How to start you own death spreadsheet in Excel – part 1

death spreadsheet overview

Grimly titled but the death spreadsheet is the most useful spreadsheet I have ever created.

I created the first version of this document back in 2014 when I felt like I was trapped in an awful job, earning quite well but job stress was out of control and I wondered if I had to tolerate this level of angst and frustration for the rest of my life.

To wrestle back some form of control, I decided to create a spreadsheet to work out exactly how much we needed to earn to live a reasonable life – for the rest of our lives. To build this spreadsheet, David and I had many conversations, over a period of time, to think about and design the type of financially independent lifestyle we would be happy with. An extravagant, luxurious one? No – not really our thing. A really nice lifestyle that includes international travel once a year, travelling within Australia, going to other capital cities, money for our hobbies/passions, time for volunteering and one home renovation project a year? Yes, definitely. I’ll take that version of financial independence any day of the week.

In 2014 we were close to paying out our mortgage, so our expenses were about to change considerably. I also knew both had good superannuation or retirement savings, so I wanted to understand, excel spreadsheet cell by cell how much we needed to earn in order to be financially independent.

And so the death spreadsheet was born. On the top line, I created a table out to David’s average life expectancy and mine (there is a little age difference 😊). Then I plotted out our expected income and expenses until we died. Fun, huh!?!

Key assumptions for the spreadsheet:

  1. Indexation of 2% for wages and our superannuation pensions (except for mine – I’ll take a flat rate)
  2. Inflation over our lifetimes (around 2%)
  3. Conservative estimated earnings on our investments at 5% over the next thirty or so years.

I created detailed expenses tabs that adjusts for this year and next when our expenditure circumstances will remain the same. In 2020 we expect to be paying for only one child in total – the other children may be living here and eating with us, but they will be largely responsible for their own expenses.

I have highlighted the current year we are in, and the year my husband’s superannuation commences ( I LOVE to see those two drawing closer together – means we are closer to financial independence).

You can see our net result bounces around a little but that’s ok – over the 12 year period, it works out about even. In my next post, I will detail how I have calculated our expenses over this period, and how I have calculated how our investments will support us in our two stage financial independence plan, paying down like an annuity.

Excel has saved my sanity! Never thought I would say that out loud to the world…..

 

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So why financial independence and how does it relate to simple living?

living area

This is a quiet nook in the corner of our newly renovated living area.  I’ll do a house tour later this year.

So why financial independence and how does that relate to simple living?

I love the fact as humans, we are constantly evolving and changing.  I have always had a really big thirst for knowledge, and when I am really interested in a topic, I emerge myself in all available material to learn and grow and connect with like-minded people.

I have found this is absolutely the case on my simple living journey.

First came the feeling over being overwhelmed. With five kids more than half time, a busy job, two kids with mental health issues and interests outside of work, I felt I was never on top of things and always running behind.  My to do list was always longer and greater than 24 hours in any day and I never truly felt like I could sit down and relax.

My health started giving way and I realised things needed to change.  So we created the year of austerity to pay down debt and not be a slave to full time employment.  We achieved this goal in 2015 after some hard work and a small inheritance.

During this time, I was also organising the whole house like crazy.  I thought if I made some sense of the physical chaos in my life, simplicity would descend upon our household like some kind of magic.  A place for everything, everything in its place.

But of course, I organised every drawer within an inch of its life, felt only marginally less overwhelmed and realised I just needed to downsize and declutter.  For a while I donated, sold and gave away stuff in my house like a possessed woman.  Gumtree, eBay, Vinnes and Buy Nothing New became my best friends.  We also renovated which provided a great opportunity to reassess a lot of clutter in our house. The downsizing was enormous – I stopped counting at 25000 items, and I forced myself to reassess all purchases, use up all cosmetics, audit the fridge, pantry and freezer……..

I found the two upsides of decluttering were:

  1. The house felt refreshed, sorted and clear of things that previously made my brain ache. I confirmed in the maximalist/minimalist debate, I’m definitely in the latter camp, although far from living out of my back pack with less then 100 items to my name.  Funnily enough, the first year of our retirement David and I have decided we will go through the house and declutter again as a first priority because we can still identify many items that need to go.
  2. We spent so much less money following a consciously commitment to this form of living and this has enabled greater savings for our FIRE plan.

Once I discovered the FIRE community and worked out we could work less I immediately amped up our savings plans and began consuming everything I could on saving, investing and planning for an early retirement. I realised the FIRE path was really one that could really support my goals of living simply and with less stress.  FIRE became the wind beneath my simplicity wings and the two goals merged into one. I reduced my working days to three a week and began living a simpler life – with a longer term financial plan.

So – in short – from overwhelm to organisation to minimalism to FIRE.  I’m sure it’s such a well-worn path. With December 2020 looming, it can sometimes be a source of overwhelm all on its own, but I am looking forward to writing about our plans for our post FIRE life and all of the hope for a peaceful life it holds. For me, financial independence and simple living are inextricably linked.  To live a simpler life I need to have a source of passive income to pursue the things I want to pursue – be fast when I want to be fast and slow when I want to be slow.

Are you on any of the paths to financial freedom or simple living? Have you been down a similar path?

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….