June 2019 Financial Update – Exploring Vietnam Edition

June was an incredibly busy month for the Root of Good family. We spent the first half of the month at home in Raleigh wrapping up the school year for the kids. Then we relaxed for a few days before packing our bags for our big eight week summer vacation in Southeast Asia. 

We spent the second half of June in Vietnam where we visited Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Can Tho, a smaller city in the Mekong Delta region. I’ll have a more in depth update of that part of our trip in a future post, but read on to get a glimpse into the trip so far. 

While we were hitting the road and discovering new parts of the world, our finances did a great job of taking care of themselves. June was a huge success financially. Our net worth climbed $92,000 to reach $2,114,000. Our income was strong at $8,412 for the month while our expenses totaled $4,343. 

Let’s jump into the details from last month.

 

Income

Investment income totaled $5,706 in June. Our equity mutual funds and ETFs pay dividends quarterly at the end of March, June, September, and December. As a result, the June investment income was rather high. Here’s more on our dividend investments.

Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, totaled $2,353 for the month of June which is within a few dollars of my May blog income.  

My early retirement lifestyle consulting income (“consulting”) totaled $250 for the month of June. This represents a two hour consulting session. I’ve had several new and repeat clients contact me for sessions in the next month or two and most have chosen to meet once I’m back home in Raleigh in August. So July might be a slow month for my consulting but August and September could be very busy! 

Half of the “deposit income” of $103 was cash back and incentive bonuses from the Ebates.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 Ebates through this link and make a qualifying $25 purchase through Ebates, you’ll get a $10 gift card. 

The other half of the “deposit income” came from selling on ebay. I sold two United Club airport lounge passes that I got for free from signing up for a credit card. 

 

 

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 June expenses:

 

In total, we spent $4,343 during June which is $1,000 more than our target spending of $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year).  After underspending our budget in each of the first five months of 2019, we finally went over budget on a monthly basis.

 

Detailed breakdown of spending:

 

Travel – $1,274:

The travel spending is a little higher than I anticipated. The biggest travel expense was five sets of visas to Vietnam and Cambodia which totaled $310.

Other travel expenses include several sets of one-way tickets on a “luxury” limousine van for intercity travel within Vietnam and between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. 

We also decided to spend a little dough to purchase more luxury. We upgraded our Phnom Penh to Siem Reap transportation from a six hour bus/van ride to a 40 minute flight. The total cost for five plane tickets was $162. 

Other travel spending is made up of meals, groceries, taxis (booked through Grab, which is basically Asian Uber), and admission fees to museums and performances. 

For cell service, I’ve been using Google FI which includes free international roaming service. $20 per month plus a penny per MB. So far I’ve spent about $5 for the monthly service (which I pause when I don’t need it) plus a dollar for actual data consumed.  Our airbnb host in Vietnam provided a free unlimited data SIM card which kept my Google FI usage to a minimum. Use my referral link and get $20 off a new Google FI account

We didn’t really set a budget for this trip other than our rough annual goal of $10,000 for vacations. So I’d say we are definitely on track to stay within that spending goal.  Slow travel certainly helps keep spending moderate. 

 

We packed our bags and jumped on a plane in the middle of June. I have confirmed you can fill cardboard boxes and check those as luggage. 4 flights and 10,000 miles and the boxes arrived totally intact. Tip: how we pack light.

 

View from our 33rd floor penthouse suite Airbnb!

 

Local Vietnamese restaurant behind our apartment recommended by our Airbnb host. Delicious!

 

Grilled meats in the Can Tho, Vietnam Night Market.

 

Boat tour on the Can Tho River.

 

 

Insurance – $908:

Our annual homeowners insurance and our six month auto insurance bills came due in June. We pay in full in order to avoid the $3 per month “convenience” fees. 

 

Taxes – $806:

State and Federal estimated income taxes. The federal income taxes are primarily self employment taxes due to blog income. No more $150 tax bills on a $150,000 income like when I was working! 

