5 money mistakes you are probably making

I know you. You probably clicked on this article just to prove me wrong. “I’m not making any money mistakes!” And that’s fine. You should totally be writing this blog instead of me, but humor me.

There are a million and one different ways to be financially literate, and I am not saying that one way is better than another, but my way is clearly the best.

Mistake #1: You don’t COMPLETELY understand how you are going to retire someday.

From what I see, people fall into one of these categories:

  • Person A: They have no f-ing clue how they are ever going to retire. Their debt is higher than the national debt and they figure they will just work the rest of their lives. (don’t be this person)
  • Person B: Person B brings in a steady paycheck and has minimal debt. She even contributes to her workplace 401K or XYZB but generally hopes that when she is 65, she will simply stop working and there will be enough money for her to retire. (don’t be this person either)
  • Person C: Person C works hard. Has no debt (other than her mortgage), contributes the max to her 401K and XYZB (note: this is not a real thing). She thinks that when she is 65 she will be just fine.

NONE of these people actually know how they are going to retire. There is a vague understanding that you work until 65 and then everything magically falls into place. That’s what social security is for after all, right?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t plan on staking my future happiness on a government program that is constantly on the chopping block. Not to mention, I have already received letters reassuring me that I will be getting up to 75% of my social security earnings when I retire. 75% wow! When I first started working, it was 100%…. That’s not how numbers are supposed to work.

NOTE TO THE GOVERNMENT: a letter stating that I am not going to get the FULL amount of money that I have paid is NOT reassuring. In fact, it is the opposite of reassuring. It is UN-reassuring. That’s so not a word, but it should be.

Back to my point.

You need to know exactly how you are going to retire when you are ready to retire. This means you need to know the following:

a. how much money you will spend in retirement

b. where that money is going to come from

c. how you going to account for inflation and other life events

This brings us to mistake number 2.

Mistake #2: You don’t know how much you spend every month.

This is a scary one. I know. The logic is sound: if we don’t know how much we are spending every month than we can’t feel bad about it. Just like eating while standing up means that we are eating less calories.

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret: the money is still gone wether or not you know exactly where it went.

I know – that’s brutal. Many a time have I opened my credit card bill and righteously declared, “What is this $58 purchase! I never spent that!” Only to have my kill joy of a husband respond, “Isn’t that the camera thing you just had to have?” (side note – yes, I have a problem when it comes to buying camera things. I admit it. It is real. I’m working on it.)

So, I don’t care if you make a budget (personally, I hate budgets. The surest way for me to overspend is to make a budget, but if it works for you great) or simply track your spending. YOU MUST KNOW EXACTLY HOW MUCH YOU SPEND.

Every dollar.

Every quarter.

Every penny.

Mistake #3: You hold a balance on your credit card.

You’re credit card is like a game. If you hold a balance on it, you lose. If you pay it off every month, you win.

The way I explain it to my daughter is this: you know that stuffie you just can’t live without? The one that looks exactly like all the other stuffies in your room and costs $40? $40 that you don’t have. If you buy that on a credit card and don’t pay off your balance, that $40 stuffie now costs you $60! That’s right, $60. (yes, I know that is probably not entirely accurate, but she’s 9 so simpler is better).

Lets say, though, that you have that $40 sitting in your money jar in your room. If you buy that $40 stuffie using a credit card that has some sort of reward system (either cash back or miles), and then pay off that credit card entirely as soon as the bill comes in, that $40 stuffie now costs less (if you think about the reward negating some of the costs). OK, that’s a little complicated for a 9 year old, but you adults out there should get my drift.

The point is – don’t buy something on a credit card unless you have the money to pay for it in cash so you can pay off your card in full at the end of the month. If it is too tempting, then chop up that card. I’m serious. You lose if you don’t pay off your card. You know who you are losing to? Those multi-millionaires who run the credit card companies! Do NOT give them your money. They don’t need it. Take their money by never carrying a balance.

Its a fun game. Promise.

