Financial independence update May 2018

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This is from the Triennial exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria – spectacular.

It’s been awhile on the post (apologies friends!) but sometimes life takes over (like teenagers and their needs) and priorities change. But I’m keen to let you know where we are up to on the financial independence journey and tell you we have 925 days to go until we are financially independent.

NINE HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIVE DAYS

Feels like an eternity and super close, all at once. I have a countdown app on my phone and I when I started it, the number was 1009 days. In a very short period of time, over one hundred days have passed, so this is going to fly by quickly.

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So I am keen to write a bit more on this topic and share with you how and why our finances allow us to live a simpler life.

For this post, I want to share with you our financial independence plan. Not to brag, or to be compared to others. I’m just doing it to actually disclose my numbers and my plan, so anyone doing research on this topic can find some cold hard numbers. Lots of websites talk about “…x times my annual expenses” or $1m at a 4% withdrawal rate. But a lot of these sites are from the US and while they are interesting to read about, I am often left wanting after a google search to find something that represents middle class, urban Australia. And if you can’t find, it create it. Start a conversation. That’s my view.

So we have two scenarios we are working on. One is base level, worst case, where both of us feel compelled to leave our jobs immediately…..(usually a Sunday night sort of conversation at our house – let’s call this the Sunday night calculations) and the more realistic and comfortable version, where there is enough padding (let’s call this scenario Padded FI). Sunday night calcs involve finishing up our well-paying jobs with current savings and just earning enough to make our living expenses between now and December 2020; Padded FI (Financial Independence) see us working in our well-paying jobs until December 2020 and continuing our current savings rate (around $50k per year).

One more thing before I disclose the numbers – we have a two-stage strategy. I am 45; my husband is 52. We are close enough to superannuation to take this approach – Stage 1 Before Super and Stage 2 After Super. But I think anyone contemplating financial independence in Australia can think about it in two stages – pre-super and post-super.

For us, it looks like this:

Now:                   Work to save/pay living expenses until December 1, 2020

Stage 1:               Live on my husband’s superannuation, which he can access from 55 and supplement with investment earnings (2021-2032)

Stage 2:               Access my superannuation at the start of 2033 when I’m eligible to start  drawing a super pension (aged 60) and continue my husband’s (indexed)                          superannuation pension

US case studies rely on the 4% withdrawal rate for thirty-somethings, for the rest of their lives. We only really need to build sufficient passive income for a twelve year period to supplement my husband’s superannuation, before accessing mine.

In Australia, for those families with superannuation, the numbers might work a little differently. You may find you need to live off investment incomes for a period of time until you can access your superannuation. Or you may decide to supplement lower superannuation pensions with some investment income. Either way, it’s important to do your long term financial projections to understand your particular circumstances and discuss your strategy with your financial advisor. Ours got the tick of approval a couple of weeks ago at our annual appointment with our financial advisor.

Stage Income total Sunday night Padded FI
Stage 1 Husband pension $       73,621 $         73,621
Investment earnings $       27,433 $         29,819
Income total $     101,054 $     103,440
Savings remaining $               – $     120,000
Stage 2 Husband pension $       86,414 $         86,414
My pension $       40,000 $         40,000
Income total $     126,414 $     126,414
Savings remaining $               – $     120,000

 

As you can see, the difference in income is not that great, but the financial security of some money in the bank is worth the otherwise sleepless nights of not having a safety buffer. So we push through working more and continuing to adhere to the budget, in order to enjoy the fruits of our work later on in life.

Do you have a financial independence plan? Are you thinking about retiring early from a job and pursuing other business or creative interests? If you are game, share your numbers 😊

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Part 4 – net worth tracking (stop yawning)

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As part of my five part series on family financial management, today’s post is about net worth tracking.

One of the biggest questions that I have turned my mind to over the past eighteen months or so is our family’s net worth – that is – our family balance sheet. It’s a bit like putting a business lens over your family finances and seeing whether the family company is actually growing its asset base.

So net worth tracking – what is it, and how do you do it?

It sounds so fancy, but simply put, your family net worth is calculated by deducting your liabilities from your assets, and bingo – that is your family net worth.

So, why should I go to the trouble of working out what our net worth value is? Five simple reasons:

  1. At any given point in time, you can see whether you are growing your family assets and achieving your financial goals. You can also critically examine composition of your assets, for example and see whether you have any over exposure in terms of risk that you may want to readjust.
  2. You can also see whether you are financially going backwards. For example if property values are falling and you are only making interest only payments on your mortgage (the principal is not reducing) you are going backwards, financially. If you want to change the situation, by tracking your net worth, you will be alerted to this situation and will be able to re-jig your finances accordingly.
  3. Net worth calculations will keep you honest and real about your financial situation if you track it over time. It’s easy to redraw cash on the mortgage to pay for an overseas holiday or put a pool in (we have done this one!) and continue to dip into your redraw facility like it is free cash without any consideration of the long term financial impacts for you and your family. Watching your net worth stagnant over time as a result is an eye opener. We did this for about three years. A combination of seeing our static family balance sheet and a strong urge to spend more quality time with family and less time at work propelled us into action (the Year of Austerity) and beyond.
  4. Net worth calculations are super important in retirement planning. I’ve found that being on this side of 40 has really sharpened my interest in knowing whether I will have enough money to seriously retire and focus on projects that I am actually interested in.
  5. It’s important for estate planning. Perhaps for my generation, intergenerational wealth has not seemed as necessary (I’m a self-starter and have made my own way in this world financially) but for our children, market predictions on employment prospects and economic growth generally are looking a bit bleak. I’d like to think that I will have some $$ to leave all of our five kids as a back-up fund for them and their future families in times of hardship.

