13 Nov

Somehow Trump Got Elected – Should We Move Back to Canada?

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.

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06 Oct

The Honest Truth: You May Want More Than $1M Before Retiring

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.

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Blue Ridge Mountains in October

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27 Jun

The Impossibility of Early Retirement

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:

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08 Jun

An Idea for Retirement: Painting A Mural

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.

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25 Apr

Our First Year of Early Retirement

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?

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Our last camping trip in the San Francisco Bay Area (on Angel Island) before quitting our jobs and driving south into Mexico.

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22 Apr

Bruno Recommends!

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!

 

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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!

 

10 Nov

Bruno’s Path to Financial Freedom

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!

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Crossing a river with Bruno (our Toyota 4Runner) near Sámara, Costa Rica!

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21 Oct

Six Months of Early Retirement

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?

Playa Pelada, Costa Rica

Playa Pelada, Costa Rica – This is our beach, a two-minute walk from our back yard!

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07 Oct

Exploring New York City with Citi Bike

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!

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16 Sep

Panama City and the Illustrious Canal

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!

Panama City Skyline

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12 Aug

50 Best US Cities for Early Retirement

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.

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24 Jul

Early Retirement With Zero Income Taxes

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
2008 $177,863 $26,290 $11,445 $37,735 21.22%
2009 $158,857 $26,192 $9,713 $35,905 22.60%
2010 $146,863 $23,407 $8,574 $31,981 21.78%
2011 $149,305 $24,775 $8,229 $33,004 22.11%
2012 $207,581 $38,892 $13,507 $52,399 25.24%
2013 $204,718 $38,241 $13,729 $51,970 25.39%
2014 $234,992 $43,428 $16,368 $59,796 25.45%
Total $1,280,179 $221,225 $81,565 $302,790 23.65%

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09 Jul

Going to a Dentist in Costa Rica

When we were working full-time jobs, dental insurance is something that we always had. It’s a standard employer-provided benefit in both Canada and the US. During those days, we didn’t pay much attention to how much the insurance company was being billed for our dental visits.

However, now that we’ve both quit our jobs to travel and live the good life – we no longer have dental insurance! Amanda needs something called an inlay (bigger than a filling, smaller than a crown), I need a new mouth guard, and we both need standard checkups, x-rays, and cleanings. Let’s go see a dentist in San Jose, Costa Rica!

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08 Jun

Nicaragua-Costa Rica Border Crossing @ Peñas Blancas

One final overland border cross on our southbound journey. We’re about to enter Costa Rica and the suspense is unbearable. We are finally here! A few… more… line-ups… and dealings with people who seem to hate their jobs. Just let us in! Here’s our experience at the Peñas Blancas border crossing between Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

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01 Jun

Nicaragua: Isla de Ometepe and San Juan del Sur

An adventure over water, as Bruno floats across Lago Nicaragua and travels with us to Isla de Ometepe! The island is comprised of two volcanoes connected by a skinny landmass. There is little space around the edges for people to live, let alone all the tourism this island is known for. And the monos! We found Ometepe pleasantly packed full of monos.

Bruno on the mainland with Ometepe in the background.

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19 May

Big Border Crossing – El Salvador to Honduras to Nicaragua

Two crossings in one day that certainly lived up to expectations! Beggar kids following you around, men riding along on Bruno’s footrests and hanging onto the roof rack, just to help you through the crossing and make a buck. We gave one kid a $1 US coin from El Salvador. His eyes lit up huge and he danced around, rubbing it in all the other kid’s faces. What a sweetheart.

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19 May

El Salvador Stats Summary

Back to the familiar US dollar – El Salvador’s official currency since 2001! They also use $1 coins, which is unique since in the US everybody still uses the one dollar bill (for reasons not completely understood). As a side note, it seems odd that El Salvador would adopt the US currency, considering that the US heavily supported the “bad guys” during the Salvadoran Civil War in the 1980’s…

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