- How Does the Zero-Interest Rate Environment Affect You? - September 21, 2020
- Find Out the Commuted Value of Your Pension - September 14, 2020
- Reader Case: Rent or Buy in Spain - September 7, 2020
Another Friday, another Reader Case!
But before we start, we recently got this wonderful little note from a longtime reader who was featured in a previous Reader Case. I always enjoy these, if for no other reason than just to catch up and see how they’re doing.
This reader’s story was first featured in the reader case “Reformed Debt-Junkie Wants To Retire With Kids”
First up, congradjumafrickinlations on the book! I can’t get enough of yours and Bryce’s story as home-grown inspiration fodder, so it’s already on the to-read list! Major kudos on another book. You guys are killing it.
Fer seconds: Wanted to send a big ol THANK YOU for everything. Last time we checked in (“Reformed Debt Junkie Wants to Retire With Kids), we had about $5k in cash and $4k in investments. Once we hit $10k in our emergency fund, we followed Bryce’s investing tutorial like toddlers learning how to tie their shoes. (Seriously, if you were more Machiavellian, you could’ve told us to invest in ANYTHING and we would’ve been like “O, OK COOL, DONE.”) But actually, you did a great job explaining everything, so I feel I have a solid understanding of where our money is and why. 🙂
Despite an unattractive first year in a down market, we doggedly bought into our shiny new portfolio and are keepin ‘er going! This month we’ll be hitting a $60k net worth and we’ll be sailing into 6-figures around the end of the year (woo!).
First of all, I’ve never heard anyone say congradjumafrickinlations before, but now that I have I’m going to start using it as much as I can. And as there’s no time like the present, congradjumafrickinlations right back atcha! Going from $9k net worth to $60k, and then to $100k is damned impressive. It just goes to show you that when you understand money, life is easy, but if you don’t understand money, like is incredibly hard. The goal of this blog is to help people understand money, and it looks like you hit it right out of the park! Great job!
OK now on to this week’s reader case. We’ve been (randomly) doing a string of Canadian cases lately, so I thought I’d mix it up a bit and pick an American one. Don’t say we never showed you any love up here from the North!
Hi! I’m 26 years old and work as a program manager at a non-profit in Florida. I first found the FIRE movement when spending 3 years in a job that I absolutely hated, and even though I’m now at a job that I love (I took a tiny pay cut, but it was completely worth it to me to have some semblance of work life balance and not hate my life), I know that this might not last forever and would like to eventually have the freedom to spend my time volunteering, traveling, or even working a fun but low paying job. I think it’s super fun to optimize my finances so reevaluate things pretty regularly, but still feel like there are things that I’m missing or ways I can get to FI even faster! I’d love to hear any input you have! See my details below 🙂
- Your gross/net annual family income
- Gross: 55,000
- Net: ~49,000 (after federal taxes and insurance – no state income tax; employer contribution of 5% to 403b added post-tax)
- Your monthly family spending (around $2,300/month; $27,600/year)
- All housing costs (rent, renter’s insurance, utilities): $840/month
- Cell phone: $15/month (this is a prepaid plan that’s cheaper if you buy a year at a time, but I set aside this money each month in my high yield savings account)
- Groceries: Roughly $150/month
- Amazon Prime: $11/month (paid annually, money set aside each month)
- Credit card annual fee: $8/month (paid annually, money set aside every month; I definitely get enough value out of this card to keep it despite the annual fee)
- Gym membership: $35/month
- Discretionary spending: Roughly $230/month (this is mostly a. going out to concerts/restaurants/bars with friends and b. taking Ubers if I’m going somewhere I can’t walk since I don’t have a car. Any excess at the end of the month goes into my HYS account)
- Student loan payment: $1,000/month (minimum is $700)
- For any debts you have, please include: I have one student loan remaining (starting balance across 4 loans was embarrassingly high for the fact that I didn’t go to any sort of graduate school, I was kind of an idiot about finances when I was 18 and choosing my college). No credit card debt, auto loans, personal loans, etc.
- The interest rate: 4% (refinanced from an average of 8% across the 4 loans)
- Your minimum monthly payment: $700, I pay $300 extra each month for a total of $1,000 per month
- The outstanding balance: $35,000
- Any fixed assets you have (house, car, etc.)
- And investments or savings you have (cash, bonds, stocks, etc.)
