March 2016 Financial Update

I don’t know about you, but we had a wonderful March!  The weather is beautiful and life is going very well at the Root of Good household.  March represents the first full month of early retirement for Mrs. Root of Good.  Last week the kids celebrated spring break and we had a very successful week of relaxing and enjoying the complete lack of a daily schedule.

In financial terms, March was very kind to us.  Our net worth shot up $94,000 in spite of spending almost $11,000 (most of which was a used minivan purchase).  Our income was higher than normal at $7,806 thanks to quarterly dividend payments from our investments.

 

Income

In March, we received $4,476 in dividend income from our mutual funds and ETFs.  This represents almost double the $2,500 dividend income earned in March 2015.  Since our portfolio is all funds and ETFs that pay dividends quarterly or annually, the months of March, June, September, and December are big for dividends.  The $4,476 we received in March will go a long way toward helping us exceed the 2015 total of $28,527 in dividend income.

Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, was back to normal at $2,575 after a weak February with under $500 income.  My early retirement lifestyle consulting brought in $180 in March.  So far the blog and consulting income has remained relatively steady this year and $2,000 to $2,500 per month might be the new normal.  I’m still aiming to live off of four percent of our portfolio, and treating the blog and consulting income as purely discretionary money that we can spend if we want (or save if we want).

The $500 in “travel” income is actually a $500 cash back sign up bonus from Mrs. Root of Good’s Barclay Arrival card.  I’ll discuss this later in the “Expenses” section.

We had a $43 refund from the insurance company for canceling coverage on my Honda Civic since I sold it in February (hence the Automotive income of $43).

The $8 “Deposits” income represents two class action settlement checks from Red Bull energy drinks.

The days of earning a paycheck are over for Mrs. Root of Good, so no more paychecks in these monthly income reports!

march-2016-income

If you’re interested in tracking your income and expenses like I do, then check out Personal Capital (it’s free!). All of our savings and spending accounts (including checking, money market, and five credit cards) are all linked and updated in real time through Personal Capital. We have accounts all over the place, and Personal Capital makes it really easy to check on everything at one time.

Personal Capital is also a solid tool for investment management. Keeping track of our entire investment portfolio takes two clicks. If you haven’t signed up for the free Personal Capital service, check it out today (review here).

 

Expenses

Now let’s look at March expenses:

march-2016-expenses2

After a record month of spending to excess, the total damage came to $10,911.  This is more than three times our budget of $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year).

Time to haul lots of people and loads of stuff. And take a 3000 mile road trip.

Time to haul lots of people and loads of stuff. And take a 3000 mile road trip.

Most of the cash that left our hand in March went toward the $8,228 purchase of our new (used) minivan.  When you buy new things, you tend to spend even more money after the purchase.  A new car is no different.  We spent another $98 on the pre-sale vehicle inspection (didn’t want to buy an $8,228 lemon!), $108 for property taxes, and $23 for two sets of floor mats.  I still need to pick up three windshield wipers (yes, it comes with a rear wiper) that will cost another $15, and it needs the tires balanced to hopefully fix the minor vibration at highway speeds (fingers crossed it’s nothing major beyond tires out of balance).  To add the minivan, our insurance went up by $40-50, which will probably be due in April.

castle-in-minivan

Perfect for those times a neighbor is giving away a castle for free

storming-the-castle

The kids storming the castle (next to our wood pallet shack – a work in progress!)

Our $1,072 travel expense in March is for our upcoming summer road trip through Tennessee, Kentucky, Michigan, Ontario/Toronto Canada, Niagara Falls, and Washington, DC.  The $1,072 covers all of our accommodations for almost a month and two days of cave tours at Mammoth Cave National Park.  I’ll have a lot more detail on this exciting trip in a post to be released soon.

The $1,072 travel expense is actually $572 when I subtract out the $500 travel credit we received from Mrs. Root of Good’s Barclay Arrival Card.  She signed up for the card in January and we already received $500 cash back as a sign up bonus (including the extra points from spending an extra $1,000 beyond the $3,000 minimum required to get the $400 initial sign up bonus).  The Barclay Arrival Card allows you to redeem points toward any travel expenses including Airbnb or hotel stays.  $500 = a free week in a two bedroom apartment rental in Toronto.

