Saturday, March 11, 2017

Pursuit of Happiness: Your Life or Your Money

You can never make enough money, but you will run out of time.
-       Mrs. Y's Facebook status

We graduated from school. We were eager to join the workforce. We got our first paycheck. We moved on from our first job to a better paying job. We worked harder and for longer hours, hoping for that promotion and that raise. We did not take vacations. We chained ourselves to our desks.

According to Project: Time Off ( , workers in America wasted 658 million paid vacation days. There was also a commercial from Visa, showing kids telling parents those were PAID vacation days. Most of us are so invested in our job. We no longer try to think what the work is providing for. We work but we are not living. Luckily, Mrs and Mr Y realized that and started our pursuit of happiness when we found our what made us happy. We made sure we utilize all our paid vacation days and used those to explore the world.

Among many of the MMM Facebook groups and blogs, it is usually suggested that spending money on many things should be avoided. It is true that to reach the goal of financial dependence, saving is an essential part to it. If I understood MMM correctly, he recommended avoid buying things you do not need, but instead, use it on experiences and things that enrich your life. I took the picture below from our latest trip to Antarctica. The trip is worth a series of posts itself and will come soon in the future.

For the past few years, we spent more than 60% of our total annual income on travel, mostly small-group travel. Those trips tend to fairly pricey, but the experience and accommodations were incredible.  One of the trips we were able to tour an active archaeological dig site that was not open to the public. On another trip, we had a National Geographic photographer as our photo instructor. We valued those experiences as lifelong memories that are worth more than the money spent. We tend to do those trips with small travel groups, because of safety concerns and the remoteness of the areas.

We still do some of the trips on our own, both domestically and internationally. For trips that we do on our own, we try to utilize points that we have earned. We were able to explore a few European cities the past April and will continue to do that this year and the years to come.  Wandering through an ancient city and tasting the different cuisine widens our horizons. Travel urges us to learn more about the world, its people of the region, the language, and the culture.

I do not think I can live without travel any more because now I know how much there is to see outside the 15 mile radius we live in. The wonders of the world is our happiness. We probably will not be able to see everything, but we should try anyways.

Spending money on things may not bring additional happiness, but the experience of travel will. Do not hit the pause button on travel because of your financial independence goal. Do not wait to travel until retirement. Explore the world while you are still young, so you can experience it and to live.

Happy travels in 2017!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

We are back!

We took a long break from our blog. The last blog post just kind of ended when I ran out of things to write out. But I think it is time to start writing about this brand-new life we stumbled upon, after we moved the blog to a private repository a few years ago.

Shortly after we found the online community of FI bloggers, I was laid off. I started a stay-home-wife/retirement experiment. I soon realized that I was not exactly cut out for staying at home all day. I did start a new position not too long afterwards, but the commute was brutal. 1.5 hours one way on a good day. Talking about wasting away your life away on a commute, this would have been the prefect example. It was also that job, that allowed me to meet two wonderful ladies who traveled the world. They opened my eyes and led me to discover what I truly wanted for my life.

We were lucky to have been able to travel with National Geographic in the summer of 2014 to Alaska on a small group tour. That was the gateway trip to all our other future travels. The week that we spent in the wilderness made me realize that there was so much to see in the world, rather than just the desk I was chained to, more than 40 hours a week. The following year we decided to start working on our travel list. It also started our real travels (not that we didn't travel before, but these new trips were all once in a lifetime experience). In 2015, we went to Peru and Morocco, with a few shorter trips within the United States (Galena, Pittsburgh and New York).

All the different natural wonders, cultural differences, delicious food and wonderful people we met confirmed our idea of early retirement and financial independence. It also made me realize that I was no longer interested in climbing the corporate ladder. Along with Mr. Y, we were making decent income even though we might be on the lower tier compared to our friends. It became very clear that we wanted a more balanced work/life relationship. The long commute was certainly not the thing for us.

Mr. Y started working from home for a startup with a small pay cut. And one year later, I followed suit by making the decision of taking a job 7 miles/15 minute drive with slightly lower pay, but more vacation days than a my previous job. Even though the job would almost have no upward mobility, I was happy with the work-life balance it promised to offer. 

Within the past year, we were able to see more of the world: Oman, UAE, UK, France, Italy, Argentina, and Antarctica. The more places we have been, the longer the list has become. The world is just a big place, but our time on earth is so limited. It is a good plan to start early, to see the world and walk the earth as much as you can. Waiting until you're 65 is not ideal.

We started the blog years ago trying to witness our journey towards financial independence without too much success, but we now want to share our true-life journey instead.

Hello, world! We are back!!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thanksgiving and Milestone

It is the start of the holiday season and on this very special day, we are very thankful for everything we have.

This year, we are thankful for:

- the roof over our head

It started snowing very early this year. I am very thankful we did not live in the area with 16 feet snow. Earlier this year, our house suffered damages due to hail and strong wind. Luckily, insurance paid for most of that and we now have a new roof and half of new sidings.

- family and friends

It is wonderful to have family and friends always by your side through good or rough times. We are thankful for family helping out when we need.

