Longevity – how do you predict how long you will have to pay for retirement?

The retirement answer man podcast has been talking about longevity this month, with lots of useful information in it. As part of that, they mentioned and interesting link to a website and calculator – the Living to 100 calculator.

The calculator uses a series of about 40 questions to get a good baseline on how much longer you will live, based on current actuarial tables and risk factors. Filling it in takes about 5-10 minutes, and then you will be able to download a readout that provides your expected life expectancy, and (based on your answers and current science) ways that you could extend that expected lifespan (like visiting the doctor annually for a checkup, regular flossing, diet, etc.).

It is actually cool, with some interesting results based off it. Obviously, it cannot take into account a lot of your genetic makeup (the area where they are making tremendous steps in extending life). I thought it was useful, and it does show me some of the things I could do in order to further extend my life. As many of you know, I am shooting for 97, where Mrs. 39 Months and I will celebrate our 75th wedding ceremony. I am not too worried about her hitting 99, as she has a lot of longevity in her family (aunt hit 102 before she passed, etc.).

Right now, my life expectancy is 86 years old (31 years from now). Things I could do to extend my life (in years):

  • + 0.5 You noted that you do not manage your stress as well as you could. Do a better job and you could add half a year to your life expectancy
  • + 0.75 Brain strengthening activities can help you delay or escape memory loss and perhaps Alzheimer’s disease. While you are already doing some, increasing your frequency of brain-challenging activities to twice a week could add three-quarters of a year to your life. Lifestyle
  • + 0.25 Moving to a place where the air quality is better could add a quarter of a year to your life
  • + 1.0 Minimizing or cutting out your caffeinated coffee consumption completely could provide you with about a year more in life expectancy
  • + 1.0 if it is ok with your doctor, taking an 81 mg aspirin every day improves your heart and brain health and could help you delay or escape a heart attack or stroke. Taking an aspirin each day, preferably in the evening, could add 1 year to your life expectancy.
  • + 0.25 Ultraviolet rays present in sunlight and tanning beds greatly increase your risk of skin cancer, including melanoma. They also increase wrinkles. You are already providing some protection for yourself. Further minimizing your sun exposure could add a quarter of a year to your life expectancy
  • + 0.5 There is a clear link between the inflammation of gum disease and heart disease. Do a good job of flossing daily and you could add half a year to your life expectancy. Nutrition
  • + 1.0 Getting your weight down so that you are no longer overweight could add an additional 1 year to your life expectancy
  • +0.25 The more you can get fast foods out of your diet the better. While you are already doing a pretty good job of doing so, completely removing fast foods from your diet could add a quarter of a year to your life expectancy
  • + 0.5 Osteoporosis (brittle bones) is a terrible disease that becomes more common with older age. Among the important ways to prevent osteoporosis, it is important to have adequate amounts of calcium in your diet. Add more dairy products to your diet or take 1500 mg of calcium a day. Doing so could add a half a year to your life expectancy.
  • + 0.5 You are already making an effort to cut back on your carbs. Further cutting back the carbs in your diet (basically anything white and French fries) to a serving every other day could add half a year to your life expectancy
  • + 1.0 Iron is likely an age-accelerator and increases risk for age-related diseases. Stopping your iron supplement could add a year to your life expectancy
  • + 0.5 Being more active in your leisure time, other than exercising, could add half a year to your life expectancy
  • Medical
  • + 0.75 Examining yourself for cancer could add three-quarters of a year to your life expectancy
  • + 1.0 Increasing your good cholesterol (called HDL cholesterol) to a normal or even higher level could increase your life expectancy by a year
  • + 0.25 it is wise to keep a record of your laboratory tests and other health data that might be hard for you to remember. Doing so could add a quarter of a year to your life expectancy.
  • + 0.5 Decreasing your systolic blood pressure (the first of the two numbers) to 120 or even lower could add half a year to your life expectancy
  • + 0.25 Decreasing your diastolic blood pressure (the second of the two numbers) to less than 80 or even lower could add a quarter of a year to your life expectancy

That is a total of 10.75 years – which gets me right around 97!

Not sure I will do all of them, but it gives you ideas on things to do to help! With medical science making improvements all the time, this is only the beginning.

Do you have your emergency kit setup?

The FIRE community is very big on self-sufficiency and taking care of yourself, not just financially, but with a host of other things. Some folks have embraced farming (Frugalwoods, etc.), some energy independence (solar, wind, etc.), others have embraced RV/small home living. I have written before about farming/growing your own food. We all seem to want to reduce our living expenses/effort and to reduce our footprint on the planet. It is a noble goal.