I picked up a $250 Airbnb gift certificate by redeeming 25,000 of the 150,000 American Express Membership Rewards points we earned when we signed up for a pair of Amex Business Gold Rewards cards in December last year.  That slashed the total price for three nights in an Airbnb rental in Bowling Green, Kentucky from $297 to $47.

We booked nine nights at Starwood Hotels (including Four Points by Sheraton and Aloft hotels) using 24,000 Starwood Preferred Guest points from a single Starwood Amex sign up bonus offer.  The most amazing redemption of the bunch was a $400 per night (in Canadian dollars) room in Niagara Falls for 3,000 points.

Travel hacking is how we traveled through Mexico for seven and a half weeks for $4,500.  If you like free travel as much as we do and want to get some of these same cards, check out these credit card offers.

Airbnb is an incredible way to save money while on vacation, particularly if you’re traveling with a family.  We were able to book decent two bedroom apartments for much less than the cost of a crappy hotel room suite or two budget level hotel rooms.  The biggest benefit beyond having tons of space is that we get a full kitchen so we don’t have to dine out for a month straight.  If you haven’t tried Airbnb before, check them out for your next vacation and save $35 off your first stay.

Our grocery spending of $611 was a little higher than normal, but nothing to worry about yet.  We continue to spend money on good food so we aren’t tempted to go out and eat all the time.

But we did spend on restaurants this month.  We dropped $25 on a Groupon for Papa Johns that will end up buying us six or seven large pizzas (coupon codes will be used heavily).  It’s hard to make pizza that cheap.  We also dined at the Chinese restaurant once and got take out from a different Chinese restaurant once.  All restaurant spending totaled $59.

Utility spending of $202 included the $115 water/sewer/trash bill (slightly higher than normal) and $87 for the natural gas bill.  The gas bill will be a lot lower until November when the cooling season starts back in North Carolina.  Right now we’re enjoying free heat and air conditioning courtesy of the wonderful spring weather!

Gifts of $153 include our daughter’s birthday gift, a wedding gift for a sibling, and a few gifts for some nieces and nephews with upcoming birthdays.

Our entertainment spending of $136 includes:

  • $48 for a swimming punch pass good for 15 adult admissions to any city pool or water park
  • $31 for four new bike tires for the girls’ bikes
  • $27 for fishing gear (Mrs. RoG’s thing; not mine)
  • $29 for skating rink admission and pizza for two extra guests beyond the ten free birthday guests (nice cheap commercial birthday party thanks to winning a free birthday party for ten!)

Our healthcare expense of $125 covers the insurance premium for our sweet gold plated silver health insurance plan with heavy Affordable Care Act subsidies.  Mrs. Root of Good used the insurance for the first time today and so far it works.  It’s health insurance, so I’m sure we’ll be disappointed eventually.

We went crazy with the gas purchases this month (given we’re both retired!).  $74 gets you a tank and a half for a Honda Accord and a full tank for a Toyota Sienna minivan.  I went ahead and filled up during March to score the 5% cash back on gas purchases on my Chase Freedom card (and because gas prices at all the other stations around town had already gone up significantly).  We’re going to the beach in late April for a wedding so I imagine that will be the next time we have to pay for gas.

Rounding out the monthly purchases was $14 for two extra batteries for our new t5i DSLR camera.

I spent so much time in March shopping for things that I feel like I need a vacation from buying stuff!

Year to Date Living Expenses

march-2016-ytd-expenses2

At $15,236 year to date spending, we have far exceeded the $10,000 budgeted for the first three months of the year.  That’s okay because we won’t be buying a car every month and we actually made $2,900 from the sale of our old Civic.

Looking ahead, I expect April to be a low cost month.  In May or early June we’ll owe almost $1,000 for home, auto, and umbrella insurance policies.  July and August should be fairly low cost months too since we’ll be traveling for half of each month and have already paid for all of our vacation’s lodging expenses.

Our goal this year was to spend more than the $24,000 we spent last year, and so far we are on track to do so.  However, I know we’ll also have those months where we barely spend $1,000 so we might not spend our whole $40,000 budgeted for 2016.  Our spending philosophy hasn’t really changed, but we’re certainly open to occasional small luxury purchases since we know we can afford it.

Monthly Expense Summary:

 

Net Worth: $1,529,000 (+$94,000)

After four months in a row with a decline in net worth, we have finally turned the corner to a healthy, positive growth in wealth.  The gains came from our stock market returns – someone told international investments that we were waiting on them to perform well.

