Spreading the FIRE

I have always been pretty open with my close friends about finances. It’s helped that we all have professional jobs, some performing the same roles at the same company, so I never felt awkward telling them how much I make or saved. I don’t know that we’ve ever really gotten into the hard numbers, except when swapping salary information, but they all know full well my plans of FIRE, or as I like to call it “hoarding gold like a dragon and then quitting work to sleep all day.”

Anyway, for years I would get skeptical looks. Sure, sure YAPFB we get it. You don’t like working. But this pipe dream of yours seems a little much, don’t you think? Why I don’t know what I would do without the structure of work in my life.

Well, after seven years of proselytizing, I finally have my first FIRE convert!

It all started a couple weeks ago when my best friend, who has both a full-time job and a contracting business on the side, mentioned trying to figure out budgeting and taxes for her and her husband for the last year. I mentioned, oh hey, you might be interested in Mint and Personal Capital then and we started talking about tax optimization and before you know it, several Mad Fientist posts later, she’s singing the tune of financial independence.

If we get our expenses down to $X, we could probably retire in six years. Which would put her ahead of us in the FIRE timeline. Which is both jealousy-inducing but also exciting that I might have people to actually hang out with in my FIRE stage. We always talk as a community about what you’ll be retiring to but never the who you’ll be retiring with. We’ve long talked about raising kids, going on travel adventures, and starting companies together, and if they can make the finances work for them, we may all have the time to actually make these things happen!

Have you ever convinced friends/family to get on the FIRE or personal finance train? With whom do you plan to spend time in retirement?


Dumb Money Moves

The past few weeks have been kind of a whirlwind. Thing I’ve learned about startup life: it can be all-consuming very quickly if you let it. That’s a whole post in and of itself.

As the effects of work have spilled over, I have found that my personal time has gotten frayed and I’ve started dropping things. This would normally not be an issue– our bills are mostly on autopay, checklists help us keep track and make sure all the other household items get done on time– but various life changes are putting a wrench into my plans.

Opening new joint accounts. Changing up the money flow between those accounts and our personal ones. Churning here, there, everywhere. Name changes. Estate planning trust junk. Blah blah blah blah blah. I don’t know which one did it, but the camel’s back is definitely broken.

Because of the various account movings, I managed to accidentally overdraw my checking account not once but TWICE in the past two months. Well, actually the first time I overdrew a series of transactions out of a recently-emptied account so that was annoying. I’ve probably paid around $100 in bounced fees at this point? Arggggh.

I’ve made silly costly mistakes in the past that have cost even more money (e.g. booking airline tickets for the wrong week and paying change fees), but somehow this one stings the most. And it’s not like I can be mad at the bank or anything– this all has been entirely my fault. It’s just a feeling of vague frustration on top of all the other feelings of vague frustration that I haven’t the time to process right now so let’s just throw money at the problem and forget about it for the moment, mmkay?

Of course we have the money that these sorts of issues just wind up being a carelessness tax. And I know that in itself is a blessing. And since they happen so rarely (on the order of once or twice a year on average) it really isn’t that big of a deal. Still, it stings. I’ve always thought myself pretty responsible with money, and I mostly still am. But maybe, for a while, I have to give myself slack for letting my focus shift elsewhere and live with things not always being p-e-r-f-e-c-t.

Have you made any dumb money moves lately? 

Taking A Break

Hey y’all,

So, between the new job, wedding planning, combining finances, Ireland trip, and contemplating the end of the republic, I’m pretty busy right now. Therefore, I’ll be taking a hiatus from putting up content on this blog. I’ll still be reading other people’s sites here and there and may comment and put up sporadic posts, but will probably not resume regular posting at least until the fall.

Hope you have a good summer!


Who’s The Audience For This Blog?

The topic of acknowledging privilege has been a big one in the personal finance community lately. FIRE bloggers are calling each other out for obfuscating their incomes, selling the idea of financial independence to the masses as a product en route to internet wealth and fame. Folks are also noticing, due to the lack of diversity in the community, a narrowness of content that feels tone deaf for those outside of the niche.

I’m sure my tiny readership knows this already, but if it wasn’t already clear: I work in tech and generate a high income for our household. We are affluent and, were I to continue with my job until the traditional retirement age instead of pursuing FI, fiancé and I would eventually be quite wealthy without much sacrifice at all.

This level of cushion allows us to be charitable without it feeling painful and make otherwise tough decisions– like leaving jobs in the midst of burnout— accessible and easy.

My blog is not about me giving advice. I don’t write primers on how 401(k)’s work or three ways to lower your car payment. Heck, in spite of being “Yet Another PF Blog” I would say only a quarter of my posts really have anything to do with personal finance. There are some rare exceptions where I might get slightly more how-to-it about things than I would normally (see, e.g., my solar panel retrospective), but by and large my blog is about my life as I live it, day by day. The ups and downs, the things I’m thinking about that I want to write out and talk about with others. My blog is like a journal, one that I let be passed around to strangers on the internet in case they have some notes of their own they’d like to scribble in too.

