Cruising through Fall – October 2017 Financial Update

October was another great month for us!  We had a blast, blew some money on a quick jaunt on the high seas, and enjoyed the outdoors. And grew $42,000 wealthier while having all that fun.  No complaints here.

In financial terms, our net worth climbed to $1,978,000.  Income remained steady at $4,573 while total spending for the month of October remained modest at $1,748.  Given that we don’t even spend our current income, I’m starting to unravel the mystery of why our cash balance continues to grow month after month.  Spending less than we make – an old habit we can’t kick.

Fall is slowly descending on North Carolina. The leaves are finally changing colors and falling off the trees. Mornings are chilly while afternoons are mild.  We haven’t turned on the heat much this year, but that will change soon with forecasted highs in the 50’s and 60’s over the next week.  Thanksgiving is just around the corner which means lots of turkey and family time (and some family members that are turkeys).


Investment income totaled $1,096 for the month of October.  This is the last dribble of quarterly dividends from funds that pay at the end of the third quarter.  Our equity mutual funds and ETFs pay dividends quarterly in March, June, September, and December.  During other months investment income tends to be much smaller.  We are well on our way to earning roughly $30,000 in dividends for 2017, as we have in the past.

About half of October’s investment income came from our taxable brokerage account investments which means we can spend the money without withdrawing it from IRAs or 401ks.

Blog income, shown as “other income” in the chart, remained steady at $2,568.  Not a bad figure given how infrequently I’ve been posting lately!

My early retirement lifestyle consulting income climbed to $845 in October after a big fat $0 for September. I can’t explain why this little side hustle ebbs and flows like it does.  If it remains this busy I’ll look closer at raising rates to reduce demand.

Nephew’s birthday party at the city park


Deposit income of $62 was cash back from the and online shopping portals.  If you sign up for Ebates through this link and make a qualifying $25 purchase through Ebates, you’ll get a $10 gift card like I did.  When shopping online, I always check to see if I can score some extra cash back by using one of those online shopping portals (and it usually pays off!).  I paid for a cruise in October (more details later in this article) which will lead to $40 cash back in the next month or two.

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).

Beautiful lakeside hiking this fall!


More stunning hike views


Now let’s take a look at October expenses:

For the fourth consecutive month, our spending remained below $2,000 per month.  In October we spent $1,748.  That’s slightly more than half of our budgeted spending of $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year).  Travel and groceries made up almost all our spending for the month.  Gotta eat and go to fun places, right?


Travel – $928:

We found a last minute cruise deal out of Miami on the MSC Divina.  So we booked it six days before the date of sailing.  Here’s the price breakout:

  • Cruise fare – $744 (we’ll end up with ~$64 refunded due to Ebates and the MSC Voyager club discount/refund)
  • Mandatory gratuities – $175
  • Miami light rail tickets – $9 (MIA airport to downtown, then free trolley to Port of Miami)
  • Flights RDU-MIA $0 ($330 each but we used 22,000 (x2) Chase Ultimate Reward points to get free last minute flights).


Sailing away from Miami!


Beautiful Bahamas

As a family, we sailed on the MSC Divina in December of 2016.  We loved it so much that we jumped on this deal when we saw it.  This time around it was just me and Mrs. Root of Good.  We call it a 13.5 year wedding anniversary present to ourselves because we’re awesome.  It’s the first time cruising without kids since our honeymoon 13.5 years ago.

Hot tub time in the adults only area. Stars. Wind. Waves. Solitude.

The airfare was expensive in points terms for a 2 hour flight, but it made sense to fly instead of drive and pay for gas and parking. Timewise, it’s about six hours door to door to fly versus 12-13 hours driving (which means overnight hotel at least in one direction).  We also used our Priority Pass Select card (a benefit that comes free with the Chase Sapphire Reserve card) to get a free meal and frosty beverage in the Miami airport plus $180 worth of to-go candy and beef jerky at the Corona Beach House restaurant/market.

In selecting expensive flights, we thought to ourselves:

We have money so let’s spend it to gain convenience and comfort because what are we saving it for after all?

I could have booked less convenient flights for a significant points savings that would have us leaving home at 5 am instead of 7 am the day of the cruise (and be dead tired by 3 pm!).  Or book flights with very little slack in the schedule to get to/from the airport and cruise ship (and freak out if the plane or the ship isn’t on schedule).  Or we could have waited six extra hours in the airport to save $80 worth of points (and arrive home at midnight).  In the end, we decided to go first class (well, still in coach but you know what I mean) with a flight schedule that got us to Miami at a reasonable time and got us back home without excessive hurrying or waiting.  Not driving twelve hours home was worth every point expended!

A relatively undiscovered spot of natural beauty an easy one mile walk from the port city of Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Here we are at Little Dunn River Falls/Beach. Climbing up the falls was fun!


Mmmm… Good eats! Best pizza in the world, which isn’t surprising since MSC is an Italian cruise line.  Pizza is straight out of Naples, Italy.  Paella, fried fish, asparagus, and veggie lasagna also good.


Interested in cruising? Check out all the posts in my “Going on a Cruise” series:

Going on a Cruise Part 1: Overview

Going on a Cruise Part 2: Getting the Best Deal

Going on a Cruise Part 3: Save on Board and on Transportation

Going on a Cruise Part 4: The Food!

Cruising the Caribbean Aboard the MSC Divina


We enjoyed several opportunities for free drinks while on board. This was the complimentary beverage assortment at the Cruise Critic meet and mingle where we got to meet a handful of fellow American cruisers and we got to meet all the ship’s senior officers.  Gin martini, pink lady, or champagne anyone?


Good times were had by all.


