Alright folks, it’s time for another mural! After painting my first mural two years ago, I’ve been on the hunt for the ideal location for painting my next one. I found the perfect spot in my neighborhood and proceeded to harass the building owner for months until he finally gave me permission. I’m offering to paint a mural for free, but this guy still hummed and hawed – insane. Now, before reading any further, please consider the following question: How many hours do you think it took for a doofus amateur like myself to paint this big beautiful two color mural?
Amanda and I have really enjoyed the start of our “3 Months in Europe” trip. We loved our time in Lisbon and now we’ve just had the wonderful pleasure of spending two weeks in Barcelona. This being my first time to Europe, I can’t help being truly wowed by how well designed the cities are. My overall experience in Barcelona left me wondering: Dang, why can’t American cities be this delightfully livable!?
Ohh Early Retirement, you make every day feel like a Saturday: the day of freedom, the day of sleeping in, the day of doing whatever one’s precious heart desires. Do you feel like going for a bike ride? Maybe you’ll go to a Pilates class, do laps at the local pool, or if you’re really up to it: lift some weights! Do you have any lofty dreams or life aspirations? Maybe indulge yourself in a few puffs of some legal cannabis, play some wonderful music and think about it.
Recommended lofty dream: Make yourself an avocado-kale-banana-berry-protein powder smoothie (ahh, so delicious and healthy)!
We’ve mentioned several times about our foray into the world of hosting strangers in our home overnight; this phenomenon made popular by the online company Airbnb. But how lucrative has it been for us? Over this Labor Day weekend, we hosted a group of five 50 year old guys who were in town for a soccer tournament. They paid us $930 to stay in our basement suite for three nights and were close to perfect guests. Money is certainly the upside, but what are the downsides?
Off-roading is one of Bruno’s great loves and something I had been looking forward to on this trip. Southeastern Utah is where we let it all hang loose! And speaking of, we’ve been seeing a lot of Smokey Bear signs along the road. If there’s one thing we’re learning, it’s that Smokey doesn’t like shirts. He only likes pants. Dislikes shoes and absolutely no socks.
GREAT SUCCESS!! Four days ago I set out to cut a giant hole in the back of the house. This project was a mother-expletive-deleted and involved questionable ethics of a sliding patio door purchase. We started with this:
Normally I try to avoid political issues on this blog, but given the seriousness of the political nightmare that is currently unfolding in the US, I feel compelled to share some thoughts. There is a general feeling down here that the inmates have taken over the asylum and I think we all need to talk about it. Whether you’re a classic liberal, conservative, libertarian, or progressive – I think we all feel uneasy about what just happened.
We were pretty confident that $1M would be more than enough to retire on. All our research indicated that it should be pretty straight forward with just a bit of self discipline and smart money management. After all, for the most part, all one needs to do is live in a city with a reasonable cost of living, right? Well, for Amanda and I, it turns out that this advice is easier said than done.
The front page of MSN.com recently featured an article titled How this couple saved $1 million and retired in their 30s. Bruno was happy with this, since it’s always a great opportunity to potentially inspire and encourage new readers about financial independence. However, unbeknownst to Bruno, the posting of this article also turned out to be a poking stick that gently nudged a hornets nest. The incalculable fury of two notorious internet gangs was henceforth invoked. They call themselves The Doomers and The Denialists and upon reading about Bruno, they conspired to join forces and unleash a rainbow of disgruntled comments online. Tighten your internet seat belts folks, shit’s about to get serious.
It started with The Denialists tap-dancing all over the comment section of the MSN article, dropping such golden denial nuggets as:
I’ve wanted to paint a mural for a number of years. While I actually made some progress on this mission while living in Oakland, CA, it turned out the spot I wanted to paint was a freeway underpass and I ran into serious permitting issues. On top of that, who the hell has time for painting a mural when working a full-time job? Ultimately I threw in the towel.
Now that we’re in the artist-embracing city of Asheville, NC, what better time to accomplish my dream of painting a mural! Since we’ve bought a house, but can’t actually move in until July 1st, I’ve got plenty of spare time on my hands.
A year ago our portfolio hit $1 Million and we quit our jobs, packed up Bruno the 4Runner, and began our journey driving south from California to Costa Rica. The following twelve months became the best of my life to-date, hands down! So now that it’s been a whole year – how much money did we end up spending, and how well did our portfolio survive?
On our path to financial independence, a number of services have been invaluable in helping us reach our goals: Vanguard, Personal Capital, and Mint.
1.) Using Vanguard to Manage your Investments
If you’re new to investing and are intimidated by the stock market, be afraid no more – Vanguard is here to save the day! Vanguard is the bees knees. Their fees are amazingly low and they are owned by the investors in the funds (you and me). If you have no clue what you’re doing with investing, you can’t go wrong by opening an account and putting all your money in Vanguard LifeStrategy Growth Fund (VASGX). This is a well-balanced low-cost fund that roughly reflects how Amanda and I have our portfolio setup (as well as the majority of financial independence bloggers online).