Mistake #4: Hiding your money under your mattress

Mom, I’m looking at you. Yes, I know that the stock market can be scary. It seems super risky to take your hard earned money and invest it in something that can (and will at times) lose value.

But guess what? Money hiding under your mattress is also losing value. Its a thing called inflation which means that every year your money will buy you less and less. Its like when your grandma tells you those stories about how in her days she would walk to the store 5 miles in the snow, uphill, to buy bread for a dime. That’s right. A dime for a loaf of break. I just spend $6 on a loaf yesterday.

The average inflation rate is 3.22%. This means that if your money is not growing by 3.22% each year, YOU ARE LOSING MONEY.

The stock market grows on average 7% per year (this is a conservative number and takes into account all those pesky downturns).

Here’s the math: 7% (growth) – 3% (inflation) = 4% growth per year

Now, I really don’t recommend getting all fancy and investing in different stocks. That IS risky. Just open up a Vanguard account and invest in the total stock market. Easy. Put your money in there and forget about it.

Mistake #5: Buying All Of The Things

Oh, retail therapy – you fickle vixen! You make us feel so good and then leave us wanting more.

Here is the big secret: buying things won’t make you happy.

The amount that you spend each month matters so much more for your retirement number than the amount that you save each month.

For example, lets say you only need to make $10 per year to live a happy life (Ha! I know, but I find it is easier to wrap my head around smaller numbers so bear with me).  If your money is growing at a rate of 4% a year (see mistake #4) then you only need to have  $250 invested in the total stock market to live happily ever after for the rest of your life!

$10 is 4% of $250

An easier way to calculate that big number that you need to retire is to multiply the money that you spend each year by 25.

10 x 25 = 250

If you spend less, you NEED less to retire. Every extra dollar that you spend each year means you need to save 25 more dollars.

If you need to buy a new pair of shoes every year for $100, you need to save an additional $2500 to maintain that habit.

This is a fun game to play every time you buy something. That latte just cost me $125. A new computer every year costs me $25000 in savings.

Buy less things – need less money – retire sooner 🙂

That’s it, folks. That’s all there is to it.

I’ve totally made all of these mistakes at some point or another so there is no shame in it. If you are making any of these mistakes, it’s not too late to fix it! Take an afternoon, sit down with your family, and figure this money thing out. The great irony is that once you do have a plan and are in control of your spending, you will feel so much happier. I promise.

How did we do – Year 1

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Its the end of the year! Woo Hoo! Time for parties and celebrations and watching the year of 2016 die with a thankful breath….

Or…

Its time to calculate the end of the year numbers!!!! Woo Hoo!!! Who’s with me??? Anyone??? *crickets*

Alright, so I may have slacked off a bit at the end of this year. One purchase led to another and before I knew it, we had spend more money than I wanted to think about. It wasn’t really on STUFF (although, if I am being honest, I spent way more this year on Holiday gifts than I did last year). Nope – what really killed us this year were two decisions we made in December:

  1. We took our child out of public school and put her in a private school (for the record, this is the best use of our money ever. She was having anxiety attacks at school and developing trauma around learning. Not a good thing).
  2. We decided to transform our garage into a useable space. This is something we had been talking about for years and we finally found a guy who does amazing construction work for super cheap (he’s moonlighting for us – for his day job, he works for a construction company). We couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

I was tempted to just not count these expenses in my annual report. Say to myself, “this was just a one time thing and I shouldn’t worry about it,” but ultimately decided I would only be cheating myself.

So, enough stalling. The number that I really care about; the number that matters more to our goal of FI than any other is our savings rate. While we had some excellent months, our average percentage of savings ended up being:

33% – not great. Especially since our goal is 75%.

What contributed so such a lousy savings rate, you ask? A lot of it was the school and garage, but it was also things like repairing appliances and travel. The good news is, I am confident we can improve upon that number next year.

That’s the bad news. Now for the fun part: We started this year at 28% of the way towards our goal of financial independence and we ended the year at … drumroll please …

57%!!!

