Happy Thanksgiving! What are you thankful for?

In the United States today, its Thanksgiving, a day based, supposedly, on the Pilgrims celebrating their harvest. Typically it is celebrated with family and friends, and folks come from out of town to be with parents/kids and remind themselves how good life can be. In these uncertain times, I think we all need this, and need to celebrate with our families. This year, we are getting together with my side of the family in Tennessee, after not really seeing each other for 3 years (we had to cancel last year).

So what are you thankful for?

For me, it’s a variety of things:

  1. I’m thankful for my good health, and the good health of everyone in my family. We’ve had friends who have lost loved ones this year (non-Covid) but luckily our families have been ok.
  2. I’m thankful for the fact that we are both still gainfully employed, earning money that helps further enhance our FI position. While we are “financially independent” we’ve chosen to continue to work at this time.
  3. I’m thankful for the friends we have, and the hobbies/crafts that we enjoy with them. As we transition to retirement, these are the areas that are going to keep us involved and active.
  4. I’m thankful for the fact that I live in the US. While it has a lot of problems, there are a tremendous number of reasons to rejoice in the opportunities the country provides, and the people that inhabit it. We really are blessed in this regard.

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving!

Mr. 39 Months

Dividend Account results – 3rd Qtr 2021

Well, October is halfway done, and we are ¾ of the way through the y ear. If you’ve been reading my story, you know that this is an inherited IRA from my father, that I set up as a sort of “experiment” for an old-time dividend paying account, which would generate regular income – something a person could use once they retire.

I’ve had some ups & downs with it, and it has generated roughly 4% in dividends annually – but it hasn’t grown very much. Thus, in this era of growth fund investing and low interest rates, it hasn’t been able to generate the sort of returns necessary for someone to live off of in a long-term retirement. Still, its an interesting experiment, and good to know.

I started it back in 2016, and the fund was setup with 50% bonds, 25% dividend stocks and 25% REITs. After 2-1/2 years, I decided to divest from bonds, because with the low interest rates, they were only paying about 2% in dividends and dragging down the performance of the whole fund. Since then, its been a roughly 50/50 split.

In 2020, I started a “dog of the dow” investment strategy, where you purchase the 10 stocks with the highest yield on the Dow (i.e. their price vs. the dividend they are paying is lower). Its an old time strategy, and I’m not sure how its going to pay off long term. 2020 was a bad year for dividend stocks, but they’ve bounced back.

Now for the 3rd quarter, we generated roughly similar dividends to what was generated in 2nd quarter. The value of the fund on July 1 was $138K, and for October 1 it was $134.5K, so the account didn’t really grow (actually shrunk about 2.5%) while generating an annual 3.7% dividend rate. As I’ve stated before, this doesn’t appear to be a valid way to generate retirement income for the long haul. Whether this is due to low interest rates, poor performance from income stocks, or just generic poor performance from the “Dogs of the Dow” strategy, it still results in subpar performance vs. the needs for retirement.

Vanguard Stretch IRA
stockDetailsInvestment valueYieldDividend
CVXChevron Corp$5,072.505.28%$67.00
HRHealthcare Realty Trust$14,890.004.06%$151.25
KOCoca Cola Company$5,247.003.20%$42.00
MMM3M Company$8,771.003.37%$74.00
MRKMerck & Company$3,755.503.46%$32.50
ORealty Income Corp$12,972.004.35%$141.20
PFFIshares Preferred$10,245.174.54%$116.33
SVCService Properties TR$6,726.000.36%$6.00
UMHUMH Properties Inc$25,190.003.32%$209.00

The majority of our retirement money is tied into a normal mutual fund allocation, so this experiment hasn’t really set me back in my quest for financial independence. I’m thinking of winding this down at the end of 2021 or 2022 as I close in on my

Read more

Mr. 39 Months

Saturday Linkage:


  1. 9 Things to Think About When You’re Waiting (Art of Manliness) I really like this article and its ideas. Need to use them when I’m impatient.
  2. Weekly Points: Southwest Calendar Extended, Should You Tip Housekeeping, Three Cards To Never Close and More! (Travel miles 101); Weekly tips, now that we are all starting to get out.
  3. 3 Credit Cards We’ll Never Close (Mile Value); Three different writes give their opinions
  4. Turning 50, Part 2: Rethinking The Years Ahead (Costa Rica FIRE) Another blogger who is pretty close to my situation, so I enjoy reading their work /
  5. The Great Resignation Is Here, and It’s Real (inc.com); I’ve been hearing a lot about this lately.
  6. Ten Keys to Making a Sucky Job Less Sucky (Freedom is Groovy); Ways to improve your job, instead of joining the Great Resignation
  7. Retirees Likely to Receive Significant Bump in Social Security Benefits in 2022 (Kiplingers) I am always suspicious about an organization (US Govt) that both determines the inflation rate, and the increase in social security. I think Inflation has been higher than the increases for years now, especially when you consider health care costs.
  8. Why I’m Living on Leftovers (Budget Life List); I love leftovers.
  9. The Crashes That Nobody’s Talking About (Irrelevant Investor) The top 25 Stocks of the S&P are responsible for 55% of the gains, and a lot of S&P stocks are getting hammered in 2021.
  10. The negligence that led me to DIY investing (JL Collins) I ended up going DIY about 10 years ago, after tracking my own performance vs my advisor – and beating him every year for a decade by 1% -2% each year.
  11. Little Free Libraries (Reflections around the Campfire); A cute idea