Well as June starts to wind down and July starts to hit, Hurricane season starts in the Eastern US. Depending on where you live, this could be a minor, or a major cause for concern. In May I traveled to Texas, during my time there, they had torrential rainstorms, and a tornado touched down about 12 miles from where I was. The Midwest has been having severe flooding, and of course, the state of California is always trying to kill you (wildfires, earthquakes, mudslides, etc.). If we are concerned about self-sufficiency, we also need to be concerned about how we handle ourselves with life’s emergencies.

Most folks do not realize that FEMA (US Federal Emergency Management Association) states that folks need to be prepared to take care of themselves for the first 72 hours of an emergency. This makes sense, as it takes time to get the emergency machine in gear and materials on site. I will not forget when hurricane Sandy hit the New York/New Jersey area. We had several days’ notice, but some folks decided to stay in their homes, and there were people who 12 hours after the storm passed were on TV complaining that they did not have any food, any power, any gas, etc. What were they doing for the 2 days prior to the storm hitting?

You owe it to yourself to be prepared for things that might pop up. The internet and numerous books are full of information on what to do in survival situations, but I thought I would cover a few.

Things you will need to plan on

  1. Ways to stay warm. If your body drops below a certain temperature, you die – plain and simple. Depending on where you are, you will need to plan to either stay in place/living in your current domicile, without power for heat. If you have to flee, you will need blankets or sleeping bags, and a structure (car, tent, etc.) to live in.
  2. Water: So much of our world revolves around this liquid, and many people are unaware. Not just to drink, but to prepare meals, wash dishes and clothes, and to flush the toilet. If you are going to stay in place, before the disaster hits, fill your tub (the one you shower in) with water. You can use it to drink, wash and flush. If you have to leave, make sure you bring plenty of water for drinking/sanitation purposes. Estimate a minimum of a gallon per person, per day.
  3. Food: Stock up on non-perishable foods (i.e. do not have to be refrigerated). Assume you will lose power, or will not be able to refrigerate on the road while fleeing the scene. Plan to be able to subsist for at least a week. Have an alternative way to cook. Mrs. 39 Months and I have a camper stove that works on both propane and unleaded gas.
  4. First Aid Supplies: You probably cannot plan for everything, but basic first aid kits (for bumps, bruises, minor injuries, etc.) will be necessary. One thing many people forget is to make sure they have sufficient supplies of the medicine they need.
  5. Other: Do not forget your pets for supplies (food, water, medicine) as well as for warmth and transport (pet carriers) if you have to flee. In addition, toys for the kids and anything else you might need to help keep everyone calm.

Again, the internet is full of ideas on how to deal with potential issues. Take the time to do some basic preparation, and you will feel a lot better in the months ahead, as the news tries to scare the dickens out of you.

Mr. 39 Months

Investment update for June 2019

Only 13 Months to go! Two-thirds of the way there from where I first started the blog.

The market definitely took a downturn, with trade issues and recession discussions causing concerns with investors (can you say “Inverted Yield Curve”). Like so many of us in the FI community, I’m ignoring these issues and just continuing with the plan – investing as much as I can (around 50% of gross pay) and keeping my allocations. I’m up a decent amount for the year, even if the month of May wasn’t that good to me, so I continue to “plod along” as I close in on FIRE.

Retirement Accounts: Remember, my allocation for these is:

  • 30% Bond Index Fund
  • 17.5% S&P500 Index Fund
  • 17.5% International Index Fund
  • 17.5% Small Cap Index Fund
  • 17.5% REIT Index Fund

For the month, I’m down about -3.6% (ouch!). The big losers were the S&P 500, Small-cap and international – the same funds that have been going like gang-busters for most of 2019. The two underperformers in 2019 – Bonds and REITs, were up, which is further proof on the benefits of allocating and rebalancing.

  • S&P500: -6.4%
  • Small Cap: -7.2%
  • International: -5.5%
  • Bonds: +1.8%
  • REITs: +0.1%

My 401K/Deferred account at work is up a similar amount. Since it doesn’t have REITS, it performed a little worse (-4.5%) for May, but it also has performed better for 2019.