Groceries – $609:

Groceries were a little higher than average but nothing to be concerned about.  We spent around $150 at Walmart which gets lumped into “groceries” but routinely includes non-grocery items like clothing and random household or automotive stuff.  The same happens at Aldi occasionally. We bought a $12 ceramic frying pan that’s included here in “groceries”.  That’s the price we pay for automated, simple categorization at Personal Capital.

Prepping for beef/chicken/veggie stir fry. I cut up two batches of meat and veggies and put the second batch in the fridge so I could have freshly cooked stir fry in 5-10 minutes later on.  Mrs. Root of Good assisted with the wine selection in the lower right corner.


End result plus jasmine white rice and lo mein.  A healthy dose of chili oil paste and sriracha to keep the intestines purified from disease.


We made Banh Cuon wraps. Rice flour wrapping stuffed with beef and mushrooms.


Charitable Giving – $50:

We bought a $50 Walmart gift card and gave it to our kindergartener’s teacher so she can buy supplies and technology gear for the class.  The neighborhood school our kiddo attends was one of the worst schools in the district several years ago, but it’s been improving steadily over the years.  The gentrification of our neighborhood certainly helps.

Lazy day in the back yard with friends.


Education – $48:

$38 for a year’s worth of field trips for our kindergartener plus $10 for both of us to join the elementary school’s PTA.


Healthcare/Dental – $39:

$23 for lab tests for a routine physical. Theoretically this lab work would be covered for free with our insurance since it’s preventative medicine.  In practice, as everyone knows, healthcare billing doesn’t always work out like we think it should.  In order to avoid hour upon hour of phone calls, emails, scanning and sending forms, appeals, and other ugly nonsense to appeal this $23 charge (and possibly end up paying it anyway), I simply whipped out a credit card and resolved this issue in a couple of minutes.  Mental health has its price and it’s somewhere around $23 in this case.  Having plenty of money is nice.

The other $16 of healthcare spending was monthly premiums for our health insurance plan that’s mostly paid for with ACA premium subsidies.  ACA looks to be mostly intact going into the end of the year.  Other than the routine minor billing squabbles, the ACA is working out pretty well for us to provide good insurance at nearly no out of pocket cost.

FYI, open enrollment just started and runs through December 15 so head over to if you need to sign up for 2018.  I took a peek at our premiums for 2018 and they will be just over $1,000 per month however we’ll still pay less than $100 per month for the premium after the generous income based subsidy tax credit.


Gas – $36:

Our monthly visit to the gas station.


Restaurants – $15:

A box of fried chicken and biscuits for the family from Bojangle’s.  This is the In-N-Out Burger/Whataburger for fried chicken (and only available south of the Mason-Dixon line other than a sole location in Pennsylvania).


Cable/Satellite – $14:

$14.99 per month for 30 mbit/second download speeds and 4 mbit/second upload speeds with no data caps.

Bird watching in the backyard. Three white egrets floating over the lake.


Automotive – $6:

We spent $6 on a replacement key for our minivan.  The minivan only came with one key when we bought it used last year, so I figured a spare key would be a good idea.  Otherwise if we lose it, then we’ll be paying $150-200+ between locksmith fees and/or a new key from the Toyota dealership.  The key has an RF chip in the base of it for security, but I found a nifty Youtube video that allowed me to program it for free in a few minutes (something locksmiths charge $60-80 for) by cloning the existing key I have.  I’ll still have to drop a buck or two at Walmart or the hardware store to get the key custom cut to match the master key.  

Halloween scare house with our little pirate.


Year to Date Living Expenses for 2017

Ten months into 2017 and we have only spent $20,896.  That’s more than $12,000 below the $33,333 budgeted for the first ten months of the year.

The highest expense category is travel which is no surprise since we’ve spent 10.5 weeks on the road this year.

We’re taking baby steps to spend more (like that last minute cruise) but still not spending all that we could.  However there will be years with large unexpected expenses (or large expected, but lumpy, spending), so I’m okay under spending our budget potential in these early years of early retirement.


Monthly Expense Summary for 2017:


The North Carolina State Fair comes to Raleigh every year.


We went on “Can Day” where you donate 5 cans and get free admission. I picked up a ton of tomato sauce for $0.03 per can so the net cost of family admission was $0.60 (plus the food bank gets 20 cans of tomato sauce).


As we were walking to the exit gate, we found a free light show!


Net Worth: $1,978,000 (+$42,000)

October marks the twelfth consecutive month of net worth gains.  The last time we lost money during a single month was October 2016 when our net worth dropped to $1,618,000.  Since then we’ve been on a tear with five digit gains almost every month.  We’re up more than a third of a million dollars in the past year.

I’m hoping we avoid the fate of Icarus. For those not familiar with Greek mythology, I’ll save you the trip to wikipedia.  Icarus was a young man with wings crafted of wax and feathers.  “Don’t fly too close to the sun, son” said Icarus’ father Daedalus.  As kids are wont to do, young Icarus didn’t listen and soared too close to the sun with his “amazing” wax and feather wings.  Long story short, the wax melted, the wings fell apart and Icarus died.  As we glide onward and upward toward the mythical $2 million mark, I hope we can maintain altitude and stay at these levels for a while.  I hope our wings don’t melt this close to the sun.

In financial moves, I’m planning several things for year end 2017:

  • harvest capital gains – about $4,000 gains from selling a $14,000 mutual fund position
  • continue my Roth IRA Conversion Ladder – planning to convert ~$5,000
  • fund my solo 401k to create a tax shelter for income from Root of Good – $18,000 into Roth solo 401k; $6,000 into traditional solo 401k (for the RoG employer portion).
  • fund a his and hers Roth IRA – $5,500 x2 = $11,000

By the end of this financial fancy footwork I’ll accomplish the following:

  • reduce taxable holdings by $14,000
  • reduce cash on hand/money market balance by $21,000 (currently at $48,000)
  • increase traditional IRA/401k space by a net of $1,000
  • increase Roth IRA/401k space by $34,000

My initial Early Retirement financial plans were destroyed by this whole “Blog Makes Money” phenomenon.  As I mentioned in my article on the Roth IRA Conversion Ladder, I initially planned on converting $25,000 to $30,000 per year from my traditional IRA to my Roth IRA and use the proceeds from sales of equities in my taxable brokerage account to fund my annual living expenses.

