April 2022 Early Retirement Update


Another busy month comes to a close! We spent Spring Break on a cruise. Upon returning to Raleigh, the older kids prepared to take their Advanced Placement exams. And now, we are getting ready to go on another cruise! 

After we get back from our next cruise, we’ll have about a month before we leave home for our two month summer trip through Europe. I need a vacation from vacations (ha ha)!

While we were at home in April, we were able to enjoy the nice mild spring weather. We had some friends over a few times and had a big family get-together for Easter. 

Financially, April was a mixed month with heavy stock market declines but very low spending. Our net worth declined by $139,000 to end the month at $2,667,000. Income during the month totaled $3,666 while expenses were a mere $1,321 during April.  

Let’s jump into the details from last month.

 

Income

Investment income totaled $454 in April. Our equity index funds and ETFs pay dividends quarterly at the end of March, June, September, and December. As a result, we had a smaller amount of investment income last month. Here’s more on our dividend investments.

Blog income totaled $721 for the month. This is a bit lower than recent average income from the blog. However, advertising revenues are usually lower during the first quarter of the year since advertisers “reset” their ad spending budgets at the beginning of the year. And this blog income reflects revenue earned during the first quarter. 

My early retirement lifestyle consulting income (“consulting”) was $650 in April. These earnings came from four hours of consulting work during the month. So far, I’ve had a lot of inquiries in the first week of May, so this month might be a really good month for consulting income. 

Tradeline sales income totaled $950 in April. I ramped up my tradeline sales in 2020 and discussed it in a bit more detail in my October 2020 monthly post and in my July 2021 monthly post

For April , my “deposit income” totaled $40. This income comes from cash back and incentive bonuses from the Rakuten.com and Mrrebates.com online shopping portals (some of which was earned from you readers signing up through these links). 

If you sign up for Rakuten through this link and make a qualifying $25 purchase through Rakuten, you’ll get a $10 sign up bonus

 

This little bluebird has been terrorizing us for over a month. He attacks all of our downstairs windows unless we cover them with a screen or a piece of cloth.

 

My Youtube earnings payout was $0 during April. Youtube only pays out when you exceed $100 in accumulated revenue. Recently, my youtube earnings have been just under $100 per month, so I’ll be getting paid a bit under $200 every two months.

Here is the Youtube channel for the curious. It’s random travel videos, birds, kids, and a couple of DIY videos. There are only a few main videos that bring in most of the traffic (and revenue!).

The final bit of revenue comes in the form of some bank account and brokerage bonuses. I signed up for a US Bank Leverage Business credit card and cashed out $850 in rewards from this new card. Of that total, $750 came from the sign up bonus and the other $100 came from points earned while meeting the $7,500 minimum spending requirement. 

 

 

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).

Tracking spending was one of the critical steps I took that allowed me to retire at 33. And it’s now easier than ever with Personal Capital.

 

Expenses

Now let’s take a look at April expenses:


 

In total, we spent $1,321 during April which is about $2,000 less than our regularly budgeted $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year). Groceries and Utilities were the top two spending categories for last month. We didn’t spend much in April since we didn’t have any major annual bills come due, and nothing major went wrong with the house or car or our health. 

 

Detailed breakdown of spending:

 

Groceries – $785:

We spent $785 on groceries last month. This level of grocery spending is a bit higher than our normal month, but might be the new baseline spending level long term. Food inflation is hard to avoid. 

I looked back at my “Costco Costs More” article from five years ago to see how today’s prices compare to what we were spending waaaay back in 2017. Is inflation really that bad? 

It’s hard to tell. In the Costco article, I looked at 16 staple foods that we bought fairly often at the time. 

The prices on several items remains shockingly steady. For example, chicken breasts have been a magical $1.99 per pound pretty consistently over the past five years at most of the lower price grocery stores around here. 

The bad news is that prices have gone up significantly, in percentage terms, on several items including these three foods:

  • generic can of pinto beans: $0.57 –> $0.72 = 26% increase
  • generic jar of spaghetti sauce: $1.06 –> $1.40 = 32% increase
  • 80% lean ground beef, per pound: $2.39 –> $5.14 = 115% increase!!!

These are price points from Walmart, which tends to have pretty competitive prices in my area.

I can still find ground beef much cheaper than that on sale. But it’s getting harder to keep overall grocery spending low without substituting cheaper items for the more expensive foods. 

 

Our 10 year old’s Percy Jackson-themed homemade birthday cake for birthday party #1. We’re buying a cake for his second birthday party (combo thing with others in the extended family having birthdays around the same time)

 

The birthday boy!

