Monday, November 26, 2018

40 Thousand to Freedom

There's a question that gets thrown around in the FIRE community: is achieving financial independence and early retirement possible for everyone? And I keep getting surprised that the correct answer is hardly ever uttered. I'm not sure I've heard it more than once. Which is crazy. It's such a softball question.

But no, achieving financial independence and enjoying an early retirement is clearly not possible for everyone.

Why is this even a question? Do people not understand what a lot of people make in the US?  Have they not read my excellent posts on the middle class and income quintiles? Do they feel appropriately guilty for not having read them?

I have a feeling things are really going to change for a lot of people in the FIRE community when they discover the interesting and diverse group of people sometimes described as "not us".

So let's take some time today to introduce some of these new and exciting people, using the wonder of publicly available income statistics.

Monday, October 29, 2018

A Progressive Take on Regressive Taxes

Election Day is nearly here, and buried deep down on our Tempe ballot is Proposition 417, which would increase sales tax by a tenth of a percent to fund the arts in our city. Even deeper on page two of our ballot is Prop 126, which aims to prohibit levying any future sales tax on services. (Currently, our local government can only tax goods.)

I don't know if this makes me a closet conservative, but these particular taxes rile me up. Not because I hate paying taxes: a part of me kind of likes the idea that some of my money is baked into every new sidewalk and folded into every library book. And a tenth of a percent sales tax, or applying sales tax to services, isn't going to make a dent in our high-income budget.

Still, I hate these sort of tax proposals because they are regressive: they hit people with lower incomes harder than they hit people like me. They ask someone earning minimum wage to pay a bigger percentage of her income for these taxes. Which is a really fucked up way to raise the revenue you need to run a city or a state: by going after the poorest people in your community.

So let's talk about that a bit today: why local governments get so much of their revenue by taxing the citizens who can least afford it.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Whoops, We Almost Bought a New Car for No Good Reason

Whoops. We Almost Bought a New Car for No Good Reason.
As long-time readers know, we have been battling car lust for a while. Well, at least I have. Our current car, our trusty 2006 Toyota Matrix, has never let us down. Okay, maybe the paint job has let us down a bit. And maybe my DIY clear coat job... definitely looks like a DIY clear coat job. And sure, maybe I have never gotten around to opening up the passenger side door and installing a new window motor.

But as far as things that actually matter on a twelve year old car, everything is tip top. The clutch is still springy. The engine still purrs. And most importantly here in the desert, the AC blows really, really cold.

Monday, September 17, 2018

My FIRE Journey & Inequality


A few weeks ago I was on my way to Culver's for the first time, because even a single dollar donated to the 2018 version of the GOP is one too many. So I decided to donate my burger dollars to a different joint, and Culver's seemed like it would be worth a shot.

And friends, I do not miss In and Out at all. Because, cheese curds.

But before I got to the drive-through, I heard Kai Risdall interviewing the American Enterprise Institute's outgoing president, Arthur Brooks. And, it was so good, I just had to pull over into an empty parking space. Tasty burgers could wait. [A transcript and audio of the interview can be found here.]

Monday, August 27, 2018

Three Years Out: Are We on Track for FI?

Earlier this month, I turned thirty eight. We skipped all the birthday stuff this year, no cake or parties or singing, opting instead to have a quiet day with just the family, as Mrs. Done by Forty mercilessly beat me at Kingdom Builder and Viticulture.

Birthdays be damned: her victory would not be denied. I love this woman.

"But wait," some of you might be asking. "If you turned 38, aren't you just two years away from 40? What's up with that title?"

What's up is that I'm worried that I won't be financially independent by the start of my fortieth year, so I'm cheating and giving myself until the last day I'm still forty.

That's cool, right? 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Food Deserts, Restrictive Covenants, & Market Failures

Food Deserts, Restrictive Covenants, & Market Failures
My least favorite refrain from judgy frugality bloggers is telling people to stop eating fast food & junk food, and to just cook all their meals at home.

Which is weird, right? What could possibly be wrong with that advice? Thousands saved every year, and healthier living, too. And all this abundance for only $11.

But the high horse advice reeks of a privilege that most of us are totally blind to: the fact that most of us have a dozen grocery stores we can easily drive to, in the car we just happen to own.

Or, heck, maybe we can bike there, since we apparently have all this free time and, you know, it's important to keep it tight.

But not having a car is a thing. Cities without great public transportation are a thing. And for thirty nine million Americans, food deserts are a thing.

Let's tackle the last one a bit today.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Another Mortgage Pivot


Another Mortgage Pivot
Every New Year's Day, Mrs. Done by Forty and I go to an uninspiring chain restaurant and plan out our upcoming year. We bring a little notebook, enjoy some some average-but-carb-heavy meal over bottomless sodas, and talk about everything. The trips we want to take. Babies we might want to make. Do we want more or fewer rental properties? Do we feel the same way about early retirement? What sort of fun stuff should we do if we do retire?

The Olive Garden, which is lovely, had been our usual spot for years. But it only took one meal with that dumb tablet on the table to ruin the place forever. Apparently I'm a luddite, since I don't think punching in my own order into an Amazon Fire is the best way to experience all the flavors of Tuscany.

So this year we went to Mimi's Cafe (the site of our very first date: I was also cheap way back then) to plan out all of 2018...in June of that year. And I'm just now writing about it in July.

Can we blame the baby?

Monday, July 23, 2018

A Hot, Wet Tragedy of the Commons

Baby AF, briefly and formerly known on this blog as Baby by Forty, aka BabyDB40, has been going through a six week growth spurt and denying us sleep, even on the weekends. As such, the blog's writing will experience lows not previously thought possible. Your patience is appreciated.

But before this site morphs into a dad blog, I thought we'd get back to basics: a preachy, left-leaning diatribe that lazily links something I found in the newspaper or NPR to economics and personal finance. Enjoy.

I know it's cool to dunk on the New York Times these days, and the paper has certainly given its critics plenty to be angry about. But it's still the site I go to for news (if not for op-eds) in the early morning and the way-too-late-at-night. I'll forever love the paper, flaws and all, because the writing is always so good.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Back Too Soon

Tomorrow is my first day back to work, and the end of my too-short four week paternity leave. Between the diaper changes, visits to the doctor and lactation consultant, and the regular torture of post-tongue-tie-revision exercises we have to do every four hours, I sometimes have a chance to think about financial independence and how I sure wish it were here already, so I could spend more time with the little guy.

Work is going to be hard on Monday, and not just because I'll be tired. I'm going to miss having all day, every day, to spend with the fam -- even if it is just to change diapers and practice tummy time, or trying to get the little fucker to sleep.

As always, I have no room to complain. I get to work from home, so the baby is literally just in the next room. I can open the door and see him as often as I like, which is a situation many new parents would kill for.