Saturday Linkage:


  1. 33 Invaluable Travel Hacks From Experienced Jet-Setters (Inside Hook); Time to get back out there!  
  2. Could You Live on Half Your Income if it Would Make You Free? (Financial success); Most of us in the FI community are already saving 50% of our money, so this could work.
  3. TikTok is not a fiduciary! A cautionary tale (Surviving and Thriving); Whoever takes advice from TikTok or anyone else online without researching it – gets what they paid for!
  4. 33 Ways To Simplify Your Life (And Be Happier For It) (Mr. Porter); Some good ideas
  5. How to Stop Letting the 24 Hour News Cycle Control Your Life (Steve Adcock ); The news lives to “alarm you” and sells that way. I’ve been on a news diet for almost a year now.
  6. When Should You Self-Insure? (Can I retire yet?) Our last life insurance policy is due to lapse in November of this year. Since we’ve hit FI, we’re letting it drop. h
  7. Inflation Basics (White Coat Investor); Its here already
  8. Time Freedom: Choosing How to Spend Your Time (One Frugal Girl); As you get older, time becomes even more valuable.
  9. Your % Savings Rate is the Most Important Number (The Escape Artist); How high is yours?
  10. Invest Now or Wait? (Aussie Doc Freedom); I’m always on the side of investing now.
  11. Why the 4% Rule Doesn’t Work for Early Retirement (FIRE) (Cash Flows and Portfolios) I still think it works for those of us who’ve achieved FI in our 50s.

Are Stocks in a Bubble?

Recently, Kiplinger’s published an article (both in print and on the internet) which raised the question of whether stocks were in a bubble. It raised some interesting items, many of which have been covered in the FI “sphere” already.

  • Year-long boom since the 2nd qtr 2020 Covid Crash
  • Major market indexes pulling back and tech-heavy Nasdaq down
  • Irrational speculation in specific stocks (Tesla, Gamestop, etc.)
  • Incredibly high P/E ratios
  • Eventual stopping of the Fed’s “pumping money” policies

The article then covers some moves you could make, some of which I agree with, and some I don’t:

  1. Park some of your gains in a low-risk money market account (don’t agree, not paying anything)
  2. Purchase some 10-year Treasury notes (not sure, currently paying 1.03%, so not a great deal)
  3. Focus on stocks with defensive traits (agree, value stocks, high dividend stocks, etc.)
  4. Consider sector investing for specific cyclical stocks (agree, certain sectors do better in market downturns)
  5. Consider emerging markets (somewhat agree, I have a portion of our assets in this)
  6. Stay the course (definitely agree. Have a plan, stick to it, continue to invest)

Overall, interesting read

Read more

Mr. 39 Months

Saturday Linkage:


  1. Golden Handcuffs (becoming minimalist); What is keeping you in your job?
  2. Rethinking the 4% safe withdrawal rate (Get Rich Slowly); Discussion on whether the 4% rule is still valid – Bingen says yes, but this article begs to differ
  3. The Wealth Trap (millennial revolution); How Covid has affected aspects of this traveling couple their lifestyle, and that of their friends/peers.
  4. Be true to yourself (one Frugal girl); How someone’s actual life changed their views towards possessions over time.
  5. Young FIRE bloggers remind me of Good Will Hunting (My quiet FI); Knowledge vs. Experiences.
  6. Time to build a Lazy portfolio (the frugal expat); Not exactly a “set it and forget it” portfolio, but ones that take very little monitoring or adjustments.
  7. There is value in chilling out (pick up pennies); For all those super-FI folks out there with 10+ side hustles, good for you! Just don’t sneer at those of us not interested in starting stuff up for a variety of personal reasons.
  8. Eleven Ways to Avoid Probate (Physician on Fire); Good advice for those either preparing their plans or counseling others on it.
  9. Why having “enough” feels so elusive (radheads). Excellent read about the physcology of “having enough” vs. continuing on the treadmill.
  10. The difficult path to wealth (1500 days); Lessons which are not hard to understand, but difficult to do.
  11. Are we in a stock bubble (the retirement manifesto); His answer is yes, and he gives some ideas on how to plan for the next crash.