We are now as wealthy as we were during most of 2015 and much wealthier than we were during all of 2014 (and we felt wealthy back then!).  We’re still about $50,000 away from our wealth high water mark set in June of 2015, but still feeling like we are swimming in money without any real need to sacrifice quality of life to save money (of course we’re naturally frugal so thrift is easy for us).

 

I’ll reprint what I said in last month’s financial update:

[The market] goes up, it goes down.  What are you going to do?  Freak out over every movement, or let the long term growth engine of the stock market work its magic?

In hindsight I look kinda smart by holding on and letting the market swing back into the positive.  But I fail to see how “do nothing for a long time” is smart.  Nor is it dumb.  It’s just the right thing to do if you want to avoid panic selling at the low points and getting overly aggressive after huge market run ups.

march-2016-net-worth

 

After almost two months of Mrs. Root of Good not working and after spending over $8,000 on a minivan, we’re still sitting on around $24,000 in cash.  That amount of cash plus the dividends we’ll receive in our taxable brokerage account will cover our expenses over the next year so we won’t have to sell anything for living expenses if the stock market takes another big dip.

Eventually if the market stays flat or keeps going up, I’ll start to harvest some capital gains to pad the cash buffer we have on hand.  I don’t have a particular S&P 500 or Dow price target to know it’s time to take gains, but I’ll know it is time when we get there (and I’ll let you know!).

That’s it for this month’s installment of “what did we make and spend, and what are we worth?”.  I’ll leave you with this article from the end of last year that is a good summary of everything I blogged about in 2015 (for those new readers that made their way here from the recent articles featuring Root of Good in CNBC, MSN, and Yahoo Finance).

 

How was March for you?  Was your boat lifted by the rising tide?  

 

 

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90 comments

  • Jonathan Bennett

    Congrats on an excellent March! I look forward to the day when my net worth mah shoot up $94k in a good month too. 🙂

    It is cool to hear about all your credit card point redemptions because I’ve recently started learning more about doing more of that from the Travel Miles 101 site. I’ve dabbled with points in the past but not in a particularly optimal way.

    • I’m somewhere between a points/miles dabbler and expert. I don’t have a real specific strategy to acquiring points or miles but figure they will come in handy since we have plenty of time to travel these days. The Barclay Arrival cards are easy bets because they can be redeemed for any travel expenses. We have a $1000 balance still due on our December cruise to the Caribbean so I can always put that spending on my new Barclay card and get $500 of it reimbursed.

      • Considering this “hobby”…..I worry a bit about credit getting “dinged”….Do you ever cancel cards from past after the bonus benefits have expired?

        • I usually cancel cards with annual fees unless there is a good reason to keep them. So far I haven’t seen any negative impact on credit score. In fact, our scores stay in the 800’s (806-830) on an 850 point scale. 780 or so is considered excellent credit.

          But more importantly, I don’t need credit for anything. If the credit score drops and I can’t get new cards, that will be okay. Of course if you’re about to apply for a new mortgage or car loan that you really need, then it makes sense to back off of the credit card applications for 6 months or so before applying for the larger loans.

          • I liked the discussion on the travel and credit card hacks in this article, as for the rest you are doing great. For the annual fees and cancelling, can you recall if to keep the bonuses intact we need to maintain a full year with the card or can you cancel just before renewal fee ?

            • I usually keep the card for at least 8-10 months before I cancel. I’ve heard some cards trying to “claw back” the bonus if you cancel as soon as you get the bonus pts/cash.

  • Can you explain how you can get so many pizzas for $25? Thanks.

    • $25 Groupon deal for Papa Johns $25 gift card plus 2 free large pizzas (pizza #1 and #2).

      Coupon code for a free large pizza at a later date when you spend $15 or more. I ordered 2 larges (pizzas #3 and #4) with a BOGO coupon, paid $15.xx with the $25 GC, got a free pizza code (pizza #5).

      Now I have $9.xx left on the gift card so I can get another large pizza at some point (pizza #6) using a 50% off or “large for $7.99” code or something like that.

      I did this same deal last fall and found a $5 groupon coupon so I spent $20 for 6 pizzas. I also used Ebates and scored another $2 or so from cash back when shopping at Groupon (and I did that on March’s Groupon deal too). So I guess $18 for 6 pizzas? 🙂

  • I’d love to see a breakdown of what generated that $4000+ dividend income. Looking at my monthly numbers ~$1M only generated ~$1500 (maybe I’m invested too conservatively).