- Monthly savings (around $1,760/month; $21,120/year)
- 403b: 15% of my salary; employer matches 100% up to 5%
- $687 from me, $229 from my employer for total of $916/month
- Roth IRA: $250/month
- Traditional IRA: $250/month
- For Roth+IRA together I’m contributing the max of $6,000/year
- High Yield Savings Account: $350
- I actually contribute $384, but $34 was accounted for in spending (annual expenses I budget for on a monthly basis: Amazon Prime, credit card annual fee, and cell phone)
- 403b: 15% of my salary; employer matches 100% up to 5%
- Current balances
- Checking account: around $1,500
- High Yield Savings: $12,000
- Until I refinanced my loans I was putting any extra income/savings into those; now that they’re at a more manageable interest rate I switched to using extra money to build this account to a 6 month emergency fund; once that’s done I’m going back to attacking my loans)
- 403b: $3,000 (I’ve only been at this job for about 3 months)
- Traditional IRA: $1,500 (rolled over from a previous job)
- Roth IRA: $17,000 (I’ve been contributing to this account since I started having earned income in high school)
- Brokerage account: $8,000 (not entirely sure why I decided to put this money into a taxable account instead of doing something else with it, but I kind of like the idea of having money invested that I can access easily if needed? I’m not regularly contributing to this account)
- Monthly savings (around $1,760/month; $21,120/year)
- Total assets ($43,000) – total debts ($35,000) = Net Worth $8,000. Tiny, but positive! It was negative for way too long.
Thanks in advance, very much appreciated!
OK so first of all, you can actually tell a lot about people just in the way they present their spending. Some people’s give their spending as a single high-level number, others break it down in broad categories, and still others show it in so much detail you know they track every single receipt in reams of spreadsheets with OCD-like precision.
Based on lines likes this:
Credit card annual fee: $8/month (paid annually, money set aside every month; I definitely get enough value out of this card to keep it despite the annual fee)
I can tell this person’s definitely the last category. Incidentally, we’re like that too! You should see FIRECracker’s spreadsheets. There’s so much detail in there that she can tell you in an instant how much more expensive bus passes are in Madrid versus Warsaw. FloridaFIRE’s definitely our kind of people 🙂
On To the Numbers!
So anyway, how is FloridaFIRE doing?
First of all, lets take a look at his spending. He’s reporting here that monthly spending of $2300, but that amount actually includes his student loan repayment amount of $1000. This is important because it’ll go away once his loan is paid off, and shouldn’t be used to calculate his FIRE target. So his actual spending is just $1300 per month, or $15,600.
That’s crazy low, even by Florida standards! And based on his statement “I think it’s super fun to optimize my finances” we can tell that that FloridaFIRE is most definitely an Optimizer like us. He obviously enjoys poring over his spending and finding tiny little micro-tweaks that can bring his spending down even further. Again, he’s definitely our kind of people 🙂
Now lets talk about the debt. $35k’s actually not too bad for an American. We regularly get emails from people being crushed by $100k+ student loans at 8% APRs, so count yourself lucky there that it’s “only” $35k.
We can also see that he’s refinanced his loans, bringing the interest rate from 8% down to 4%. This will lower his interest payments, which is great, but it likely means he’s now with a private lender, meaning he’s likely not eligible for loan forgiveness programs like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). So we want to kill this debt pronto since it’s one of those scary non-dischargable kinds.
Generally, whenever anyone has any kind of loan with an interest rate north of 5%, we recommend that you stop all other savings or investing and just direct all your cash at murdering the loan as soon as possible. FloridaFIRE has rather cleverly refinanced in order to take the pressure off. With a 4% interest rate, he has some breathing room and has redirecting his cash flow towards building up an emergency fund instead. Now that that’s done, he should go back to throwing his cash at the loan until it’s done, which as he’s noted is exactly what he already plans on doing. Ah, FloridaFIRE. What the heck are you writing in for if you’re already doing everything right?
Math Shit Up
So how long until FloridaFIRE can retire? Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s MATH SHIT UP!
Here are his top-level numbers:
|Income||$55,000 (gross), $49,000 (net)|
|Expenses||1,300 per month, $15,600 per year|
|Debt||$35,000 @ 4%|
Well first, he’s planning on killing his student loan. By my calculations, that should take about a year.
After that, he’ll be able to resume his climb towards FIRE. How much will he need?
Based on his impressively efficient spending of just $15,600, as per the 4% rule he will need $15,600 x 25 = $390,000 to retire! That doesn’t seem too tall of a hill to climb, does it?
Let’s see what our trusty projection says…
|0||$43,000.00||$2,580.00||$0.00||$45,580.00||First year's savings spent paying off loan|
Just 9 years. And given that he’s currently 26, that would put his retirement age at 35. Not too shabby at all!
Some people write in asking for help because they don’t know what to do. Others already have a pretty solid plan and just need a confirmatory thumbs-up. So here’s ours.
Great job, FloridaFIRE! You’ve clearly optimized the heck out of your expenses, you’ve found a way to get your student loans under control while at the same time building up an emergency fund, and you’re well on your way to the sunny beaches of early retirement. Congradjumafrickinlations!
So what do y’all think? Do you guys see anything differently he could be doing? Let’s hear it in the comments below!
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