Book Review – Complete Retirement Guidebook by Wall Street Journal

This is a pretty good book for those people who are preparing to retire or achieve financial independence in the next 5 years. Written in 2007, it doesn’t have as many charts and equations as many “retirement” books, but it does include a great number of web links, and great advice on the social side of preparing for and moving into retirement.

One of the things I liked about it was that, instead of going through the numbers, the book first emphasizes creating the lifestyle you want to retire to. It is here in the first quarter of the book where it really shines out versus other books I’ve reviewed.

It first asks what I think is a key question you need to consider when pursuing financial independence. How do I want to spend my time in retirement? From there is goes on to offer advice on working (or not), volunteering, relocation and fitness/health. In each of these areas, the book provides a lot of useful links and places to seek additional guidance, while covering (in broad strokes) many of the key issues you need to consider. Just reading this first part will definitely leave you with a lot of questions you will need to answer before you can proceed.

The second part of the book covers “Money Mechanics” and provides much of the same information that many retirement books provide (saving for retirement, budgeting, social security, estate planning, etc.). Again, each chapter provides plenty of links and useful information, as well as charts and forms to fill out to determine the optimum way to handle your finances.

Finally, the book ends with some excellent success stories of recent retirees – how they set themselves up for success and what their new lives are like. It’s a great way to end the book with some motivation.

Overall, I think its an excellent book that should be part of anyone’s study who is thinking of moving on shortly. Grade 4 stars out of 5

 

Mr. 39 months

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early Retirement – Good or Bad?

Early in the month, Financial Samurai had a great post about the dark side of early retirement

http://www.financialsamurai.com/the-dark-side-of-early-retirement-risks-dangers/

He starts out with some of the reasons folks want to retire early, including job difficulties, realization of time slipping away, and general feelings of hopelessness in their current environment. He then moves into some of the dangers, and lays them out in convincing fashion.

  • What if you get bored and change your mind?
  • What if you run out of money?
  • What if you lose relationships due to your changed lifestyle?

He finishes with some words of warning (be careful who you listen to about early retirement, looking beyond the conventional wisdom) and discusses what he believes the real goal should be – Financial Independence, not early retirement. While keeping an age or year as a goal to motivate and to do this so that you can live a happy, productive life doing the work you love – not the job you hate.

I think it is an excellent warning, as so many of the Early Retirement community have the potential of falling into the trap. I see a lot of websites with people in hammocks and lovely beach scenes. What is funny is to read the ones of folks who have reached it, and to find out that they either continue to work (maybe at reduced hours/stress) or have found other “work” that they do which fills their day.

I belong to the baby boom generation, a generation which has defined itself (for both good and ill) by their job and function in society. While my goal is to be financially independent by July 2020, I know that I won’t be able to just sit down. While I might take some time to relax, travel and do a few things I’ve always wanted, I know that within 12 months I will be going stir crazy. That’s why I am big on hobbies, and will probably find some part-time work to stay in the game/keep my mind working.

What are your thoughts on this? When you hit financial independence, will you walk away?

 

 

You’ve got to have hobbies

 

One of the things they will always tell you about retirement is that you have to have hobbies or other interests in order to keep you from going batty once you gain your freedom. There are numerous stories of people retiring, and passing on a couple of years later, because their purpose in life has ended. I myself had a father-in-law who passed away 2 years after retirement.

For me, I have two primary hobbies (other than this blog) – backpacking the Appalachian Trail, and woodworking.

Backpacking the AT: When I was 38 years old, I was visiting my mother in East Tennessee. We took the opportunity to visit the Smoky Mountains National Park, and there I saw a large map (48” x 12”) which shows the entire length of the AT from Georgia to Maine. I had enjoyed backpacking in my youth, but had stopped when I joined the army. For some reason, I decided right there that I would seek out to hike the entire 2,100 mile length over the next 10-15 years.