As it turns out, this blog makes money.  That threw off the Roth IRA Conversion Ladder completely. Now I’m spending income that comes from the early retirement consulting and Root of Good, plus the dividends from my taxable account. Then, I use any excess funds plus some modest sales from the brokerage account to fund the Roth IRA/401k totalling $29,000.  On top of that I’ll still convert several thousand dollars from traditional IRA to Roth IRA each year.

I’m still achieving the same end goal as the Roth IRA Conversion Ladder which is to increase funds in the Roth space to allow tax free and penalty free withdrawals before age 59.5.

As part of this year end tax planning and shifting money around I might move more funds out of equities into bonds.  Throughout 2017 I have shifted $110,000 from equities into the Vanguard Total Bond Market Index. If the market keeps going up, I’ll take some more profits and continue this shift. I also moved $15,000 from a money market account earning 1% to five year certificates of deposit earning 2%.  That’s an extra $150 per year interest income.


Want to finish the year on a strong note? Here’s 11 tips to get you there.



How awesome has 2017 been for you?  Excited about the holidays coming up soon?



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  1. Hello, dear mr. RoG!
    Thank you for your posts.

    Could you please check your link to Personal Capital? It seems, that it’s broken. I can’t open it on any of my devices and would like to know, if it works for somebody else.


    1. Hi! I see you’re posting from overseas. I think the Personal Capital sign up links only work from the US (and maybe Canada). My advice would be to find a proxy server (maybe free) that will make it look like you’re logging in from the US. However, they mostly support accounts at US-based banks and financial institutions so it could be of limited use to you overseas.

  2. Great job, Justin!
    It should be an amazing feeling having your net worth go up $42k in a single month while literally on a cruise!
    I always get impressed with your low expenses, particularly with the groceries bill.

    Keep up the good work and i look forward to your $2kk blog post!

    1. Yeah it’s a great feeling to have the investments working for me passively. I overheard a guy on the ship saying something about “you really have to follow and keep your eyes on the market if you’re invested in the markets”. I just smiled in my lounge chair because I hadn’t even thought of my stock markets all week until he mentioned it. Turns out things were just fine at home. 🙂

      1. That’s the peace of mind that i’m working for! I believe that by now, you should know how to properly react when getting into that kind of conversations.

        1. This guy (fortunately) wasn’t talking to me, but rather the couple sitting to our side. Just eavesdropping. 🙂 He did, however, redeem himself when he mentioned he’s all out of the market now and advises his kids to dollar cost average into a low cost SP 500 index fund with each paycheck and let it ride for a couple of decades. Faith in humanity restored!

          1. Really glad to hear that outcome! Looks like going on cruises is something that FIRE minded people love! Hopefully I will get into it later in my life!

  3. Nice to see things humming along Justin. I know the whole “Blog Makes Money” thing throws you a little off the “plan” but it just goes to show how hard it is for productive people to not make any money with so much free time. With your low cost lifestyle, using the money from the blog (or any small side hustle) really allows your portfolio to do some heavy lifting. Even with an inevitable market decline, if you keep this up you’ll reach “retirement age” with millions more than you have today.

    1. I’ll have to try harder to spend even more money if we see our net worth climb into 3, 4, or 5 million. Though odds are it will do exactly that if we don’t spend more than $30,000 to 40,000 per year.

    2. I was wondering: any thoughts of making Mrs. RoG an “employee” or partner in RoG’s website? That could allow you to open another 401k in her name to contribute more to those accounts…..

      Just a thought — not an expert on this, so consult with an expert before doing anything to make sure it’s legal and above board.

      1. Not a bad idea as she contributes a lot (photography, creative work, editorial, etc). If the revenue from RoG grows more I could definitely shift some earnings to her and fund a solo 401k for her that way.

  4. Thanks for the post, Justin. Great update.

    I’m still amazed – but not surprised – about how you keep your expenses so low.

    Congratulations as well on the consistent net worth gain. It’s also nice to see that the blog is doing well (but throwing a wrench in your well thought-out plans for your ROTH conversations!).

    Thanks again for the post.


  5. Congrats on your 13.5 year anniversary!!! Sounds like a great way to spend your anniversary on the high seas. We too love cruises, especially cheap last minute deals 🙂 Also congrats on killing it with your net worth!!! $2 million and it continues to climb each and every month. That’s awesome. Keep up the great work.

  6. 2017 has been a turning point for us. Our nest egg is finally rolling along at a substantial clip thanks to both high contribution rates and market gains, and our mortgage paydown is on schedule. Our total net worth broke a quarter million this year. Since we are in our higher income years right now Obamacare isn’t as kind to us, we’re in the mid $200s per month, haven’t checked yet to see what our options are for next year.

    It’s nothing short of amazing that you’ve spent roughly 1% of your net worth this year with only 2 months left. You’re almost a multi-millionaire! I think I’ve asked you this before, but I can’t remember, do you have a separate fund set up for kids college or are you planning to cash flow it? Seems with your nest egg done, more income than you naturally spend, and relatively young kids, you’d be in a perfect position to contribute heavily towards future college expenses.

  7. Question for you Justin, I think in a past update you said you were making a small/slow shift into bonds, are you still doing this? What is your asset allocation now?

    By the way, the cruise looks like fun. I have never actually been on a cruise. I get sea sick and that has always scared me off.

