Monday, December 19, 2016

Off to Asia

Off to Asia
This Saturday is Christmas Eve, and our gift to ourselves this year is a trip to Asia. We're visiting Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and Siem Reap, doing our normal thing of visiting each city for about four days or so, and with our usual partners in crime: our good couple friends who've leaned into travel hacking as much as we have.

This trip is bittersweet, since my mother's recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. She just started chemo this month, and I've been driving back to Southern California to visit her. I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a lot of stress, but I'm choosing to trust her doctors' recommendations, and to be optimistic. The last few days have been especially hard. She's been in the ER and hospital on separate issues, which is the last thing she needs while she's trying to beat cancer.

Monday, December 12, 2016

My Two Selves

Thanks to an introduction from a friend, I might have a freelance writing opportunity. It was just a meeting, and nothing may come of it. Still, it's exciting to think I might earn some money doing something I enjoy. While I have some fears about what might happen to the joy I get from writing if I turn it into another j-o-b, I'm learning to come to terms with that fear because I think it might be what I'm supposed to do with myself.

There is one tricky detail to decide on: which name should I put in the byline?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Deep Work, Financial Independence, and Escape

Deep Work, Financial Independence, and Escape
I've been with my current company for four years. Coincidentally, I have about that length of time to go before we reach financial independence, or at least that's what the Mad Fientist's laboratory tells us.

Four years seems like a very short time to reach early retirement. One presidential term. One Olympics.

In another, more real way, the way that involves me going into a job every weekday for nine straight hours, and stressing about work while I'm off the clock, four years is a pretty long time. It's too long to just gut it out: to put my head down and grit my teeth until we're financially independent. I need to find a way to actually make my career more fulfilling and enjoyable, so that these next four years aren't just a slog.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Viceland, Payday, and the Hustle

Viceland, Payday, and the Hustle
This weekend, I heard about a new show on Viceland thanks to a tweet from J Money. It's called Payday, and the show "follows twenty-somethings over the course of a single pay period to see how they spend, struggle, and thrive."

Mrs. Done by Forty and I are hooked already. It doesn't hurt that the show is shot beautifully, like a film that's just artsy enough to be visually cool, but not pretentious and distracting

Monday, November 7, 2016

Onto My Bike, Into My Neighborhood

Onto My Bike, Into My Neighborhood
Just a short post this week, and thanks again to J Money at RockStar Finance, and Eric Ravenscraft and Kristin Wong at LifeHacker for featuring my little blog over the past couple weeks. I really appreciate you sharing a couple recent posts with all your readers, and I've been smiling all week as a result.

Arizona's weather is weird. Now that fall is upon us, we can finally turn off the AC for good and get outside again. A couple weeks ago, I put a new tube on one of my bike tires and decided to pedal on over to our kickball game. It was only about a mile ride, but it was fantastic.

Monday, October 31, 2016

You're Not as Busy as You Think You Are

I keep having the same conversation these days, and it bugs me every time I have it. Coworkers, family, and friends keep telling me about how busy they are. In detail.

At happy hours and dinner parties, it's always the same old tropes. Work is crazy. Management just let go of more people and is trying to do more with less. We're burning the candle at both ends.

This sense of busyness boils over to our personal lives, too. We're so buried during the work week that our weekends are spent cleaning the house, doing yard work, and catching up with the kids. When it's all said and done, there's hardly any time left for yourself, your exercise and hobbies, or personal maintenance.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Your Purchases Can't Buy You Class

Another Monday, another post chock-full of middle class goodness.

The notion that our economic class is defined, not by our income or our wealth, but by our purchases, is fairly prevalent. If you own a house, or a second car, and take the family on a vacation now and again, maybe that means you're middle class. If you rent and take the bus and don't get time away from work, maybe you're not. Middle class people wear certain types of clothes. They eat certain types of food.

This purchase-defined class structure has a historical basis, and it's been portrayed predictably, and inaccurately, throughout the years in television and in movies.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Middle Class & Income by Location

Sad Cayenne doesn't think she's in the middle class.
As we're in an election year, the two major party candidates are talking about how we need to improve things for the middle class. It makes sense. There's a great deal of mythology about the middle class in America, and it's a deep well for politicians to draw from. It doesn't hurt that we still don't have a consistent definition of what it even means to be middle class, despite the efforts of this little blog.

Nonetheless, the middle class exists, even if we can't agree on how to define it, and, somehow, everyone thinks they're middle class. While I like the idea of defining the middle class in terms of household income quintiles, most of us can agree that the middle class is a relative term, not an absolute one. To be in the middle, you need something on either side.

Monday, October 3, 2016

It's Not Going to Stop

It's Not Going to Stop
Paul Thomas Anderson is my favorite director. All his movies are perfect, and if you disagree with me, that's your right and your opinion. But you are wrong. My favorite of his movies is Magnolia (though Boogie Nights makes it a tough NSFW). It's a tear inducing drama about a web of human heartache from which its characters try to escape.