    • Copying my response to Joe: As for dividends, I wrote about our 2015 dividends and our 2013 dividends. We aren’t dividend investors but we still incorporate the dividends into our spending and cash flow plans.

      Remember that the $4,000 is for the whole first quarter, so it represents 3 months of dividend income. For the whole year we typically earn $28-30k in dividend income. Check the links I posted for a breakdown of what we own. We have a lot of international investments so they help give a higher yield in most years.

  • Great March Update RoG! Wow, you guys sure did a lot of spending! Congrats on that nice dividend income too!

    How are you liking the mini-van? We’re renting one in Hawaii right now, and it’s kindof a big pig. Eats gas like there’s no tomorrow!

    • I felt like all we did was spend money all month. Other than the car, we were still within our $3,333 monthly budget so I guess we can keep on spending like crazy for the indefinite future! 😉

      I like the minivan because it’s spacious and can accommodate our family plus two more people and a bunch of cargo easily, or a huge amount of bulky cargo. The seats are easy to remove or recess into the floor. It handles pretty well and rides smoothly. The seats are comfortable and the interior is roomy. The EPA stats say 17 MPG in the city so it’s going to be about 50-75% more expensive on gas, but we don’t drive a lot so not a big deal (minivan fill up is ~17-18 gallons vs 15-16 gallons on the Accord).

      The only thing I don’t like is the bulkiness. I loved driving my civic because you could see everything around you going forward or backward. Parallel parking was a breeze. I’m not looking forward to driving the van into the big city when we’re in Detroit, Toronto, and DC this summer. When the kids are out of the house I’ll probably go back to a smaller car (unless I get hooked on having a big stuff hauler availably 24/7). With 3 kids, a minivan is a nice luxury to have if you can afford it.

      • Just stay out of the city proper in DC and take the metro (special tourist tickets available for all day riding!), then you won’t have to worry about parking it in the city 🙂 We were just in Niagara Falls (yes, in the winter!) and I wouldn’t have any problem driving a minivan around the city, and the local buses make it very easy to get around without a car (unless you’re going to the wineries in Niagara on the Lake…)

        • I’m not too worried about Niagara with the car (done it before). DC isn’t too bad either (I’ve driven there a number of times for work and for fun). Toronto I’m not as sure about.

          In DC, we’re only spending a day there and visiting the Air and Space Museum by the airport where the Space Shuttle is. I don’t think the metro goes out there, and we’re staying near it in a hotel anyway (it’s probably 20 miles from downtown DC and all the other tourist stuff).

      • Cool, let me know how the minivan works out on those trips. As I mentioned in your last post, I’ll probably be replacing the old 2-door civic soon. A minivan could be on the short list.

        I’ve rented a few over the years, but I can’t say that I really love them. I can’t deny the convenience though. The most recent minivan rental (in Hawaii) was kind of a disappointment. It was a Chrystler minivan, ate too much gas, and felt pretty under powered.

        Coming back home and hopping in my AWD Subaru Forester felt like a race car by comparison.

  • March was good for me as well, as I saw new net worth highs. Also spending was on track for my budget (little high but for the quarter below budget). Enjoy the new “whip” 🙂

  • You are doing pretty well ROG. It is always a pleasure to read your monthly updates, since you are bearing the fruit of the financial plan you and your wife set up for your family years ago.

    Yeah, the the car throws off your budget a little bit, but in reality you won’t be buying a new car for at least several years. So while month to month figures will be lumpy ( for tracking expenses, net worth, side income and dividend income), I think you are still on track to continue being retired. And it looks like you are having lots of fun too!

    As for me, my networth hit a record high, and so did my dividend income.

  • Always love your monthly updates and breakdowns! Looks like a lot of fun planned for 2016! I jumped into early retirement around the same time and Mrs. ROG! Thanks for sharing!!!!

  • Great update! I like the castle. That’s a pretty cool giveaway. Great job with your expense so far in 2016.
    Our net worth increased about $100k too. It’s nice, but I was hoping for a dip so I could pick up some discounted shares while catching up with my 2015 401k contribution. Did you write about dividend income before? I’m curious too.

