Goodbye Costco, Walmart and Target.

Top of my 2018 new years resolution is to NOT step foot into any Costco, Walmart or Target stores. I know how much the FI community loves Costco but I can’t go into a store without picking something up which I don’t need (see my new toothbrush, coffee set, snow board etc) The temptation is too much and I always end up spending north of $300.

I’m not going to miss those horrible car parks or rude obnoxious people. I especially won’t miss the return line which always takes 30 minutes. However, I will definitely miss the canteen mmmm Costco pizza and ice-cream.

So this wasn’t a hard decision, I quit the major stores. We do our grocery shops at Trader Joe’s (I will be publishing 6 meals that feeds three adults for under $10 a meal later this month. BUT where will I get my toilet paper?!

I signed up for the new Amazon Credit card which offers 3% discount and signed up for Amazon’s subscribe and save. If you order more than five items, you receive 15% off (on top of my 3%). This will deliver us our household essential items which I can’t buy at Trader Joe’s, and better still, it get’s delivered straight to my door. For most other products we pick them up every three months from the our local dollar store.


So, saying goodbye to Costco, Walmart and Target has reduced our spending and kept us within our budget of $200 a week. So far, I don’t miss them, maybe this is forever.

Teaching My Five Year Old FI

So ten days after Christmas my five year old son tells me he wants to buy the Lego City Train set. Could he not had said this before the fat guy in a red suit took credit for all my hard work? Anyway, it looks amazing and I love playing/building Lego with him. However, this Lego set is $149.99 and we just bought him a few new toys for the Holidays. Let’s be honest though, it looks fun.

lego city

Time to raid his piggy bank and count those coins! My son has $45 in his coin bank, and his grandparents recently gave him $20 when they vosited. That’s $65. Time to introduce him to pocket money and teach him some patience. Mrs FI and I agreed to give him $1 a day if he is good. Together with my son, we put some older toys up for sale on local Facebook communities which earned us another $50. That’s $115. He has to be good, patient and collect $1 a day for the next 35 days to afford this set.

We also looked at craigslist, Facebook and the internet to shop around and see if we could find this cheaper. There was no such luck. Everyday I arrive back from work, I hand him $1, he updates his chart and is getting closer. (This is his chart he made by himself. I’m also teaching him how to use tally graphs).

I hope i’m teaching him that he has to work for what he wants and rewards are given with time. I also hope this method will help him appreciate it more when we go to the store. It will be him handing the cashier the coins/money and i’m sure he will be very proud when he is walking out with his hard earned Lego train!

What are some of the tasks you’ve used to teach your children about how money works?

2017 Performance

Our net-worth increased 30% during 2017. This is why it’s so important to track your net-worth at least on a quarterly basis. It takes me about 10 minutes to update mine, I log into each account and type the balance into excel which allows me to measure progress like the below table. It’s also a huge motivation to review the numbers and knowing our hard work is paying off.

Time to review myself!

2017 Growth
Checking Account
Brokerage 1.14%
Company Stocks 459.21%
401k 67.22%
SEP IRA 23.46%
Roth 23.00%
Home Equity 5.40%
Kids UMTA 51.65%
TOTAL 29.98%

Let’s break this down:

  • Checking account/Emergency Fund stayed roughly the same. I recently moved $18,000 from our brokerage into Cash to pay for new bathrooms which will be done soon. This will increase our house value.
  • Brokerage Account- looks like it’s only up 1.14% but as above, $18,000 was transferred out recently which was our profits from great market performance.
  • Company stocks, I’m vested in my firms stock plan. For every three shares I purchase, I receive one free but I don’t get the free stock for two years. As soon as i’m allowed to sell my stock I will, I do not want to be too reliant on one firm.
  • Our 401k balance is up 67%. Both Mrs FI and I maxed it out this year and with our company match/401k performance it’s looking great.
  • SEP IRA/Roth we didn’t add any new money. The growth is from stock market. WOW 23%
  • Home Equity is up 5%. This is from mortgage payments only. Once we have renovated our three bathrooms, i’ll update the value to match Zillow estimate which is approximately $75,000 higher.
  • Kids UMTA has increased 51%! We give each child $100 a month and the stock market has worked the rest. Read more on how i’m giving each child of mine $2 million.
  • Car fund! We bought a car in December 2016, a brand new subaru. We put down 20% deposit and financed the rest at zero percent for the next three years.

Asset Allocation:

Equity Real Estate Cash
60.80% 32.80% 6.40%

I used to think I was 100% in stocks, but when I allocate each asset into Equities/Real Estate/Cash/Bonds I see my allocation is 60%.

