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? 

 

 

74 comments

  • Good recap of the last year! The best to you and yours!

    Biggest turning point is probably getting back into personal finance blogging after a few years off. I’m excited to “get back into the game” as it were and am blown away by all the interesting voices that weren’t here as recently as three years ago. So many interesting perspectives, approaches, and ideas; it’s what makes the internet beautiful! (and… as you learned in the comments section of the mainstream media sites, horrifying haha)

  • Great recap. Thanks for sharing all year. Have a great 2016 Justin.

  • Hola Justin!

    That’s amazing you guys have only spent $22,000 through November. I’m scared to tally how much we’ve spend. But it will be done! lol.

    Happy Holidays!

    Sam

    • Happy Holidays to you to, Sam!

      Pretty crazy low spending. I’m thinking up ways to spend more in 2016 IF it brings more happiness and comfort to our lives. 🙂

      • I am right there with Sam. Your low spending makes me feel a little guilty…at least for the length of time it takes me to finish this comment. Then I move on and realize that we all have different paths and requirements in this life.

        Just opened my master spreadsheet and it looks like we will finish the year spending $133K for 2015, but after you adjust for additional loan amortizations, then we only spent $112K. Thinking it through it probably makes sense to back out the expense for our rental condo since the net of that expense and the income we receive is really close to Zero.

        So, our real spending will be closer to $97K.

        That is just under 5X what you spend for a family of 5 right?

        I realize you guys have already paid your mortgage in full, which we have not. That will eventually free up another $22K a year.

        Anyways, good recap, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.

        See you on the flip side.

        Dom

        • So take out the mortgage and you’re down to $75k, which is getting much closer to what we spend than the top line $133k! 🙂 If taxes are included in your expenses, you could take those out too (if you view them as a cost of working instead of a living expense).

          Anyway, you’re right about the individual goals and paths we all take. There are others out there looking me like a drunken sailor on a spending binge (cough cough Frugalwoods).

          Have a good one!

  • Congratulations on a productive and successful year for you and your family (and your site)!

    What is amazing that you can essentially live off your dividend income, and possibly still have some dividends left over to reinvest. If you can live off a 2% dividend yield, you will never have to dip into principal, and you are almost guaranteed to never run out of money ( even if your wife never worked another day in her life, even if you never earn a single dollar, and even if you and your wife never collect a dollar in social security/pension income)

    Of course, given your side hustles with financial coaching, this blog, your wife potentially working in 2016 and maybe 2017, and other freelance writing, you can essentially postpone spending as much of your nest egg as possible. And if your nest egg remains intact, it further increases the chances that your money will outlive you.

    Bravo!

    Dividend Growth Investor

    PS My spending is approximately 18,000 – 24,000/year for one person. I could definitely learn a thing or two from you on how to cut this number down.

    • Yeah, that’s the realization I’m coming to. We have plenty of money and it’s okay to spend more of it. Last year the portfolio yielded around $30k and we spent about 10% more than that. This year I have a feeling the dividends will be slightly lower due to worse international performance but we’ll see. 2/3 of the div income is in tax-deferred accounts, so not immediately available. But money is fungible so in reality I can sell in the taxable account and reinvest dividends in the tax deferred accounts and it’s a wash, and we would be living off dividend income.

      At a 2% withdrawal rate, it’s very likely that we will never run out of money and very likely that we’ll see significant real growth in portfolio value each year.

  • Thanks for sharing so many great posts this year and for being so open and candid about your finances. I really like it when you’re able to break down complex topics so they’re easy to understand (e.g. Roth conversions, Social Security, ACA, etc.). I look forward to hearing how your wife’s possible retirement impacts your finances. Would also love to hear about any other financial strategies you use in terms of distributions from your accounts or how you plan for emergencies.

  • Awesome year Justin! I definitely don’t track my expenses as much as others, but I think it will be a good exercise for me to complete once 2015 is over. Can’t wait to see what next year has in store for the ROG blog.

  • It’s always pretty crazy to read your recaps because I spent $24,000 or so on housing this year alone, for two people. About half of that is mortgage payments and you have paid off your mortgage, but still. Housing is just more expensive where I live. Congrats on a solid year! My income numbers may look different than yours, but I am also on track to reach FI in my early thirties.

    • Good to hear about others on the path to FI in their early thirties. We’re a rare breed. Some might even say weird. 🙂

      Housing is a wildly variable cost in the US, as plenty of folks in some parts of the country pay more in property taxes than we do for all housing related expenses (even including our mortgage when it was on a 30 year amortization schedule).

  • Very cool yearly overview! Seems it has been a great year for you and your family. We wish you a very great holiday season and great 2016. We hope to enjoy more great posts next year!

