November 2019 Financial Update

Here we are in the middle of December with just a few weeks left in the year. Where did the year go? It’s busy times as usual here in the Root of Good household. As I write this we are packing our bags to set sail to the Caribbean (again) on the MSC Divina and by the time this post goes live we’ll be somewhere in the Caribbean just off the coast of South America. Life is treating us pretty well!

On the financial front, it was another great month. Our net worth climbed by $31,000 to reach another all time high of $2,198,000. Income remained strong at $3,184 for the month while expenses remained rather low at $1,420. 

Let’s jump into the details from last month.

 

Income

Investment income totaled $476 in November. Our equity mutual funds and ETFs pay dividends quarterly at the end of March, June, September, and December with some payments arriving at the beginning of the next month. Since November isn’t a quarter-end month we didn’t get many dividends. Most of the $476 that we did receive came from bond funds that pay interest on a monthly basis. Here’s more on our dividend investments.

Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, totaled $2,689 for the month. That’s about a thousand dollars more than what I received last month. Most of the higher income came from receiving two months of payments from an advertiser during November. 

My early retirement lifestyle consulting income (“consulting”) is booked as $0 for the month of November due to the timing of payments, although I actually had three hours of consulting during the month. Business remains steady with several new clients in most months. December might be lower since I’ll be on vacation half the month. 

The “deposit income” totaled $19. The deposit income came from 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. 

 

 

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.

 

Fall is here! Our Japanese maple turned bright orange this year.

 

 

Expenses

Now let’s take a look at November expenses:

 

In total, we spent $1,420 during November which is almost $2,000 less than our target spending of $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year).  Groceries and healthcare topped the spending categories for the month. 

 

Detailed breakdown of spending:

 

Groceries – $424:

We spent $424 on groceries during November. This is a little lower than average in spite of getting a lot of food for Thanksgiving. We hosted 32 people for Thanksgiving this year which is a new record at our house. The extended family keeps on growing! 

I’m not sure how our grocery spending was lower than other months beside the fact that we have slowed down grocery shopping a bit since we are about to leave on our cruise for 12 days. Groceries are incredibly cheap where we live because we have Aldi, Lidl, and Superwalmart all competing hard and other local grocery stores match many of their prices. Competition is good for all of us. 

 

Nice spread for Thanksgiving. A lot of our family brought a potluck dish too!

 

To help spread Thanksgiving joy to all in attendance, we busted out the Cuban rum from our April cruise to Cuba. ¡Salud!

 

Healthcare/Medical – $278:

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.

I just filed for our 2020 plans with healthcare.gov and our premiums went up a bit due to a slightly higher reported income and a change in the available plans. Our new 2020 monthly premiums are $123 per month although I will potentially get back a small portion of that when I file our 2020 taxes in early 2021. I already paid the $123 premium for January 2020, which is reflected in the $278 total healthcare spending for the month of November.

In other healthcare spending, Mrs. Root of Good visited the dentist for $112. I visited the doctor and paid a $5 copay. And lastly, we bought some motion sickness meds for the cruise in bulk from Amazon for $7. 

 

Insurance – $247:

Our six month auto insurance bill for the two of us was $247. 

 

Utilities – $156:

The city water, sewer, and trash bill was $127 for November. 

The natural gas bill (for the water heater) totaled $30 for the month. We didn’t use the heat that much during the last billing period although the December bill I just received was a lot higher. 

Several months ago I prepaid $600 on the electricity bill to hit the minimum spending requirement on a credit card. As a result, November utility charges didn’t include electric. But I will soon have to resume paying the electric bill once again. 

 

Restaurants – $126:

The bulk of the restaurant spending was purchasing gift cards for future use throughout 2019 and 2020. I bought $75 worth of Taco Bell gift cards that came with a $25 bonus e-gift card. The bonus gift cards expire 12/31/2019 so we’ll enjoy a family Taco Bell meal or two during the kids’ Christmas vacation.

The gift card promotion itself runs through 12/24/2019 so get it while it’s still available if you are interested.

Or if you want to save on other restaurant gift cards, check out Raise.com and get a free $5 when you open a new account through my referral link. 

In other restaurant spending, we celebrated the kids’ successful completion of the first quarter at school with a trip to the neighborhood Chinese restaurant. The total was $51. 

 

Mrs. Root of Good’s favorite: endless sushi bar! Hearty sashimi portions for under $9 is hard to beat.

 

Travel – $95:

When this post goes live we’ll be on a cruise in the Caribbean. But we didn’t actually spend anything on this cruise during November. The full cruise fare was paid in October.

