Lifestyle

October 2023 Early Retirement Update

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Welcome back to another monthly update from Root of Good! Fall is in full swing here, with the leaves shifting from green to various hues of yellow, orange, and red. The mornings are cool and crisp and the afternoons pleasantly mild and sunny. It’s a great time to enjoy the outdoors since the summertime heat, humidity, and bugs are completely gone. 

Even though we don’t have any travel planned for this fall, I’ve been busy researching and planning future trips in my free time. Our next big trip in about a month will take us to South America onboard a cruise from Miami during Christmas break. And after that, we hope to do a couple of smaller trips in the spring before we spend the whole summer of 2024 in Poland. Busy times!

On to our financial progress. October was a mixed month for our finances. Our net worth dropped by $22,000 to end October at $2,683,000. Our income totaled $2,663, while our spending was a rather modest $1,513 for the month of October. 

Let’s jump into the details from last month.

Income

Investment income totaled $1,452 in October. Our equity index funds and ETFs pay dividends quarterly at the end of March, June, September, and December. Some funds paid their dividends in the first few days of October. As a result, we had a larger than normal amount of investment income last month. Here’s more on our dividend investments.

Blog income totaled $486 for the month. This is the “new normal” for blog income since I only post on here about once per month. 

My early retirement lifestyle consulting income (“consulting”) dropped to $0 in October. Things are slowing down I guess. 

Tradeline sales income totaled $0 in October. Another month without tradeline revenue. However, I just got three new sales during October but won’t receive payment for those until November or December. I ramped up my tradeline sales in 2020 and discussed it in a bit more detail in my October 2020 monthly post and in my July 2021 monthly post

For October, my “deposit income” totaled $724. Out of this total, $17 came from cash back and incentive bonuses from the Rakuten.com and Mrrebates.com online shopping portals (some of which was earned from you readers signing up through these links). 

If you sign up for Rakuten through this link and make a qualifying $25 purchase through Rakuten, you’ll get a $10 sign up bonus

The other $707 in deposit income came from a class action settlement from Capital One. They got hacked; my data was leaked to the dark web. I collect a fat paycheck. Seems fair enough. This is the largest class action settlement I’ve ever received.  As far as I know, I haven’t had any identity theft issues, and this isn’t the first time my data has been compromised. First time I got paid this much though!

Youtube income was $0 in October. Youtube only pays out when you hit $100 in accumulated revenue. Recently, my Youtube earnings have been about $50 per month on average, so I only get paid every other month. I just checked my channel stats and realized that I crossed $10,000 in lifetime earnings a few months ago. Pretty wild! 

Here is the Youtube channel for the curious. It’s random travel videos, birds, kids, and a couple of DIY videos. There are only a few main videos that bring in most of the traffic (and revenue!).

If you’re interested in tracking your income and expenses like I do, then check out Empower Personal Dashboard, formerly known as Personal Capital (it’s free!). All of our savings and spending accounts (including checking, money market, and five credit cards) are all linked and updated in real time through Empower Personal Dashboard. We have accounts all over the place, and Empower Personal Dashboard makes it really easy to check on everything at one time.

Empower Personal Dashboard is also a solid tool for investment management. Keeping track of our entire investment portfolio takes two clicks. If you haven’t signed up for the free Empower Personal Dashboard service, check it out today (review here).

Tracking spending was one of the critical steps I took that allowed me to retire at 33. And it’s now easier than ever with Empower Personal Dashboard.

Expenses

Now let’s take a look at October expenses:

In total, we spent $1,513 during October which is almost two thousand dollars less than our regularly budgeted $3,333 per month (or $40,000 per year). Groceries and utilities were the two highest categories of spending in October. After spending over $12,000 in September when we bought our new (used) car, this past month’s modest spending is a nice change of pace. 

Detailed breakdown of spending:

Groceries – $728:

Groceries were a little lower than recent months. Fortunately, food prices seem to be leveling off after a couple of years of routine price hikes at the grocery store. I think it’s too early to say that our grocery spending is declining long term, but it’s nice to see a lower number like this once in a while.