We’ve had a great 2017, 401k up 19%, SEP IRA/ROTH up 23% etc. The stock market was very kind to us but I really want a mini crash. We’re in our growth phase and we’re buying stocks each month at new market highs. I want to be buying stocks cheaper. If we had a 2007 style 40% correction I would be a lot happier. I don’t plan on touching my investments for at least eight years, the sooner we get the correction the better. I won’t freak out when my equity value falls 40%, I’m expecting it. Read more on why I’m so relaxed on my previous article Never Time The Stock Market.

The Plan for 2018 is to invest another $80,000 and let the market do the rest! We’re into year 4 now of the 10 year plan, it’s amazing how quickly time flies.

A little dive into my family:

Mrs FI – Made permanent in her job and is really enjoying it. It’s always an extra bonus to actually enjoy your job!

Sprog 1 – Started Kindergarten and is turning into a lovely boy. I’m really proud of him. He has started doing really well on his math, we recently played monopoly and I’m introducing him to FI slowly.

Sprog 2 – Just turned 3, going on 8. She’s definitely in charge of my house. My little pricess is adorable and I can’t wait to see how she grows.

2017 Review and 2018 goals

What a great f&*king year that was! 401k +18.5%, Investment accounts +17.5%. 2017 was the easiest it’ll ever be to set it and forget it. The S&P Vanguard Index fund returned 18.4%, you had to be a complete monkey in 2017 not to have a good year.


Aside from having a great market performance, I feel that 2017 was the year we got our our house in order. We had a target to invest $60,000, we have ended the year at $72,000. We paid off our 401k loan (more on that later), we lowered our utility bills, Mrs FI was made permanent at work signing a guarantee bonus for February which will max out her 401k and I am on the promotion list at work.

Looking back, could 2017 had been any better for us? Not really! I’ll be sure to celebrate this success with Mrs FI this weekend.

So…looking into the crystal ball for 2018, I have the following goals:

  1. Max out both 401k’s in February, receiving company match $47.5k
  2. From march, max out my company stock scheme $28k
  3. Max out back door Roth IRA for both Mrs Fi and I $11k

Totalwe aim to save in 2018: $86,500

Can we do it? The first two should be do-able. We also plan on renovating our bathrooms in 2018 and have taken money out of our post tax accounts to do so. Actually, our 2017 market returns have paid for this.

All the best to all my readers, there is nothing we can do except watch for market returns, but we can do something about how much we’re investing.

The True Cost Of An Au Pair

We’re blessed with two kids but live away from our family. We lack support when it comes to childcare. Mrs FI had a difficult choice to make. Should she re-enter the workplace or became a stay at home mom? She had worked hard in her job and achieved a lot in a short amount of time. To take a few years out would be very challenging to re-enter and she would lose her health care benefits.

She decided to go back to work. For the first year we hired a Nanny who came to our house and cared for our baby. Once our DD was 18 months, we felt more comfortable and put her in daycare for three days a week. This was when we decided to look into becoming a host family and inviting an Au Pair into our house.

An Au Pair is typically a student from a foreign country who comes for one year and lives with you. We were very diligent when picking an Au Pair, we didn’t want an 18 year party animal, or an entitled millennial kid. This is someone who will live in our house, help raise our kids, drive our car. It needs to be the right decision. We decided that our Au Pair needed to be someone who wanted to have a career in Childcare/teaching and want to become an Au Pair for the right reasons.

We created social media accounts on Instagram and Faceook so we could look at the profiles of who we decided to interview. We saw some outrageous things, drunk teenage images, drug use, inappropriate pictures and these are not people we want in our house.

After interviewing several candidates, we finally picked our Au Pair. An 18 year old young lady from Germany who arrived last April. She wanted to spend some time in America before continuing her studies to become a teacher. It’s worked out really well for us, dropping the youngest one off at day care three days a week, whilst always picking the oldest one up from school, looking after the house, walking the dog etc. Our Au Pair also babysits two evenings a month allowing for some adult time. It’s also been a great help on those kid sick days to have someone around to help.

Here are our costs we’ve encountered:

Program Fee $8,595
Processing Fee $300
Registation Fee $75
Weekly Fee x52 $10,140
Auto Insurance $1,800
Umbrella Insurance $400
Weekly Food increase $2,600
Education $500
Presents $300
Car Crash $150
Cell Phone $40
Total $24,900

The total cost is $2075 a month or $24,900 a year. We do contribute to the family spending flex account $5000 before tax money which helps pay for this. Thankfully my wife earns enough to warrant this expense. I hope the above calculations help you in making your decision. We use America’s largest Au Pair ‘Cultural Care’ site to find ours and if you go down this route, feel free to use our referral link below (I’ll even split it with you). If you have any questions, feel free to reach out.


“Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years?”