 

Utilities – $309:

The total utility spending was $309 last month.

We spent $53 on the electric bill and $173 for the water/sewer/trash bill. The natural gas bill, which provides heating and hot water, totaled $83 for last month.

The heating bill was higher than it normally is at this time of year. Natural gas prices increased 50% since 2020. We rarely need to use the heat after April so our gas bill should drop to $20 or $30 per month for the remainder of the spring and summer.

But air conditioning season is here, so our electricity usage will increase significantly. 

 

The walk home from school on one of the days we babysat our 1 year old niece.

 

Travel – $127:

We didn’t spend a lot on travel in April. Our cruise was already prepaid in March. We only spent $97 on gas to drive from Raleigh to Jacksonville, Florida and back home. And while on the cruise, we went shopping for souvenirs in Nassau, Bahamas and spent another $30. That’s it, $127 in travel spending for the month! 

If you are interested in getting free travel from your credit card like I do, consider the Chase Sapphire Preferred card (my referral link). Right now, for a limited time, the Sapphire Preferred card offers 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points that can be used to book $1,000 worth of travel. Or transfer the points to a ton of different airline frequent flyer programs and book a free trip to Europe (with enough points left over for a free round trip within the USA)! Or cash out the points for an $800 check and buy whatever you want! The card also has a lot of nice travel benefits as well.

 

Hanging out in the cabanas on the cruise

 

Beautiful blue Bahamian seas at Princess Cay private island. Our “little” cruise ship docked a half mile from the shore in the background.

 

Gas – $44:

I filled up the van in preparation for our road trip to our next cruise in May. 

 

Healthcare/Medical/Dental – $40:

Our current 2022 health insurance is completely free thanks to very generous Affordable Care Act subsidies that we receive due to our low ~$45,000 per year Adjusted Gross Income. 

The “American Rescue Plan Act” passed in March 2021 makes the Affordable Care Act premiums even cheaper through 2022. Households with modified adjusted gross incomes (MAGI) below 150% of the federal poverty level get select silver-level health insurance plans completely free. 

For the adults in the household, we spend $20 per month ($240 per year) for a basic dental insurance plan for each of us (or $40 per month in total). Our routine dental exams and cleanings with the occasional x-ray have increased in price recently. The cost is now $125 (no x-ray) or $170 (with x-ray). 

With two routine visits per year, we will spend almost $300 per person. A $240 insurance plan provides those same services for free. And we get some minimal level of insurance if one of us needs a filling during the year. 

 

Traditional New Year’s Blessing from Mrs. Root of Good’s parents. I don’t know if it will help me any but it can’t hurt!

 

Restaurants – $19:

Several plates of pad thai takeout totaled $19 (plus I used up a $6 gift card balance). 

 

Cable/Satellite/Internet – $0:

We generally pay $18 per month for a local reduced rate package due to having a lower income and having kids. 30 mbit/s download, 4 mbit/s upload. Right now the cost of the internet service is temporarily reduced to $0 due to the “Affordable Connectivity Program”. 

 

This hawk had to dry itself off after a thorough soaking from one of our springtime rainstorms

 

More springtime fun. Ducklings with their mommy and daddy ducks swimming in our lake

 

And the geese did okay this year too. Several sets of goslings showed up this spring. Unfortunately, many of the goslings and ducklings get eaten by the hawks before they reach adulthood.

 

Total Year-To-Date Spending for 2022

 

Our spending totaled $10,404 for the first four months of 2022. This is about $3,000 less than the $13,333 we budgeted for four months of spending in our $40,000 annual early retirement budget.

Even though April saw us spend very little, we went a little crazy with our travel bookings during March. But so far it’s not pushing us over our budget target for the year. A paid off house and a paid off car keep our basic living expenses very low. This means we have the financial flexibility to afford little luxuries like booking several cruises and spending the summer in Europe while still keeping our overall spending low. 

Coming up, we have $1,000 worth of home and auto payments due in May. Next month, we’ll also be paying $930 toward our 11 night airbnb rental in Zagreb, Croatia. And in June we will pay over $1,000 for a rental car for 5+ weeks this summer.

 

Easter egg hunting in our back yard

 

In August when we return home from our summer trip, we will hopefully be able to purchase an additional car. Used car prices are finally starting to drop since February. I hope car prices continue that downward trend all spring and summer so we won’t be paying $10,000 for a 15 year old Ford Escort. 

