Saturday, December 30, 2017

A Few Simple Changes

A Few Simple Changes
I cannot resist the siren call of the New Year's resolution. Sure, this system of goal setting has literally never worked for me. And yeah, I am now in my thirty seventh year, so why should things change this late in the game?

But motivation is a rare thing, and I should at least try to capture it the one time a year it predictably shows its head like Punxsutawney Phil.

My goal is to bring our annual spending back to $40,000 again. That translates to a very attractive looking $3,333 a month. We used to come in under that figure, no problem... back after we'd paid off our mortgage. So, yeah, apples and elephants now that we have a big honking mortgage again, I know.

Still, when I look at a single month, it sure does seem possible. Plus, I have a secret weapon, as shown in the picture.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Fresh Start & Rockstar Finance

Somehow, 2017 is nearly at an end. And despite how busy we always seem to get in the Done by Forty household each December, I really do treasure this time of year.

It's a time when we're reminded of the joy of spending time with the people we love and who love us back, the simple pleasure of a glass of eggnog and warm wool socks, and the importance of giving to others.

J Money and the good people over at Rockstar Finance were kind enough to grant us $100 from their Community Fund, so we could do a little good in our hood here in Arizona. 

I immediately thought of the organization our good friend Mandy works for: Fresh Start Women's FoundationMandy was cool enough to answer some questions for us. 

If you're interested in awesome charities devoted to empowering women, give the interview a read, and please consider donating if you're able.  

Monday, December 18, 2017

Football, Choking Puppies, and Perspective

As a football fan who grew up in Western Pennsylvania, I spent most of last week thinking about the Steelers game against the Patriots. Whoever won the game would likely be the AFC's #1 seed, and the road to the Super Bowl would then go through their home stadium. The stakes were high.

History hasn't been kind to the Steelers in this match up: the Patriots have won 10 of the last 13 games, including some truly lopsided AFC Championship Games. Tom Brady & Belichick just have the Steelers' number.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Budget Porn: November 2017

Another month in the books, another budget blown. 2017 is proving to be the spendiest on record, and we just keep leaning in to it. I don't know what's up, but frugality has not been the theme this year.

Can I blame the political environment? Maybe Trump made me do it.

Or maybe this budget post is just fake news. I don't like what my spreadsheet is showing me. Maybe I can just call the numbers "alternative facts" and be done with it.

These false figures can't be trusted. Our real budget is fine. Better than fine: terrific, just terrific. Spending is right where we want it to be.

Monday, December 4, 2017

PF Chat: Diversity in Personal Finance

PF Chat: Diversity in Personal Finance
Hi there, blog peeps. Today we have something special to share on the site: the advice of entertaining writers who actually know what they're talking about.

In the first installment of an ongoing series, that is shamelessly stolen from FiveThirtyEight, we're bringing you some of the best voices in the personal finance world to discuss a topic in our field. This week, we're hosting the dynamic duo at Millennial Revolution, Bryce and Kristy, as well as Kitty from Bitches Get Riches, to chat about diversity in personal finance. 

Yeah, we're diving in with both feet here. 

Fair warning: the chat is chock full of NSFW language. Enjoy!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Charity, State Tax Credits, and Uncle Sam

Everyone have a good Thanksgiving? Us, too.

I always forget how simple it is to make myself happy. All I need is to spend time with the people I love. That's it. Throw in some board games, a plate of good food, and a hoppy beer, and it just feels like cheating. How can I not be happy with all of that, and all those smiling, hugging people around me?

But the reality of work beckons again, at least for a little while. And the possibility of an early retirement seems pretty sweet on Mondays like this, coming back from a too-short vacation.

Monday, November 20, 2017

This Little Life of Mine

Just a short post this week, as tonight I will be driving Mrs. Done by Forty and our two golden retrievers up to the mountains outside of San Bernadino, to visit our family, catch up with loved ones, watch all the football, take nerdy board games too seriously, and eat and drink beyond any sensible point.

There really is no better holiday than Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is for all of us: a time to gather with everyone you love and who loves you back, even though they voted for the wrong person last year, and are going to ruin dinner by telling you about Pizzagate, again, when all truly you want from Uncle John is the mashed potatoes.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Car Lust

Car Lust
I'm horny, dear readers. 

Some days, when Mrs. Done by Forty leaves for work, I take my laptop into the bedroom, put the dogs out in the hallway, and I pull up my favorite site: Craigslist.

But, no, I don't click on the personals or the dreaded casual encounters link. No, friends. I get off on something weird. What gets my engine running is a sleek, gently used, and maybe a little dirty....Subaru Outback.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Budget Porn: October 2017

October has come and gone, and so have all three groups of trick-or-treaters who visited our house this Halloween. 