 

Utilities – $768:

The water bill and natural gas bill totaled $167. I also prepaid $600 on the electricity bill to hit the minimum spending requirement on a credit card. They charge a $1 fee to use credit cards but it’s worth it to get the rewards points and credit card sign up bonus.

If you want to score some free travel from credit cards, there are several cards currently offering 50,000 points or more. These points can be redeemed for $500 cash or $500+ in free flights or hotel stays. Compare travel credit card deals.

 

Groceries – $364:

Our grocery spending was lower than usual in June because we were only home for half of the month.

In fact, grocery expenses were really $100 lower than the $364 amount shown here. I bought two hammocks during June at Aldi for $50 each. I didn’t break out those hammock purchases so it’s artificially inflating our grocery spending!

Oops. I guess hammocks fall under the “entertainment/leisure” category?

 

$50 for a hammock. Such a good deal we bought his and hers hammocks.

 

As for groceries purchased during our trip in Asia, I am categorizing those as travel expenses. We are dining out for most meals so grocery spending has been pretty minimal here in Vietnam and Cambodia. 

 

Raleigh style home-cooked steak and papaya salad.

 

Healthcare/Medical – $142:

Our 2019 healthcare premiums are $31 per month thanks to very generous Affordable Care Act subsidies that we receive due to our low ~$40,000 per year Adjusted Gross Income. The benefit of being “poor” on our tax return.

Other healthcare spending includes $111 for Mrs. Root of Good’s routine dentist visit. We pay out of pocket and have a standing 10% cash discount on all services and procedures. 

 

Squeezing in a last minute play date with friends before we leave

 

 

Restaurants – $37:

Discounted gift cards for pizza to be consumed in the future. We are western-food deprived at the moment so a pepperoni pizza will HIT THE SPOT when we get back in the US. 

 

Using up a Chick Fil A gift card and free sub coupon before it expires.

 

Gifts – $20:

Toys for birthday gifts. 

 

Clothing/Shoes – $18:

A couple of last minute items before we left for our big trip to Asia. 

 

Cable/Satellite – $0:

It’s normally $15 for one month’s internet bill. We qualify for a local reduced rate package due to having a lower income and having kids. 30 mbit/s download, 4 mbit/s upload. This month we paid $0 because the monthly payment posted in the first few days of July. 

 

We enjoyed a little tennis during cool weather in June.

 

 

Total Spending in 2019

 

It’s hard to believe we have wrapped up the first half of 2019! We have spent $13,458 through the end of June which is $6,500 under the $20,000 budgeted for six months of our $40,000 annual early retirement budget. June’s higher than average spending “helped” get us closer to our spending goal but we still have a lot of flexibility in our budget.

We can spend roughly $4,400 per month for the next six months and still hit our $40,000 per year spending target. 

As I write this, we are entering week four of our eight week vacation. Costs have been mostly in line with expectations. Vietnam was incredibly affordable. In fact it was so frugal friendly, that we got sticker shock at how “expensive” it was once we arrived in Cambodia. Our spending definitely increased in Cambodia. I don’t have a good sense of how Thailand compares to Cambodia cost-wise, so we may end up spending even more in Thailand since it is more developed than Cambodia and Vietnam. 

 

Look who made Daddy a homemade birthday card!

 

Spending more is okay. We can afford it.

During the first five years of early retirement, we have a historical trend of never spending our full $40,000 per year budget. At this point, we don’t really try to optimize and save every last penny while we travel. If we want to do something, we do it. If we want to try something, we try it. When we encounter reasonably priced luxury upgrades, we opt for the luxury. I call it being a “value conscious consumer”. 

For example, when choosing between the $15 seats in the very back of the theater or the $25 seats that were front and center, we chose the $25 seats. It’s unlikely we’ll be back to that particular show in our lifetimes and the marginal cost to upgrade to be just a few feet from the live performers was negligible. 

The 40 minute plane versus six hour bus ride is another great example. Plane tickets were $161 whereas the bus tickets would have been $60. A hundred bucks total ($20 per family member) to avoid an extra five hours of travel seemed like a good value proposition. 