  • Congrats on a very successful year. You have summarized your year well. 2015 has been an excellent year for Mrs. T and I. Simply amazing that you only spent $22k through November. We have much to learn from you. 🙂

  • Justin,

    Ive been following the blog since almost the beginning now and you have put out some great stuff, thanks for sharing all your knowledge and experiences.

    I really love the tactical stuff for where I’m at right now, and I especially enjoyed the SS post discussing the bend points, etc. It was one of the clearest posts I’ve seen on this – very digestible info and well written. In fact, even though I’ve always understood the bend points to some extent, you inspired to go into the SS estimator and actually figure out when I will hit the second bend point. It was actually a pretty simple exercise and may be a good follow-up blog post for you to write some day. All things being equal, one may choose to retire at or shortly after the second bend point as each additional day of work beyond that is slightly less compensated that before the bend point. Minor stuff, but I’m betting some of your readers would love it.

    I would write about it but I’m terrible at that technical stuff. I’m the more philosophical type 😉

    Keep it up and happy new year!

    • That’s a good point – it makes very little sense to work for SS beyond the 2nd bend point because the ROI is horrible. You only get 15% of what you pay in (1/6 of the 90% you get below the 1st bend point!!).

      • Exactly! I went on the SS site, entered all my historical info, then changed my retirement date 1 year at a time (while keeping my income steady). When the change in monthly income increased by a lesser amount I knew that was the year I hit bend point number 2.

  • Sounds like you guys had a great 2015! I hope 2016 goes just as well (if not better!) Have a Merry Christmas 🙂

    • Thanks! Our portfolio didn’t do that well this year (probably flat to slightly down but I haven’t looked at it in terms of rate of return), so odds are next year will be a better year.

      On the non-money front it was pretty awesome. With Mrs. RoG joining me in early retirement in 2016 it should get better. And if not, you’ll see a post about why it’s not and what I’m doing to fix things. 🙂

  • Merry Christmas RoG family!

    I very much enjoy being in the same online communities as you, and getting the benefit of your contributions. Thank you.

    Here’s to a wonderful 2016!

    • Thanks, Joe. Hope you guys are having a blast wherever you are in the world these day!

      I’ve learned a lot from you too, so thanks for sharing in our community.

  • That was quite a busy year. Glad to see you are getting some media attention (even if it is so they can write ridiculous headlines). Looking forward to see how things evolve in 2016!

    • The media attention was pretty good overall this year. There will always be negative comments in the mainstream media from those that just don’t get it. But for every 1 negative comment, there were probably 1000 people that were either indifferent or felt positive about the message. After all, with almost a million views at business insider, and only a few dozen comments (half of which were positive), it’s clear that most people read the article without commenting.

  • I’ve been thinking how folks who only look at the headlines (“He retired at 33! Family of 5 spends under $24,000 a year!”) without reading your blog might get all tetchy — how can he do that? must be a lie, etc. But if they read even just the highlighted items in this one post they could see exactly how you did it, calmly and transparently explained. They would also see the work done and daily choices carefully made by you and Mrs RoG to support your happy lives. Must thank you for this cheerful and informative blog!

    Bravo for such a wonderful resource and Happy Everything to the RoG’s!

    • Totally agree. Dig into the details and I’m obviously either the best writer of fiction known to man and terribly creative, or I’m telling the truth. 🙂

      Thanks for the kind words, and Happy Everything to you too!

  • I only started following your blog since about the end of August and have had a fun time perusing your past posts. For this year, I’ve enjoyed your ones about concealing your wealth, the popular one you recently had about your road to financial independence, your monthly updates, and not to forget your cruising series!

    2016 will be another great year no matter what the market ends up doing. If it takes a dive, it just means my contributions will matter more, but that’s life! Thanks so much for the great inspiration and the fun reading. 🙂

    • Those are some good ones. 🙂

      I’m loving your approach to market dives – cheaper share prices = more of them! Mrs. RoG complains every time the market is up on payday when her 401k contributions go in (like today, 12/15). I almost peed my pants back in 2009 when everything was half off. Good times, good times.

      I just made our 2015 IRA contributions and another $6k contribution to my solo 401k a few days ago so I got close to this recent market bottom but missed it by a couple of days.

  • What made your 17 year old self renounce the $120’000 FI plan?

    • Peer pressure. College – everyone else was doing it. Seemed like the cool thing to do. In hindsight it was a fantastic decision because my hourly income increased nearly three fold within three years ($6/hr to $17/hr) and state college was pretty darn cheap in 1998-2001 ($3000-4000/yr tuition I think).