If you currently have a number of investment accounts with mutual funds sitting around, I can almost guarantee you that they are charging you higher fees than Vanguard does. Open a Vanguard account and transfer all those accounts over – you won’t regret it! We don’t make an money from recommending Vanguard, we simply love them!
2.) Managing your Expenses and Investments with Personal Capital
Personal Capital is a FREE service that helps us keep track of both our expenses and our portfolio investments.
Without a doubt, the most important step to controlling your finances is having an easy-to-understand overview of all your income, your expenses, and all your savings & investments. Personal Capital has some excellent graphics, where you can dig into categories of spending.
Here is a screenshot of our credit card expenses for the last six months:
Personal Capital also provides extremely useful tools to help you manage your investments. When you first log in, you’ll be able to pull the information from all your different bank accounts, credit card accounts, and investment accounts into one central dashboard.
Here is a summary screenshot of our portfolio:
If you link more than $100k of investable accounts, Personal Capital may contact you to offer their investment advice for a fee. This is optional and you can simply ignore them, if you’d prefer.
3.) If you don’t like Personal Capital, try Mint
Personal Capital is a service for US-based accounts only. Since we also have retirement funds in Canada, we also use the FREE service at Mint.com, which can accommodate foreign accounts. After trying Personal Capital, if you’re not completely satisfied I would recommend checking out Mint.com – it’s a very similar service, but with less of a focus on managing your investments, and more of a focus on managing expenses, budgeting, etc. We don’t make an money recommending Mint, we’ve just been big fans for over 4 years now.
Here is a screenshot of our credit card expenses for the last six months:
Both Personal Capital and Mint are safe and secure online tools that anyone can use for FREE. They pull summary data from your bank accounts, your credit card balances, and your investment accounts, displaying it all on one screen to summarize your net worth. It will also estimate your home value through Zillow.com and any cars with their Kelley Blue Book value.
I hope the above recommendations help someone! If you have any questions, please ask!
Guatemala is the place where dreams come true. This is especially true if you happen to love friendly people, cuddly Coati animals, and Mayan ruins that will knock your socks off!
We’re heading to Copán in northwest Honduras to see one of the great cities of Mayan civilization! History abounds in this area and as we roll through, the smooth Honduran roads are a treat for Bruno. The entire country is filled with lush, green mountains and the endless rolling hills consistently offer beautiful vistas.
Hi everyone, Amanda and Travis here! We’re a young couple in our early thirties and we saved $1,000,000, quit our jobs, and began our journey of financial independence. We planned our first big adventure: driving from California to Costa Rica. We bought a used 2000 Toyota 4Runner and aptly named him Bruno. We fixed him up so that we could sleep in the back, then we hit the road to camp and travel our way through Central America!
Back in March, everything was coming together nicely: we had reached our financial goal of $1M, quit our jobs and cleared out our two-story rental home in Oakland using Craigslist. We had successfully purchased and fixed up Bruno – our used 2000 Toyota 4Runner, and we started driving down to Costa Rica from California. It’s now six months later and in this post I’ll answer such questions as: Have you run out of money yet? What do you do in Costa Rica? and Did Bruno break down and fail you yet?
While visiting New York City as tourists, we quickly began to appreciate just how huge the city is. So what is the best way to get around and see this amazing place?
The NYC subway is great and all, but with a $2.75 flat fee ride, it costs us $11 round trip anytime we want to go somewhere in the city. Travis thoroughly researched the Citi Bike program in NYC, as we’ve been seeing docking stations all over town. It turns out that at a cost of $10 p.p./day or $25 p.p./7 days, this absolutely saves us money and we also get a workout in between pizza slices!
So far during this month’s trip away from our home in Cost Rica, it turns out that leaving behind the laptop’s power cable was not the only thing Travis was to forget. Upon flying out of Panama City at the end of our 4-day visit, he left his cell phone plugged into a power outlet at the airport! While the phone is not particularly expensive (it’s four years old), we did have a bunch of beautiful panoramic pictures of Panama City that were on it. Thankfully, we still have lots of nice pictures from our compact Canon camera to share with you!
Upon becoming financially independent, we decided to move away from the expensive San Francisco Bay Area. Although we’re currently enjoying life in Costa Rica, we will soon be driving Bruno back up to the US and need to figure out which cities are good candidates for living in.
To help us make this decision, I wanted to see which US cities have the lowest cost of living, are considered somewhat liberal, and also have mild winters.
Everyone loves taxes, and now that we’re traveling the world and no longer going to work everyday, what better time to plan for our future income taxes?
After years of working hard at our careers, we were curious to see how much of our previous income we’ve already paid to income taxes. Here is a table showing our income and taxes over the last seven years:
|Year||Income (AGI)||Federal Tax||CA State Tax||Total Tax Paid||Effective Tax Rate|