    1. I’m at roughly $110k bonds, $50k cash/CDs, and about $1.8 million portfolio total, so just over 90% stocks and just under 10% bonds/cash. I’m still moving into bonds if it keeps on going up. Probably make another move this month or next.

      For seasickness, there’s a patch you can get. Or over the counter seasickness pills. Get the less drowsy kind. We bought a 100 count bottle of seasick pills from amazon for $7 or so since it’s crazy expensive at the store (like a couple bucks for 8 generic tablets).

      1. Very cool! We have been buying the 100 count of the generic at Walmart for about ~$5 for years… but those are Dimenhydrinate, which is the generic of regular (ie. drowsy) Dramamine. On Amazon, I see they have Meclizine (which is “less drowsy” Dramamine.) Not to be confused with “non-drowsy naturals” Dramamine, which appears to be ginger pills.

        Anyway, just ordered these for our upcoming cruise. I have always taken Dimenhydrinate from WM because of the super low cost, but will happily try the Meclizine. We start taking them a few days in advance since these meds do not work well once you’re already having issues. Dimenhydrinate before bed is great for sleeping though!

        Owen, a 1000-foot long ship is entirely different from anything else. The motion is usually much slower, and they have stabilizers to minimize what motion there is. You certainly can get seasick, but it’s nothing like being on a personal motorboat or sailboat. Don’t miss out!

        1. Yes, I had the bold idea to search for bulk containers of the non drowsy version on amazon while I was in walmart trying to buy 6-8 packages for our trip to Europe. Turns out 100 is cheaper than a few of the 8 packs at walmart. I guess we have a lifetime supply now… 🙂

          +1 on the big boats not getting too rocky and the dramamine works wonders, though it’s still YMMV. The older ships can still rock a lot and it depends on the weather and location. Crossing the gulf stream can be rocky and I’ve heard the transatlantic crossings are really bad too.

          1. “The older ships can still rock a lot and it depends on the weather and location. Crossing the gulf stream can be rocky and I’ve heard the transatlantic crossings are really bad too.”

            Shhhhh…. we’re trying to get Owen on a boat!

            My dream vacation is to do a TA, Eurorail about the place all summer, and then do a TA back. I have also heard they are rough sailing… but they tend to be quite cheap for the number of days and generic dramamine is cheap!

            1. “My dream vacation is to do a TA, Eurorail about the place all summer, and then do a TA back. ” I have the same dream 🙂 We did the “eurorail all over the place all summer” part of that dream vacation and I can confirm it was pretty awesome 🙂 Now I just want to bookend a summer across Europe with a 2 week cruise over and back. 1000% better than flying!

      2. Next time you need Dramamine, you should check with the concierge or guest relations. Every time I’ve been on a cruise (I’ve only ever cruised on Royal Caribbean) and needed some (maybe 1 day per cruise during bad weather), I was able to ask for some and was given it without hesitation. If I remember correctly, they gave me enough for 24-36 hours and said if I needed more to come back. FYI.

  8. I’ve been shifting more into bonds and holding some cash as well. With the market so high, it just seems like the safer play right now.

    LOL, your fair trip was a lot cheaper than ours. We did not go on can day and spent on rides and treats. Now, time to run off to Bojangles, because you’ve made me hungry.

    1. The kids got a few treats using their $$ and we all split a funnel cake (which was okay). Didn’t do rides since none of us like rides but might try it next year with the littlest one. We drive down to see the fireworks a couple times too since it’s only 10-15 minutes from home and light traffic late at night.

      Enjoy your Bojangles 🙂

      1. I hope you enjoy the fireworks. I am one of the Pyros that run the fair show. I am also looking to FIRE at some point. I have been following your blog from the start.

  9. Congrats on another great month! I enjoyed reading everything. Stunning pictures as always! I’d love to take a cruise from Miami to Bahamas like that one day.

    Did you ever consider investing in other instruments than the traditional stocks and bond mix? Personally I find the P2P or P2B concept quite interesting with a good risk return ratio. Of course it’s better to be more careful when you’re already financially free but the thought of 2% would kill me slowly.

    1. The Caribbean is beautiful. We were on the ship with mostly Europeans since it’s a European cruise line (MSC). I imagine it’s a big deal for the Europeans but for us it’s a pretty cheap and easy getaway. We’ve been to the Bahamas so much that we sometimes don’t get off the ship. Still a beautiful corner of the world though, and the weather is nice year round (when there are no hurricanes!).

      I’ve looked at the P2P/P2B lending opportunities some and don’t think it’s worth the hassle or risk. My 2% money is basically zero risk (federally insured deposits). Zero real return is okay with me since it’s a small slice of my portfolio and it fills the role of short term investments for potential spending in the next few years. I’m taking my big risks on equities that should pump out 6-10% returns over decade-long periods (90%+ of my portfolio). That said, I’m sure there’s money to be made in the P2P area if you invest the time and accept the risk.

  10. I love that you’ve made ~$350,000 in net worth gains (just guessing from “more than a 1/3 million”) and spend less than $21,000 this year. It’s amazing that money can make more money in a year than many people can. We’re in that situation now with how the market has gone this year. I figure it’s best to enjoy it now, because the market won’t be like this forever.

    I don’t think the $2 million is like the sun where you’d have a problem if you reached it ;-).

  11. Hi Justin,

    Great job on increasing your investments while enjoying life! Will you share all of the ETF symbols you invest in/like and what fees you pay to trade?

    Thank you!

    1. There’s a list of funds/etfs I own in this article

      As far as trading fees, I pay almost nothing. At Vanguard it’s $0 to buy Vanguard ETFs and Vanguard mutual funds and at my account tier $2 to trade other securities. At Fidelity, they offer several dozen commission free ETFs. I can’t remember the commission on other etfs – $5 to $7 I think. I only trade a few times per year and usually choose to do so in a way that results in $0 commissions.