Dividend Income Account: Allocation:

  • 25% Dividend Stocks
  • 25% REITs
  • 50% Bond Index Funds

This is up 0.1%, primarily because I am so heavily weighted in bonds and REITs. The dividends they throw off are nice, but at times, they just don’t grow much. My dividend stocks (Chevron, Verizon, etc.) were down more. I continue to use this to learn/experiment with dividend investing, so I’m not too disappointed.

Value Investing Account: My value investing portfolio is down around 7.0% for the month of May. Since its 100% stocks and stocks got beat up in May, I understand. Its done well for the year so far, so no major changes here.

So for the year so far, I’m still up, about 8.94%, and I have put over $42K into the accounts since the beginning of the year. On track to put about $75K for the year.

How was your May?

Mr. 39 Months

Book Review – The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris

This book was recommended (and purchased for me) by Mrs. 39 Months. Followers of the blog may have noticed a little manic/depressive streak in some of my writings. While I have often chosen to take the happy road in life and avoid unhappy/depressive thoughts, I can get into a “funk” at times. I also have quite a temper (inherited from my Dad’s side of the family) that was probably pushed further when my parents got divorced when I was very young. Now, any time that I (or both of my siblings apparently) feel things are not in their control, we tend to go bezerk and overreact. My younger brother has broken things, as have I (and I suspect my older brother has as well). This also leads to some very aggressive driving at times, which is not good for anyone.

Mrs. 39 Months has been tolerant at times, though she has often expressed either concern or anger at how I overreact. I assumed this was why the book was purchased.

The general thesis of the book, however, is that the desire to be happy all the time is not only impossible, but also fly’s in the face of our natural selection process. The humans that survived were the ones that were cautious, careful, and who assumed the worst (and were surprised when it worked out). Those who assumed things were good when they were eating the berries got an unpleasant surprise when the lion jumped out and ate them.

Thus, we have been bred to plan for the worst, to look out for potential pitfalls, to worry, and to make plans to overcome problems/issues in case they pop up. That is why it is impossible for us just be happy for any extended time. Strike any bells for those FI people who have retired?

The book has three parts:

  1. How you set the happiness trap: Goes through the reasons we can’t “just be happy” and how we smack ourselves around when our natural instincts get in the way of just being happy
  2. Transforming your Inner World: Detailed steps on how to deal with unhappy thoughts and feelings. Here the author uses Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) to show how, instead of suppressing your unhappy feelings and worries, you can allow them to exist and to work with them, and continue to work towards your goals. There are over 23 methods discussed, and the author urges you to try them and go with the methods that work for you
  3. Creating a Life worth living: A series of exercises that will be very familiar to FIRE folks. The exercises help you identify your values, set long and short-term goals face fears and move on towards a meaningful life.

I have to say, after reading through it, I identified many of the issues that kept me from being happier and moving towards my goals. Following some of the methods in chapter 2, I have been able to come to terms with my anger and let a lot more “roll of my back.” It has been very helpful and Mrs. 39 Months has noticed the difference.

I am just starting to dig into the third part (I have read it, but have not done any of the nine exercises yet). Looking forward to seeing how matches up with some of the work I have already done.

I would rate it an A, and a good book for those interested in why they “can’t just be happy.”

Mr. 39 Months

Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a day in the United States that has been set aside to honor those who died serving in the armed forces of the US. It was originally established in 1868 for May 30th, to honor those lost in the US Civil War. In that war, almost 10% of the adult male population died, so there wasn’t a family in the country that wasn’t touched by the conflict. Often families lost multiple members, and the need to mourn the dead and honor the sacrifice was felt by all family members.

The holiday continued from 1868 to 1970 to be celebrated on May 30th, no matter which day of the week it fell on. In 1971 it was changed to the last Monday of the month of May, to enable folks to have a 3-day weekend. I’m still of two minds here, because I tend to believe by making these kind of changes (President’s weekend, Labor Day weekend) we weaken the actual reason why we are having the memorial holiday. That is one of the reason I’m glad that US Veteran’s Day (to celebrate military veterans) still falls on November 11th. The date marks the end of World War 1 (the great war) which ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Let’s keep it that way.

For many folks, Memorial Day marks the start of summer. Kids look forward to summer vacation, and many folks start taking holidays and travel. For many of these folks, stuck in their 9-5 existence, this is the only time they get to enjoy their free time. For the FIRE community, we’ve reached the point where we can take time off when we want, any time of the year. We aren’t tied down to when/if our boss can let us go.