This number may be a little skewed since I wasn’t including our rental properties in the beginning of the year numbers and we used the proceeds from those properties to make significant progress in our end of the year numbers, but I’m going to go with it since it makes me feel better.

We are over halfway to our goal of financial independence!!!

If my calculations are correct (ha! I’ve always wanted to say that), we should reach our goal in April of 2020 – three months before my husband turns 40.

I will continue to keep you updated on our progress. Our little family wishes you a big happy new year!

One Step Closer!

california-34We did it! I just sent in my very last mortgage payment ever! What a rush. I can’t even tell you how amazing this feels.

When we set a goal of paying off our mortgage in one year, I thought we were nuts. I looked at the enormous number of dollars we had left to pay and silently wept. I thought it was impossible. I thought I would be paying a mortgage for the rest of my life. I thought it was a pipe dream. But no more! We are free!!!!!

This really feels like a tipping point. Not only do we not have to pay a mortgage any longer, but we can put the money that we would have spent on the mortgage into our investments which will help us get to our magical FI number all the sooner.

Is this the smartest use of our money? Should we have invested that money in the market instead of our mortgage? Who knows. Only time will tell, but what I do know is that in the crazy housing market of Seattle, I don’t have to worry about a landlord raising my rent by hundreds of dollars a month. I don’t have to worry about buying a home with multiple offers. I get to simply enjoy the peace of living rent and mortgage free in a home I love.

So, I encourage everyone to set crazy high goals – to strive for what is impossible and celebrate your success! I know I will 🙂

July Wrap-Up

beach-3July is a month for going to the beach. A month for eating Slurpees and swimming. It is not a month that I want to spend in front of my computer counting pennies. Add to that the stress of selling not one but two houses and all of the time, energy, and money that goes into that particular endeavor, and you get the perfect storm of, “I just don’t care about anything anymore! I’m eating out!”

First, we’ll start with the challenges:

While our first house was happily pending a sale (woo hoo), we began July with the arduous task of fixing up our second house to get it on the market. This included a day of fix-up, hiring a painter, hiring carpet cleaners and freaking out when the first day on the market, the house reeked from the smell of the still wet carpets! Despite this setback, we got an offer and are happily pending the sale of the second house. Gotta love the Seattle housing market.

Maybe it was because of the stress of selling two houses, or maybe it was the sun and the call of the beach, but whatever the reason, we found it hard to be in our home at dinnertime and consequentially ate out a lot. What a luxury! A very expensive luxury.

To get back on track, I decided to restart a meal delivery service. Not the most frugal option – especially since the one we chose uses only organic ingredients and caters to our GF/DF lifestyle – but it reminded me how much I love cooking with fresh beautiful ingredients in the kitchen. It was like a jump start to my home cooking skills. After two weeks, I cancelled the delivery – ready to tackle cooking once again.

Now, onto the successes!

While I sat calculating my end of the month expenses, I realized that even though I felt like we went crazy with our spending, we actually didn’t do that bad. If you eliminate the spending on the houses, our savings rate was 64%.

64%

That is an amazing savings rate. Our goal is 72%, but 64% is noting to scoff at. That means that we saved 64% of our income this month!

Along with this amazing savings rate, the market did exceptionally well this month which puts us at 50% of the way towards our goal of financial independence. Keep in mind, the 50% does not take into account the money we will get from selling our houses. I am so so so excited to pay off our current mortgage with the money we make from the sales, and I’m even more excited to see what that does to our goal of financial independence. How should we celebrate? I need ideas people!

Should You Rent Or Buy?

downloadMy husband and I bought our first house when we were 25. “How smart we are!” We thought. “How cleaver and good with money we are!” We’d basically made it, right? Here we were: young, with our own house. We had basically succeeded at life and were most likely going to be millionaires. Our parents praised us. Our friends were in awe. Life was good.