Dividend Account results – 2020

For most folks who are tracking dividends, 2020 has been a crazy year (unlike the rest of the folks?). Yields went up dramatically in the first half – because stock prices crashed. Yields returned to their normal levels, or were lower, because stocks hit the roof! Yield percentage ended up not being the best way to track performance because of the wild swings in stock value – the key was to track the actual dividends paid.

My brokerage account is invested in a Vanguard value fund 100%, so dividends aren’t that much of an emphasis. Still the yield on that was 1.92%, which beat the S&P500 (my Vanguard S&P 500 was yielding around 1.5%). The dividends paid out were slightly higher than last year.

My stretch IRA, which was built to generate dividends, really showed the effects of 2020. The value of the account dropped 12% for the year (I had a lot of REITs), but the dividend was up 5.7% for the year. While their value dropped, they did pay me more income.

Vanguard Stretch IRA
stockDetailsInvestment valueYieldDividend
CSCOCisco Systems$6,712.503.20%$214.50
XOMExxon Mobil$4,122.008.44%$348.00
HRHealthcare Realty$14,800.004.05%$600.00
IBMInternational Business Machines$6,294.005.17%$325.50
ORealty Income Corp (REIT)$12,434.004.31%$536.05
SVCServices PPTYS TR$6,894.002.61%$180.00
MMM3M Company$8,739.502.35%$205.80
UMHUMH Properties$16,291.004.86%$792.00

This was offset by the performance of my 401K, IRAs and Roths. I’ve talked before about my mix, and I dropped my bond allocation for 2020 from 30% to 20%. This appears to have hit my dividends, because they are down 8.2% for the year (about $2k). Yet the gains in the funds for the year are up 8.3% (over $100K) – so I think I made the right choice reducing my bond allocation.

Overall, I received about $957 less in dividends in 2020 vs. 2019. Again, I think the change in bond allocation affected this – which probably means my dividends will drop further in 2021 since I’m getting out of bonds. We will see.

  Variance in Value 2020 vs 2019Variance in Dividend
Vanguard Brokerage $57,743$1,079
Vanguard Stretch IRA ($16,107)$279
401K $10,673$207
Deferred Investments $6,940($214)
TRowePrice IRA $16,059($935)
TRowePrice Roth IRA $28,586($440)
Vanguard IRA $33,773($1,307)
Vanguard Roth IRA $34,004$735

As I have stated previously, I use this account to experiment and look to see how I might use a lump of cash to generate income. In the book “Power of Zero” they point out that if you keep your income below a certain threshold, dividends and capital gains are tax free. That is going to be one of my goals for my retirement, to keep my taxes very low.

How did everyone else do with the dividends in 2020?

Read more

Mr. 39 Months

Goals/Objectives for 2020 – How did I do?

Now that I’ve gone through the financial side of my “end of year checklist”, its time to review the goals for 2020 and see how I’ve done. I’ve done the goal setting posts before and gone over my 2017-2019 goals in previous posts. As for most people, 2020 was a mixed bag. Surprisingly, most of the finance goals were accomplished, but for the non-financial goals, it was a mix. As I stated before, as the FIRE gets you, you end up with a lot of the finances on auto-pilot, and then you really start to concentrate on what really matters.

For 2020, my financial goals reflect that we are closing in on “coming in for a landing” and need to adjust for that. We continue contributing to the match on our 401K and the max on our Roth IRA, but we’ve shifted a lot of our investments to post-tax, so that we can have more flexibility when we retire early. We started that in 2019, and kept it up.

Officially, I’m 6 months past the original date I set in the blog. When I run the numbers, I believe we have achieved FI, even with the reduced returns that our financial advisor has. Like so many others, I’m starting to rethink actually leaving at that time. No so much because I need the funds (although that would be nice) but because I still enjoy some aspects of the work, and may not be ready to jettison it. I think what is more likely is that I’ll depart at some point, but continue to work on “side hustles” off to the side for some time.

So what about 2020?