As for other big spending in 2019, we don’t have too much on the radar. Once we get back home we might book some more travel during the 2019-2020 school year. Who knows. 

 

Father’s day and graduation celebration with family

 

Monthly Expense Summary for 2019:

 

Summary of annual spending from all years of early retirement:

 

Volunteering at the elementary school’s year-end field day.

 

 

Net Worth: $2,114,000 (+$92,000)

I feel like I should tune out and go on vacation a lot more often. I didn’t really know there was a stock market boom during June other than occasional blips from social media mentioning all time highs. I was pretty surprised when I logged into Personal Capital and saw the big $92,000 increase by month’s end. 

Our net worth is now at $2,114,000 as of the end of June. This is very close to the high water mark for net worth we reached in January of 2018. In early July we actually surpassed this high water mark (but will it stick?). 

 

 

If there is any moral to the story of our “investment success” it is that one can do very well with their investments even if they do nothing. I don’t actively trade my accounts and don’t even pay attention to where the stock market is on a day to day basis.

It’s unlikely I’ll ever be in the top 5% of investors. But given my passive index fund approach with low costs, it’s unlikely I’ll be in the bottom 25% of investors either. Most likely I’ll get average market returns. Average is good enough for me to make the 4% Rule work.  

 

Why retire early? Here’s why. The bike trails are empty when everyone else is at work.

 

Update on Life In General

Our trip is going well overall. We expected a ton of heat and humidity and so far it doesn’t feel as bad as a hot summer day in North Carolina. Sunset comes early at 6 or 7 pm so the late afternoons and evenings are often pleasant here. It’s the wet season but we only got soaked in the rain once (as we ran to shelter).

Mosquitoes were another major concern and I’ve honestly only seen four or five the entire time we have been here. We did use bug spray once when the gnats were bugging us. 

I guess it goes to show that you can worry about things but they might not be as bad as you expect. Our kids are now 7, 12, and 14 and it’s definitely a lot easier to muscle through travel adversity at that age compared to just a few years ago. 

 

Picking plums at grandma’s house

 

Well, thanks for tuning in to another monthly edition of the life and times of the Root of Good family. That’s it for now. See you next month!

 

How is your summer going so far? Any big vacations or other summer plans going on? 

 

 

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27 comments

  1. wow..looks like you & your family had a great vacation….also good to see US markets are booming….sadly Indian markets are still not doing great which is putting pressure on my FIRE goals….

  2. This is great! I look forward to your post! Have a great trip! Are you still offering your services? Would love to set up an appointment and get some guidance. Thanks.

  3. Thanks for posting while you’re in the middle of your vacation! Your thoughts on travel are without parallel; I always enjoy your perspective and priorities.

  4. We were in Australia and Thailand during the collapse in Sept. 2009 – barely even noticed the whole event. I was much, much more concerned about Tom Brady’s knee.

    I noticed a Pikachu on that card. Makes me want to go do a little Pokemon Go. It’s a nice day out, so I think I will. I still couldn’t tell you if I’m retired or not.

  5. The realities of traveling with kids! It used to be simple when our daughter was little, basically like managing another piece of luggage. Now that she’s almost six, it’s just like having another adult along for the trip. I’m not complaining, but it took a while to adjust to a third persons input.

    We’re in Yellowstone in the middle of our summer RV trip, heading to Montana next. The goal is to cover each state before going international as a family, and with the RV we’ve now hit about half (still working on the Midwest and Northeast). My next travel hack will be a winter trip to Hawaii!

    Looking forward to the full review of your Asia trip since it’s entirely unknown to us and we prefer slow travel as well

  6. Justin would like to here more about your specific investments and what kind of charges you make to get to the minimum spend. Vacation to Ghana coming up in August!!! Super excited!!

