even more, thereby providing an additional margin of safety for our early retirement.  As I outlined in my recent article on running out of money in early retirement, getting a little side income flowing is awesome for two reasons.  Side income helps avoid the psychological stress of watching investment values decline and it reduces the financial stress of pulling money out of investments when they are down in value.  Throughout 2013, investments have done nothing but go up and up.  That’s not usually the case, and eventually I’ll be watching our portfolio go down, down, down.  Having a little cash flow coming in won’t make pulling small amounts out of the portfolio as painful.

 

Closing out 2013

Root of Good had a great 2013 even though it’s not quite four months old.  I’ve met a number of fellow bloggers along the way.  There are too many to mention individually here, but check out my blog recommendations for some of my favorites.

One blog in particular that I really enjoy is Go Curry Cracker.  Jeremy is a fellow early retiree who recently left the working world while still in his 30’s (like me!).  One of his posts motivated me to write about my Luck Making Machine.

Welcoming 2014

I don’t have any specific targets for traffic growth or revenue for 2014.  I’m still approaching Root of Good as a hobby, and enjoying any revenue it happens to generate.  A website overhaul may be in the works during 2014 to spruce up the appearance a bit, but there are no plans to do so any time soon.

I still have dozens and dozens of topics I want to explore with my readers here on Root of Good, and I hope to continue posting once or twice per week on average.

Thank you to everyone who reads Root of Good.  There are around 500 subscribers through one of the social media channels and Root of Good has many thousands of visitors each month.  Thanks for sharing 2013 with me, and I look forward to seeing all of you throughout 2014.  I wish you all the best in 2014!

If you want to keep in touch with Root of Good and receive notifications whenever a new article is published, make sure to subscribe on Facebook, Twitter, or by email or RSS reader (in the column to the right).

 

November 2013 Blog Update

red plant

Root of Good Blog Update

I posted less in November than in previous months, but site traffic has continued to grow at a moderate pace.  I have received a lot of positive comments and feedback from visitors to Root of Good, so keep it up!

 

Stats for November 2013:

Visitors: 13,642 (+4,175)

Unique Visitors: 9,454 (+2,916)

Pageviews: 26,378 (+7,009)

Alexa Rank: 102,000

Most popular pages:

Developing a Retirement Budget

$150,000 Income, $150 Income Tax

Early Retirement at 33: An Overview

 

SOCIAL MEDIA

Facebook subscribers: 49 (+10)

Blog subscribers/followers: 33 (+12)

Twitter followers: 110 (+36)

 

Revenue: $1,631 (still haven’t received a penny yet!).  Honestly, I’m shocked that it is possible to start a blog and within three months make what is approaching serious money.  $1,631 per month income represents 61% of our budgeted retirement spending!  I’m not very confident I will see this level of revenue on a routine monthly basis, but some quick cash isn’t bad.  Last month I mentioned earning a little beer money ($358 to be exact).  $1,600 is quite a bit more than beer money!  If I had worked full time, it would equate to $10 per hour.  Generating new content for Root of Good remains interesting.

Exciting Blog News: Doug Nordman guest posted here earlier in November.  Doug is the founder of The Military Guide blog and author of “The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement”.  Doug wrote Join the Military to Retire Early?  Thanks again to Doug.

AOL Daily Finance interviewed me and sent more than a few visitors this way (thanks Erin!).  Here’s the text of my full interview with AOL Daily Finance.  Here’s the article at AOL Daily Finance featuring my early retirement story.