Our first house had made us feel so successful, why not buy a second? So, we did. Instead of selling our first house, we bought a second house and rented out our first. Unfortunately, we bought this second house in 2007 (right before that giant housing crash that happened). “Oh well,” we thought. “We are still ridiculously cleaver. As long as we don’t sell until the market recovers, we’ll be fine.” Again, our parents and friends were impressed. Now, we not only owned our own home, but we were landlords! Winning at life again!

The market crashed, and being ever on the lookout for a good deal on real estate, we bought three homes between the years of 2008 – 2011. Now, there was no denying it (not that we were): we were the most clever people on the planet. We were going to be rich any day. As soon as the market recovered, we’d sell and bring in bank!

Fast forward to the recovery of the market. We sold one property at a profit of 55k! Woo Hoo! Our plan was working. We just put two of our other properties on the market for a substantial profit – patting ourselves on the back and doing the happy dance.

UNTIL…..

Until I sat down with the numbers and calculated exactly how much we stood to make. After all the repairs, maintenance, taxes, dues, fees etc… our actual profit was really small…and it got even smaller once I calculated capital gains tax. But, hey, we were still going to make a profit so that’s good, right?

I then calculated how much we would have made had we invested that money in the market rather than in real estate and I was floored.

Assumptions about this comparison:

  • The money I’m comparing is the down payment, taxes, dues, insurance and repairs. NOT the mortgage or interest since I figured that money would be spent regardless on having a roof over our head.
  • Being extremely conservative, I took an extra 10K a year off of our “investment” money to account for having to pay a higher rent than just the amount we payed for our mortgage and interest.

After taxes, our Shoreline property will provide us with: $45,000

Had we invested that money instead, we would have: $114,000

OUCH.

After taxes, our Pinehurst property will provide us with: $80,000

Had we invested that money instead, we would have: $208,000

Yes – I calculated paying taxes on the invested money as well. What I did not take into account was the following:

  • The stress involved in buying/selling a house
  • The time spent driving to the rental homes
  • The time spent managing the rental properties
  • The inconvenience of having to deal with renters and their problems (and we had great renters) at all hours.

I can hear you now: “Well, you obviously didn’t wait until the market was high enough. You must not have sold for that much higher than you bought.”

Wrong.

Each property is selling for around 90K more than we bought it. The problem is that that money gets eaten up in fees and taxes and repairs.

“Well, you must have put too much into repairs.”

Nope.

We purposely bought newer houses so that we wouldn’t have to fix them too much.

Please don’t get me wrong, there are many reasons to own your own home that have nothing to do with finances. It is for these reasons that I do NOT regret owning my own home now.

  1. You can do whatever you want to your house and garden. No one can dictate what color the walls have to be or how the garden looks (unless you live with a strict HOA in which case, I do not envy you at all).
  2. You are secure…ish. As I’ve watched the housing prices soar in Seattle, the rental prices are keeping up. I have many friends who were forced to move because their landlord raised the price of their rent by hundreds of dollars a month. I can’t imagine having to leave my neighborhood, my daughter’s school and my friends because my landlord wanted to make more rent.
  3. When something goes wrong, you fix it. This may not seam like a positive, but when I was renting, I really hated having to call and wait on my landlord to fix things that were broken. Sometimes they wouldn’t fix it, and if they did, who knows how long it would take. I much prefer to be in control of how my home works.
  4. You don’t have to worry every time you spill something or scratch the wall. When I was renting, I lived in constant fear that I wouldn’t get my security deposit back which meant that I would get really nervous every time a glass of wine spilled or a wall got dinged. Owning my own home has allowed me to chill out a bit and not stress the occasional sharpie on the wall masterpiece.

In short, if I could go back in time and do things differently, I absolutely would. I would have rented until buying the house that we currently live in. If I wasn’t that smart, I would have at least sold my houses instead of turning them into rentals. Do I regret my decisions? Not at all. I learned so much by going through this process of buying, renting and selling. More information is always better. I just wish I had thought to collect this information before buying five houses!