In our old neighborhood, so many kids came that we often had to head out for an extra bag of candy. Now, we apparently live in a hood populated exclusively by childless couples, the elderly, and dentists.

On the plus side, we are Kit Kat rich.

Today we'll take a break from our regularly scheduled liberal propaganda to check in on our spending from October, and to see how we're trending towards financial independence.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Benefits Now!

Benefits Now!
We humans kind of suck at evaluating things that impact us far off in the future: retirement, our long term health, impacts to the environment, stuff like that.

If starting a small habit today will have big benefits to us decades from now, but is still minorly inconvenient, say, putting one additional percent of our salary into a 401k this month as Paula Pant suggests, we often will choose to indefinitely delay the inconvenience.

After all, we could die tomorrow. Who wants to be the sucker who denied himself a series of small benefits today for a tomorrow that never comes? Yolo, mofo.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Housing, Mobility, and Opportunity

Housing, Mobility, and Opportunity
My family has always been mobile. My mother moved here from the Philippines in the seventies with an associates degree from the lesser known MIT: Mapua Institute of Technology. My father took his mechanical engineering degree from Massachusetts to chase the jobs where they led him: South Africa, San Francisco (where he met my mother), Arizona (where I was born), Nevada, Montana, before finally settling our family in Pittsburgh, where the pay was pretty good and you could buy a big house in the suburbs with good schools on a single income.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Inside the Index

Inside the Index
If you write about personal finance long enough, you find yourself walking some well-worn ground. After a while, it seems we all take a crack at the same tired problems that so many other writers have over the years.

We've all written about paying off consumer debt. And who hasn't had a hot take on a way to be just a little more frugal?

So with my apologies, today I'm writing about a subject that you've all heard about too much these days: genocide, and why it's not good.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Budget Porn: September 2017

Budget Porn: September 2017
They say that you never bury the lede, so here it is: September destroyed our budget.

We spent way above our long term monthly average, most of our spending was completely discretionary, and this month threw off our future financial independence projections pretty significantly.

We might have screwed up.

Let's dig into the details to see how.

Monday, September 25, 2017

A Visit to Copenhagen

A Visit to Copenhagen
Happy Monday, friends. We are going to try something that hasn't been accomplished on this blog in years: writing weekly. And to keep the streak going, today we're going to tell you about our trip to Copenhagen.

We went, as we tend to do, with our good couple friends who have similarly leaned into travel rewards, thanks to Brad at Richmond Savers. We ended up doing a stopover (a long, multi-day layover) in Copenhagen, that allowed us to also visit Berlin, come back, and then continue on the same ticket on our way to Stockholm. Basically, on our (nearly) free ticket to Stockholm, we took a extra week in between to visit another couple cities.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Median Income, Middle Class

Median Income, Middle Class
The Census Bureau came out with a new report last week, which gives me a chance to write about my favorite topics: the middle class, and middle class income.

It's such a charged term: middle class. Everyone has an idea of what it means, even if we don't agree on a single definition. But a median household is a decent place to start, as no matter what your definition of "middle class", I bet the median household fits within it.

So let's take a look at what that median household earns.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Triumphant Return of Budget Porn!

The Triumphant Return of Budget Porn!
After a multi-year hiatus, we are bringing back the blog's most popular running series: budget porn.

I took down all the porn after I was interviewed for an article by a reporter, and then, that night, quickly freaked out about our anonymity being blown. I emailed the reporter and pleaded with her to please kill the article, which was a jerk move on my part as she'd already started working on it.

She was nice enough to acquiesce, but the interview brought our feelings about what we wanted to keep private into focus.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Three Years Out: Are We on Track for FI?

Three Years Out: Are We on Track for FI?
Two weeks ago, I turned thirty seven. It's a weird feeling, getting old. I don't feel old. I feel like the same person, minus a little softness around the tummy and a hairline that isn't quite where I left it.

And yet here I am, older, supposedly an adult; not some kid trapped in a man's life, still playing kickball and board games and drinking too many beers on a school night.

As each year comes, we hit another milestone on our path to financial independence. We've only got three mile markers left before the big four-o. Will we make it?

Let's see what the Mad Fientist's laboratory says.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Iceland's Ring Road in a Kuku

Iceland's Ring Road in a KukuOn our recent trip to Northern Europe, we were able to use hotel points for all the countries except for one: Iceland. A friend had suggested that we try driving around the ring road in a van, and we immediately fell in love with the idea.