Our oldest kid starts full time community college in the fall. It’s looking like financial aid will cover the entire cost and cover all the books too. So we shouldn’t have to dip into the 529 plan too much. 

 

Monthly Expense Summary for 2022:

 

Summary of annual spending from all years of early retirement:

 

Lighting stuff on fire is fun. Shhh… don’t tell the city I may have violated the three foot height restriction on “warming fires” in the city limits!

 

This colorful woodpecker decided to do his ritual mating dance on top of our chimney.

 

Net Worth: $2,667,000 (-$139,000)

We were doing so well! What happened?! 

The stock market giveth and it taketh away. It tooketh away a lot in April. A perfect storm of economic slowdown, rising interest rates, and inflation all added up to shake the confidence of investors last month. And the downward trend continues into May (so far). 

Our net worth dropped $139,000 to end the month at $2,667,000. 

Are we on the precipice of another recession? Probably. Our GDP contracted slightly (in real terms) in the first quarter of 2022 and we’re almost halfway through the second quarter of 2022. This quarter will potentially show a decline in GDP as well. Another technical recession (2 successive quarters of GDP contraction).

 

Springtime flowers in the yard

 

It really doesn’t feel like a normal recession yet. Demand is up, prices are up, and stores are busy. Where does the economy go from here? Short term, I have no clue.

In a decade? The economy will probably be significantly larger than it is today. Long term buy and hold is still the strategy, folks. 

For the curious, our net worth reported above includes our home value (which is fully paid off). However, please note that I don’t consider my home value as part of my portfolio for “4% rule” calculation purposes. I realize folks ask me about that every month so I just wanted to state that here for clarity.

 

 

Even though our net worth dropped significantly, we still have WAY more than we need to pay for our $40,000 per year lifestyle. Eventually inflation will force us to spend more than $40,000 in a year.

So far, we are almost nine years into this early retirement experiment and our equity-heavy portfolio has outpaced inflation by a wide margin. And we are nine years closer to US-government backed, inflation adjusted Social Security payments. 

We’re doing okay!

 

Relax. Breathe. Enjoy.

 

 

Life update

We are keeping busy and entertained. After cruises in April and May, we set out for a huge two month adventure through Croatia, Slovenia, and Hungary starting in June. 

Our oldest kid is graduating high school in June and starting college in the fall. This summer’s trip might be the last big summer trip she takes with us since she’ll be busy with school, work, and her own independent summer plans next year. 

As the kids get older and become adults, it will be a little easier for me and Mrs. Root of Good to sneak away for our own trips while our children are busy at home with school. I’m looking forward to that! 

A quick bit of news: CNN interviewed me at the end of April and just released this well-done, balanced article on how to get started on the path to Financial Independence

Okay, I’ve said enough for this month. Have a good remainder of your month, and see you next time! 

 

Getting ready for the summer? Any big plans you are looking forward to?

 

Want to get the latest posts from Root of Good? Make sure to subscribe on Facebook, Twitter, or by email (in the box at the top of the page) or RSS feed reader.


Root of Good Recommends:
  • Personal Capital* - It's the best FREE way to track your spending, income, and entire investment portfolio all in one place. Did I mention it's FREE?
  • Interactive Brokers $1,000 bonus* - Get a $1,000 bonus when you transfer $100,000 to Interactive Brokers zero fee brokerage account. For transfers under $100,000 get 1% bonus on whatever you transfer
  • $750+ bonus with a new business credit card from Chase* - We score $10,000 worth of free travel every year from credit card sign up bonuses. Get your free travel, too.
  • Use a shopping portal like Ebates* and save more on everything you buy online. Get a $10 bonus* when you sign up now.
  • Google Fi* - Use the link and save $20 on unlimited calls and texts for US cell service plus 200+ countries of free international coverage. Only $20 per month plus $10 per GB data.
* Affiliate links. If you click on a link and do business with these companies, we may earn a small commission.

29 comments

  1. Those flames are obviously a trick of perspective — you would never violate the fire height ordinance! It’s great to hear your vacation plans are proceeding as expected. Thanks for sharing the wildlife photos, and I look forward to your Europe trip & writeup!