    1. That’s the best way I know of to limit demand. It’s like a bid for my limited time slots. Less bidders at higher prices = I get to set how many sessions I take per month through the market so that those who value the sessions the most will be the ones to sign up.

      1. Also, we need to honor the system that brings us these opportunities. Supply vs. demand is a fundamental law of economics and a strong basis of financial markets which allows are saving to grow and make early retirement a possibility.

  12. Hey man, I’m curious where are you getting the awesome $14.99 in the Raleigh area? I’m stuck on Spectrum running me $34.99/mo. for only slightly higher speeds. And I’m sure they’re going to try and raise the price on me after our year long “intro” price is up.

    1. That rate is pretty good but you might be paying $60-70 at renewal time. AT&T will charge you less though 🙂

      My rate is based on low income so it’s not available to everyone.

  13. Wow wonderful gains! Mid 5 figures is amazing! Some people don’t get that kind of gain in one year.

    That pizza looks delcious too, I would love to try pizza from Naples.

    Your expenses are so low for a family of 5! Very impressive!

  14. Congratulations on another super month. The markets have certainly been kind to many of us, and for that we can be very thankful.

    Decided to make the plunge and move $ to a RothIRA as well, in our case about $50K. I will see what the tax bill is because of it. When I did it last year I decided the bill was not worth it and recharacterized the monies back to the regular IRA, but this time I might bite the bullet and let it ride. At 63 years old I have about seven more years to keep this up, and I hope it lets me write off more in the years that I move the monies for things like my charitable contributions. But the tax software I use will give me a good idea for both directions.

    Stay away from Bojangles. Hardee’s rules!

    1. You’re at that tough point where you’ll be paying a lot of tax either now or later once RMDs kick in.

      Re: Hardees, all of the local ones are closed. Nearest ones are on the opposite side of town or next town over. I liked their burgers and biscuits. I still like BK/McDs biscuits better than bojangles (probably the excessive amounts of butter!).

    2. Read that the new tax bill will close the recharacterization option if it passes which could put a damper on your long-term plans for Roth conversions. Keep an eye on that.

  15. Hi Justin, It is so great and so inspiring for me to follow your blog !!!
    An English colleague someone told me something like this: You have only to care for your pennies and the pounds do it for themselves – I should have followed him earlier 😉

    I am wondering how you managed not to spend too much money during your cruise. I did a cruise with MSC to the Canarian Island (from Munich) – but we spent a lot of money for drinks. We bought this amazing all-inclusive package …
    If it is interesting for you how much we Germans would have to pay for your MSC Divina cruise: this morning last minute smart deal would have cost € 249 – roundabout 290 USD each person. But – last minute price for flight Munich/Miami is 900 € according to skyscanner … unfortunately. Maybe there is also a special offer by MSC – I did not check.

    I am looking forward to your Munich blog 🙂 – I really enjoy it to follow your reports on your Europe travel. I know all the places you visited – Sevilla is really great – and the “hottest” place allover Europe with highest temperatures.
    Greetings from Munich area. Maresa

    1. That’s a good deal on the MSC Divina! We paid USD$240+ tax which is the cheapest we’ve seen it since they first started sailing 3-4 years ago and offered USD$199 fares to get the US business (they were brand new here and had some negative reviews initially from US passengers). Our last minute airfare would have been USD$200 (direct 2 hr flight) but I literally missed it by minutes when it went from 7 days out to 6 days out (booked around midnight 🙂 ). Oh well, still a great deal overall. Interesting that you’re seeing such cheap prices there since I can’t find the same deal right now. What booking site do you use or is it MSC Cruises dot de??

      As for spending money, we don’t really drink much on board but do take advantage of the few times they offer free drinks. Returning passengers get 1 free cocktail party. We have the cruise critic forum meet and mingle. Then there’s the captain’s cocktail night where drinks are free at the inside bars for 45 minutes (we skipped this and went to the hot tub I think??). I’m not a big drinker anyway so don’t mind not drinking for a few of the days. Water and coffee are good enough for me 🙂 Though they have some reasonably priced drink packages that are more limited, or you can buy an 18 pack of tickets for USD $78 or so that makes drinks about $4.50 each.

      1. I think that the cheap price had been sold out during this day (in Europe morning is some hours earlier) – but I checked prices also as you told in your blog that you will go on cruise – and the price was also EUR 249. I believe that they offer special prices in different countries, even in Europe. Once I met (on Costa Cruise, also Italian company) other couples from different countries – their trip had different prices. I always check homepage of MSC – never found better prices somewhere else (as last minute). This trip was western Med Sea – start in Genova – Naples – Sicily – Tunisia – Barcelona – Marseille, what I really can recommend. In Tunisia no cruise ship is landing now, due to terrorist attack 2 years ago. I like to know best prices, even if I do not book.
        “Unfortunately” we do not have too much time to cruise – we also have a camper car to travel through Europe; and we still have to work for a few years. And winter season will start soon in the Alps to go skiing with our season card – the often we are skiing – the more we can save – we don’t talk about additional cost 🙂 because it is the best way to survive dark and cold days.

        It is really a good idea not to book this AI packages. It saves a lot of money – and it is much healthier. I see, that there are a lot of opportunities to reduce cost also on cruise. When we are travelling with our camper car we live really on low cost, groceries are good and cheap in Europe, as you know.

        I never was in the US – for me it is very interesting to see this American way of life. Opportunities are quite different compared to Europe.

        Cheers. Maresa

  16. Wow, nice pictures of the cruise! Who took care of the kids while you were gone? (Actually, I guess it’s more like who took care of Julian since the girls are pretty independent now).

    Congrats on another great month! It’s been a crazy year for the stock market. But as with everything, nothing goes up forever. Good thing you have lots of contingency (like blog income and extra savings) for the inevitable bear years.