  • Sir,

    I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on “location independence” once Mrs. RoG follows you into retirement. I know the Mad Fientist plans to implement his 3-6-3 plan, and Darrow Kirkpatrick of “Can I retire yet?” moved to Santa Fe after his wife retired. So, will you stay in NC once your wife retires (possibly to keep the kids in the same school and remain near family and friends) or will you then decide that you can live anywhere you want, for as long as you want (like Go Curry Cracker)?
    I love your blog and enjoy reading every post. I’m also intrigued to see what happens to each of the financial bloggers that I follow as they cross over into the various stages of financial independance.

    Thank you,
    Aaron

    • Hey Aaron, good question. For my detailed thoughts on living abroad, check out the Could I Retire Abroad? link (also linked above). Basically, we could do it financially but after paying for the kids’ schooling will be probably the same cost of living as we experience at home (unless we homeschool). That was for Mexico anyway.

      I’m not sure we would relocate anywhere else in the US. It’s hard to get substantially cheaper than where we are in NC, though I’m sure we could trim a couple thousand per year off our state income tax bill if we did relocate. I like the weather here most of the year (it was 72 degrees today in the middle of December for example), and all our family is here.

      So will we ever pack up and live somewhere else? Maybe. It’s a lot trickier with multiple kids and they are doing very well in school here in Raleigh. I’m very interested to see how Jeremy and Winnie do on the road with a kid and especially when it comes to school time. I’m sure they’ll manage.

      After the kids are out of the house, who knows? We might head somewhere else. Lots of options, for sure!

  • Nice round up! As a newer reader, it was fun to get your take on what the important stories were from 2015. Looking forward to more from you in 2016!

  • Great looking retirement schedule. Your early retirement schedule is like my schedule to be in 10 years (hopefully) 🙂 Great job achieving your early retirement and you totally deserve it!

    Cheers!

    BSR

  • Have a very Merry Christmas, and I look forward to hearing much in the way of good news in 2016 from you and your family. God Bless.

  • That is an excellent recap of the year Justin. It is amazing the amount of things that happen in our lives over just a 12 month period.

    Sometimes it would be nice to have that crystal ball to see what the next year will bring. Then again, maybe it is better that there is room for some chance and randomness in our lives!

    I have enjoyed your writing. Thanks!

  • Great entries this year. Kudos on the low spending. The great part about it is that you’ve mixed in a good amount of travel/vacation as well without breaking the bank.

    Impressive that you also had relatively strong financial sense in earning money even as a teenager. Helps build work ethic. I didn’t really get into the financial bandwagon until my late 20’s and early thirties.

    • Yes! So much travel that we are seriously considering “taking a break” this summer and staying at home (or mostly at home). We aren’t traveling in luxury but we aren’t anywhere close to slumming it either.

      I’m very glad I figured out this money stuff (in a very vague sense) when I was still a teenager. Much easier to start on the right path than try to dig myself out of debt once I’m knee deep in it.

  • Amazing, your schedule says you take 2.5 hours per week on laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning the house. Just grocery shopping and cooking alone takes me 5 hours per week and I cook once for the whole week. Laundry for 3, and cleaning our 1200 sqft home is another 3 hours per week. That’s a whole work day! Could you share with us your weekly food routine? When do you cook? What do you buy and where from? Do you cook for the week or cook before each meal?

    • Here’s a peek at our grocery buying for a month and how we do it without coupons (which saves a ton of time!). We usually shop at Aldi 1x per week. Sometimes a second store like Walmart, Kroger, Food Lion, or Trader Joe’s. All those stores are within 1-5 minutes driving distance roughly, and probably 0.5-1 hr per shopping trip in store.

      Maybe I’m fudging the amount of housework a bit, but it’s roughly correct throughout the course of a week. Dishes, for example, aren’t a 30 minute task, but more like 10-15 minutes more often than 2x/wk.

      Cooking is variable. Most meals are 30 minutes to 1 hour max prep time, but we don’t cook every night. Strategic left overs and batch cooking for the freezer play an important role. Tonight, for example, was probably 30 minutes to make fresh guacamole (that generated leftovers), reheated cochinita pibil pork from the freezer (made a batch a few weeks ago), beans from the crock pot (previously frozen), topped with lettuce, grated cheese, sour cream, salsa, etc. So we have some decent freshly made eats for dinner and I’ll have a delicious lunch tomorrow too. On my chart, I lump cooking in with “dinner”. Some nights it’s 1 hour, others it’s 1.5 hours which includes prep time and eating time. The 1.5 hour meals are when we are actually cooking something instead of just reheating or doing something simple.

      • I’m glad that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for me. I can see happiness and appreciate people like you. I’m knee deep in debt but also know that can be fixed with hard work and working long hours for next few years. Hopefully not that long if I figure it out and learn from folks like yourself. Live and learn.