 

 

Birthday’s and other observations

downloadTiny Eivy has not, shall we say, embraced our frugal ideals. And, honestly, who can blame her? Her little seven year old self doesn’t really see the difference between a fancy dinner out and a make your own sushi night at home. She will casually decided that she wants an American Girl doll in the same breath that she declares that she also wants a stuffie from Goodwill. The world is full of wonderful things and she wants them all.

She turned 8 yesterday and when the dust settled, she ended up with an American Girl doll from her grandmother. Holy cow, y’all, those things are over $100! Someone did some great marketing with that one.

Since it was her birthday, we did several things that we never do:

  1. We drove almost an hour to go to THE MALL because that is where the American Girl Doll Store is.

It has been years since I have set foot in a mall and I am not ashamed to say that I was a bit overwhelmed. Everything that I dislike about consumer American can be summed up in THE MALL. From the shiny displays of $100 tee-shirts to the copious amounts of STUFF that is so cleverly presented that even I, in my frugal state, am drawn to. THE MALL is so very good at convincing you to buy things you don’t need for money that you probably don’t have.

2. We bought Tiny Eivy a dress for her American Girl Doll.

This dress cost more than my entire outfit. Probably more than my entire wardrobe. Not that I begrudge this gift at all, but I am still floored by what they charge for a dress. For a doll.

3. We ate lunch out at Blue C Sushi.

You know the place – with the sushi train track that is timed perfectly to allow you enough time to grab your food but not enough time to check and see how much the plate is that you are grabbing. Maybe I’m being cynical, but I was so disappointed by the whole experience. The food was sub-par and after each of us eating the equivalent of one roll, our bill came out to $30. I think I was disappointed because it was supposed to be such a treat. We NEVER eat out anymore and I was really looking forward to the experience. I probably put too much expectation onto the poor restaurant, but clearly I need to be more picky in the future.

It really was a good day, and Tiny Eivy loved it, but the entire experience reminded me why I am embarking on this crazy path of saving 65% of our income to retire early. It is about so much more than saving a few dollars. It is about finding meaning in the experiences that we have by connecting with other people rather than with things. Its about valuing quality over gimmicks, but mostly its about spending time with the people you love.

My favorite part of the day was that I got to spend it with my big 8 year old girl and my husband who took the day off of work. In the evening, we invited our old community to celebrate with us and everything just felt right in the world.

Micro Lending vs The Stock Market

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Anytime I get into the nitty gritty details of our investments, I feel like I need to put a BIG disclaimer – “WE ARE NOT EXPERTS! WE ARE JUST EXPERIMENTING AND THIS IS WHAT WE HAVE FOUND!” You should probably just ignore me and and this entire post. Seriously. Go read someone who actually knows what they are doing.

OK – you are still here. You have been warned. Here is what we do.

I might have mentioned that Adam and I differ in ways that compliment each other: he can focus on tiny details for hours whereas I see the whole project and just want to move forward. He sees the value in living life now to its fullest rather than getting bogged down in the rules we have laid out for ourselves. He takes risks where I just want to curl up under my blankets and stay safe.

So, it should be no surprise that he began experimenting with investing money LONG before I was on board. In our mid twenties (dear God, over 10 years ago!), Adam opened a Prosper account and realized that he could get a 12% rate of return. 12% – that’s huge! He was able to get similar results with Lending Club. Being the spreadsheet geek that I am, I used those numbers to calculate just how long it would take us to retire based on that rate of return.

Before you all rush out and start investing in Prosper and Lending Club, let me go over the drawbacks of this strategy:

  • Adam did a lot of research on each loan that he invested in. He created a complex system to determine if he was going to invest in a loan or not. This greatly helped his rate of return.
  • He does not always get a 12% rate of return. In fact, I think one of his accounts is down to 5%. Not great. Theoretically, we should do better in the stock market.
  • Taxes! The interest that we get on these loans is taxed at a higher rate than long term capital gains (the money we make on investments in the market). Plus, since these micro loans are constantly being paid back, we end up with a huge tax bill at the end of year.