    1. My mom stayed at our house for the week and watched the kids. Definitely still need an adult here 🙂 The kids’ bus to middle school didn’t come one day, so they had to get grandma to ferry them to school. Maybe in another 4-6 years we can leave them home alone. What could go wrong, right?

  17. Just a quick comment to say how amazing ( I know, overused and not very intelligent word ) your blog posts are in terms of breaking things down and explaining very clearly in simple terms the ins and outs of your money. Thank you. Oh, and I noticed a photo of Dunn’s River Falls in your post somewhere. I have fond memories of climbing the falls in Christmas of 1970 with my mom, dad and sister. A very busy tourist attraction even back then.

    1. We visited the “Little” Dunn River Falls a half mile or so away from the one you’re referencing. The “big” falls is a huge tourist attraction and gets tons of traffic. The little one gets very little. In the hour or two we were there, I bet we didn’t see more than 10-20 tourists. The little falls aren’t developed much at all. Just a little dirt trail down to the falls and some infrastructure improvised by the locals so they can sell some trinkets. In addition to having the place mostly to ourselves, it was also free vs. $20 per person to get into the Big falls.

  18. I just found your site through Twitter Justin and wow, retired at 33 with quite the nest egg! Congrats and thanks for posting your financial update. It’s great that you can earn more in passive income than your expenses – it’s magic. $30K annually in dividends is quite the accomplishment. I’m hovering around $5K and am working to get this number up.

  19. hi, just curious. How do you qualify for aca if you have so much money saved. I’m guessing savings are not counted, only earned income?

  20. Another great month! You guys are awesome. The cruise sounds like a lot of fun, but I think it’s not a good fit for us. Mrs. RB40 is prone to motion sickness. We’re much better on land. 🙂

  21. We paid $90 dollars to clone our Subaru car key. What YouTube was helpful for you? I am not as handy as you!
    Great blog. We are taking the family on the Royal Princess ship during Christmas. Great deals out there due to some if these islands still reeling from hurricane damage. We pay more though as hubby insists that we get a Balcony. He gets the patch and has never had a problem even on two very rough transatlantic crossings.

    1. I searched on youtube for the make/model/year of our car and “copy key” or program key or something like that. Definitely car-specific. I finally went to walmart to have the key cut and it barely worked since my original key is very worn out. I can only unlock the passenger door (not driver’s side) but the key works perfectly in the ignition. Great for a back up key in case we lose the original key.

      Enjoy your cruise!

  22. I’m really curious about the “early retirement lifestyle consulting” and how that works. Are your clients mostly people that need to tweak their spending or investments to get to FIRE quicker (sort of like the case-study posts we see on several blogs)? Do you go into more “life” topics like creating hobbies that will be fulfilling even after retirement? Are the clients mostly people who stumble across the blog but haven’t been fully immersed in the FIRE world, or do they already know most of the standard FIRE “tricks”?

    1. Most clients come to me with an intermediate understanding of this FIRE stuff. Most want to go over several aspects of their finances (taxes, budget, investments, withdrawing assets before 59.5, etc). Hard to generalize though, since people are all over the place in what we discuss and what their backgrounds are like.

  23. Another great month and I appreciate following your story. We reversed your trip this last month 🙂 Flew from Tampa to Raleigh, rented a car to hike Asheville for three days, the spend a day in Savannah, and a day in St. Augustine on the way back to Tampa. It was absolutely beautiful around Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway this time of year. Thanks to an inexpensive rental car rental and travel hacking, the all-in cost was less than $275 for all six days including all food, transportation, lodging, etc!

  24. Congrats on another great month of financial independence. It’s always inspirational to see those numbers improve month after month. Being able to manipulate our economic system in the most efficient and beneficial way is a true gift and I wish more people would understand that the system is not always a roadblock, but sometimes a pathway to financial success.

    In other news, I found a cool travel hack on slickdeals for Calif residents – we can get a free companion pass from Southwest which allows a buy one plane ticket, get the other one free deal. You have to get the Southwest Chase Plus Credit card, but it seems like a pretty great deal since you usually have to earn 110,000 points AND get the card before you get the companion pass. I should know because I’ve been working on getting the companion pass for several months when this deal came around. Now I have to get another card for it to work for me, but if you don’t already have the Southwest card here’s the link:

  25. Incredible month Justin! You guys really know how to do this whole “early retirement” thing well. The RoG family seems to go on a cruise like 5 or 6 times a year!

    I had an idea — You should plan a FIRE cruise for the FI community (and snag us all a nice group discount)! Family friendly? Warm weather? Good food? The Tako family would definitely go!

    We spent the month of October in Japan! Our spending was a little higher than yours because of the long flights, but Japan can be surprisingly affordable.

    1. I enjoyed your series of posts on Japan! Glad to see them since I hope to make it over there some day.

      There is actually a cruise for FIRE peeps in September right before FinCon. Physician on FIRE is organizing it but it’s semi-open invite I guess for the FIRE bloggers (I think). By “organizing it” he booked his own cabin and contacted a bunch of his peeps and said “here’s when I’m cruising if you want to join”. 🙂 I mentioned the whole group rate/discount thingy to him, so we’ll see if he does something like that.

  26. Hi RoG, I have been following your blog for quite some time now and love it! Thanks for sharing the wisdom and the good life with us. I am also looking to cut expenses and boost savings. A question for you on the kids’ expenses. I find myself driving my son to various classes (karate, swimming etc.) and these are kind of expensive. Do you budget for these activities?

    1. I have a line item for “entertainment” in my budget. Camps, classes, swimming pool passes, skating, etc all comes out of that pot of money (and we rarely spend it all since there’s tons of free fun stuff out there).