At least that is where I hope to be shortly (13 months!). We spent the weekend visiting some of Mrs. 39 Months family. Her brother and sister-in-law both retired about 5 years ago, and true to form, they’ve now started volunteering at various spots (their daughter works at a museum, and the helping out there), exploring new interests (the wife has

joined two bands with her oboe) and traveling (her brothers are both heading to Nepal this fall to hike to Everest base camp & back).

Today, we’re going to be with friends for a “bad movie night” (I’ve written about it before). Good friends and good times.

Hopefully you are enjoying your time this weekend!

Mr. 39 Months

Frugal Win – Gardening

As folks in the community work towards their financial independence, they work on all sorts of ways to reduce their need to spend money. From less expensive cars, to renewable energy, to smaller homes, we explore ways to reduce our costs and move closer to financial independence. Heck, some of us bike to work for gosh sakes!

One of the ways you can help reduce costs is to produce some of your own food. The Frugalwoods actually went to go live on a farm and work to do this for themselves! Here at Casa 39 Months we are a little more low key. We have some spring vegetables that we like to eat (Brocolli, Califlower, Cabbage) and some Summer Vegetables we like (Squash, Tomatoes, etc.) so we set up three raised beds in a corner of the yard to raise them.

The build wasn’t hard. I went and purchased some 8ft 2×12 and 2×4 lumber at the local store, as well as some 3-1/2” deck screws. I then cut some of the 2x12s into 24” lengths with a handsaw (you could also use a powered circular saw) and built up a 2ft x 8ft box. I cut up the 2x4s into 24” lengths and put them inside to screw the 2x12s into – that way it was all screwed together and solid.

To fill that in, I put in a bunch of “Mel’s Mix” which is the gardening fill that Mel Bartholomew developed for his square foot gardening method (see below). Its consists of:

  • 1/3 Compost/Manure
  • 1/3 Peat Moss
  • 1/3 Vermiculite

Note: this is a highly productive mix. It can be updated in the following years by buying some parts of it and refilling the beds.

Once full, I planted this spring’s crops, one set of seeds every square foot. Its taken some time to weed and water (though the year has been wet so far) and we seem to be having some crops grow! I forgot to space out my planting (plant some this week, plant some later) so they’d mature at different rates. Still, we’ve had success in the past, and look forward to eating our own vegetables this year. Another way to get “off the grid” more.

Some books that I think help with the topic

  • Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew: Great book on how to grow a lot in a small space
  • Grow or Die by David the Good: Good book on how to “just get started” gardening

Happy Dirt Digging!

Mr. 39 Months

What does your first day of retirement look like?

What does your first day of retirement look like? Your first week? Your first month?

For many folks in the FIRE community, the journey to FI is what occupies their time. Many folks dream about life once they retire, and write about it extensively. Yet the writing and thoughts don’t seem to zero in on a lot of the details that will occupy you on day 2, or a month into retirement. There is a lot of talking of sleeping in, sipping coffee/tea, taking it easy, traveling, etc. Yet what is your life really going to look like as you move into retirement for the first year? How much time have you spend answering this question?

I’m very grateful to many of the FIRE bloggers who, having spent years writing about their work heading towards FI, have continued to write about their lives post-FI. A partial list includes:

Some of the questions you need to ask yourself:

  1. When will you wake up and go to bed?
  2. What early morning rituals do you intend to engage in? Yoga/stretching, meditation, reading, writing, etc.
  3. What sort of end-of-day rituals do you intend to engage in?
  4. When will you eat? What will you eat?
  5. How will you engage with your spouse? Your family? The local community?
  6. What work/hobbies will you start doing on day 1 or 2? What later on?
  7. After you have finished with your initial “splurge” of travel (often all of year 1) what additional travel are you planning on doing? What sort of schedule per year (4X a year? 2X a year?)
  8. How will you interact with family & friends who continue to work?
  9. How will you seek out new friends and relationships?

There are obviously a host of other questions and things to consider. You should work on how you plan to live, at least for the first year. Assume you can “dial in” 50% – 75% of your initial life, but also assume that life will throw you curve balls (both in terms of issues and opportunities) that will end up taking a significant portion of your time.

You’ll often hear folks when they talk about retirement – “Don’t volunteer for too much when you first retire. You will be surprised how much of your time gets taken up.” Take some time to think about the details of your FIRE life, and you will end up having a great one.

Mr. 39 Months

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Been traveling down to be with my mother this weekend. She just recently (3 months ago) lost her husband of 47 years (my stepfather) so I wanted to be down there to support and show her my love. Like most people, a major part of who I am is based on her teaching and modeling as I grew up.