Our 12 day cruise on the MSC Divina calls at these ports: 

  • Aruba for 2 days
  • Curacao
  • Jamaica
  • Cayman Islands
  • Ocean Cay – MSC’s private island

Our actual November travel spending was for a very short trip to the mountains of North Carolina to visit my grandma in a nursing home with a long detour home along the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

 

“I’m on top of the world!”

 

I checked the map and counted 44 scenic overlooks along the stretch of the Parkway that we visited. We got out and hiked several miles at Linville Falls and another mile at the Linn Cove Viaduct. The leaves were slightly past their peak so the leaf-peeping part of the trip was a little bit of a bust but it was a good quick getaway and the scenic views of the valleys and mountain peaks did not disappoint. 

We spent $64 on gas for the minivan plus $32 for a few bags of burgers, fries and other fast food (an impromptu feast with my grandma in the nursing home). 

 

Chilling at the nursing home with grandma (and a table full of burgers, fries, and shakes).

 

We booked two nights at a hotel in the mountains using 20,000 of my Choice Hotels points obtained from a credit card sign up bonus. The points covered the full lodging expense including the taxes. And the hotel had a decent free breakfast the next morning! The points came in handy as the cash reservation rates were rather high during this time of year. Leaf-peeping season is one of their busiest times of year up there. 

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

If you have a small business, you might qualify for the Chase Ink Preferred card offering 80,000 bonus points right now. 

 

Gifts – $91:

Various gifts for Christmas and some report card money for good grades. 

 

Education – $5:

$5 for a used copy of The Odyssey from ebay for our high schooler. Our daughter required a specific translation and the library didn’t have any copies available. I think this is the first required reading text we’ve had to purchase so far. 

 

We chaperoned the second grade field trip to the science museum. They have a nice hands on laboratory where the kids get to be real scientists!

 

Cable/Satellite – $0:

Internet service is usually $15/month but I paid November’s bill in October and therefore didn’t pay anything in November. 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.

 

Gas – $0:

The gas I bought during November was allocated to the “travel” category since we took a mini-vacation (and I bought gas during the drive to/from the mountains). I use the “gas” category to record gas purchased for routine driving around town.

In contrast, the “travel” category covers gas used for vacations. In my mind, the split between categories hinges on routine/mandatory driving versus purely discretionary fun mileage.

 

Total Spending in 2019

 

Through the end of November we have spent $22,438 which is approximately $14,200 under the $36,667 budgeted for the first eleven months of our $40,000 annual early retirement budget

Barring any last minute emergencies I’m pretty sure we will come in way under our $40,000 budget by year end. The only other big planned expense for the remainder of 2019 is our annual property tax bill of around $1,700.

We are a little behind our normal travel spending since I haven’t booked anything for our big summer 2020 trip. However the bulk of the early spending for that trip will be airlines miles already accumulated and Airbnb gift card credit we purchased in the past. We are hoping to spend around six or seven weeks in South America spread across Panama, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Brazil (with a side trip to Paraguay). We’ll end the summer back in Miami just in time to go on a one week cruise to the Caribbean. 

 

Monthly Expense Summary for 2019:

 

Summary of annual spending from all years of early retirement:

 

Net Worth: $2,198,000 (+$31,000)

Another month with another all time high net worth. November left us $31,000 richer thanks to a very generous stock market.  The chart below looks insane toward the end of the month because I made a few asset moves including a transfer of assets to Citi to snag some big brokerage sign up bonuses. 

 

In the past when I have transferred assets to other custodians, the process was very smooth and timely. In this case, I can certainly understand why Citi is willing to offer $3,000 to entice new brokerage customers. Their IT system is HORRIBLE and some of their customer service leaves a lot to be desired.

I started the transfer in October and at the current time I have access to one account but cannot place any new trades and I can’t even access the second account at all. Fortunately I don’t make many trades during the year. 

As a consolation prize for my efforts, there is that sweet $3,000 dangling at the end of the process. I wouldn’t recommend getting Citi accounts just for the bonus (due to my experience) but you can check out Doctor of Credit’s good resource on other brokerage bonuses if you are interested. 

In “expert” bond trading news, I bought back a bit of the bond fund that I sold earlier in the year and made a couple of percent in the process (sell high, rebuy low). Just trading a tiny bit on the margins when things seem silly. 

Otherwise it’s business as usual with our index fund portfolio! Let’s keep it boring because boring is good.

 

The Root of Good family is ready for Christmas!

 

Update on Life In General

Busy busy busy. Never enough time to do everything I want. How did I ever have the time for a 40 hour workweek?

 

Time to stop and enjoy the sunset.

 

November was a month of solid progress viewed through the lens of pure leisurely activities. I completed watching several Netflix series, played dozens of hours of video games, got in a few good bike rides (and several smaller ones), read a couple of books, and planned some more of our upcoming travel. 