      We don’t usually do any classes since the kids are super busy during the school year with school, homework and the occasional after school extracurricular (at school). I (and they) like a lot of unstructured free time too. Most weeks they’ll have friends over here all day. And having lots of free time means we can plan last minute activities as the weather allows – going hiking tomorrow most likely to do some leaf peeping!

      In the past we have done swim lessons ($60 each at the city pool I recall). Might do that for our youngest since he’s struggling with swimming a bit.

  27. Amazing how you manage to keep your expenses so low for five people, even as you get extra income from your blog. Lots of people would just start spending more. Congratulations!
    I am off to Hawaii in less than 2 weeks 🙂

    1. I’m working on spending more! A cruise here and there should help bump up our spending some.

      Enjoy Hawaii! It’s starting to get chilly here in North Carolina so I’m a little jealous 🙂

  28. Hi there,

    I love the insight and perspective you provide on your networth growth! I do have one question though about how you got to a million dollars in cash investments into the following accounts you describe at this earlier article you wrote:

    You listed 10 funds: VFIAX, VVIAX, VXMAX, VSIAX, VGSLX, VTMGX, VEMAX, VTRIX, VSS, VNQI, all comprehensively having $1MM in the portfolio.

    I understand the cocept of your $22,590 received in dividend payments that year, but my question is…

    …how did you manage to save $1MM through your younger years to actually get to a point of investing in these various funds? Your articles talk about your W2 salary of $69K and Mrs. RoG around the same.

    Do help me understand what I am missing here. It seems that saving 1MM in cash on a salary (even $100K/yr) would require a LONG time of cash savings to reach 1MM.

    Can you help by explaining how you went from 0 to $100K in cash, 100-250K, then $250K to $1MM?


  29. Dude, you’re living the dream! Go easy on that cruise food though, wouldja? 😉

    Seriously – great example of how MATH enables net worth growth, by just letting the snowball roll along.

  30. Silly question alert

    How did you get $180 worth of candy and jerky at the airport? I know it is with the Priority Pass, but isn’t there a limit per person?

    1. We have a his and hers priority pass that allows free guests. So on the way down, we get $30+$30 on my card (which we used on a burger, a $17 frozen mixed drink, and some nachos and cheese fries) and $30+30 on Mrs. RoG’s card (used the second $60 to buy candy/jerky). On the way back home a week later, we again used my card for $60 and then Mrs. RoG’s card for $60. We actually got a burger to share while waiting for the flight, so not quite a full $180 worth of junk food but pretty close. The Corona Beach House at MIA has a little convenience store type place where you can order from the restaurant menu and combine it with convenience store food purchases to total to $30/person. If we had the whole family there we could have picked up $600 in junk food on a round trip (minus whatever burgers we were to buy). $30×5 on my card upon arrival, $30×5 on Mrs. RoG’s. Then on our return flight, $30×5 his and $30×5 hers. Crazy.

      1. Yep we have the same PP card, and more kids so it is very nice.

        In MIA is there just one store to use the card?

        They let you use your card and then her card no issues at all?

        1. MIA has 4 priority pass lounges but they are limited based on what gate you’re arriving/boarding from. We were in North Terminal (Gate D and maybe E??) on AA. So we only had access to this one lounge.

          They had no problems letting us use one card for me+guest then the other card for Mrs. RoG+guest. Though we did use them with about an hour in between but with the same cashier who knew exactly what we were doing. In fact I asked if I could use my card a second time and she said no, limit 1 per day (not sure if that is a priority pass rule, a Corona Beach House rule, or this cashier’s rule). The other time we used both cards, I paid inside for our meal with my card. Then went to the convenience store section of the restaurant and paid using Mrs. RoG’s card which meant there were 2 different people taking payment.

  31. I’m so glad you found time for a couple-only vacation! 13.5 years is a long stretch. Even though your children seem lovely. Congrats on another great month!

  32. How How How How How is that possible man!!! Travel to Europe, cruises w/ a family of 5 and spent 20k ytd while I did nothing and I’m frugal as hell and already spent 30k ytd w/ a family of 3 w/o any travels :(:(:(:(:(

      1. Analising better, just my rent that you don’t have actually puts me close to your numbers so I guess I’m a bad ass too. Not as bad as you but close.

  33. Saw my doctor today and wound up talking about early retirement. He said he didn’t know anything about finances. Business classes should be mandatory for physicians. Gave him the name of your blog ( which he wrote down), so you may have a new follower. Great post as always.

    1. I suspect that business and economics classes are part of the program. Economics was part of my engineering degree, though honestly they didn’t teach any of this. Heck, I’ve got an MBA also and they cover the underlying theories but nothing on the development or execution of a financial life plan. God bless the internet!

    2. Very cool! I mentioned my early retirement to my new doctor at my first visit. He sounded pretty interested (and maybe he’s reading right now 🙂 ). We happened to graduate undergrad at the same time from the same university so I guess he’s wondering how I did it so early.

  34. Awesome month, Justin. I very much enjoyed our consultation this last month. Our FIRE plans are on track for early next year and I am pumped.

  35. Would you mind sharing your shopping list with us? I want to give to my wife who spends tons of money every month saying that she has to cook for 3…want to show how you do it!

  36. Your grocery bill of $609 makes me feel a lot better about the $430 my wife and I spent last month. Of course, we spent nearly $300 eating out together last month (ouch!) .

  37. Hi Justin, it’s your new-ish friend from Raleigh (hint: late 2016 / Sbux). My wife and I returned a few days ago from our first cruise, Norwegian 7-day from Miami to Western Caribbean. Then I check RoG and see your cruise posts. So it’s Friday night and we’re both sitting here reading RoG on our separate laptops (apparently the romance of the high seas has worn off). Also, can easily relate to your cruise food comments and pictures; repeatedly seeing unlimited prosciutto and grilled shrimp on our buffet was mind-warping. Maybe we’ve lived sheltered lives. Anyway, thanks so much for your cruise intel. We’re hooked and feel better equipped for the next booking.