 

Blog Carnivals Featuring Root of Good

Week Ending Monday November 11, 2013

Festival of Frugality hosted by Save and Conquer
Carnival of Money Pros hosted by Dumb Passive Income
Lifestyle Carnival hosted by Drop the Cookies!
Carnival of Financial Planning hosted by Planting Our Pennies
Carnival of Wealth hosted by Control Your Cash
Carnival of Money hosted by House with the View
Financial Carnival for Young Adults hosted by Financial Nerd

Week Ending Monday November 18, 2013
Festival of Frugality hosted by Financial Nerd
Carnival of Retirement hosted by This That and The MBA
Carnival of Financial Planning hosted by Tie The Money Knot
Weekly Roundup hosted by The Frugal Farmer
Carnival of Financial Independence hosted by Your PF Pro
Financial Freedom Pages hosted by Dreams Cash True
Personal Finance Carnival hosted by Aspiring Blogger
Lifestyle Carnival hosted by The Skilled Investor
Carnival of Wealth hosted by Control Your Cash

Week Ending Monday November 25, 2013
Carnival of Money hosted by Evolving Personal Finance
Carnival of Financial Planning hosted by Financial Nerd
Carnival of Wealth hosted by Control Your Cash
Carnival of Retirement hosted by The Skilled Investor

Week Ending Monday December 2, 2013
Carnival of Money hosted by Carnival of Money
Lifestyle Carnival hosted by Hurricanes, Panties, and Dollars
Personal Finance Carnival hosted by Aspiring Blogger
Carnival of Passive Investing hosted by Wealth Informatics
Carnival of Wealth hosted by Control Your Cash

October 2013 Update

Falling into Retirement

Halloween is over (booo!) and Thanksgiving is around the corner.  Looks like we will be hosting a big Thanksgiving dinner for Mrs. RootofGood’s side of the family again this year.

 

fall harvest

RootofGood Jr. fully embracing his Appalachian hill people roots. Banjos were quietly twanging just off camera.

Right now, I’m preemptively giving thanks that last year I did a post mortem of Thanksgiving 2012 and prepared a spreadsheet of what we served including quantities and notes on how much was eaten.  It will make preparing and cooking this year’s meal for 25-30 people in our small kitchen a lot easier.  The quick and dirty: make more green beans and green bean casserole and don’t make chili (no love for creativity at Thanksgiving??).

But that is this month.  Let’s reflect back on the month that has just passed – October 2013.

First off, this is an awesome time of year in North Carolina.  The temperature tends to hover around the 60’s and 70’s, with chilly nights.  The leaves start to turn golden yellow or bright red and orange during the month.  It’s a perfect time of year to spend time outside or keep cozy inside if it’s chilly.  And a perfect time to harvest the last fruits and vegetables from your garden.

 

Income and Expenses

Let’s look at the Root of Good household’s financial activity in October.

Overall it was a great month.  Personal Capital made it really easy to take a quick look at my income and expenses, and then drill down to areas of spending that were unusually high.  Keeping track of our investment portfolio takes two clicks and is incredibly easy with Personal Capital.  If you haven’t signed up for the free Personal Capital service, check it out today.

Here’s a look at our Personal Capital displays for the month:

Income

 

Our income was solid in October.  Mrs. RootofGood’s take home pay accounts for about half the monthly income, with another big chunk coming from some final payouts from my old job.  We also received $263 in dividends and interest income in our taxable accounts.  We won’t see much investment income in November.  December will be a huge investment income month since most of my funds and ETFs pay quarter end or year end dividends in December.

 

Now let’s look at expenses:

Expenses

 Woah!  No way we spent over $9,000 in one month!  Digging in a little more shows that we spent most of that ($6,957) on “business misc.” expenses.  We paid for a new (used) work van for my wife’s father with the agreement that we would be paid back over the next couple years (with a reasonable family interest rate).  In general it’s a bad idea to lend money to family or friends, but this was a reasonable situation (lending money on an income producing tool).

After pulling out the expenses for what is really an investment in a loan note, we only spent $2,100 in October including our $1,245 mortgage.  Not a bad month at all.

The only category of spending that jumped out at me as being abnormally high was “Restaurants” at $126.  This isn’t exactly a budget buster, but it is higher than the $80 per month I budgeted for in our Retirement Budget.  Enter Personal Capital.  One click and it tells me exactly where we went to eat and how much we spent at each restaurant.  Personal Capital and my waistband say “Time to lay off the China Buffet” (but the sushi is so good!).

