Hi, r/financialindependence. I posted about quitting my job in 2018 when I was 38 – I'm 42 now – to travel the world via air and the country via van after living frugally since I started working in my early 20s. Retired with about $2.3 million net worth. Here's the story so far …
Year 0 https://old.reddit.com/r/financialindependence/comments/8pv2yd/38msingle_23_million_submitted_my_resignation/
I started working in my early 20s after getting out of grad school. Salary varied anywhere from $70,000 to $130,000 during those 14 years or so. I live in a state with low cost of living and no state income tax, so I knew when I started that I could save a majority of my income if I stayed frugal and resisted lifestyle inflation. I live in the same starter home I bought around 2010 and drive an old Camry. I did a bunch of set-it-and-forget-it buying of large cap US index funds and Berkshire Hathaway and I did some individual buying of large cap bank and technology names before and after the Great Recession
Year 1 update – I came home after volunteer work in SE Asia https://old.reddit.com/r/financialindependence/comments/bk1rco/1_year_update_38msingle_23_million_submitted_my/
I FIREd and quit my job in the US last year, then moved to Thailand to volunteer at a non-profit teaching English to former prostitutes and low-level criminals for tourism industry jobs. I'm an American, ethnically Chinese.
My apartment and utilities were provided for free by the non-profit and I lived with my fellow expat volunteers. Some were older couples who wanted their privacy, so they booked their own apartments. Costs ranged from as low as $200 a month for a cheap, non-furnished studio apartment to $375 a month for a furnished studio in a newer building near a Skytrain station in the center of town with security. I was pleasantly surprised that because I was in the country on a sponsored work visa, I was eligible to buy health insurance there as a local. It came out to about $150 a month. Getting international expat health insurance here in America would have cost me up to $500 a month, so a huge savings. I also rarely ate at home and never cooked, since Bangkok is one of the great street food capitals of the world. All kinds of Thai, Chinese, Malay, Indian and Arab food served on the street for about 35 to 70 baht each entree (~1 to 2 bucks USD). I ended up not getting a local cell phone or local cell plan, my Sprint plan included international roaming and the 2G data was okay for Google Maps and web/email use when I was away from wifi, which was rare. So monthly fixed expenses came out to
$100 7-Eleven (drinking tap water actively discouraged by authorities due to corroded pipes. Bottled water is substantially cheaper there than here, thankfully. My problem is that when I went into 7-Eleven every day to get the cheap water, I would get sidetracked by whatever tasty unfamiliar snack I would see at the hot food counter that I would then have to try, hence $100 a month blown. Seriously, 7-Eleven in Thailand is amazing, I highly recommend getting lost in one. All kinds of hot noodle soups and baos and sticky rice snacks and cakes.)
=$850/month total. Let's say I had to get my own furnished apartment and pay for my utilities, add another $500 a month. $1,350 a month total is pretty good considering I lived like a king and didn't budget myself at all. I could get that below $1,000 a month if I was more frugal.
My non-fixed expenses were for airfare and lodging when I would leave town for the weekend to explore the rest of SE Asia. If I could book trips early enough, I could get round trip flights on Scoot or AirAsia to Chiang Rai or Singapore or Penang for as little as $40 round trip. Other than Singapore, Airbnbs and budget hotels were dirt cheap, so those weekend trips rarely cost more than $200 each.
Also – about three or four months after I moved to Thailand, my former boss called me to see how I was and offered me an online-only job, where I would spend about an hour to 90 minutes a day remotely reviewing other people's work, answering internal emails and listening to ideas he would bounce off of me. I wasn't interested, but he insisted it would not be my old job, that I would still be a digital nomad and never come into the office and I would be eligible for 401k matching and the company's health insurance when I came home. So I said yes and I've been doing the job for about half a year. It's been as advertised, I set aside an hour or so a night on my laptop in front of the TV and it hasn't grown into anything bigger yet. The salary is a small, small fraction of what I used to make but it's worth my time. We'll see how things stand after another year.
Year 2 update – I was in COVID lockdown https://www.reddit.com/r/financialindependence/comments/gwhxgh/2_year_update_38msingle_23_million_submitted_my/
2020 comes and COVID-19 hits. My trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong was cancelled. A trip to Italy soon after, too. Then separate trips to Nevada and Boston, too. My net worth skyrocketed to over $3 million thanks to the post-China trade deal rally and the market assuming COVID-19 is contained. The abrupt, panicked selloff as the world went into lockdown knocked me back down to $2.1 million. Painful, but I rode the Great Recession all the way down and back ten years ago, so I had that experience to rely on to resist panic selling. I've since rode the April/May rally back up to $2.6 million. https://i.imgur.com/Wg7c74L.jpg
My current expenses … I own the house outright so no rent is great. Health insurance is covered by my old employer (while still in SE Asia, I was offered a remote work job by my old boss, like set aside 60-90 minutes a day to answer email and have him bounce ideas off of me. I originally said no but was swayed when told I could get health insurance covered and my 401k matching when I moved back to the states, have done it since. A nice side hustle for a fraction of my old salary.)
$480 a month for property taxes and home insurance. That's right, per month. Property taxes are high here, the joys of home ownership.