    1. Perspective is part of the “trick” but the fire got a little ridiculous right when I threw a huge 4′ ball of branches and vines on it (trying to clean up the woodpile from winter trimmings). 🙂

  2. I do not blame you for availing yourself of government handouts intended to help those in poverty. I took the covid relief checks too, even though my net worth is higher than yours. But you have to admit there is something screwed up when multimillionaires qualify for benefits that were intended for struggling poor people. I’m afraid its only a matter of time before the government figures out how many wealthy people are gaming the system and figures out a way to get at their assets. Again, I believe that as long as you play by the government’s rules you should go for every benefit you can get. There is no way I can get my AGI low enough so its moot for me. Plus, now we are on Medicare our total health insurance for the two of us is only about $8,000. Sounds like a fun spring for your clan. There are some nice offsets to your kids getting older and eventually moving away. You miss having them in the house but travel becomes much less complicated and less expensive. Ours are grown and gone and we don’t even have to plan now, we just go.

    1. I agree – pendulum may swing the other way and “get” us folks that are used to receiving all of these free government handouts. I would welcome that as it doesn’t make sense to continue to subsidize middle class and upper middle class people the way we do. Or at least simplify the process and make it explicit that we’re doling out the $$$ to these folks.

      But I figure I have a limited timeframe to get all these freebies. A big factor is having 3 kids at home and on my taxes which makes qualifying for these various handouts easier (it’s basically a kid subsidy). When it’s just the 2 of us with no other dependents, we won’t get much in the way of government handouts and tax breaks (except perhaps some limited ACA subsidies).

    2. Pre Covid, the $50 billion ACA tax credits where covered by the annual earnings from Federal student loans. The ACA and state expanded Medicaid has allowed hospitals to fund physician store front medical care offices on main street in rural low-mid income towns and providing revenue to area health care centers. Its been a life changer for my rural region.

  3. It’s been a while since you covered the current investment funds you hold and the percentages. How did you pick them and do you ever make adjustments to the funds or percentage invested?
    Just Curious…..

    Thank You for helping all of us be motivated to reach those long-term goals of living free of a 9-5 job!

  4. Congrats on your CNN article feature 🙂 i saw it in my news feed!

    Your travel plans sound like a ton of fun! Went to Slovenia following your suggestion and it’s every bit as gorgeous and underrated (for now) as you said (even ate at Second Violin. Awesome food). So, it’s no surprise that you are going back. Btw, if you haven’t gone to
    Lake Bohinj, I highly recommend it! Our home exchange host told us about it and it was exceptional!

    Btw what do you do with your place while you are travelling for the summer? Have you ever considered home exchange? We tried it and it’s like what Airbnb used to be 10 years ago! Hosts are super nice & go out of their way to give you tips. Their home actually has a fully stocked kitchen instead of just one knife because they actually live there. I’m super impressed by this platform & will be using it more than airbnb going forward.

    Happy travels! FYI, airports are crazy busy due right now to all the revenge travel & the customs people were saying it’ll only get worse in the summer so just watch out for that.

    1. We don’t rent our house during the summer or list it with home exchange. No interest in having strangers in there and don’t want to have to fix it up or maintain it over the summer. Family and neighbors keep an eye on things plus our layers of site security in place.

      We have a week near Lake Bohinj in Slovenia (between there and lake Bled actually) and are looking forward to it! Gonna be awesome!

  5. Nice job on those bank bonuses!

    I recently signed up for the Chase Ink Business card and got $750. Also signed up for the Wells Fargo business checking for $1500. That was just too good to pass up!

    BTW, I have a referral link for $500 to Albert Neobank, if you’re (or a reader here is) interested please reply. It’s easy to satisfy the requirements, but you’d need to do direct deposits.

  6. The CPI-W for April is being released on Wednesday. The projection is .2 percent. If it comes in close to this number, the stock market may turn around. A miss could drive it lower. It seems that price rises are slowing down. I’m retired, and living on my federal pension, so I can ride out the ups and downs of the markets, but this is getting ugly. The good thing is people have all they money they saved during the pandemic, and don’t seem to have trouble spending it.

  7. Great article on CNN. I was wondering if you had a post of a life timeline of when you made critical decisions. Things like, “Decided to go to state school, meant avoiding college debt” or “Bought our house in a down market.”

    I think there’s a lot of that stuff scattered through the blog that I’ve seen over the years. I was thinking it would be cool to have it in one place – possibly with links to your existing articles that provide more details.

  8. Hey Justin – great update as usual. Always enjoy reading your stuff. Here’s some things I’m always curious about that I’d love for you to include in future articles:

    1) Would you mind at some point sharing your pre- vs. post-tax proportions at some point? I know you’ve been doing the Roth for a while now.

    2) You’re getting quite wealthy. In another 10 years, you’ll likely be at $5 million or coming up on it and at the ripe old age of like 52, right? Not bad for not working for 20 years. Another 10 years after that gets you to maybe $10 million at 62… Are you saving for anything in particular that you ultimately want to splurge on in retirement? Do you ever see yourself living actually on the 4% rule?