  • Save $28K in tax-advantaged accounts (saved over $75K in 2019 – but a lot of that was in the Deferred). 401K, and Roth IRA. Grade A –  $29,311
  • Save $41K in regular accounts (compared to $5K in 2019). As I noted above, we’re going to be taking about $3K per month and sticking it in regular investing, after paying taxes on it versus putting it in pre-tax with the company’s deferred. Starting to build that bucket of funds we’ll need prior to hitting age 65. Grade A – $43,100
  • Increase dividend income from all accounts to $30K/year (compared to 29K in 2019). Grade C – $28,912
  • Passive income covers 38% of base living expenses in retirement, estimated at $78K per year (previously, I was using $72K, but after meetings with our finance guy and Mrs. 39 Months, the budget ended up being $78K).  My long-term goal is to get my dividend/passive income up to where it covers over 100% of my expected retirement living expenses, so my investments can continue to grow. Grade B- 37.1%
  • Beat net worth growth rate of 6% (it was +20.1% in 2019 with the stock market run up). This is my historical growth rate for the last 10+ years, so I want to beat my average. As I stated earlier in January, I’m expecting the market to be flat this year, since we jumped up so much in 2019. Grade A: +14.6%


  • While not getting a membership, I want to attend six (6) of my local real estate investors association meetings this year. I’ll probably join permanently in2021. They hold a regular monthly meeting, a monthly meeting for new investors, and a monthly meeting for my specific county. All three could be interesting. Grade A: Attended 8
  • Double the number of blog visitors in 2020. Last year it was a little over 6,000. I want to get at least 12,000 this year, so I need to put myself out there more (i.e. comment) and write interesting topics. My thanks to everyone who stopped by, and I try to return the favor, and comment as well. Grade F – decreased by 19% from 2019
  • Create TKD Woodworking (my side-hustle name) with an LLC, website, finance tracking, etc. Sort of a trial method for running businesses. Grade A – Created business
  • Make $1,000 in sales (not necessarily profit) on items with TKD woodworking. Grade F – no sales
  • Write/publish a book on finance.  I wrote one for new graduates in 2017, but I have identified an area of the community which hasn’t been served as well in the past. Hopefully I can assist with something here.  I’ve got the first five chapters outlined/partially done, but still have a ways to go. Grade F


  • Increase weight lifted by 10% from 2019. Was able to exceed this in 2019, need to continue to push it. Incomplete. Chinese Virus killed gyms, didn’t get back in
  • Average 2 hours of cardio per week, which is about what I’m doing now.  Grade B: Completed, but mostly daily walks. No intense cardio
  • Backpack over 90 miles on AT (did around 80 miles in 2019). The trail that I haven’t hiked is getting further and further away, making it impossible to do weekend trips. Going to get harder. Grade D: 58.1 miles
  • Continue volunteering at Pennsbury Manor at their joiner’s shop (woodworking). Really enjoyed this. Incomplete. Site shutdown due to Virus
  • Reduce weight by 20 lbs. from Jan 2019 (lost 2 lbs. in 2018). Again, I want to get in better shape as I get closer to financial independence. Grade D. Only lost 8 lbs and I think at least half of this is muscle
  • Read at least one book a month. I surpassed this goal in 2018, and re-learned the joy of reading.  Grade A. 23 books


  • Visit three national parks (that is the plan, right now); Incomplete due to virus
  • Visit family in Tennessee, Vermont and New York. Family is very important to me. One of the things I am looking forward to with financial independence is the opportunity to visit family more often. Need to get up to see my brother in Vermont. Grade C – Visited Vermont and Tennessee, but didn’t get up to NY
  • Take a week at the shore and just relax with family. Currently planned for July, but we’ll see how many family members can come. Incomplete due to virus
  • Visit Ellis Island. Still want to do this – its so close. As 50% Czech from immigrant great grandparents from the turn of the century, I believe they went through there, and I want to see it Incomplete due to virus

So those are my somewhat ambitious goals for 2020. I am going to do my best to hit them, so wish me luck.

Other Bloggers:

What are your goals for 2021?

Read more

Mr. 39 Months

Saturday Linkage

August 15, 2020

  1. Is it a smart idea to pay off rental property (Route to Retire); goes through the numbers on making this decision
  2. What will you do all day in retirement? (ESI Money); Review of an interesting book with good advice on what  you need to do to set yourself up once you’ve retired.
  3. Work Less (Zen habits); The benefits of shorter lengths of “more focused” work
  4. Why you shouldn’t ignore “active” income (The Fioneers); How even small amounts of income from a part-time job will help you achieve your goals quicker
  5. Money Mistakes in your 20s to avoid (Simple Dollar); some of these are very obvious, but people still make them.
  6. Why chasing returns is sure way to lose (physician Philosopher); Good analysis with numbers to show how many folks chase the hot “item” but lose out, because its already peaked and on its downslope when it becomes “hot.”
  7. Median Income for the middle class mass affluent (financial Samurai); For the 80% to 99%, its not as high as you think.
  8. Why real estate will always be more desirable than stocks (Financial Samurai)
  9. Is this the last hurrah for bonds? (retirement field guide); maybe not right now, but its coming close. The Fed keeps rates low to battle deflation, and its killing bond rates.
  10. The sweet spot (Mr. Money Mustache) how to reach that point where you can work as you want on stuff you want to do, and enjoy your lifestyle.