$120 a month for four smartphones on a Sprint family plan. Yes, Sprint sucks but it's a great price that I've been grandfathered into for several years. I get a free Hulu sub and a free AAA sub with it, too.
$60 for random upkeep around the house. Replacing a broken sprinkler head, buying wood chips, replacing a broken weedeater guard, batteries, light bulbs, buy a bag of potting soil, stuff like that.
= $1,220/month. I'm not including eating out or going to shows or movies because I'm inside the house all day every day. My $20 gym membership is suspended, I don't want to work out in an enclosed space until there's a vaccine or proven treatment.
**Year 3 update -**I didn't post an update because things had not changed much from the year before. Omicron had people home in Texas dropping dead left and right and I didn't feel comfortable flying domestically or internationally again. So I did a lot of camping trips at state parks in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arkansas. It was nice. Lots of exploring in towns like Taos and Durant and Turkey. Spent a lot of time with family.
Today, Year 4 update – I finally started flying again in the spring and picked up right where I left off in 2020. I went to a friend's wedding in New York City and I had such a great time that I later signed on as an unpaid volunteer with NY Cares. I'm currently based in Queens and I'll be here into December helping high schoolers and their Mandarin or Spanish-speaking families fill out their FAFSA applications. Enjoying myself very much. I'm basically a tourist all day and night. Eating lots of cheap $2 pork dumplings and $7 halal food in Astoria and Flushing and Sunset Park. Going to a lot of museums and art galleries in Manhattan.
Net worth today – I've been on a wild ass ride since 2018 that has been bewildering and head-spinning. $2.3 million at retirement, rallied to above $3 million at the pre-COVID peak. The lockdown selloff was brutal, I was back to $2.1 million pretty quickly by summer 2020. I then put my hoarded cash to work in more big bank, tech names and leveraged ETF plays hoping to claw back to over $3 million within three years. I was floored that it ballooned to over $10 million on the backs of those leveraged bank and tech plays going parabolic and leading the market as the Federal Reserve kept interest rates near zero (thanks “transient inflation”) and QE going for substantially longer than anyone expected.
I was shocked by the huge move higher because I grossly misjudged just how many rounds of stimulus Congress was going to pass, misjudged how long the Fed was going to ignore spiking inflation and misjudged how much central banks and lawmakers in other countries would going along with similar measures, further juicing global financial markets. You are welcome to view my post history for the past two years, as I post about some specific bank and tech trades I made.
Well, that's all crashed and burned in 2022. The steady 75-basis point interest hikes beginning in the spring by the Fed to kill the +8% inflation we are enduring have torpedoed the bank and tech names in my portfolio. I'm currently at about $6.1 million, a $4 million loss from the peak. Yes, it has been exceptionally painful. I've done some selling on the rallies and other selling on stop-loss orders being triggered.
But, whatever. I knew these trades I entered into in 2020 were high risk, high reward. And I'm up over 100% on my net worth since I retired four years ago. If you would have told me then that my nest egg would balloon to over $6 million within five years, I would have done backflips. The fact that it spiked to over $10 million before losing $4 million in value doesn't bother me as much as it should. I'm pretty much over it, at this point. I'm happy with myself that I've always kept at least $400,000 in cash on hand because it gives me the luxury now of looking over my shopping list for new names to enter into 2023. No clue when the bottom will be, I have increased my 401k contributions to the $20,500 maximum in the meantime.
I am still bullish in the long term of the big US banks. Banks because we are in a sharp rate hike cycle, meaning retail banking is very profitable for the first time in over 15 years because interest rates are high and will honestly never go back to being near-zero for so long. Wells Fargo has the largest (proportion) retail banking operation out of them all and has lagged for over a decade because of it, it's been my top pick since the Fed started hiking in May-ish. Reasons to bet against big banks are if the recession is deeper and harder than expected. Obviously.
Current cost of living – I'm currently staying in Elmhurst, Queens. It's about $1,400/month for a private room and shared bathroom, I booked on Airbnb. I highly recommend Airbnb for monthly stays, many hosts slash their asking rate 40 to 60% if you commit for that long. Huge pluses are I'm right next to a station for the 7 train and there is washer/dryer in house.
$200/month for transportation. I ride the subway with an unlimited weekly pass loaded on a MetroCard. And will take the occasional taxi or rideshare. Yes, I know about the spike in stabbings and platform pushers in the news constantly. Yes, there seems like fewer police and more mentally ill folks than before the pandemic. Luckily haven't witnessed anything yet, just need to stay mindful.
$600/month for food. I am eating out every day, there's cheap ethnic food everywhere in Queens. I can save and diet when I go home.
$250/month on attractions. I'm not spending much on attractions. There's so many free things to do in the city, it's pretty amazing. You can burn several days touring the free private art galleries in Chelsea or half a day walking the Brooklyn Bridge and back or walking in Coney Island or taking the free Staten Island ferry. The big pay museums have certain free hours blocked off every week. I did buy the occasional Mets tickets or pay to see a local band or pay the table minimum at the Comedy Cellar.
$120/month for the same four-phone family plan.
=$2,570/month. Health insurance still covered by part-time remote gig.
edit. Fixed formatting.