    • Another benefit to not working – when the neighbor posted the castle for free on our neighborhood Nextdoor site, I got the notification and within 5 minutes messaged her that I’d take it. 2 minutes later we were at her house with the van ready to pick it up. Lots of other neighbors were jealous that we snagged it first. Cool story though, the castle has been passed from neighbor to neighbor three times now all around our lake.

      As for dividends, I wrote about our 2015 dividends and our 2013 dividends. We aren’t dividend investors but we still incorporate the dividends into our spending and cash flow plans.

      • Any idea why your year over year divs almost doubled though?

        • I didn’t dig into the details. First quarter of 2015 was probably bad and things are recovering now maybe? I have 50% of my portfolio in international investments so they might be the cause. We’re also talking about mutual funds, so the quarterly div payments can vary, and many times the highest payments come in December.

  • Glad you guys had a good March. We did as well, not only on the financial front, but also watching the Syracuse Orangemen and women doing as well as they did/have in the NCAA Tournament.

    I will definitely be applying for the credit card later in the year when I can put the property taxes on it, taking care of at least half the amount needed to qualify for the rebate. Thanks for galvanizing me to do so, and not just default to the (admittedly good) credit cards I normally use.

    We have so much unneeded “stuff” around the house so we are actively donating to the local charities, as well as starting to sell some things on Craigslist for the first time ever. My first sale came in one day after my initial Craigslist posting, so I’ll continue to put up unneeded motorcycle parts and the like. Great way to get some additional $ as well as the tax writeoff on the donations.

    Enjoy the summer, my friend. We still can’t break into full-blown Spring here on the Plateau in TN. For example, yesterday was mid-70s, but this morning I ran in 31 degrees. By the weekend we’ll only have highs in the 40s. Oh well, could be worse – we could all be living in a God-forsaken place like the Northeast!

    • Not only do some poor souls live in the Northeast, but they also pay many hundreds of thousands for a house to live there!!

      I feel your pain on the spring time. I thought it was here for good, but I just broke down and turned on the heat a few minutes ago. It was 66 inside and the outside temp dropped all morning to 42 degrees so little chance of any ambient warming during the day. Overnight frost warning in effect too.

  • I’m mad I missed that Papa John’s groupon!

  • I was wondering what you do for phone / mobile phone? It’s not listed in your expenses.

    • Cell phone: mine is a Samsung Galaxy S3 on Freedompop for free (used mostly for email, reading books, and GPS/maps). I love Freedompop. Mrs. RoG has a rarely used Tmobile prepaid dumbphone for $10 per year on a legacy plan.

      Home phone is Google Voice (free) using an Obihai VOIP phone adapter. Then we have a 3 phone Vtech setup where you plug the base station into the Obihai adapter and the other portable phones talk to the base station wirelessly.

      • what do you do for internet connection?

        • Time Warner cable. 50/5 mbps service with no data caps for $35/mo (slight discount from the $40 rack rate). Google Fiber is coming so I think they made the pricing more competitive.

          For some reason I paid the internet bill twice in February so it wasn’t due in March.

  • March was pretty solid for us as well when it comes to net worth, mostly because the stock market has been doing great lately. I’m very impressed with your expenses, way to keep them low.

  • Logan @ Millionaires in Ten

    Our March spending was about as much as yours, mainly due to a NYC vacation, some large purchases for a group that we will eventually be paid back for, and a couple of reservations for the Tesla Model 3 (I couldn’t help myself!). But even with March being our most expensive month yet, we also had a record increase for our net worth. Too bad our total net worth is about 1/10th of yours so it was no where near the $94k gain you had!

    Enjoy the road trip!

  • Do you own or rent a home and if you own; is the home included in your 1.5M networth?

    Also how would you be able to sign up for credit cards with no income since I remember they usually ask for Employer information

    • We own. Fully paid off (as of 1 year ago). I think I carry it at $140,000 on my balance sheet but I recall Zillow has bumped it up to $160-170k due to hot demand in our neighborhood and zero inventory.

      So the actual investment portfolio is closer to $1.4 million (and I’d like to have about $100k of that for the kids’ college when the time comes).

      When I apply for credit cards I put down “self employed” and income of $40,000 usually. Between the income from my blog and my cap gains, dividends, and Roth conversions, our income will be $40-45k most years. So far I haven’t had any problems getting approved due to income or employment type and credit limits on new cards have been $10-30k in the past few years.