Well, its been about 15 years, and I’ve only been able to get 716 miles done so far (about 1/3). Primarily that is because life and work continues to get in the way. I’ve been able to get it done from Shenandoah park to Connecticut (and some other states) but I still have a lot to do. I’ve currently got about 100 miles scheduled for 2017, so that should push me a little over 800 miles.

This weekend, I was able to hike it with a bunch of friends, and we did about 12 miles, even though it rained a great deal on Saturday. Its great to get out, talk with other folks from the world hiking, and just get the exercise.

The other primary hobby I have is woodworking, specifically the making of furniture by hand. I’ve managed to accumulate a full set of power tools (tablesaw, jointer, planer, drill press, bandsaw, etc.) and an excellent collection of hand tools – which I’m starting to use more and more. I will try and share some of these in the future as well.

What hobbies are you currently taking part in, or are planning to take on in the years ahead as you prepare for Financial Independence?

 

 

 

 

Book Review: $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

Chris is an entrepreneur and author, who spends the majority of his time traveling the world, interviewing other entrepreneurs, and hosting the World Domination Summit (a gathering of creative people).

 The book was published in 2012, and contains stories from over 50 different entrepreneurs, as we learn their startup lessons. The key lesson that Chris tries to get across is that you don’t need large sums of money to get started and you don’t need to turn your startup into a giant, multi-billion dollar enterprise. Most of the people in the book are satisfied with smaller operations (often 1-person), which fulfills their needs and allows them to pursue the work and lifestyle which they want.

 The first part of the book covers basic stories of people who became entrepreneurs. It covers how individuals got their ideas, how they worked to make get the business off the ground, and some of the ways they found to succeed. One of the key points that Chris emphasizes in the book is the idea of value – how you need to provide value to potential clients in order to succeed.

 The second part of the book goes into more details of how to start and succeed in your small business. It talks about simple, one-page business plans, startup/launches, and using everything possible to self-promote the business. It also has some interesting ideas on how to fundraise (including the story of how one business got started with a car loan when the owners couldn’t get a business loan).

 The final part of the book covers some steps you can take in order to grow your business and take it to the next level. He talks about leverage, how to franchise, and getting as big as you want (but no bigger). He finishes up with a chapter on “what happens if you fail” in which he talks about several entrepreneurs who failed their first and even second time before finally making it. The key is to persevere.

 A lot of the items covered have been dealt with before, and his writing tends to gloss over many of the details the reader might wish were covered in more depth. Overall, I’d give the book 3 stars out of 5

 

 

Status Update: April 30, 2017

Status Update for end of Month 39

I thought I’d start putting out regular status updates for where I am, and goals for where I am going forward. The idea would be to provide information to the reader, and to help motivate me as I move forward.

I understand that for some folks, they may not be able to relate (the numbers may seem too large or too small for their current situation) but I believe that everyone can benefit from more information. Take what I am doing with a grain of salt and with the other reading you are doing, and make your plans appropriately.

My Goals for 2017 (some financial, some not):

  1. Put in $33,000 in tax-advantaged accounts throughout the year
  2. Put in all bonuses, gifts, and our previous house payments into regular accounts (estimate of $26,000 year)
  3. Increase dividend income from our investments to $18,000/year (and reinvest them)
  4. Get Passive income up to 65% of living expenses
  5. Beat a 6% growth rate on our net worth
  6. Begin attending local real estate investment association meetings, to learn about and begin preparing for real estate investing in 2018
  7. Start a blog (i.e. this one)
  8. Fitness: Increase weight lifted by 10% over the year
  9. Average 3 hours of cardio each week
  10. Go on an international trip
  11. Visit one national park

The primary reason we can devote so much money to investing in our 401K/IRAs and other accounts is that we’ve managed to pay off our mortgage last year, and I got a significant raise. With my wife’s and my salary, and no debt, we are doing the typical thing folks in their 50’s do – pouring a ton of money into investments to try and prepare for retirement/financial independence.