We always stay in hotels or AirBNBs. Why not a van for a change?

We started reaching out to rental companies to see if we could score a deal in exchange for writing a review. (Full disclosure: we received a discount on the rental, and some free items for the van, like sleeping bags, pillows, and a GPS.)

Kuku Campers was the first to write back, and they had the added bonus of being a funky, cool company, to boot. See that picture to the above? That's our van. Adventure Time!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Taxes, Behavior, and Regressive Incentives

Taxes, Behavior, and Regressive Incentives
As the latest attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act have recently failed, it seems that Congress is moving on to the next item on their agenda: tax reform. I guess that's why I keep stumbling on articles suggesting drastic changes to the tax code: like eliminating the mortgage interest deduction.

My main beef is not with any specific deduction in our tax code. (Though the mortgage interest deduction is curious, to say the least.)

Rather, I think our system of deductions runs counter to the goals of our progressive income tax system itself. Looking at most of the incentives, the more you earn, and the more tax you pay, the more you benefit from the programs.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Selling a Rental We've Never Seen

We're finally back from our trip to northern Europe: three and a half weeks of travel hacked goodness spent with our good friends from Phoenix. We'll have some posts and plenty of pictures to share from the trip in the coming weeks.

But we first wanted to tell you about the sale of one of our rentals, that we managed to accomplish mostly via email and digital signatures, from a smartphone.

Let's start at the beginning. How did we come to even own this house?

Monday, June 26, 2017

Hard Externalities in a Long Supply Chain

Hard Externalities in a Long Supply Chain
USA Today recently put out a great in-depth report on short-haul trucking out of LA, called "Rigged". These are not the 18-wheelers you pass on a cross-country road trip, but rather trucks that take goods from a port in Southern California to local warehouses and rail yards: "one small step on their journey to a store near you." 

After taking on unexpected debt at the behest of their employers, these short-distance truckers became embroiled in what has been described as a modern day form of sharecropping: coerced into debt by employers who then used that debt to exploit them, and to keep the workers captive.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Our Trip to Asia

Our Trip to Asia
We're about to leave for our next travel hacked trip, thanks again to the help of Brad at Richmond Savers and ChooseFI. We're making a little loop in northern Europe, from Denmark, to Germany, then Sweden, Iceland, and Scotland. It'll be our last hurrah before we settle down and try to make Baby Done by Forty.

And I'm realizing I never bothered to write up a post on our last trip to Asia. We'll keep it short on the words and heavy on the pictures this time around, for some easy Monday morning scrolling.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Interview on LifeHacker

The sun has shined on our little blog, as Kristin Wong, she of LifeHacker and New York Times fame, asked to interview me recently on a post I wrote back in April: "Boredom, Cognitive Ability, and the Mental Retirement Effect". After Mrs. Done by Forty and I danced around the living room like children, and I texted every person I know to brag, I said yes.

You can read her piece, "Why Early Retirement Isn't as Awesome as It Sounds," along with all the rest of Kristin's excellent work, on the Two Cents section at LifeHacker.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Spending is Arbitrary

Spending is Arbitrary
I really like the ChooseFI podcast. 

While I love me some MarketplacePlanet Money, and Stacking Benjamins, the ChooseFI show is the only podcast in my rotation where the specific issues impacting financial independence and early retirement are front and center. Plus, their opening music is indistinguishable from 1970's porn music, so it's got that going for it, which is nice

Monday, May 8, 2017

Stagnant Wages, Inequality, and Early Retirement

Stagnant Wages, Inequality, and Early Retirement
The other day the missus and I were browsing through our wage history on the Social Security Website,, because we are nerds. Or, at least I am, and my wife loves me enough to humor my personal finance oddities.

My first wages? All the way back in 1994, when I was earning $4.25 an hour busing tables on the weekends at King's: Pittsburgh's crummy version of a Denny's. (Our good version? Eat'n Park. If you have the opportunity, by all means try the salad bar, a coffee, and a smiley cookie.) Since then, it's been a fairly steady march towards higher and higher wages, with some big jumps coinciding with big life choices (leaving the public sector, turning my back on teaching, and selling out to become a corporate shill).

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Boredom, Cognitive Ability, and the Mental Retirement Effect

Boredom, Cognitive Ability, and the Mental Retirement Effect
Anybody bored these days? Me, neither. Things have been moving a good-but-hectic pace the last few months. Between all our house stuff, making a farmhouse table (credit to Mrs. Done by Forty for the cool stain and finish and our friends for all the distressing), work deciding to pick up out of nowhere, and learning how to maintain a pool on the fly, I don't have the gall to feel bored. At all. Every day has a list of things to keep me occupied, and I kind of like it.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Should I Stay in My Lane?