  • Props for another great month of financial growth and personal success. I know you make a few bucks sharing this highly personal info with the public, but I don’t believe any compensation is commensurate with the info and knowledge you’re willing to share. Kudos for helping to create and motivate the next generation of early retirement millionaires.

  • Good to see another success story. March treated me well. April should be even better as the options expiries have conspired to congregate in one month.

  • I knew your net worth will go up significantly in March. So did many of personal finance bloggers. March was a good month but is it just me that feeling not many bargains lately?

    Thanks for sharing!

    BSR

    • I’m mostly done shopping for investments but I bit the bullet and bought a little International Value fund in my solo 401k to snag a little more tax break. I’m sure I paid a lot more than I could have a couple months ago.

  • The summer road trip sounds cool…we’re heading up to Buffalo (brother-in-law lives there), Niagara Falls and Toronto. I’m sure it will be much more comfortable with the Minivan…but yes, very true that parking will be much tougher. Quick question…I have baby #2 on the way and have a Hyundai Sonata. It’s probably similar in size to your Accord. With 2 car seats in the back, can you still fit an adult (my wife is pretty petite) in the back for short trips on the rare occasions that we drive another adult? Oh and I also got the $4.25 from the Red Bull settlement =)

    • Hey, maybe we’ll bump into you in Niagara Falls or Toronto! Late July and early August is when we’ll be there.

      A small adult could fit in the Accord for short trips between 2 car seats. Not sure a medium or large adult would want to squeeze back there for more than a 5-10 minute ride though.

      One tip is to make sure you have small/streamlined car seats that aren’t overly bulky if you want to have the option to have a 3rd passenger back there. Spending a little extra on a fancier slim car seat is waaaay cheaper than upgrading to a larger car. There’s even a thing where people on the internet have figured out how to get three car seats in the back of Accord size sedans, so you might google that and find what kind of car seats they are using. We did the 2 car seats plus an 8-9 year old for a little while and it was a squeeze but doable. But our 8-9 year old wasn’t petite, so possibly a similar size as a very small adult. We didn’t have especially slim car seats though.

      Here’s a cute vid of the kids singing in the back of the Accord on our way back from Canada 2 years ago if you want to see what it would look like with a booster seat and a bulky car seat in the middle (with a 3rd kid back there): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JtTlUUxaWA

      • Cute video! My wife often mentions having 3 kids…I’m good with 2. We shall see =) I was looking into a slimmer car seat and saw one that was pretty affordable. Thanks for the tip.
        We’re heading up to Buffalo/Toronto in a few weeks. Baby #2 due early August so I don’t know if we’ll be traveling much for some time after that.

  • Nice swing in net worth! I’m not ready to upgrade my 2016 outlook yet, but the past 6 weeks or so have been a pleasant turn and brought me back to where I was at the start of the year.

    Personally, I’m continuing to sock away money, in expectation of 2016 falling below my assumed rate of return. I find that if you can predict and get ahead of the “unfunded liability” (pension finance term), it’s better than trying to catch up.

    • I’m with you there, so not yet into the “spending with reckless abandon” or donating all our surplus unspent cash. Who knows what surprises the next nine months of 2016 holds or the next few years? It could be another 2007-2009 or it might be 2010-2014 all over again.

  • Did you put the minivan on a credit card, or how did you get it to show up in Personal Capital?

    • I tried to put it on a CC but they were going to charge a 3% processing fee (and I didn’t have any cards I needed to get minimum spending on).

      So I paid with a personal check. It shows up on my checking account transactions and that’s linked to Personal Capital.

      It is a little frustrating that I can’t add manual transactions to Personal Capital though. How do you record $20 cash gifts to nieces and nephews or random $20 donations to places?

      • Exactly. I’ve been tempted to make ATM withdrawls of specific amounts so that I can categorize them — as with your $20 birthday gift example.

  • Cool story on neighbors trading the castle. We just got a playhouse from a neighbor that was actually mine when I was a kid that my Dad built for us. 4th set of kids now!

    I just built a cabinet and kids art display out of pallets. Bit of work breaking them down and sanding but fun and turned out nicely.

  • Very nice. Thank you for sharing. I also got a check from Red Bull this month :). I had forgotten about applying for it since it was about a year ago, but got very excited about adding it as a small amount of income to my budget.

  • Interested to know your plan for Michigan/Detroit. I live near Ann Arbor, so Detroit is not far. If you want to know anything, I would be happy to offer a suggestion. Cheers!