We live fairly frugally (average under $4000 in expenses per month in one of the more expensive places in the US to live). While we have the funds to do a lot of stuff, we chose to keep our expenses low, so we can save and keep our stress level low.

At the end of April, here is where we are:

  • Savings/Checking/CDs: $141,601 (my wife likes to have a lot in cash; we argue about this sometimes)
  • Investments: $220,285
  • 401K/IRA’s: $468,883
  • Roth IRAs: $195,602
  • Total: $1,026,372

For the first time in our lives, we are over $1M in liquid net worth! With the 4% rule, we could take out $40,000/year for the rest of our lives. Just knowing this dramatically decreases the stress that we are feeling.  Based on the social security payments we could get (I know, if we get), we could go to $66,000/year right now, even if we only got 75% of our benefits.

Overall, I would have to say that I’m pleased where we are at this point. Based on savings plan and growth, my hope is to be over $1.1M by the end of the year, as we progress towards financial independence.

I’ll try to go over my investment strategy and allocation in a future post.

Thanks for reading, and let me know your thoughts.

A little context….

39 Months

 

Thought I would give folks a short life history, in order to give some context for my story and struggles.

I worked my butt off in High School, and managed to get accepted to West Point (the US Military Academy). By joining the military, I got my college paid for, and got a fairly good engineering degree out of it. At the end, I went straight into the combat arms (Tanks) and was deployed to Germany during the last few years of the Cold War. I actually got a tour 3 weeks after arriving on my battle position and where I probably was going to die when the Russian’s invaded.  Gotta love those crusty platoon sergeants!

I also got married to my lovely wife, Mrs. 39 months, right out of school (and we’ve been together for 31+ years).

After five years in, and a stint in Desert Storm where my tank unit fought the Republican Guard, I got out in 1991, right as the economy was going into recession. Took me about 6 months to finally find a position in warehousing in New Jersey (within 3 hours of my wife’s family) and that is where we ended up settling for the last 26+ years.

I’ve worked in warehousing since then, either in management (Supervisor, Manager, etc.) or as an engineer, designing storage and processes, etc. It’s a great industry to be in, and it’s big throughout the US and the world. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to get started in an industry with potential growth. Let me know if you want further details.

For finances, I signed up for the 401K retirement plan at the first job I had out of the military (since I was only in 5 years, I didn’t get a military pension), but I only put in for the matching amount. After about 9 years, I hadn’t accumulated that much – and then the 2000 crash hit.

Suddenly I was 36 years old, and realized how little I had set aside for retirement. At my wife’s new job (she’d had it for 3 years) the company had been putting 10% of her salary away, and she had almost as much as I had accumulated over 9 years (with the crash taken into account). Needed to get started!

I bounced my 401K percentage up to 10% of my salary in 2001, and by 2003 I was maxing it out. I got a promotion the following year, and dumped all that money into both of our Roth IRAs. So by age 40, I finally was on track with maxing out our tax advantaged accounts. It sucks that I had lost all those years of accumulation, though!

I also started doing a lot of reading (Dave Ramsey, Millionaire Next Door, etc.) which helped to further motivate me.

Over the last 10+ years, we’ve managed to continue to fully fund my 401K and our Roth IRAs, pay down all our debt, and finally pay off the house in 2015 (Yeah!). So we’re debt free and heading for the finishing line in 39 months.

Now we have to start working on what our life will be like when we achieve financial freedom?

 

Mr. 39 Months

And so it begins….

Welcome to the 39 months Blog. I chose to create this blog as a way for me to track my countdown to financial independence. Along the way, I hope to share interesting stories, links, book reviews and opportunities for the readers to benefit from my quest.

 

With good planning, good decisions, and a little luck, I hope to be financially independent by July 2020 (my independence day!). Wish me luck and follow along.

 

Mr. 39 Months

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