I’ve been up for promotion for the last two years and just missed out. I’m sure I’ll get it this year. I work hard, I have dreams and know if I put a few more years of hard work into this, i’ll have enough money to be FREE to do whatever the f&@k I want. Each promotional candidate has meetings with our management committee and one question that was asked was…

WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN FIVE YEARS? This is what went through my head (no, not the lady bent over on the left):


I had to gain my composure, get that grin off of my face before I made my game plan obvious. Let’s be honest, it’s nice to get a promotion, but it means very little to my long term plans.

What I really want this promotion for is more money. More money = getting to the finish line quicker. I don’t believe the actual promotion will change my work hours. It will also be nice to look back at my career in the finance industry and know I achieved that promotion, my hard work was rewarded.

When I got my last pay raise, my journey to Financial Freedom had already began. The extra $800 a month didn’t change our lifestyle, we still drive around in our four year old Subaru Impreza. We now invest $800 more every month in our pay checks and as you can see from my progress bar on the right hand side, we’re now 28% towards our goal. This will grow faster as we have more invested. If I can stay focused, earn that promotion, get another pay rise, I know we’ll reach our goal faster.

How did I answer this question? Something along these lines: “I am committed to our long term goals and believe in the vision where our department and firm are heading. I want to play a strong part in our journey so we can be successful together. In five years, I see myself working for you at the very top.”

Sounds a little corny..but I want my manager to know that I work for her and I want to progress with her. I’ll find out in February if I got the promotion, I’ll keep you updated.

How I visit New York Attractions for FREE

If it’s too good to be true, it usually is! However in this case, my local library is great! I’ve recently discovered:

  1. I can borrow passes for major local attractions.
  2. Once a month performers such as dancing/singing/magician.
  3. Weekly STEM kits available to borrow.

My family of four includes two kids (3 and 5). We live in the suburbs of New York and any attractions cost a small fortune especially attractions like the Intrepid ($114) and the Children’s museum ($66). I recently discovered that my library allows members to borrow passes to these attractions (just like how one would borrow a book). Here is a list of every attraction in my area I can visit…for Free!


My Library also offers STEM boxes to use for one week durations. These boxes are aimed for kids between 3-10 years old and offers things such as Marble building games, robot mouse programming, electricity grids etc. These games on Amazon range from $30 upwards. They give my kids a learning experience, allows us to work on them together spending quality time with each other and saves us spending money every few weeks on new toys. This was an item we borrowed and I was proud watching my five year old have so much fun.

robot mouseLastly, I keep an eye out for any events. Once a month they put on entertainment for kids. Singing/dancing, playtime, arts and crafts and even magician shows. It’s been great fun and saved us a bunch of cash.

Check our your local library and see what they have to offer. It’s great to interact with your kids and even better when it’s free.

How To Give Yourself A Pay-rise.

2017 was the year I took control of my finances. I feel it has been the turning point in winning with my finances, putting my money to use the way it should.

This year I gave myself a pay-rise. At the time, i made a couple of sacrifices which looking back does not feel like it. Here are the five things I did this year.

  1. Stopped leasing expensive cars. Goodbye $450/month car. Hello $200 a month which I will own in 4 years and hopefully have for the next 10. This also reduced by auto insurance by $300 a year. SAVING $275/month.
  2. Shopped around for cheaper home insurance. The cheeky sods put my insurance up despite no claims. As I pay through escrow, I wouldn’t had known if the bank hadn’t told me. I actually ended up saving $400. Saving $35/month.
  3. Got rid of my expensive AT&T carrier and moved to Cricket Wireless. Saving $100/month.
  4. Switched from Optimum to Roku/Sling. I no longer have a landline but i never used that anyway. I still have my Internet via Optimum but I had no choice. Saving $80/month.
  5. Enrolled into Wageworks program. As i take the train to work, some of my monthly payment is now pre-tax. Saving $80/month.
  6. I work in the middle of a big city. I now take my own breakfast into work each day and bring my own lunch to work three days a week. Saving $160/month
  7. Enrolled into the Dependent Care Spending Account at work saving $165/month.

So, just by organizing my life, making a few adjustments, these were all quick and easy wins. I have saved $735 each month or $8820 a year. This is after tax money. I still have a car, internet, TV, cell phone. I put all these into action over six months ago and I don’t think my quality of life has changed at all. I have been able to start taking control and saving money, upping my 401k contributions and increasing my net wealth.

What wins have you put into place this year? Am i missing any simple wins from the above?

Dear Mom…

I have a lot to thank my mother for. She brought me into this world, provided a safe home, sent me to good schools and spent quality time with me. She taught me the meaning of money and not to live beyond my means.

