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?


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

After living in Costa Rica for five months, we’ve now returned to the US and have chosen the city of Asheville, North Carolina as a place to put down some roots for a bit. We’ve started house hunting and for temporary housing we’ve signed a 3-month lease for an apartment. As a result, we’re finding ourselves adjusting to the new norm of having more room than the 6×6 ft space Bruno afforded us. It’s quite the change!

A Year In Review

We originally quit our jobs in March 2015. April and May, we traveled around Mexico and Central America. In June, July and August, we were living in Costa Rica. We backpacked through Panama in September and flew back to the US to visit friends. In October, we were back in Costa Rica, and by November we prepared to leave. We traveled back up through Central America and Mexico in November and December, arriving back in the US at the end of January 2016. In February and March we traveled around the US and Canada, finally coming back to North Carolina.

At the end of each month, we summarized our financial situation, keeping track of our expenses and our portfolio balance. Here’s what the last twelve months have looked like:

Month Income Expenses Net Monthly Portfolio Balance
April -$2,044 -$2,044 $1,000,000
May -$2,764 -$2,764 N/A
June $200 -$4,416 -$4,216 N/A
July -$2,684 -$2,684 N/A
August -$2,804 -$2,804 N/A
September -$9,817 -$9,817 $960,000
October -$1,542 -$1,542 $970,000
November $1,333 -$1,106 $226 $950,000
December -$1,626 -$1,626 $957,000
January $569 -$2,355 -$1,786 $918,000
February -$1,755 -$1,755 $920,000
March $141 -$1,591 -$1,449 $950,000
Average $187 -$2,875 -$2,688 $946,429
Sum $2,243 -$34,503 -$32,260

Yes, that’s a lot of numbers! Let’s dig into the details:

Portfolio Balance

Note that we didn’t start recording the monthly snapshots of our portfolio balance until September, at which point we realized how useful this number was to capture. We started the year with $1,000,000 and ended it with $950,000. Where did our money go!?? Did I sleep walk one night and order a Telsa Model S on the internet!??

Overall, market performance for the 12-month period has been flat with a few ups and downs throughout the year. I have some shares I got from a San Francisco solar startup that were significantly devalued when the company had their IPO last summer, which didn’t help our portfolio. The remaining loss of the mystery $50,000 is basically all the expenses of our lives!


In total, we spent $32,260 of our portfolio as expenses over the year. Dividing this by an average of our portfolio balance, we get an overall Withdrawal Rate for the year of 3.4% ($32,260/$946,429). Our target for the year was a very conservative 3%, so we’re reasonably happy with this! Our September expenses include an unexpected trip to the ER in Costa Rica. If this were excluded, our spend rate would be closer to 2.7%. All in all, we did a great job of controlling our expenses for the year! Camping our way through beautiful countries with low cost of living certainly helped.


Testing out the camping gear in our first overnight experience with Bruno (Anthony Chabot Regional Park, Oakland, CA).


Not really much to report for income here, since we did quit our jobs last March. This blog returns zero income, although we have just added a ‘Recommended‘ page that also happens to contain an affiliate link for one of the products we love.

The small incomes that are listed in the table above is the sale of our surf boards and bicycles in Costa Rica, as well as the return of our security deposit for the home we were renting there. Others ones were Christmas gifts from family and cash back rewards from our credit cards. Goodbye surfboards, I’ll miss you!


All in all, it’s been a hell of a year. With our extensive travels through 10 different countries, we’re trying to truly appreciate how lucky we’ve been in our lives so far. Sure, it’s not all luck – we’ve worked hard to save money and advance our careers, but none of that would have been possible without some stars being aligned: being raised by stable loving families, growing up without worrying where our next meals will come from, and simply being born in a wealthy developed country like Canada.


House hunting in Asheville, NC and meeting neighborhood cats!

I must say that this past year has brought a whole new uplifting feeling to Monday mornings. And Tuesday mornings, and… in fact, it seems worryingly easy to adjust to this lifestyle. Happiness can sometimes be fleeting, and when I find myself occasionally slipping into a grumpy mood or uttering a complaint, I need to snap myself back to the reality of how amazing it is simply to be alive. The freedom that Amanda and I have had in the last year has allowed for experiences and joy unlike anything I have experienced before. Life is short, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds! In particular, I’m strangely excited for the inevitable time when robots will take over the world. If they don’t kill us, maybe we’ll finally get Universal Basic Income and proper justice from government when they start running things!