    • Thanks, Mark. No plans yet. We’re only spending one full day in Detroit as a pit stop on the way from Kentucky to Toronto (to split the long drive in half).

      We’re staying right next to the airport. We’ve got a lot of hiking and cave exploring going on in the days just before Detroit so there’s a chance we’ll do almost nothing and lounge by the hotel pool. 🙂

      Otherwise, we’ll probably drive in to town, check out some of the city. If you know of any must sees that are also kid friendly, shoot me some suggestions! How hot is it in late July in Detroit?

      • Mid 80s maybe? As for kid friendly destination, I remember the Henry Ford Museum being pretty fun.

      • Four Points by Sheraton by DTE, Hu? I booked that for a late flight in to Detroit for a buddy’s wedding.

        I lived in Metro Detroit for most of my life. MoneyMitten’s suggestion for the Henry Ford is a good one and fairly close to where you will be. The Detroit Institute of Art and the Science Museum are both downtown, kid friendly, and not to much out of the way on your trek to Toronto. Hamtramck is great for food. If you like soccer, Detroit City FC might be playing down there as well.

          • Somehow missed the email saying you had replied to me. But as others said, it will be hot and likely humid, so I’m guessing you may not want to be out all day after hiking the days before you get to Detroit. But, if you are feeling energetic, I think the museums mentioned would be good for air conditioned fun, or go to Greenfield Village at the Henry Ford Museum for more outdoor wandering and learning (although tickets cost more than free!). I’ll ask some foodie friends of mine about Asian cuisine in the area, but I would recommend Mexico town for some Mexican food. There are 3 good restaurants all right next to each other: Mexican Town Restaurant, Xochimilco Restaurant, or Taqueria Lupitas. Or a few other Mexican options: http://detroit.eater.com/maps/5-of-mexicantowns-best-restaurants. That might be a good option if you spend the day lounging in the hotel and want to get out for dinner. Happy Planning!

  • …….”It’s health insurance, so I’m sure we’ll be disappointed eventually”….HILARIOUS and so very true. It seems we all complain about health insurance including myself. But just the same it amazes me the discount received on lab work and services from our insurance company even though we have a very high deductible plan.

  • March was a great month for us, financially speaking. We reached 72% of our freedom fund for the first time which means we’ll have the funds to retire in less than three years.

    We just started travel hacking at the end of last year and are collecting massive points as well. Can’t wait to start using them!

  • Hey it seems like a good month to me, 4K in dividend and 2.5K in blog income is sweet. 10K in expenses and you bought a car is still frugal. Good luck spending in 2016, its so hard to spend when your frugal by nature.

  • Another great month! thank you for sharing this post with the world!

  • Good job. I’m a family doctor who works when he wants. My wife doesn’t work. We have a net worth of about 2 million. We generate about 42K a year in dividends and rental income. I’m 35, she’s 32. I see you bought a minivan. While we have a nice car that we squandered money on (800 bucks a month car payment for a Mercedes, soon to be done with the payments in November) I realized I can save even more money by biking. Have you ever considered that? Biking is healthy, and super cheap. We still have the gas guzzler for the occasional trip that we need (as we do have a daughter). Good job and happy retirement!

    • I walk all over the place but don’t currently own a bike. You are right – getting out of the car is great exercise! We can’t quite get by without a car since we have 3 kids who will soon be attending two (or three) different schools, but we do manage to walk to most destinations around our neighborhood (school, parks, library, grocery stores, restaurants, friends houses, etc).

  • About what is the percentage breakdown of your tax-advantaged (401k, 457, IRA, HSA, etc) accounts vs. brokerage accounts? I’m a little concerned my assets are so heavily concentrated in tax-advantaged accounts…

  • That’s an awesome passive income earned for the month of March. Any time you can almost double your year over year income you know you are doing the right thing and headed in the right direction. Where do you publish which funds and ETFs paid you? Keep that income and net worth rising. Thanks for sharing.

  • Mr RoG, I just found this blog recently and have read several of your posts! Incredible what you have accomplished! I was wondering what your plans are for paying for college for your kids, as that is a major concern for our family. Have you already written a post about this? Thanks.

    • I don’t have a specific post on college plans. Right now we have around 2 years of tuition saved in dedicated 529s for each kid. The other two years will come from our savings. I also expect they will pay part of their way (summer jobs, internships, scholarships, etc) and there are always student loans. So far the kids are doing exceptionally well academically so merit based scholarships are looking more likely.