For the purposes of being a useful calculation, you want to not include the short term, small assets that can seriously fluctuate at any given point in time. For example, our “trading” account, where our salaries are paid into and our credit card is paid out of, can wildly fluctuate between $12k and $50 depending on what time of the month it is, and whether we have paid our credit card recently. Because this could overstate or understate our net worth position at any time, I leave it out of our calculations.

Similarly, on the liabilities side, we pay off our credit card in full every month and it could have either $2k on it, or $9k, so again, I leave it out of our net worth calculation.

If, on the other hand, the credit card was not being paid off each and every month, and had become core debt – a long standing liability – then I would definitely deduct it off the family asset balance, because by not including it, I would not be viewing the true family financial position.

So, again, in the interests of being open and transparent, for our family, I’ll share our net worth position as at today.

Six monthly I usually do a little bit of my own real estate research to estimate the value of our family home and I use our six monthly superannuation balances to calculate super. I have to say, since the Year of Austerity and paying off our mortgage, we look financially under control and I like that.

Our net worth looks something like this:

Assets

Family home                                                      $700k

Savings account                                                $ 61K

Superannuation                                               $556k

Shares                                                                  $   5k

Total                                                                      $1.322m

Minus Liabilities

Core credit card debt                                     $0

Mortgage                                                            $0

Net worth                                                           $1.322m

 

Now I realise for some this is as boring as bat shit. But for me, it completely motivated me to think about running our family like a business so I could absolutely understand the goal posts of what we needed to save to retire (see next fortnight’s post); what we needed to budget for in the short term and therefore how much I needed to work and most importantly HOW MUCH TIME I COULD ACTUALLY SPEND WITH MY BEAUTIFUL FAMILY and not feel guilty about whether I had planned financially for the future.

I was easily prepared to be very bored to work that all out!

Give it a go, and tell me what you think. For some it will be facing the music but the music won’t go away by ignoring it.  For others, it might be quite surprising and liberating….

Part 3 – Where to from here now that our income has been halved

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Where has the time gone! The first three weeks of not working have been really busy – in a productive way. I’ll write about that later.

But for now, I wanted to update you on the family budget now that our income has been halved and I am not working – part 3 of my financial series.

As I mentioned, we have been to see a financial advisor on our superannuation and retirement needs, particularly now that David is nearly 50 and I am nearly 43. It’s important to understand the long game, and to understand how hard we have to work (or not work!) to ensure that we have both a reasonable standard of living now and in our retirement.

Main changes: I have reduced our food budget, and my mobile plan. There is not a lot of wriggle room in this budget – by the time we also get our allowances (which have also reduced) we have about $1000 spare per month. I intend to build this as a bit of a cash flow to help us on the heavier months when we have more expenses.

So our one income budget looks like this:

Expenses   yearly monthly fortnightly
26 2
Car rego $ 2,200.00 $       84.62
Car insurance $ 1,100.00 $       42.31
House ins $ 1,100.00 $       42.31
car services $ 1,000.00 $       38.46
petrol $     120.00
Sundry $     300.00
fernwood $       24.00
internode $   75.00 $       37.50
mobile $   35.00 $       17.50
pocket money $       25.00
cleaning $       65.00
food $     400.00
electricity $ 1,200.00 $       46.15
gas $ 1,782.00 $       68.54
water $ 1,000.00 $       38.46
rates $ 1,300.00 $       50.00
primary school fees $ 100.00 $       50.00
piano $     600.00 $       23.08
netball $     350.00 $       26.00
health insurance $ 1,600.00 $       61.54
girls clothing $ 1,500.00 $       57.69
movies $     100.00
red cross $   25.00 $       12.50
guitar $     600.00 $       23.08
dancing $     400.00 $       15.38
oxfam $   25.00 $       12.50
Boys school fees $ 4,624.00 $     177.85
Girls school fees $ 550.00 $     275.00
Girls mobile $   30.00 $       15.00
foxtel $   50.00 $       25.00
gifts $ 3,000.00 $     115.38
boys expenses $ 200.00 $     100.00
total       $ 2,489.85

The main thing that I will focus on to reduce our food bill is to really cook from scratch. I like the health benefits of this as well, as I am really keen on reducing the amount of processed food that we buy. Things that I already cook from scratch include:

  • Bread – sour dough is may favourite
  • Yoghurt – greek and vanilla
  • Mozzarella
  • Pancetta
  • Biscuits and cakes for the children
  • Hommus (Yotam Ottolenghi’s  recipe is so yummy)
  • Preserves  – I preserve food when it is particularly season and tasty – like mangoes, apricots, peaches, tomatoes

The second way I will reduce the food budget is by buying in bulk from our local Food Co-operative. The food is organic and not packaged, which I really subscribe to. I take in my own jars and produce bags so there is no plastic packaging.

Finally, I will grow up to 50% of our fresh produce. My husband and I have just spent the weekend building three new vegetable beds. This weekend’s outlay has been around $1000 – I have spent all up around $2500 on the veggies beds – but they will pay themselves off in no time.

My job is to keep an eye on the family budget and to make sure that we are on track. Bottom line is if I don’t keep track of it, I am back to work so of course, keeping expenditure within budget is my number 1 priority! I am loving not working and providing really healthy produce for my family.