Restaurants

 

I’m not worried about going $46 over our budgeted amount this one month, but it is something to keep an eye on if it recurs on a regular basis.  If so, we’ll have to intentionally adjust the budget upwards to address our higher spending on dining out, or cut spending elsewhere.

To recap, spending in October looks pretty good with no real areas of concern.  Recurring income was awesome and more than covered our recurring expenses.

 

Investments

October was more than kind to our investment portfolio.  We ended the month about 3% higher than where we started.  This doesn’t seem like a big change, but it is enough to cover one full year of our retirement expenses.

Portfolio Performance

 

Very positive months like October 2013 makes you forget that bad months can easily be right around the corner.  Getting used to making or losing 5-10% in a month is part of living off your investments.  I’ve mostly lost interest in looking at the investment portfolio daily because a five figure swing up or down is often temporary.  I’m not planning on selling huge chunks of my portfolio, so daily changes don’t really mean a whole lot (other than ulcers if you worry too much about it).

It’s easy to forget that investing this October was supposed to be scary for reasons other than little kids dressed as adorable (but oh so spooky!) zombies, vampires, and witches.  Anyone remember that Government Shutdown thing?  Well, apparently it happened in October but I still earned a 3% return.  Check out that article I just linked if you want to learn how to turn the television off and make more money in your investment portfolio by doing nothing.

 

What have I been up to in month #2 of retirement?

I provided an update at one month into my early retirement adventure.  Here’s the two month update:

  • I’m still working on the French language at duolingo.com.  Making progress slowly.
  • Blogging has been going great (full update below) and I have successfully reduced my time expenditures on the blog so I can pursue other interests.  The downside is less frequent articles, but the upside is I won’t get burnt out on blogging by proceeding at a leisurely writing pace.  Quality, not quantity, right?
  • Exercising and cooking are going well.  The weather has been great for walking 2-5 miles per day, although the mornings are starting to get chilly.  I learned a couple new recipes, including naan.
  • October was an intensely busy month socially.  Playdates for the kids and adults, lunch and dinner parties, halloween parties, birthday parties, sleepovers. Hosting a Mr. Money Mustache Triangle Area meet up.  It has been so busy that Mrs. RootofGood declared this past weekend a “stay at home and don’t do anything” weekend.  Little did she know that staying at home and doing nothing is still technically doing something.
  • I had to make it a point to read more books and play more games.  In retirement, it’s easy to while away the time surfing on the internet, but that’s often a waste of time (though occasionally an interesting waste of time!).  I finished up a couple of books and jumped into a few new ones.  There’s been some minor online strategy war games going on lately, but nothing too time consuming.
  • I’m sad to report my ebaying and craigslisting has fallen to the wayside (and the junk is still in my house).  I’ll get this done in November (I promise).  No excuses.
  • I dabbled with some WordPress and PHP programming on this blog.
  • Taking care of Mr. RootofGood Jr. consumes time like the Sahara consumes most of North Africa.  Fortunately my time spent with the little guy is way more enjoyable than the dessication and desertification of half a continent.  He has a busy social calendar and keeps me on the move.

 

Root of Good Blog Update

It has been a very busy month for Root of Good.

Stats for October:

Visitors: 9,467

Unique Visitors: 6,538

Pageviews: 19,369

Most popular pages:

Make $150,000 Income, Pay $150 Tax

Early Retirement at 33: An Overview

I Retired At 33!

A Simple Way to Retire 15 Years Earlier

Facebook subscribers: 39

Blog subscribers/followers: 21

Twitter followers: 74

Revenue: $358 (although I haven’t actually received a penny of this yet).  I’m surprised I’m already getting this kind of revenue.  November is looking decent so far as well.  $358 per month income represents 13% of our budgeted retirement spending.  It’s pretty cool to think slinging words onto the internet can fund 13% of our retirement.  I’m skeptical about the long term revenue prospects, but as long as it remains fun to blog, I’ll keep it up.  Picking up some beer money is a side benefit.