    3) What are your kids thoughts on your frugal lifestyle? Do they want to mimic what you’ve done, live a more average American style life, or something else? Do they ever gripe with how little you spend?

    As always – I enjoy your updates.

    1. Great article! was wondering the same thing regarding #3. I have 10 nieces/nephews ages 16 to 28 and I’m always fascinated by how my siblings have imprinted their various personal views & experiences with money management onto their kids.

    2. 1. Don’t think my pre/post tax proportions have changed radically over the past 9 years. I’m maxing the Roth 401k and Roth IRAs annually, plus doing $3k to $20k roth conversions annually as well. But with all the accounts growing at a decent pace, I’m not making much of a dent in the taxable account (yet). So I’m roughly at 15% in after tax brokerage account value (maybe down from 20% at retirement??), 65% pre-tax (trad 401k/IRA/457 – down from 70%), 20% Roth 401k/IRA/HSA (up from 10%).

      2. No specific plans to increase our spending target. However we are trying to spend more in general “while times are good and we have a big portfolio balance”. Inflation is doing a great job helping us with those goals! So $5M in 10 more years isn’t as much as it sounds. I’m also expecting my spending to go up as I get older as I outsource more items and pay more for convenience. I agree – this would make a great article on “how to spend more money as you get richer” because it’s not easy to break out of the frugal mindset!

      3. Kids seem to be okay with the frugality overall. I mean we’re living a very comfortable average middle class lifestyle from an objective standpoint. I think a lot of readers and folks in the FIRE space are living in the upper middle income space and may not realize it. My kids see their peers at their (public, but elite) school from all different levels of the income spectrum so there are plenty of points of comparison. Lots of seeing how the poor struggle and can’t cover the costs that we take for granted. Also seeing a lot of kids that are very affluent and do frivolous stuff like spend $40 for a water bottle or intentionally break their iphone 12 because they want a brand new iphone 13 (or whatever iteration we are on!).

      So far I have 1 kid that just wants to live and enjoy life and may not max out her earnings. 2nd kid wants to FIRE and retire early and make a bunch of $$ doing engineering stuff. 3rd kid is still in elementary school and hasn’t really thought about it I guess. I can see in their spending habits that kid #2 and #3 are very frugal with their Christmas/birthday $ whereas kid #1 is willing to spend more liberally for things. So I guess regardless of how we live, they each adopted their own approach to money!

  9. Nice update RoG! Always a good read! You guys are crushing it with the low expenses like always!

    I’ve spend nearly twice as much as you guys YTD, but I’m going to wave my white flag of a mega excuse… “We’re moving!”

    Oh well, maybe our new location in AZ is going to be a bit cheaper!

    1. I’m excited to see how small-ish town AZ fits you guys. And what you like and dislike! I imagine the lower baseline costs for just about everything (other than air conditioning!) will be a nice benefit.

  10. I admire your spending discipline. I’m considered the frugal one (some might say CHEAP) in my friend group, but I can’t seem to control the random stuff that ends up in the “misc” part of my budget. For example, I just bought a bug light for $130 on amazon on a whim after getting eaten alive by mosquitos in my otherwise wonderful backyard. If amazon didn’t exist, I probably would never have taken the time to go to the store, research, and purchase said item. But thanks to the internet, I was able to “buy it now” without even disturbing the 5 “guests” feasting on me in a given moment.

    Anyway, I need to get some more discipline!

    1. Hey, nothing wrong with dropping $130 if it makes your outdoor space more livable! It’s all about compromises when it comes to spending.

  11. Hi Justin, which one, sole proprietorship or llc or s corp, do you use for your consulting business? Do you need to file a separate tax for your consulting business than your personal tax? I remembered you said you do Roth solo 401k. Does this Roth solo 401k contribution and your Roth personal contribution reflect on one same 1099 filing? Thank you for any insights!

    1. sole proprietorship for me

      This requires me to file a Schedule C that is included on the form 1040, individual income tax return.

      I’m not sure I understand the Roth 401k/Roth IRA on a 1099 question. I get a 1099-R when I do roth conversions. But the contributions don’t get filed on a 1099. Maybe you’re asking if income reported on 1099 qualifies me for the Roth 401k/IRA contributions? If so, then yes. It’s earned income and allows contributions to retirement accounts. Including a spousal IRA (assuming earned income is high enough!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.