As such, the likely audience for my blog is pretty small. I think this site is most likely to appeal with those at roughly the same level of background in personal finance matters who are making similarly comfortable professional incomes. Also probably petite women, what with fashion roundups and all.  And that’s not because I’m trying to be exclusionary with what I write. It’s just because that’s my life.

So, my questions for y’all today are as follows:

Bloggers: Are you transparent about your economic class on your blog? Is your content geared toward readers in your same demographic / level of PF knowledge? How much do you work to make your content accessible?

Readers: What level of transparency do you want from your personal finance bloggers? What kind of content do you want to see? Do you feel like the community as it is now has sufficiently targeted your interests and questions?

What Am I Thankful For?

I am thankful for:

  • my health
  • my kind, supportive, and overall wonderful partner
  • my ambitious and talented brother
  • the rest of my family, I guess
  • deep friendships that have lasted the test of time
  • in-laws who have embraced me as one of their own
  • ownership of my own body
  • ownership of my own fate
  • financial stability
  • delicious food
  • indoor plumbing and electricity
  • warm blankets
  • gas heat (it’s so cold guys)
  • good books
  • the internet, generally
  • video streaming, specifically
  • and, of course, all you lovely people who read and comment on this here blog!

Hope y’all have a Happy Thanksgiving!

How I Invest & My Asset Allocation

For a personal finance blogger, I talk about investing remarkably little. Maybe it’s because my investments are on autopilot– I think about them maybe once a quarter when I rebalance. Also, I’m not well-versed enough about financial markets to conjure up any “alpha” (I’m probably using this word wrong, even) versus following the standard advice of diversified indexing. As the disclaimer says, I am not a financial planner.

That said, in the spirit of living up to my blog’s name, let’s talk about how I invest.

Investing Philosophy

I like to keep my investing low maintenance. So my rules for it are simple:

  1. Low-fee index funds. Because nothing eats up returns faster than a 1+% annual fee.
  2. Stick to a diversified asset allocation. This means both using index funds as in the first bullet, and also investing across different asset types, which we’ll get into below with the asset allocation.
  3. Rebalance once every quarter. I used to pay a lot more attention to the daily fluctuations of my investments. That was dangerous and stupid. I made a lot of mistakes, got scared too easily, and was headed down a gamble-y path with investing that I didn’t want to be on. So now, I stick to my asset allocation, check in once a month for my financial round-ups, and then rebalance once a quarter
  4. Put stocks in post-tax retirement savings. I max out my Roth space with high growth assets before putting them in my Traditional 401k/IRA space. That way I optimize the benefits of my Roth, i.e. not paying any more taxes on growth, by using it for those assets that will see the biggest increase in the long term.

Asset Allocation

I’d like to say my allocation was well-reasoned, that I modeled a variety of strategies before picking my current portfolio. But that would be a lie. I came up with my allocation through a combination of an old Vanguard quiz that I can’t find online anymore and reading The Value of Debt in Building Wealth by Thomas J. Anderson.

I tend toward a 70/20/10 stock/bond/other split, which reflects my relatively conservative nature. I tilt more international, particularly toward emerging markets (read: China), because I am wary the halcyon days of American economic dominance will last until my retirement, nearly half a century away.

Unlike many conservative investors, I eschew gold, mostly because I don’t understand the appeal of non-fiat currencies. For the the same reason, and because of power consumption/environmental concerns, I do not invest in cryptocurrencies.

The below table summarizes my target asset allocation, my current asset allocation, and the difference between the two:


Rebalancing My Assets

Clearly, my current portfolio is a little out of what with my preferred allocation. Mostly, this is because of an unfortunate jaunt into P2P lending, which, because P2P loans are difficult to liquidate, will continue to keep a stranglehold for another 1-3 years. As those loans come due, I’ll be transferring those payments back into international stock.

I have also maxed out my company’s ESOP because a 15% discounted stock means an automatic 35% annualized return. Can’t beat that! Once those stocks are issued, though, I plan to sell them immediately and plop the money into some combination of commodities and stocks.

Not reflected in the above table is the fact that I have some bond funds sitting in my Roth 401k, which contradicts rule #4 of my investment philosophy. Because of my 401k broker’s restrictions, those won’t be able to be exchanged for stock funds until January 2018, which means I’ll just have to wait until then to properly re-allocate.

So to summarize, because my blog not-so-subtly doubles as a personal to-do list, during my next rebalancing in January 2018, I will:

  1. As P2P loans are paid off, transfer money to fill in gaps in other investments.
  2. Sell company stock, transfer amount to commodities index.
  3. Exchange US bond funds in Roth 401k for international stock funds (tax optimizing allocation).

What do you invest? What is your asset allocation?

Hello World. (Again)

This is my third time round starting a blog. Like the first two, this one is about money: how I use it, how I think about it, etc. But it’ll also be a blog just about how I’m feeling after a Friday evening cooking marathon or random musings about my career. Why? Because personal finance is, well, personal. Money touches many aspects of our lives. And giving you the context of my life to understand the emotions behind the money, it’ll at least be cathartic for me.

Some posts will be long and meandering. Some will be short and acerbic. Nothing will SEO well. I’m a person with a blog, not a blogging personality. These are my thoughts, filtered but still real.

Welcome, and I hope you stick around.