She supported my efforts growing up (sports, Boy Scouts, etc.). She provided a safe home, and after my parent’s divorce, she was the rock that helped all of us make it through. It was due to her that I was able to follow my military interest (she got me into West Point with a lot of effort) and while there, I met the future Mrs. 39 Months. After 33 years of marriage, we are still going strong.

It was a good weekend, and with one of my brothers, we worked on a variety of small tasks around the house that she needed done. She stated that she doesn’t really want “things” anymore for Mother’s Day, birthdays, etc. She would just like our help and to be able to see us. We got her car cleaned up, planted some flowers in a bed that she wanted, and generally cleaned out some leftover items and took them to Charity.

We also discussed her finances and how she was doing. Like most children of the Depression in the US, she was an avid saver and has a lot of money in her own right. In addition, she has an annuity from my stepfather, as well as a partial pension from my stepfather. She is also reviewing whether to take his Social Security or keep her own (as you know, she is eligible to take the one that is larger). She is the executor of the estate for my stepfather and is in contact with his three children, who will inherit the estate. A lot of details to go through, all while she is dealing with her own issues.

I hope you all had a great Mother’s Day, and made sure to share your love.

Mr. 39 Months

Investment update for May 2019

Only 14 Months to go!

Wow, economy continues to go chugging along, GDP growth in the US was 3.2%, and unemployment is the lowest since people were stunned by humans walking on the moon! I know at my company we continue to struggle with hiring folks, and we have had to dramatically increase our wages for hourly employees (warehouse workers, transportation, etc.) Personally, I think it’s a great sign that the wages of the hourly folks, which have been stagnant for a long time, are getting the bumps they need. In my company, the salaries of a couple just starting with the organization equals about the average salary in the US. Depending on where they live, they are already in the middle class. Stick with it a couple of years, and they’ll be earning really good money. Yay!

You’d think this might be a drag on the investments (inflation, fed raising rates, etc.) but it doesn’t seem to be slowing things much. US Markets are hitting new highs. April was another banner month, and we continued to push stuff forward. My investments were up 1.64% for the month, and are up 12.53% for the year. This with me playing it safe with 30% in bonds! Some more aggressive FIRE folks are really “burning it up” in their investments this year.

Realized that I hadn’t done an investment update for February this year. I guess when you hit a certain point on your FI journey, where everything is on “autopilot” you just don’t notice. It’s a shame, really, because February was another good month, coming off a really good January. There are reports of the economy slowing down in 2019, but the reporting of profits in 2018 has provided some positive surprises for companies, and the result has been a continued strong market. Also, the US Fed has backed off its aggressive stance on interest rates (see my previous post on that effect) so the market will hopefully do well in early 2019.

Retirement Accounts: Remember, my allocation for these is:

  • 30% Bond Index Fund
  • 17.5% S&P500 Index Fund
  • 17.5% International Index Fund
  • 17.5% Small Cap Index Fund
  • 17.5% REIT Index Fund

Another positive month, with small caps, International and S&P 500 leading the way. Again, they are making up for a poor showing in 2018. REITs and bonds (better in 2018) continue to perform poorly. Continue to show the need to rebalance, which I do every 6 months.

  • S&P500: +4.0%
  • Small Cap: -+3.7%
  • International: +2.8%
  • Bonds: -0.1%
  • REITs: +0.1%

My 401K/Deferred account at work is up a similar amount

Dividend Income Account: Allocation:

  • 25% Dividend Stocks
  • 25% REITs
  • 50% Bond Index Funds

This is down -1.2%, primarily because I am so heavily weighted in bonds and REITs. The dividends they throw off are nice, but at times, they just don’t grow much. My dividend stocks (Chevron, Verizon, etc.) are also down significantly. I continue to use this to learn/experiment with dividend investing, so I’m not too disappointed.

Value Investing Account: My value investing portfolio is up around 2.9% for the month. Nice bump after getting burned in 2018. The allocation is about 50/50 between a total market fund and a value index fund.

So for the year so far, I’m up 12.53%, and I have put almost $38K into the accounts since the beginning of the year (put 100% of my bonus into investments). On track to put about $75K for the year.

I did an updated analysis of my current situation, and if my wife and I got only 50% of our expected Social Security, we could consider ourselves financially independent right now. Since I still don’t have a lot of confidence my SS will not be cut, I’m planning to continue to work at least the remaining 14 months.

How was your April?

Mr. 39 Months