Picking persimmons at my mother in law’s house. They probably have 300-400 persimmons on their tree each year.
The persimmon haul. I guess we saved a good bit on fruit for the month of October and November since we eat a few of these each day as they ripen.

Utilities – $269:

We spent $147 on our water/sewer/trash bill. 

The natural gas bill, which provides heating and hot water, totaled $24 for last month. 

The electricity bill totaled $97 in October. 

Since the weather was mild in September and the beginning of October, our gas and electric bills moderated accordingly. We used the air conditioning a little bit last month but not much. Therefore out utility expense was lower than normal. 

Gifts – $200:

We started more serious Christmas shopping in October and picked up a few things. 

Automotive – $171:

During October, we paid the property tax bill and annual registration/license fee for our new (to us) car that we bought during September. The consolidated tax and registration totaled $126. Thankfully, the assessed value is less than what we actually paid for the car so we save a small amount on the annual tax bill.

The other automotive expense came from a $45 upcharge to add our new car to our insurance policy. That covers almost three months of the remaining policy period. That means we’ll pay just under $200 per year in additional insurance costs due to the addition of the new car. Not too bad I guess? 

Gas – $53:

A half tank for each of our cars. The new car is more fuel efficient so we should spend a little less on gas in the future. 

Teaching the kiddo to pump gas. She’s still learning how to drive and this is part of her “training”.

Healthcare/Medical/Dental – $47:

Our current 2023 health insurance costs $18 per month, thanks to very generous Affordable Care Act subsidies that we receive due to our low ~$45,000 per year Adjusted Gross Income. 

Our 2023 dental insurance plans cost a total of $29 in premiums per month. 

I chose a very basic plan for $9 per month for me that covers most preventive care but no fillings. Mrs. Root of Good has a different set of dental needs than I do so we kept the more comprehensive $20 per month plan for her (same as 2022’s plan).

By buying insurance, we should save a couple hundred dollars on my dental care. For Mrs. Root of Good, we will end up saving a net amount of $63 compared to paying cash for the preventive dentist visits throughout the year.

Restaurants – $27:

We got a family box of fried chicken from Bojangles last month. I had a $10 off coupon, so how could I refuse? 

We don’t spend much on restaurants because most dishes taste better when they are homemade like this steak pad thai.

Home Maintenance – $22:

I got handy and did a couple of DIY tasks during October. I spent $6 for a new electrical junction box and light fixture and upgraded an old dysfunctional fluorescent tube light above our kitchen sink. The light hasn’t worked properly for the 20 years that we’ve owned this house, so I decided it was time to fix it. It was a pain in the butt however the end result works well. And next time the lightbulb burns out I can swap it out with a regular $1 LED bulb instead of needing a special tube lightbulb. 

The other $16 in home maintenance costs came from some drainpipe I installed on the gutter downspout in the front of our house. This upgrade will help keep rainwater from ponding next to our house during the next monsoon. 

Travel – $0:

I didn’t have any net travel expenses during October, but I did rebook a couple of flights to shave off the cost in airline miles. 

I also wanted to take a minute to highlight a few temporarily increased credit card offers that I’ve taken advantage of recently for tons of free travel.

Get free travel like us

If you are interested in getting free travel from your credit card like I do, consider the Chase Ink Unlimited or Chase Ink Cash business cards (my referral link). Right now, for a limited time, the Chase Ink business cards offer an eye-popping 90,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points that can be redeemed instantly for $900 in cash. Mrs. Root of Good just picked up another new Chase Ink card this month, and I just got my new Ink card last month. The bonuses keep on rolling in the door!

I am guessing the 90,000 point sign up bonus will only last for a few more weeks, so sign up now if you want the higher bonus amount. 

Chase is pretty liberal when it comes to “what is a business”. If you sell stuff on eBay or Craigslist or do some odd jobs occasionally then you have a business and could get a credit card as a “sole proprietor”. 

