I recently went through a pretty dark period in my life. Back in late 2016, when my husband brought up the topic of early retirement for both of us, I suddenly found myself going down the rabbit hole of fearing there’s “not enough”.
By that point, he and I have reached a consensus that we’d be in a great financial position to retire (for both of us) within the next year or two. That was our agreed terms, so I thought (I soon learned that was really the terms I put on our relationship). There was a certain financial number I (and only I) wanted us to reach. That was the number I was comfortable with. I don’t know why I was so stickle about that particular number. Maybe I like the sound of it. Maybe I like the roundness of that certain number. Maybe I like having extra built-in cushions in our finances before having both of us retired from our jobs. Whatever the reason(s) might be, I was adamant about reaching that magic and comforting number.
In the fields of economics and psychology, one living with the fears of “not enough” is said to be living with a scarcity mentality (or mindset). If you google “scarcity mentality” and read some of what’s been written, you’d quickly gather that living life with a scarcity mentality can be limiting and debilitating.
For me, I tie much of my sense of security to money. I don’t need to have a lot of money. However, when we’re talking about early retirement, I’d have liked to have reached a certain amount of money before I can feel safe. Both my husband and I had very good compensation benefits. Those benefits were a big part of my family’s safety net. In this blog, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the awesomeness of reaching financial independence and early retirement (see here and here). What I left out was my fear of giving up all the great benefits that came with W-2 employment (see here). The thought of having to let go of all that safety net seemed scary, overwhelming and wasteful. And I cringed at the thought of all that we’d lose when we leave our employment.
Naturally, feelings and thoughts of scarcity started creeping into my head and I found myself in a big mess. Consequently, the quality of my marriage and family life suffered. My mental and emotional health had also suffered.
Shedding Some Light into this New Mental State Experience
I published the first post on this blog about a year ago (on September 18th, 2016). Since then, my family and I have gone through lots of changes. Back then, I wrote in this article that my husband and I would be looking at early retirement in year 2018, while in our mid- and early-30s, respectively. Our estimated annual expenses would be $50,000. In a later post, where I shared about the 4% Withdrawal Rule and its relevance for my family, I mentioned that my family’s financial goal (a.k.a the amount in our net worth) was to reach 30X to 33X of our annual expenses.
As I’m writing this article, I’m happy to report that our total net worth has reached over the 33X number. The image below was captured on 9/11/2017 from our Personal Capital account, prior to the stock market opened. We use Personal Capital, a free financial tool, to track our net worth, view our investment performance, analyze our asset allocations and project and reevaluate our retirement goals. I wrote a comprehensive review of Personal Capital on another post. I encourage you to check it out. According to Google Analytics, that post is a readers favorites. I plan to do an update on this financial tool and share more recent images on the blog soon.
Now that this part of my family’s financial goal is reached, my husband and I have both arrived at the conclusion that it was time for him to join me in early retirement, too. September 8th, 2017, marked his last day of W-2 employment. This is a great financial milestone for my family. We became an early retiree family before our daughter turns three.
Note: In a more recent post, I shared that we created a “fun fund”, where we gave ourselves the permission to spend up to $60,000 per year. Of that $60,000, about 30% would go to travel and large disposable item purchases (you can see a list of our monthly expenses here). At this point, we are flexible pacing our annual expenses anywhere in between $40,000 to $60,000.
The days in August quickly passed by. My husband and I have been working on some new business adventures and we’re looking forward to sharing more details. In addition to that, my family and I will be closing on a real estate transaction later today! I haven’t write about real estate investing for a while. You can read some of the topics I wrote last year. I’ll be sharing more about our experiences and lessons learned on this particular one in future posts.
Below is a table capturing our July 2017 non-W2 incomes report.
The total number was somewhat surprising. We just had a fabulous month back in June and expected the July number to be similar to those of January or February, 2017.
What was new in July? First, my husband’s financial coaching business has been picking up. He has been enjoying every moment of those consulting sessions. Second, we received a large payment from our affiliate sponsors.
This is the 8th month we’ve been tracking our non-W2 incomes. You can view our past income reports here.
We use Personal Capital, a free financial tool, to track our net worth, view our investment performance, analyze our asset allocations and project and reevaluate our retirement goals. I wrote a comprehensive review of Personal Capital on another post. I encourage you to check it out. According to Google Analytics, that post is a readers favorites. I plan to do an update on this financial tool and share more recent images on the blog sometime in September. Look out for that, too.
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When I was an inexperienced investor, I spent a lot of time researching potential company stocks and index (or mutual) funds. In retrospect, most of the performance indicators I paid attention to were important for evaluating a purchase. However, expense ratio (a.k.a retirement savings account fees or expenses) was one element I wish I had taken more seriously.
I didn’t even know about compounding when I made my first stock purchase back in 2009. And once I learned about compounding, I didn’t know that fees also compound while my savings compound. Even after I became aware of expense ratios, it didn’t occur to me right away that I needed to learn what those fees are or read about their potential impacts.
That was, until last year. Those sayings that go like, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” and “You don’t know how little you know until you start learning.” are so true in this case. To this date, every day, I’m still finding out I have a lot to learn on investing, growing and protecting my money.
In this article, I bring your attention to retirement account fees and their potential impacts when left ignored. These fees are typically a small percentage of your account balance, making it easy for uninformed investors to ignore or overlook. Yet, the fees can slowly eat away your investment returns over 5, 10, 15 or 20 years time span.
Using research studies on 401(k) plans and number examples, I shared below how retirement savings account fees can dramatically affect your ability to retire and how much money you have during retirement. The contents and messages are also applicable to IRAs and any types of individual retirement savings accounts where someone (or an entity) is involved in helping you manage your money.
Did You Know?
My family and I recently visited Washington D.C. One day, my daughter and I had an engaging conversation on money, exchange and delayed gratification. And I’ve decided to share that conversation here in hope that you and your children might benefit.
The conversation occurred as the three of us were walking along the National Mall, while passing by the carousel. My soon-to-be-3-years-old toddler loves carousels and Ferris wheels. As anticipated, Ruby asked me if she could ride the carousel. I fell conflicted. On the one hand, I wanted her to join the other kids in the carousel area and have an even greater time during our visit. On the other hand, we were pressed for time as we had already made plans with other family members for dinner and a nighttime bus tour.
I didn’t want to just respond to Ruby with a plain “no”. The three of us were having a great day, and I wasn’t going to let that moment ruin the beautiful memory. I had to quickly come up with a strategy to distract her, and give her enough reasoning to move along (both physically and emotionally). All meanwhile, conveying my words and wishes in a manner that she’d understand.
Moreover, I didn’t want to do a quick fix. I have learned that Ruby’s memory is pretty good nowadays. There were times in the past when I didn’t do a good job explaining to my daughter why she was denied of something, and she’d cry on and off for 30 plus minutes until her feelings got resolved. I wasn’t going to let something similar happen right there then.
Below detailed how the conversation went (in Mandarin):