    1. Hey again Bob! Glad to see you commenting here (first time I think??). We had a Triangle on FIRE meetup in October (I organized it but held it at someone else’s house). I didn’t make it to the meetup because we booked this cruise last minute and we were just landing in Miami for the cruise as the meetup started here in Raleigh. I don’t know if you knew about it or made it to the meetup but hopefully we’ll cross paths again.

      There’s something about unlimited prosciutto and shrimp to make you feel like you’re living in luxury. We just bought a tiny pack of prosciutto for $3 at the new Lidl and miss the cruise where it’s all “free”. Glad to hear you enjoyed the cruise and maybe we’ll see you on a future one!

  38. Hi Justin – love these updates … it is good to see how others track things … your attention to detail is a good model for us all to follow … some great photos too 🙂 – From the far side of the planet … I am now on that blog roll thingy with Rockstar Finance …. CPO

  39. Hi Justin
    You continue to be an inspiration to me and countless others. Thank you for sharing the info that you do, as it helps to see how possible it is to get there. A definite motivator. I️ would like to ask as your moving a little toward bonds. Are they in your taxable account as well. I️Have one in my Roth but can they be in taxable as well? Thank you for being such an inspiration !

    1. They could be in taxable accounts but I like bonds in Traditional IRAs. Inefficient interest payments sheltered from taxes and it won’t grow as much as the equities in the Roth.

  40. Hey Justin,. I saw a few comments regarding your strategy of moving funds to a bond index. I don’t think you have one, but it would be good to have article breaking down the math and plan. I assume bind index buys bonds and as stocks take a hit due to a downturn in the market. Bond returns better than negative returns. In a correction and bond prices go up. Anyways, would be good to have a link to post for all the questions as I’m sure you’ll be posting larger amounts to bonds as we move closer to a deleveriging of the market. G$

    1. I don’t really have a strategy 🙂 Other than take some profits while stocks are way up. And if stocks go way down I might shift some bonds back toward equities. If I could flesh out that strategy some, I agree – it would make a good article.

  41. Justin, love your website. I see you list your monthly blog income. Do you have a breakdown of this income source? I see you have adds and consulting fees any other blog income? Thanks, TJ Mitch.

    1. Ads are a small part. Affiliate income (which also comes from some of the ads on the right hand side of the page) is a bigger part. That plus consulting income is it.

  42. That’s really nice in keeping the spending low, and still having lots of fun. Bird watching in the backyard? It’s cool. Last year, I got 3 bird feeders, and put them to my backyard. One is for hummingbird. I love to see birds stopping by. Even sparrows are cute. Thanks for sharing.

    1. We have 2 hummingbird feeders we put out on the back porch each spring when the hummingbirds migrate back here. They buzz around then perch on our trees next to the house. One even knocked itself out on the sliding glass door and we got to observe it up close before it flew away!

  43. There is a reason so many people have done price compares and found Costco significantly cheaper…
    ie…mr money mustache etc….
    Frugalwoods etc
    a short list of staples is not a fair comparrison

    In my area costco is almost always cheaper not to mention coupon and discount items like this week a 10 pound pork loin we got for 6.00 or hams for 3.00 or corned beef we have bought for 3.00 for a 6 lb

    not to mention non-food items are cheaper…computers, sheds, a playground i assembled etc..

    1. I knew about those 2 links and don’t really consider them worth a whole lot. Mr Money Mustache compares Costco vs. Safeway, a regular grocery store and not low price leaders like Walmart/Target/Aldi/Winco/etc (aka whatever is cheap wherever you live). Safeway looks to be about 25-75% more than the price of Walmart/Aldi for a lot of that stuff I’m familiar with. That’s about the markup I’ve seen at local grocery stores when things aren’t on sale.

      I’ll grant you there were a few things that were cheaper than what I pay on Money Mustache’s list (which is over 6 years old now, and probably way outdated due to inflation and fluctuations in wholesale food prices). For example, the 30 lb of costco whole oats are about 10% less than what I pay for a 2.5 pound container (usually from Aldi). I’m the only one that eats oatmeal so 2.5 lb is good for several months whereas 30 lb is about 20-25 lb too much before it goes buggy/off. Not gonna fall for that classic Costco fallacy of cheaper in bulk but half goes in the trash because I can’t eat it all. 🙂

      The frugalwoods link doesn’t list prices at all, just says they choose to shop at Costco monthly plus Market Basket (a low cost leader) more often. Sounds like they’re somewhat limited in grocery options (when they were still in Boston metro area). Costco might make sense in that situation.

      In any event, I wanted to throw out a list of staples that a lot of regular people buy to compare prices on those items. I don’t doubt there are deals to be had at Costco, especially if you shop sales and wait for coupons. I routinely find prices at Aldi/Lidl/Walmart for 25-50% of the prices listed in this cost comparison (today at Aldi it was $0.49 avocados, $0.50/lb pork loin – well it was chops with a tiny piece of bone but basically the loin sliced up 🙂 ). The goal of this article was to look at some pretty common items that might find their way into a lot of folks carts and see how prices compare on those items. Turns out Costco isn’t as cheap as one might assume. Of course it pays to compare what you’re actually buying and maybe it is cheaper at Costco (in which case by all means shop there!). I wouldn’t suggest it in general as your go-to store if you have walmart/aldi/winco/target/etc available in your area though.

    1. That’s a pretty average yard here (0.25-0.33 acres). We have launched a boat from our backyard but the lake has silted up over the past 10 years. A flat bottom kayak might have a shallow enough draft to navigate the shallow waters on our side of the lake. We could probably put in on the far side of the lake where the dam is (have to park in the condo parking lot where the lake is – these are the $50,000 condos!).

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