  7. Looks like another solid month on all fronts!
    My office was closed the entire week of the 4th of July, so I got to experience some of the emptiness of playgrounds and other places that are usually packed on the weekends. It was pretty nice and it reminded me of you.
    I like your “old school” tennis rackets 🙂 Good quality though, so no there is no real need to “upgrade”.

  8. It looks like you guys are having an awesome trip. Enjoy!
    Thailand probably will be a bit more expensive. There is more touristy stuff to do. So if you’re looking to spend, you’ll be able to spend more. 🙂

  9. That’s a great vacation! How do your kids feel about extended trips away from home? Mine are 14 and 12 and it seems that one week away is plenty before the whining begins.

  10. We went to Thailand last November and thought it was crazy cheap (especially the food). Will be interested to see how it compares to Cambodia and Vietnam, as we hope to get there in the future.

    For GoogleFI, can you pause it within a billing period or do you have to pay for a full month at a time?

    Safe travels for the remainder of the trip. Look forward to reading the detailed trip reports later in the year!

  11. Thailand is definitely more expensive then Vietnam. We spent 2 weeks in Vietnam and a week in Thailand a couple of years ago and had sticker shock when we got to Chiang Mai after our time in Vietnam. So much good food eaten in both countries though!

  12. My college roommate was from Vietnam, never been myself. Curious why the cardboard boxes with clothes for traveling. Were you donating them? Do you not have other suitcases? Aren’t the boxes pretty cumbersome to lug around over the length of your trip?

  13. I also paid my annual homeowners insurance (farm bureau) and 6 month auto insurance. I knew Florida had some of the highest insurance rates but I am still surprised at the disparity. My combined bill was $2310 plus $55 farm bureau membership. About 2 1/2 times your expense.
    I am looking forward to your travel post and agree that spending a little more on “luxuries” is money well spent. I didn’t know that the costs would be that insignificant between air and bus travel

  14. My husband and I just discovered FIRE in February 2019 when we found Choose FI. We were on Baby Step 7 of Dave Ramsey and didn’t realize there was more out there after that! Since then, I’ve binged listened to every single Choose FI podcast episode (over 250). I discovered you early on from there and you are now my FAVORITE blog site out of the ton I’ve explored. I absolutely love the way you break down everything and include photos, details and all costs. You do it better than anyone else. I find your family’s day-to-day life experiences and extra travel adventures completely inspiring. You’ve motivated me and my family to spend more time together and explore more travel. We are FI now. My husband will retire in six more years max at age 55 when our youngest of four kids heads to college. Thank you for your site and enjoy your wonderful travel time together.

  15. Love ROG updates, it’s where I want to see my family in the next 10-15 years! We are still paying off our home, with 3 young kids. 45% savings rate.

  16. Wow! I’m pretty luck to have stumbled on to your site. This is great! Quick question, what do you do for health insurance? I think I see it’s only $142 per month, unless I read that wrong.

  17. Your wealth will increase every day when people using us stock markets as gambling table. Unfortunatly one day – soon maybe within 6months )
    DOW would crash &de dollarizaton will hurt economy heavily- you might be in danger of losing most of your wealth. Get out this gambling as soon as you can….

  18. >We upgraded our Phnom Penh to Siem Reap transportation from a six hour bus/van ride to a 40 minute flight.

    That made me chuckle. It was maybe about 6 years ago or so but I did the bus ride from Pnomh Penh to Siem Reap and it was pretty bad at times. At the time the roads seemed to be still developing in areas and the bus driver mostly dgaf. We ended up having a blowout mid-trip. Yikes. Luckily they were able to repair the tire and we were on our way.

    But once in Siem Reap, I looked into flights back and was able to get one for around $100..well worth avoiding another bus trip.

  19. I’m intrigued why the boxes? Saving on luggage charges. We were travelling the balkans recently with our carry on backpacks but they made us put them in the luggage compartment and charged us 1 euro per bag. This is when having 1 larger bag between 2 would have made more sense.

  20. Awesome month of travel, and amazing gains in the market. Your posts are so inspiring. You and your family enjoy the rest of your summer vacation!

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