The movie illustrates, in painful and beautiful detail, the problems that we humans bring upon ourselves over and over, like addicts. We want to quit, but we can't. Part inherited, part self-inflicted, the story rings true because I think, most of us have a story like that. The thing we want to quit; the way we need to improve, and we try, but we can't seem to make happen. We viewers identify with the poor characters, because we, too, try hard, and fail, and wonder to ourselves lying in bed at night, what is wrong with us?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Early Retirement, and Where Our Property Taxes Go

Early Retirement, and Where Our Property Taxes Go
Last week we got our property tax bill. And just like every year, I was strangely excited to open it. I know this means I'm an odd duck, but there's a part of me that likes seeing how my tax dollars support the local government. It makes me feel connected to my city.

Plus, there's the fact that our property taxes benefit from a cap: they can only increase 5% each year no matter what happens to property values. But there's no limit on how much they can fall. So when we purchased our home in 2010, our property tax bill was a preposterously low $872. They continued to fall each year until 2013, hitting a low of $762, as the assessments seemed to lag behind the property value trends. Then, as property values in Arizona fully recovered, our tax bills only increased 5% each year. So, somehow, our taxes are lower now than they were at the depth of the real estate crisis of 2009 and 2010, even though our home is worth double what it was back then. Ain't local government grand?

Monday, September 19, 2016

Always Be Frontloading?

Quick apology for the hiatus. We have a new puppy, Cayenne, who is adorable and is pictured there on the right, but also wakes us up four times a night to go outside and pee, and who needs constant supervision all day, and has already given us two scares with the vet. So we're sleep deprived in the Done by Forty household, and all our attention is going to the pup, and to life, and to sneaking in short naps to stay sane. But back to the blog...

As you've surely found out by now, we've stolen all the ideas we use for financial independence. The concept itself we got from Mr. Money Mustache. We learned how to invest in index funds from Jim Collins. We learned that living with our parents well into our forties was okay from Joe and O.G at Stacking Benjamins. So, I borrow from the real experts. But what do you expect? I majored in English, not Finance.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Early Retirement Isn't for You

Early Retirement Isn't for You
*from CubaGallery at Flickr Creative Commons
A lot of good bloggers are getting featured in mainstream news outlets these days. Which is good, I think. Even if the comments aren't positive, the narrative of someone like the Mad Fientist or the 1500 Days clan on a major outlet needs to be shared. Right?

I figure with how little the average worker even thinks about retirement, let alone actually saves for it, these outlier stories have value. They show another way to approach retirement, to approach work, money, life...all of it. 

The thing that drives me a little crazy is the ignorant vitriol in the comments section. Why bother to spew negativity if you're not going to spend even a little time reading up on these people you're criticizing?

Monday, August 22, 2016

House Lust

House Lust
Back in June, we decided to take out a mortgage on our paid-off home. Why would we do such a thing? Opportunity costs. Paying off the low interest debt on our mortgage gave us a guaranteed return, though not as good of a return as we expect to get in a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds. Any dollar you put towards one goal can't also be put towards something else, and all that. So we're investing the funds...mostly.

But that's just the sensible, personal finance reason that I'm obligated to state on the blog.

Another reason, the real reason, was that we wanted to buy another house. One in Tempe, close to our friends' new house, with visions of us walking with our future children over to our buddies' place for board games and beverages. If we couldn't use our wealth to buy the kind of life we imagined for us and our family, what's the point?

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Privileged

The Privileged
I'm a fan of Marketplace, the NPR program on finance and economics. But I especially love Marketplace Weekend, their Saturday show that takes a look at personal finance. I loved it back when Tess Vigeland hosted, and it seems even better now with Lizzie O'Leary.

This week's show had a segment on one of the uniquely modern career dilemmas: work-life balance. I'm sure we're all too familiar with this problem today's worker deals with daily, trying to find the happy medium between career, and everything else we label as life.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Writing it Down

Writing it Down
Writing is hard right now, especially in the mornings when I remember stuff all over again. But I am trying to keep up with good habits. I figure you're always reinforcing some sort of habit, no matter what you're doing...or avoiding doing. It's all building a routine.

So I might as well reinforce something healthy, like brushing my teeth and showering, shopping for food and cooking our own meals, or taking walks with the family, instead of drinking too many beers, wasting time on the internet, watching too much television, or playing hours of Fifa on the PlayStation.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

To Pepper

To Pepper
That's Pepper. Yesterday, I got up early to take her to the vet for dental work. Her breath had gotten bad lately and our regular teeth brushing didn't seem to be helping. On a prior visit, the clinic's doctor explained they might need to extract a tooth or two depending on the x-rays. We brought her in on Tuesday morning, and the vet would call us when it was time to pick her up. But when they called, they told us she passed away after they gave her anesthesia. The doctor gave her epinephrine and performed CPR for over half an hour, but none of that worked.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Are We on Track to Retire by Forty?

Are We on Track to Retire by Forty?
It's my birthday later this month, my thirty sixth. This month is my annual reminder to do a lot of things I usually don't care to think about, but still have to do. Note to self: remember to eat a bunch of cake while your friends and loved ones sing for you, pay for your life insurance policy, take a look at that beer belly and make some fitness goals, and check in on this plan to retire by the time you're forty.