I use the 90,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points by transferring them to my Chase Sapphire Reserve card (also offering a 60,000 point sign up bonus right now). With the Sapphire Reserve card, I can get 1.5x the points value by booking cruises, flights, hotels, or rental cars through their travel portal. Or 1.25x value by reimbursing myself for groceries. That turns the 90,000 points into $1,350 of free travel or $1,125 of free groceries. Or I can transfer those Ultimate rewards points to over a dozen travel partners’ airline/hotel programs like United, Southwest, or Hyatt. I am about to book a $350 per night hotel in Florida for 9,000 Hyatt/Ultimate Reward points, for example.

Southwest Companion Pass deal – time to act now!

I also picked up a pair of Chase Southwest cards during the first part of November. My goal is to receive the sign up bonuses in the first part of January 2024, and thereby earn a Southwest Companion pass that will be valid through December 2025. The Companion Pass is valid for the year you earn it plus the following calendar year.

The Companion Pass basically grants a free flight for your companion when you book flights for yourself (with points OR with cash). This means Mrs. Root of Good is flying free on Southwest for all of 2024 and 2025! 

Both Southwest cards pay a higher than normal sign up bonus right now, so it’s easy to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass. Just remember to NOT complete the spending requirement until after January 1st of 2024 or you’ll miss out on a whole year of Companion Pass benefits.

Note that these cards have an annual fee (but they offer a lot of free points each cardmember anniversary so it offsets about half the annual fee). And you can apply for both cards on the same day if you want. 

Referral links if you’re interested:

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Performance Business card – 80,000 SW miles ($199 annual fee) – select the “Performance business” card option

Chase Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card – 75,000 SW miles ($69 annual fee)

For $268 in annual fees, we’ll get ~160,000 SW miles, and the Companion Pass that offers buy-one-get-one-free Southwest flights for 2 years. Just pay taxes on the free ticket (usually $5.60 per one way segment in the USA). That’s about $4,000 worth of free flights for the two of us. 

Cable/Satellite/Internet – $0:

We generally pay $18 per month for a local reduced rate package due to having a lower income and having kids. 30 mbit/s download, 4 mbit/s upload. Right now the cost of the internet service is temporarily reduced to $0 due to the “Affordable Connectivity Program”. 

Nothing like a crisp fall day for a nice long walk in the park

Year to Date Spending – 2023


 

We spent $31,756 during the first ten months of 2023. This annual spending is about $1,500 less than the $33,333 we budgeted for ten months of spending in our $40,000 annual early retirement budget.

It turns out that our new car purchase didn’t throw our annual spending off by very much. We’re still running a small budget surplus with only two months of spending remaining in the year.

We don’t have any more travel planned for 2023 other than our cruise in December. So the rest of the year will be pretty low expense unless a big surprise pops up unexpectedly. 

Monthly Expense Summary for 2023:

Summary of annual spending from all ten years of early retirement:

This is my favorite time of year. Hanging out on the back porch, feet propped up, reading a book, watching the deer graze a few feet away. Sometimes home is too nice, which makes it hard to go on vacation and leave all this behind. 
A great blue heron perched on our side fence

Net Worth: $2,683,000 (-$22,000)

Our net worth dropped by $22,000 to end October at $2,683,000. We seem to be on a downward trajectory, but I know it’ll eventually turn around. 

For the curious, our net worth reported above includes our home value (which is fully paid off). However, please note that I don’t consider my home value as part of my portfolio for “4% rule” calculation purposes. I realize folks ask me about that every month so I just wanted to state that here for clarity.

Babysitting our niece. We took her to the park where she demonstrated some sidewalk chalk artistry.
Another beautiful sunset over our lake

Life update

Relaxation mode continued throughout October. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and planning and enjoying our daily walks. And a long walk or bike ride on most Fridays while our daughter is in her college class (we still have to drive her to school). 

I’m itching to do some traveling, and fortunately we have a great trip coming up in about a month. We set sail from Miami, visit a few islands in the Caribbean, then head to South America and Central America for a few days before returning back to the USA. Highlights include Cartagena, Colombia and the Panama Canal (visiting, not sailing through it).

On Christmas Day, we will be docked at an island about thirty miles off the coast of Honduras. This will be the kids’ longest cruise, so hopefully they have a good time. 

Okay folks, that’s it for me this month. See you next time!

Enjoying fall? Ready for winter? 

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