I remember my parents having a budget, splitting money into different envelopes for different activities each month (groceries, gas, utilities, shopping etc). I wasn’t involved in any discussion but I witnessed two grownups managing their finances responsibly. With every car they purchased, it was a view to last 10-15 years. When I was 17, my parents added me as a user to their credit card. At the end of each month, they would highlight the charges on their statement that belong to me and I would pay them in cash in full. I had a weekend job and this responsibility showed me that they paid off their credit card bill every month. When I was 19, I borrowed $4,000 from them to buy my first property. I had a good job and was able to pay back them within a year.

My mom is one of my closest friends. I go to her for advice, a chat and I enjoy hanging out with her. We live on the other side of the world but still try and communicate daily. She has this dream to drive from East to West in the US, taking her time, taking in all possible sights. She is currently 63 and I’m 34, I promised her that I will take her when she is 70.

She asked me how this is possible and that I need to work. She is in a generation where they have it drilled into their heads that they must work until retirement age. She has never heard of Financial Independence before and I’m sure the sound of it terrifies her. She doesn’t know about my journey to FI or this blog. She will probably think it’s impossible for me to stop working when I am 40. I will send her this link once it’s published.

Well Mom, this next part is for you! I aim to have enough money by the time i’m 40 that I will never have to worry about work ever again. It sounds nice doesn’t it? You’ve always said to me that a small lottery win would mean you can quit work and enjoy life. Well, instead of playing the lottery, Mrs FI and I are saving and investing like we’ve never done before. We’re saving at least $80,000 a year and our aim is to have $1,500,000 in the next six years (we started this journey three years ago). We also want to have our house paid off and will relocate to a cheaper area, buying a house for half the price of our current home ensuring we have a large enough cash buffer for emergencies/market corrections.

Using the 4% withdrawal method, we would be able to live off $60,000 a year. This is more than enough, we have budgeted that we will need just $40,000. The next six years we will continue to work and save hard. We want to have freedom and this is what we’re working towards. I also hope that when you’re reading this, you’ll realize that we do not need or want any inheritance from you. I want you to spend every penny you’ve worked for on enjoying the rest of your life and doing experiences you want (if you leave anything to my brother and sister I won’t mind). If you read the rest of my blog, you will see that I’ve already made plans to look after your grandchildren in the long term (if not, you can read it here).

So, there you have it, don’t worry about us, when we do stop working, we have this day planned. After the summer of travelling with you, we will take the kids on amazing life journeys around the world visiting each continent each summer until they leave us. When the kids do leave for college, Mrs FI and I will travel the world slowly.

I want to thank you , you’ve taught me the basics of Finance and without your lessons early on in life, we wouldn’t be on this amazing journey today. I can’t wait to travel with you and see this amazing country.

How To Stop Living Paycheck To Paycheck.

The first rule is to earn more than you spend, simple right? Not to most Americans. According to a CNBC, almost half of all Americas are living paycheck to paycheck. In order to get yourself out of this mess, you need to track your income and expenses…you need to create a budget. A budget can sound scary to some people but if you really want to become Financially Independent, you need to know where your money is coming and going.


I don’t look at my budget to the penny, If I go over some areas, I don’t cry about it. It happens, I only live once and if i want to eat out I will! However I do have a very good idea on where my money is going and how much I can spend in each category each month. I have allocated $300 a month for new clothes for the whole house and $300 a month for eating out. My budget makes me think twice on where to go for dinner and if I really need that new pair of shoes this month.

To calculate how much you spend on Gas, Food, Insurance etc, take a look at your last three months bank statements and average out your costs. This will give you a good idea. Separate the Income from the Outcome and then total it up. This may even shock you. Once you find your comfort level you will be able to plan your life better.

Job 1 $3,000
Job 2 $2,750
TOTAL IN $5,750
Mortgage -$1,750
Car -$400
Gas -$100
Insurance -$200
Food -$800
Kids Ent -$350
Gym -$150
Cell Phone -$80
Cable/Int -$70
Holidays -$300
Oil -$150
Electricity -$100
Water -$25
Entertainment -$400
TOTAL OUT -$4,875
NET $875

This example gives person A $875 a month left over. What do we do with this extra income? If you want to become Financially Independent you need to invest it. Following the JLCollins approach, I have my extra funds invested in VTSAX . This is a low cost Index Fund which charges 0.04%. You need a minimum of $10k, if you don’t have this do not run away or close this article, you have two options.

Option 1 – Save up enough to open this account (1 year).

Option 2 – Open a different Index Fund (like S&P 500 and once you have over $10k, transfer it).

I prefer option 2 as your money will be invested the whole time. Budgets are boring, but they are important as they set the foundations for taking responsibility. I spent over 50 hours a week at my office, I’m not doing this for nothing. So look at your statements and work it out. This may force you to make some drastic changes.

After I completed my budget, I took a few simple steps to cut back on my cell phone bill, cable, electricity, auto insurance and my house alarm. By doing this I gave myself a $10,000 payrise. I will post more about this shortly.