  • If you have time to spare while checking out Mammoth Cave, you could also take tours of the Corvette factory and Fruit of the Loom factory in Bowling Green, KY. I remember it being pretty fun.

  • Hey, we’re in MI! Where will you be?

    • Just passing through on our Kentucky to Toronto drive. We’re stopping in Detroit for 2 nights, but only one full day.

      • Well, bummer. We live on the west side of MI near Lake MI.

        I do have a restaurant recommendation for Toronto tho. We went to Toronto and Niagara for my husband’s birthday last year. Sunrise House in Koreatown. CRAZY awesome, delicious, cheap, little hole-in-the-wall.

        • I’m a Korean food novice but I’m looking forward to losing that status after visiting Toronto. 🙂 I looked up Sunrise house and it looks very very good (and cheap, like 6 USD for the average plate).

  • I just checked my TSP fund and found that I’m up about $500 this month so that was exciting! I’m excited to reach the day when we’re seeing your level of dividend payments though 🙂

    I love the fact that your goal for the year is to spend more money than you did last year! Oh, what a “problem” to have! lol

    Thank you for being so open and sharing your real numbers. I really enjoy your blog and learning from you as my family progresses along our journey to FIRE, as well. 🙂

    • $500 is still something! The daily/weekly/monthly fluctuations slowly increase over time. I can remember when watching my portfolio gain/lose $1000 was a big deal. Now a $1000 daily change just means the markets were basically flat. A $10,000 daily change is a fairly routine occurrence. In the context of our routine spending, $10,000 is a ton of money but relative to a seven figure portfolio, it’s really nothing.

  • Do not take this as condemnation, because the system is what it is and I would likely be doing the same thing, but I wonder as to your thoughts on being retired in your mid 30’s with health and capabilities as well as a high net worth but receiving heavily subsidized insurance premiums as a reward for not working, while other dual income families of 3 may pay premiums in excess of $800.00/mo for lesser coverage. I have other questions about expectations for ability to deal with inflation, especially if markets fall while taking distributions, but let’s start with the health ins. subsidies question. Do you feel the standards on which who receives subsidies is fair?

    • *are based* is fair?

    • I think our health care/insurance system is totally FUBAR. Some people are able to get very affordable coverage (like me) while similarly situated people (say, me if I was working, made $40k/yr and had the same family health insurance all of my employers have offered) would pay $800 per month. My brother in law is in that situation and pays about that for family coverage even though his AGI and mine are probably about the same. He gets penalized for having employer provided coverage and would actually be much better off if his employer dropped coverage. What a perverse incentive!

      Needless to say, “fair” would be to have me pay more and others more in need to pay less. I don’t know if that is a single payer plan, an extra tax (instead of the current implicit tax via phaseout of the ACA subsidies), or getting government completely out of the health care subsidy game (eliminating the tax-free status of employer provided health insurance). What are your thoughts for making our system better?

      As for dealing with inflation – I expect the corporate earnings of the equities I own to keep up with inflation since I own a slice of the whole economy. When price of goods and services increase, the revenues of the companies I own increase in lockstep.

      The question of what happens during a prolonged down market is a different one. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of money in early retirement, but I might have to cut spending in particularly bad year(s). And that’s okay and easy to implement (we could stop the month plus of international travel we do most years for example 🙂 ).

  • Why do I feel that one’s entire year will go well as far as finances are concerned if the month of March goes well? 🙂 Congrats and best of luck for the days ahead!

  • Is there any IRA investment left that has no risk? If you are 100% stocks/bond funds, it won’t make a difference. I checked both of my IRA providers websites, and am finding disclaimers like this with “money market” funds. Thanks.
    “A money market mutual fund investment is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. Although a money market mutual fund seeks to preserve the value of your investment at $1 per share, it is possible to lose money by investing in such a fund.”

    • The only risk free investment is short term government debt and NCUA/FDIC bank accounts. Bonds come with some risk, stocks come with more.

  • My net worth is very stubbornly plus or minus-ing .99% to -1.0% for awhile in a very negative range. I’m hoping that the efforts I’m putting into blogging about it will focus me, and get me on a good path.

    Thanks, again, for sharing your journey.

    • Blogging about it can’t hurt! Keeping FI in the front of your mind will certainly help it guide your daily decisions that get you closer to FI.

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