That’s it for this month’s update. Thanks for stopping by and best wishes for a successful remainder of 2019!

 

 

How was Thanksgiving? For you non-Americans, how was the last weekend in November? 

 

 

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.

18 comments

  1. I really enjoy your posts. Happy Travels 🚢
    Merry Christmas 🎄 Keep the great advice coming in 2020!

  2. “Just trading a tiny bit on the margins when things seem silly.” Hear, hear! I dumped 15% of our almost-all-VTSAX assets into bonds a week or two ago when I realized we were $60k above projections made in 2016. May as well treat overage as a rainy-day fund and let it ride until things tank while projected assets keep riding the highs, yeah?

    Thanks for tipping me off to MSC. My wife and I are really not cruise people, but the prices for some of their shorter-duration cruises are pretty tempting. I hope you’re enjoying the seas!

  3. Thanks for the heads up on the Taco Bell. I often hit the drive through for the $1 beefy Fritos burrito when I’m running errands. At 440 calories (and decent protein), it’s a good enough lunch. The only thing better than a $1 lunch is a 75 cent one!

    1. I should have read the fine print better. You have to use by the end of the month. That’s 20 days to use $25 worth of gift cards. It’s not impossible, but I was hoping to use them up over the next year. That’s a really short window on the bonus.

      1. It was in the post so I limited my bonuses to $15. I can do that by the end of the year! Do you have a white elephant, Secret Santa, or some other gift exchange with a group? That’s one way to use them.

        1. I should just learn to read in general ;-). I’m embarrassed that I missed it when it was right there.

          The Taco Bell eCards are weird. I created an account with Taco Bell to add them to my “wallet.” However, you can’t just pay at the drive-thru with them. You have to place the order through the app and then pick-up that order. I’ve done it a few times and it takes around 7 minutes of waiting in the store because they are focused on the drive-thru.

          I’m not used to gift cards working this way. Usually, gift cards are just money and they can take it and go.

  4. Best wishes on the upcoming cruise. You guys are enjoying life as it was meant to be. Congratulations!

    Finished a five day cruise with Carnival to the Western Caribbean in Nov. We threw that extra one in since a 5 day one was almost half the price of the 7 day version we had been on. We’ll take the discount any day of the week at that much off. Have another two scheduled in 2020 but may look at a big repositioning one in 2021. Might involve flying to London and then returning after a 2-3 week sojourn to FL. We’ll see.

    Currently in North Myrtle Beach, our winter home for the next three months. Safe travels, enjoy, and look forward to reading how the cruise turned out.

  5. Have a great trip! We usually don’t enjoy cruises, but we might have to rethink it. It’s easier for you guys on the east coast. Not sure if there are any good cheap cruises on the west coast. Haven’t really looked.
    We spent Thanksgiving in Thailand. It was great. No cooking and we ate a ton of delicious food. 🙂

  6. Thanks for another great update Justin – I enjoy learning from you each month. Would you possibly mind sharing the bond fund that you mentioned? Thank you!

  7. Congratulations on your growth in net worth! I am curious as your net worth continues to climb much faster than your spending, what do you intend to do with the additional net income in the future? More travel or more expensive travel? More expensive house or cars? More inheritance for the kiddos? More nutritious diet? More health care expenses? More expensive college? More convenience of house cleaners, landscapers, convenience food, etc? More philanthropy? Or is it the game of building net worth….just because?

    Long time reader first time poster. I’m in a similar position and trying to find the motivation to keep expenses low in FIRE while net worth is growing fast. Maybe a recession will take care of the problem 😉

  8. Hello, congratulations on your success. I’m into videogames too. Can you please share what you have been playing on November, and eventually considering share that info on future updates? Best regards, Luís

  9. You’ve probably been asked this a lot, so my apologies first, now I’ll ask the question anyway: How do you calculate your Net Worth i.e. what’s in and what’s out?

    I looked through a few posts but it didn’t jump out at me. As net worth is one of the main focal points for FIRE, perhaps it could become a link to the post where you provide the breakdown. Thanks in advance.

  10. Mr. RootofGood,
    I’m assuming your 30+ family probably knows your net worth since you post it online and they see you don’t need to work. So how do you handle gift-giving? Also, have you ever been approached by family for loans?

    1. I’m not sure how many actually read my blog 🙂 But yes, the info is there if they are interested and I think they all know I have a blog.

      We give and receive relatively small gifts and we’re fortunate our extended family is on board. Income wise, plenty in our extended family are doing very well financially in terms of incomes, stability, having their own homes and cars, etc. We mostly focus on giving to the “kids” in the extended family too.

      Haven’t had anyone hit me up for a loan in a while. They used to and I have lent money on occasion. Interest rates might be too high for them so maybe the demand for a loan has declined. 😉

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.