Guest Posts: During October I was lucky to have a guest post from Nick at Pretired.org on Rethinking Retirement.  Thanks again to Nick for sharing his take on what retirement means in the modern day.

Coming up on Wednesday will be a guest post from Doug Nordman, founder of The Military Guide and author of “The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement”.  In addition to being an early-retired nuclear submarine officer and surfer dude, he’s also an expert in military benefits, pension, health care, and early retirement.  Doug will discuss whether it makes sense to join the military if early retirement is your goal.  Stay tuned!

 

Dear Technorati, Look Here! And other news for the week

I do not know WTF this is

Technorati.com has a blog directory and I want to be listed on it.  To get listed I have to say BBPP4X2BDQAE .  There, I said it.

That is the secret code that their wonderful multi-core servers must have in order to prove that I really am me, I own a keyboard, and I am claiming my blog in their illustrious directory.  I’m kissing a little ass cheek in the off chance that their computer hardware has feelings and a sense of self esteem, but not quite enough AI to determine that I am sarcastically mocking it with my facetious sycophancy.

The Real Business

Okay, enough technoflateri and subterfuge for one day.  On to the real business.

Now that I have over 20 blog posts on Root of Good, it can be a little hard to navigate if you are looking for a particular article from a long time ago.  I have the solution!  After some late night hacking and coding, I came up with the All Posts Since the Beginning of Time page.  The All Posts page is also available under the “Categories” menu at the top of the page (in case you have insomnia later and want to go the non-chemical treatment route).

A few recent posts from the All Posts page that you should check out if you missed them:

 

On Managing and Saving Money:

Figure out how to make a thousand bucks or so doing something you already do: spend money.  Just do it with the right credit cards.  Charge Everything on the Credit Card! Most Bizarre Financial Advice Ever?

Want to track your spending and income, and manage your investments with one quick tool that consolidates everything into one screen?  Simplest Way to Manage Investments, Spending, And Income: Personal Capital

Getting around, getting it done, in my Honda Civic. Auto Costs On The Cheap

I kicked the tax’s ass here: $150,000 Income, $150 Income Tax

 

On Early Retirement:

Guest post by Nick from Pretired.org: Rethinking Retirement  (I’ll be guest posting at his blog on Thursday)

The most popular page here at Root of Good: the story of how I retired at 33.  Early Retirement at 33: An Overview

 

Keep in Touch!

If you want to make sure you catch the latest blog posts, keep connected on facebook and twitter.  Like me, follow me, or whatever it is they call it these days.

Root of Good on Facebook
Root of Good on Twitter

You can also subscribe by email to the blog on the right hand sidebar for an email summary of new blog posts. I won’t spam you, I promise.

 

Before I close out this post of miscellanies, I wanted to remind you all that this week is National Save For Retirement Week.  That’s great that there is a whole week dedicated to saving for retirement.  Unfortunately if you only save for retirement one week per year, you’ll likely be 80 or so before you can retire.  So do yourself a favor and save a little bit each paycheck with a 401k and see if you can start an IRA (or max it out if you already have one).

 

Blog Carnivals where Root of Good has appeared recently:

Week Ending October 14, 2013
Carnival of MoneyPros hosted by Mo’ Money Mo’ Houses
Financial Carnival for Young Adults hosted by Mom and Dad Money
Lifestyle Carnival hosted by Making Sense of Cents
Carnival of Money hosted by Daniel at the Carnival of Money
Carnival of Wealth hosted by Control Your Cash

Week Ending October 21, 2013
Festival of Frugality hosted by Jay Peroni
Wealth Builder Carnival hosted by My Wealth Builder
Financial Planning Carnival hosted by The Skilled Investor
Financial Freedom Pages hosted by Dreams Cash True
Carnival of Financial Independence hosted by Reach Financial Independence
Carnival of Money hosted by Financial Nerd
Rockstar Finance hosted by Rockstar Finance
Carnival of Wealth hosted by Control Your Cash <– This guy is hilarious!
Carnival of Retirement hosted by The Frugal Toad
Lifestyle Carnival hosted by Master The Art Of Saving

Root of Good One Month Update

Flowers at Root of Good

Today marks the end of the first month for Root of Good.