Ultimately, we decided that the investing the whole stock market was the best plan for us. The 4% rule is based on the whole stock market, and I don’t feel like I know nearly enough about investing to try my hand at anything other than the whole stock market. Plus, the fees for investing in TWSM are super low through my vanguard account.

We are not selling our Lending Club and Prosper loans, but we are not putting any new money into those accounts. All of our savings are heading straight to our IRA followed by our regular whole stock market accounts.

But what about your house? I thought you were trying to pay that off. True.

After playing around with the numbers, and thanks to some amazing real estate growth in our city, we think that once we sell our two rental properties up north we should have enough equity to pay off our current home! I am super excited about this. I hate being a landlord – the stress of having to deal with issues at a moment’s notice; the worry about getting a bad tenant; the expense of repairs, taxes and insurance. Its just such a weight on my shoulders all the time. I’m really looking forward to removing that weight.

So, there you have it. Every month we save as much money as we can (about 60% of our income) and put that money in the whole stock market (after maxing out our IRAs and 401K). In a couple of months, we will sell our rental properties and hopefully pay off our mortgage enabling us to put even more money into our investments.

 

Big Spender

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So, this frugal thing is all well and good but what about when you want something. I mean REALLY want something.

I have talked about living your life from a place of abundance rather than a place of deprivation. For me, this means that I am constantly thankful for all the amazing things I have in my life. Rather than focus on what I don’t have (summer home in France), I choose to put my attention to all the riches that I am constantly surrounded with: my fancy computer, camera, lenses, beautiful home, tranquil backyard, lovely hardwood floors…etc… you get the idea. I mean, honestly, I have so much more than I could possibly need.

Does this stop me from wanting things? Hell no. I find that it is very easy for me to forgo the latte every morning as long as I focus on all of the amazing retirement investment I am making instead, but what about the big things? Not just the big things, but the REALLY big things? The things that I need and want to feel fulfilled in my life.

As many of you know, I am a photographer and it is my dream in life to travel the world and tell the stories of people I meet through photography. Recently, I was presented with an opportunity to travel to Rwanda with a group of photographers to study how to take photos in the field at an orphanage. It would be a week long conference complete with field days to practice what we are learning and use the images to increase humanitarian aid. I really really really want to go. And it will be about $6000. $6000!

So, what is a frugal girl to do?

This is where Mr. Eivy comes in. I am a rule follower. We decided that we were going to live this way so I will just have to pass up this amazing opportunity. Mr. Eivy, on the other hand, is the teeter to my todder. The yang to my yin. The Han Solo to my Luke Skywalker. Or something like that. I tell him about this trip and how much it costs and he says, “Go. You have to go. This is what you want in life.” Love that man. And it’s true.

To retire early, we need to permanently reduce our expenses. I am not planning on traveling to Rwanda every month or even every year. This will be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Yes, I want to travel the world taking photos of people to tell their stories when we retire but we can do that much cheaper (I promise I’ll talk about our plan to do this in more detail later).

So, I’m going to do it. Every person must forge their own path to achieve his or her dreams. There is no right or wrong way to do this. For me, my path involves this trip to Rwanda in August.

April Wrap Up

downloadApril was a good month. It wasn’t great. We have yet to have a great month this year, but honestly it wasn’t bad.

Our washer and dryer were hanging on by a thread and we knew that we wanted the space in the laundry closest to store food for our kitchen remodel, so, we bit the bullet and traded them in for a fancy new washer/dryer combo! I normally would never buy something like this new but we knew that we wanted the combo and it is impossible to find a combo unit used. They are just too new. Or too many people like them. Whatever the reason, buying a used machine wasn’t an option so good-bye $1500 – hello washer/dryer combo.

(For those of you keeping track, we have now replaced Every. Single. Appliance. in our house so we are good for a long while. Knock on lots of wood)

Despite this huge expense, we were still able to save quite a bit.