- wonderful trip in the wilderness

The trip to Alaska opened our eyes and firmed our goals of early retirement. It reminded us of all the greatness that is out there awaiting for us to see. It is not worth a lifetime to make money but to chained to a desk. It is important to live to experience.

- hiking 

It was the new found hobby of ours. It increased our activity level and helped us stay in better shape. It seems to be a nice thing to be closer to nature and appreciate what we have so close to us.

- reached another milestone

We officially reached 600k as of today. Exactly 600,000, 7 months after we reached the halfway mark of half a million. Market has been hype for the past month and we continue to save and invest. We are another step closer to FI.

It is Thanksgiving. We have food on the table and family around us. It is snowing outside. It has been a good year so far. There is nothing better than starting the holiday season with family.

We wish you a happy Thanksgiving. And Gobble! Gobble!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Water Cooler Stories - Brown Bag Lunch

Nowadays, we all sit in small spaces in modern office buildings. Row after row of cubicles like diligent worker bees. Because of the tight spaces, I tend to overhear many interesting stories. Today I would like to share with you a story about brown bag lunches.

One of the younger worker bees decided to increase some of his cash flow by making sandwiches, instead going out for lunch every day. One of his friends stopped by and said it was not worth the effort and the time. He stated that each lunch was probably less than $10 and it did not really add up that much for a year. 

I listened and smiled. Then I did some simple math (see below) the same night. The following calculation assumes that lunch is $7 and there are 20 work days per month. It also assumes that the average American works for 35 years. To be safe, I only used a 6% rate of return on investments.

At $7 per lunch at 20 lunches a month, it is really only $1,680 per year. On a salary of $55,000, that is roughly 3% of total income per year. It is not that much, you might think to yourself. However, given enough time, saving that little money a year - it can turn into almost $200,000 by the time it's time to retire. Again, this is because of the time value of money.  However, the calculation is fairly conservative.  The average return is probably around 8-10%, which would significantly increase the total savings amount.

Usually people who do not bring lunch to work, will also end up buying dinner as well. Enjoying good food is never a bad thing. However, it can be affect your overall health, in addition to creating holes in your cash flow. Restaurant food sure tastes great, but it also means high sodium and more oil/fat you're putting into your body.

Home cooked food can also be delicious and can save some money on the side. Home cooking might take some time, but can be a great experience trying new things on our own without breaking the bank.

Financial independence is our ultimate goal. Anything we can easily do to save that extra dollar without greatly affecting our life experience is good. With that in mind, we will continue to bring our own tasty home made lunches to work. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

August 2014 Net Worth Update

Wow, August was a crazy month.

August means property tax was due. We currently live in one of the states with the highest property taxes, so our property tax is pretty significant. Even after our large payment, our net worth still increased quite a bit. The market hit again new highs yet again. The following month requires us to pay estimated taxes too. Paying estimated taxes is better than owing a large amount next April due to underpayment penalties. 

Looking at our investment breakdown, you can see most of the increase is due to stocks/ETFs. Our stocks/ETFs increased about 11k - almost 6%. P2P lending experienced a slightly lower month at around $700, or less than 1% for the month. 

Our passive income is growing fairly well. We plan to increase P2P lending to 100k total and limit it there. We want to invest the rest into index funds or REITs. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Goals in Life for A Dear Friend of Mine

Hello, Mrs Y here. I was busy working this afternoon in my office and all of a sudden, thought of a conversation I had with a friend during beginning of the year. As it was time for New Years Resolutions, I asked her what she wanted in her life. Her answer was a successful career, a happy marriage, and a condo in the city. I smiled.

Here's some background information about my friend. She is almost 30, works as a tax accountant in one of the large accounting firms. Half of the year, she is usually extremely busy, working 60-80 hours a week. During the other half, she works 9-5. She has a terrible commute like mine, about 3 hours a day.

Since she is too busy working most of the time, she is still single. She is always saying that she can never meet the right man at the right time. Well, think about it. If you work about 12 hours a day and spend another three on a train, there is really no time to meet people. Time is a real problem here.

Now about her career. There is always one common theme about those large companies - no loyalty. The time and effort employees put in usually do not equal to pay increases or promotions. There is really no such thing as a successful career when all you have is just a job to make money. Plus, what can you do with your success when you have no one to share the happiness with? The other thing to keep in mind is that everyone can be easily replaced. It is just a matter of time before the new college graduate catches on and performs your job just as good as you. Don't ever overestimate your value to your company. Profit is always the bottom line driving most companies. Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of good companies out there as well, but they are hard to find.

I am always too hesitant to share the whole financial independence dream and early retirement ideas with my friend. You see, you can never stop working and have enough money in the Asian community. If you stop working in your 30s, there must be something wrong with you or you are just so horrible at your job that you have to stay home instead.

So, back to my friend's final goal of having a nice condo, with a doorman in the city. It is really worth it? The city is always much more expensive to live in. It probably makes more sense if you are making significantly more money than you would in a nearby smaller town. The good thing with my friend is that she still lives with her parents. That is smart of her since it saves her tons of money. What she has been doing with her money is another story to tell for another time.

Everyone has different goals in life. I will not force my friend to agree with me on my early retirement approach. However, her goals strengthens my brief that work is just a method of accumulating wealth for a better and more independent life.