I’m pretty happy with where the blog is today.  I started a month ago with zero knowledge of blogging.  Twitter and twitting or tweeting or whatever it is called was new to me (I’m 33, we just talked to each other when I was a young whippersnapper).

Now, one month in, I’m getting the hang of it.  I still have a long to do list to tweak some things on Root of Good.  And a long list of interesting topics to write about.  Some topics might not garner me the most eyeballs or pageviews (the standard metric of blog success?).  If there is an interesting or compelling story to tell or issue to analyze, I would rather write about that instead of a topic that has been rehashed a million times over where I could contribute no novel thoughts or new insights.

 

Blog Carnivals

I have recently discovered these things called “carnivals” in the blogosphere.  Carnival is a fancy word for digest or compilation of blog posts from many different blogs.  You submit your articles to the carnivals, and they compile your articles along with many others and publish a weekly “carnival” of blogs.  It is a great way to expose your blog to new readers, and from reviewing my site traffic, I can tell it is effective.

I have been fortunate to be included in 11 blog carnivals in the last few weeks.  I wanted to extend thanks to these carnivals and their hosts:

Week ending Sept 30, 2013:
Lifestyle Carnival hosted by Mom and Dad Money
Carnival of Financial Independence hosted by Evolving PF
Carnival of Financial Camaraderie hosted by Fat Guy, Skinny Wallet
Carnival of Wealth hosted by Control Your Cash
Carnival of Personal Finance hosted by Red Debted Stepchild
Finance Carnival For Young Adults hosted by The Skilled Investor

Week ending October 7, 2013:
Paula Beard’s Finance Roundup hosted by Paula Beard
Personal Finance Carnival hosted by Aspiring Blogger
Carnival of Retirement hosted by Frugal Rules
Carnival of Wealth hosted by Control Your Cash

October 8, 2013:

Festival of Frugality hosted by Debt Roundup

 

Root of Good Statistics:

Visitors: 3,200

Unique Visitors: 1,900

Pageviews: 9,100

Most popular pages:

Early Retirement at 33: An Overview – 1,400 pageviews

I Retired At 33! – 800 pageviews

Obamacare Makes Early Retirement Easier and More Secure – 400 pageviews

Demographics of visitors: Mostly English speaking countries (US, Canada, Australia, UK), with a few European and Asian countries rounding out the top 10 (hi Germany, Netherlands, Singapore, and Norway).  49 different countries in all.

Facebook subscribers: 23

Blog subscribers/followers: 8

Twitter followers: 58

Revenue: $32 (from Google Adsense) (that’s about a penny per visitor – leave your 2 cents and we’ll be almost even).  I have a small amount of revenue sitting out there that may eventually turn into cashola in my pockets.

 

Notes

The stats make me smile.  People are reading the blog, subscribing, and commenting.  A number of people told me they have made positive financial after following my advice.  Just as often they were reminded to do something they have been putting off for a while.

I’ve made a few “blogger friends” and hope to develop those relationships (they are interesting people).

I’ll be doing a blog swap next week.  One of those bloggers with whom I identify closely, Nick at Pretired.org, will be guest posting here at Root of Good and I’ll be posting at Pretired.org.  Nick has a lot of smart and engaged readers, and I look forward to dropping some wisdom bombs on them next week!

That’s all the blog related news, but I can’t close out the post without sharing a pic of this watermelon I grew in the dirt in my backyard.  Can’t wait to carve it up for Halloween!

Monster watermelon