Our savings rate for April was…drum roll, please….

50% !!!!

Our goal is to save 65% of our income each month so saving 50% after making a huge purchase is pretty good.

Another fun thing that happened this last month: I discovered a math error and cut an entire year off of our retirement date! So that was awesome. Oh yes, and the real estate market is super hot here in Seattle which means that our net worth hit over a million this month! That’s right. We are millionaires….kinda…OK – not really at all. This makes us sound much further along than we actually are. Most of that million is tied up in the value of our rental properties which we plan to sell this summer to pay off our house giving Uncle Sam a very hefty chunk of change in the process. Sigh.

Here are the numbers for April:

Percent of income saved: 50%

Percent of the way towards our goal: 44%

Thanks so much for following along on this journey. Everyday I get at least one person reaching out to cheer me along. So, how was your April?

 

 

The Simple Math Behind Retiring Early

downloadApparently, there were quite a few raised eyebrows when I posted last week that we are a mere 4 years away from Financial Independence.

I had people asking if we had inherited a large sum of money (nope). Did we win the lottery? Negative – we’d have to play to do that. Are we involved in some shady offshore dealings? Ha! OK – no one really thought this but I thought it sounded fun and made me sound cooler than I am.

The truth of the matter is much more mundane and boring. We saved. A lot. Our goal is to save 60% or more of our income every month.

The math is really simple:

If you save 100% of your income than you are financially independent. In other words, you don’t need to make any money to cover your expenses – thus you are able to save 100% of your income.

If you save 90% of your income then you are able to live off of 10% of your income and it will only take 2.7 years for you to generate that 10% passively for the rest of your life.

We save about 60% of our income which means that it will take us 12.4 years of saving 60% of our income to generate a passive income stream large enough to cover that 40% that remains.

Here is the graph that I’m using to calculate all this.

Here’s the kicker: It really doesn’t matter how much you make. If you only make $100 a year but you are able to save 90% of that (meaning that you only need $10 a year to live off of), it will only take you 2.7 years to get there.

This is why being frugal matters. When we cut our food out monthly bill from $1,000 a month (don’t judge) down to $100 a month, we shaved over five years off of our retirement date. Moving the lawn myself instead of paying someone to do it shaved 6 months off of our date. Making my own coffee at home rather than getting a Starbucks everyday cut off almost a year. You get the idea.

I can get a side job and put all that money into our savings account, but ultimately putting even an extra $1,000 in the bank matters very little compared to cutting out expenses permanently.

But, wait a minute – if it is going to take you 12 years to retire why are you only 4 years away? In short, because we have been doing this for a while. We originally wanted to retire by the time we were 30 – knowing absolutely nothing about retiring or how to get there. We just wished really hard. Surprisingly, this strategy did not work, but it did start us saving and investing. We’ve spent the last half of our 20’s and first half of our 30’s buying houses and and investing in micro-lending. Watching our net worth grow.

Knowing a little bit more about how tax advantage accounts work (hello 401K and IRA) we are now switching our strategy a bit and saving a bit more, but ultimately it is just a lot of boring saving up. Trying to get to our magic retirement number.

Magic retirement number, you ask? Yep – its the magical number that once you reach you should be able to generate enough passive income to cover your expenses. In other words – once you reach it, you are retired!

While this number is different for everyone, the take-a-way is: the less you need the lower that number will be and the sooner you will reach it. To figure out your number, first figure out what your monthly expenses are, multiple that by 12 to get your yearly expenses and multiply that by 25. This is your magic number.

Mr Eivy just read over my shoulder and pointed out that it is a bit more complicated than just saving money. True. You have to invest this money and use the 4% safe withdraw rule to calculate your passive income. This basically means that once you hit your magic number and have it safely invested, you should be able to withdraw 4% a year without touching the principal (in fact, your principal should grow 3% with inflation using this rule of thumb). I promise I’ll write more about this later so stay tuned!