Should I Stay in My Lane?
Sorry again for the long haitus. We have been juggling a lot with unpacking, getting ready for our housewarming party, which was lovely, building a farmhouse table in time for our party guests to distress with random tools, and selling our house. In case you were wondering, we went with option 2, selling to the investor for $225k, with them paying for all the closing costs.

There are never any good excuses for not writing for three whole weeks, but I suppose these reasons are better than most that I give. We're settling back in to a normal routine and I'm aiming to publish something new every Monday until our next trip in July. Here's to making it happen.

Monday, March 27, 2017

We Up and Bought a House

We Up and Bought a House
Cayenne doing her favorite thing: chilling in the yard.
It happened: we bought a new home. And we freaking love it already. Through nights of packing boxes, selling things on eBay and craigslist, and bringing carloads of donations to Goodwill, we've managed to get all our worldly possessions from one house to another thanks to some good friends, a couple pizzas, and a lot of hoppy beer. I'm writing this post from the back porch with my dog and a beverage, and it's downright idyllic. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Financial Resolutions

We're now into March, which is about the time when I realize that this is not the year that I'm going to finally lose those fifteen pounds, or learn to play guitar, and I'm going to be the same, overweight, non-musical slob I was last year.

Now, maybe you're one of those annoying people who "betters themselves" and "uses an accountability partner" and "doesn't eat four doughnuts for breakfast" which, if so, good for you. I am not one of those people. Still, I set goals each and every year, even if all past evidence points to me falling short again.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

How Millennials Are Changing The Way We Handle Money

How Millennials are Changing the Way We Handle Money

The following is a guest post authored by Jessica Cooper.

Born from the 1980s to the turn of the century, Millennials are careful with their money, but unlike their baby boomer parents, they're had to manage their money in tough economic times. Many of them put off marriage because they can't cope with the expense of a wedding - they also can't bear to be seen to be doing anything in half measures.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Backloaded Traditional IRA?

Backloaded Traditional IRA?
Not that Ira.
Disclaimer: the following post includes discussion of both taxes and investments, two painfully boring topics that are liable to put you to sleep. It is strongly recommended that you drink no fewer than two espressos prior to reading this blog post, and wait at least an hour before operating a motor vehicle or heavy machinery. Additionally, nothing contained below constitutes tax or investment advice.

We just filed our taxes, and got back about seven hundred dollars. This is just as we'd hoped for: to land within spitting distance of what we owe. With a couple of rental properties that might have unexpected expenses, and whose tenants might vacate unexpectedly, too, it's tough to predict a whole year's income and expenses ahead of time.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Unsustainable American Dream

The Unsustainable American Dream
I like thinking about cliche stuff. Like what it means to be middle class, and how we're supposed to feel when we get there. And what it means when we talk about "the American Dream," since we spend so much of our lives pursuing it.

Personally, I think the American Dream means providing a better life for your kids than the life you had. We're most often talking about economics: we want our kids to have a better chance at a successful career, to be able to afford a college education, to buy a home, and to live a comfortable life.

Monday, February 6, 2017

2016 Was the Worst (Our Annual Spending)

Of all the terrible things that happened in 2016, with Russia and the head of the FBI openly messing with our elections, and the president of the Philippines calling Obama "the son of a whore" like it's no big deal, and a sixty eight year old Peyton Manning somehow winning another Super Bowl, the worst thing of all may have been all the money we spent last year.

Maybe I'm too self-centered.

Let's just get in to it. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Should I Stay or Should I Go?
I have a recap in the works for our Asia trip, but I'm working on a new format (and website) for that post, so you'll have to wait to suffer through my amateur photographs and mundane anecdotes. But in the interim, please step into our latest, ongoing mental anguish: whether we should stay in our current home, or move to a new one.

I know we've written about this in the past, and came to a decision that we thought was firm: to renovate our current home and make it pretty. And low and behold, we hem, we haw, and question our past selves. So why not crowd-source our living situation?

Come on. It'll be fun.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Leap Away from Work

We're finally back from Asia, which was lovely. I'll have a summary next week, but today I have a quick post on leaping away from work.

I’m finishing Tess Vigeland’s Leap, which is maybe the best book I read in 2016. It documents her decision to leave the big, fancy job hosting Marketplace Weekend, without a specific plan for what would come next. No job lined up. Not starting a charity or a business or writing a novel: just an understanding that what she was doing wasn’t working all that well anymore, and that something needed to change. A real leap, without knowing where she would land.