Our early retirement goal is a scant four years from now, which on top of putting some real pressure on us to kick our savings into gear, is just plain old depressing since, you know, I'm going to be forty dang years old.

To the kids reading this, that whole YOLO thing has some legs. Get out there and live life while you're young and mistakes are encouraged.

Monday, July 25, 2016

What Happens When Humans Need Not Apply?

What Happens When Humans Need Not Apply
Last week we wrote about our trip to Africa which, given the state of affairs, was perhaps a little too upbeat and cheery. Life isn't all vacations and new experiences. Life is work, and disappointment, and setbacks, and sometimes dealing with hardship. Especially the kind of upcoming hardships that CGP Grey talks about in depressing-but-fast-paced-and-somehow-still-entertaining videos.

In case you hadn't heard, automation is coming for us...and probably not the kind of automation you're used to, either.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Our Trip to Africa

One of our not-so-secret goals is to visit six of seven continents before we start a family. I assume that as soon as we have babies, that our international travel will change dramatically, if not go on a multi-year hiatus altogether.

Stupid babies, they ruin everything.

So far we've been able to visit a lot of North America (layup!), South America a few times, a few trips to Europe, and, as of last month, Africa. Here's a little breakdown of where we went and what we did, with a couple travel hack tips, to boot.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Mortgages, Student Loans, and Good Debt

Mortgages, Student Loans, and Good Debt
Like so many other personal finance nerds, I've spent the last week digging in to JL Collins' new book, The Simple Path to Wealth. I'll spare you another positive review trying to convince you of its merits, or why you should buy it. Not my job, pal.

If you're too cheap to spend eleven bucks on the one book that will finally make you rich and happy, then don't come crying to me in six months when you find yourself destitute, friendless, eating cold pork-n-beans out of a can at the public library, and creeping everyone out.

These are your choices, Bean Can McGee. You just have to live with the consequences.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Oops, We Have a Mortgage Again

That's the title of our terrible Brittany Spears spoof. But it's true, kind of. After aggressively paying off the mortgage on our primary residence a mere three years after buying our first home, mostly thanks to Dave Ramsey and his crazy baby step number six, we're now in the process of a cash-out refi and tapping that equity, so we can end up right back where we started with a one hundred thousand dollar mortgage.

No one ever said we knew what we were doing with money.

Monday, June 13, 2016

When a Million Ain't Enough

When a Million Ain't Enough
We're back home, readers. After three and a half glorious weeks on the circumference of Africa, and a few sweet hours on the edge of Europe in Lisbon, we are finally back with our lovable pups in our cute little house in the god-forsaken heat that is the Arizona summer. While we were away though, I finally got back into writing a bit, and reading your blogs, too. It's been a while.

I recently read something great on Garth Turner's "Greater Fool". Garth featured the young and annoyingly successful Millennial Revolution writers, who had the audacity to retire at 31 in true Mustachian fashion. Thirty freaking one. Nothing like seeing your younger compatriots do better than you to make your own goal of leaving the workforce by forty seem lame.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Did We Just Walk into a Child Labor Shop?

Did We Just Walk into a Child Labor Shop?
We were at the end of a too-long tour of Cairo, starting with the Giza Pyramids, then driving out of town to Memphis to see the original capital of Egypt, then off to Sakkara to see the very first pyramids on earth, that are somehow still standing after nearly five thousand years.

We were heading home when our guide mentioned we could go to a rug-making school, where children learn how to weave, a worthwhile skill in a place so stricken by poverty. And we could look at their handy-work and maybe buy a little something if we wanted.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Budget Porn: Our 2015 Spending

In the halcyon days of 2012, when this blog was bright eyed, and idealistic, we wrote net worth and budget posts every month. They were my favorite, as the posts basically wrote themselves. I just cut and pasted an image out of my budget spreadsheet, talked about the categories we did well in and where we did poorly, and poof, all of a sudden I had eight hundred words on truly personal finance: my personal finances. Eventually, when people we knew in real life started reading the blog, we took all those posts down, along with any others that crossed the line into the gauche. It felt weird that some friends and family knew our exact net worth or how much we spent on groceries and medical care.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

I Miss My Tax Refund

This past Sunday, I finally did our taxes. I normally look forward to this the way young children pine for Christmas, or Ben Wyatt's almost-accounting colleagues look forward to playing Ledgerman in Cones of Dunshire. I assumed the fact that I liked taxes was just my inner-nerd making itself known, or maybe more evidence that I should have majored in Accounting instead of English. But this year I found myself kind of hating the task. Because this spring, for the first time ever, I owe Uncle Sam money instead of getting a refund.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

When I Dip, You Dip, We Dip

So it's already February, which means we're enjoying the best weather we'll see in 2016 in Arizona. The windows are open all day and night, we can walk around in bare feet and t-shirts and rolled up jeans, and summer is a distant fear on the horizon.

But on the investing front, the start of the year hasn't been nearly as enjoyable. The S&P500 is down nearly double digit percentage points in just the past six weeks, and the bull run that we've been on since the depths of the financial crisis has, at least, stalled. If you're invested in American markets, you've probably lost a good bit of money in the past month and a half.