        • Yeah, pay the debt off first, get to zero, then start building up your net worth. It’s a longer process if you’re starting in debt, but the same basic principles apply. No time better than now to get going in the right direction!

  • You guys have had another rockin’ year. Continue blazing the trail ahead of the rest of us. We’re plugging along… 2015 was a drastic one for us… making the leap into planning early retirement and all (we’re relatively new to this bandwagon). So, I’m excited for 2016 to see how far we can get in one full calendar year of our plan. Also, we got over $10,000 just for living in Alaska and we finished all of our home updates and are getting $7,700 back (so we’ve gotten new windows, new hot water heater, front door, and a whole bunch of insulation for less than $1000 out of pocket!). Overall, we’re grateful for where we’re at both financially and otherwise. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    • Getting free money is pretty awesome. I’d love to replace a bunch of stuff in our house for nearly nothing if someone else is footing the bill!

      Best of luck walking the path to FIRE!

  • I’m really curious about your opinion for crappy employer 401k plans and should I contribute the max to it while only getting a small match with a 3% cap or just invest the 3% and open an IRA? I’m not sure I can do two, one for the hubs and myself if he has a 401k. While the tax advantage seems great does it outweigh the investment gains growing somewhere else. I should mention they don’t offer Vanguard. Thanks for the continued posting a uplifting hope to FI!

    • In general, if you have a crappy 401k, contribute enough to get the match, then max out your own IRA from that point on.

      If you max out the IRA, then you have a choice between finishing the maxing of the crappy 401k vs. taxable brokerage account. I’d say it’s worth investing in the crappy 401k for the tax break IF (1) you plan on leaving the employer within the short to intermediate term (1-4 years) or (2) you’re in a high tax bracket (25%+).

  • Great job in 2015. Nice net worth increase in a volatile year as well.
    Good luck to Mrs. RoG in 2016. Maybe it will be the year. 😉
    Happy holidays!

    • I’m pretty sure 2016 will be the year and I’m working up our budget for 2016 right now assuming she quits work sooner rather than later. Health, dental, and some other things change once she quits working, and that will change our cost structure a bit.

  • Great summary RoG, it looks like 2015 was a pretty fantastic year for you and your family. I have to admit your family was a HUGE part of inspiration for me to finally call it quits. Assuming decent investment returns, there really was no need for us to keep working. I’m right where you were a few years back…just getting started. Going on 1 month now!

    Happy Holiday’s and I’m looking forward to your posts in 2016.

  • IT seems like you had a great year, Net worth went up, you had more freedom, and you’re spending less. It great to see an under the radar sort of millionaire not really care about luxuries and a fake lifestyle. Good luck and looking forward to your end of year Dividend income tally.

    • Thanks EL. We’re at $23,000 for 2015 after Friday’s big $6000 dividend dump and I expect we’ll close out the year right around $30k like last year. I’ll try to squeeze in a dividend update in January once the dust is settled.

  • I’ve noticed your utilities are extremely low. ($9 in October) How do you use that little energy? I don’t believe I’ve seen you write a post on that yet.

    • We prepay utilities occasionally to meet min spending requirements on credit cards (to qualify for big sign up bonus offers). So I prepaid electric, nat gas, and water/sewer/trash during the summer and just now am I owing anything on those bills. Usually closer to $200-300/mo for all utilities.

      Wish I could keep em at $9/mo every month! 🙂

  • Great recap. I especially enjoyed your schedule of how an early-retiree spends his/her day. It’s a good illustration that combats the stereotype that people are just sitting around watching TV all day.

  • Great recap 🙂
    Never thought you spend
    2 and a half hour playing video games 😀

  • I’ve come across your blog several times in the past, and it’s always an inspiration! My personal 2015 is ending with gusto. I’m leaving my job to start content marketing full time. It’s intimidating, but I’m hoping it will help me reach your level of success financially, with the same amount of atonomy. I look forward to seeing more of your writing in 2016!

  • Thanks so much for all your information. I really appreciated the article on Social Security. I wish all your information had been available when I was young. It would have made a great deal of difference in my financial planning. I’m glad that you are there for the younger generation. Do you ever have a class at your children’s schools in “How to manage money”? If not, maybe you should think about it for 2016. Have a great new year!

    • Happy new year to you, too!

      They don’t get too much into money management in elementary school but the Junior Achievement folks came in this year to talk about entrepreneurship and economics.

  • Congratulations on such a successful year! Your low expenses are admirable, and I really appreciate all your advice on successful parenting that requires, essentially, the opposite of filling a void with expensive stuff. Looking forward to more awesome posts in 2016!

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