The one thing, as much as anything, that consumes people’s thoughts when they think about early retirement is money. How’s the market doing? How are my savings doing? Will I have enough? Have I estimated well enough?
I was no different over the last 25+ years as we saved for early retirement. I have a spreadsheet that goes back to 2002 (14 years!) in which I have tracked our spending and net worth consistently. It replaced a number of earlier files that I used – I think the first one I put together goes back to the mid-1990s. More recently, I have been using Mint.com to take over the tracking of spending. It is connected to all of our cards & accounts, so that keeps things much easier to administrate.
I used to look at my spreadsheets at least weekly (too much, I know) – sometimes daily if the market was really jumping up or down. It was a bit of an obsession, I will admit, but since it was mostly good news with the market rising and our savings rate going up, it was a lifestyle-affirming obsession.
I announced my early retirement back in February of this year and one interesting thing I have noticed is that I have been MUCH LESS focused on tracking our nest egg and spending. I haven’t updated my spreadsheets even once. This is probably how I ended up buying a new sports car just 7 weeks out of the gates of MegaCorp!
This morning I cranked up Excel and thought I would give you an update on how things are tracking year-to-date now versus in February when I announced I was leaving:
|2016 Performance||Feb 2016||Today||Change|
|Domestic Stocks (SP&500)||-3.2%||3.1%||6.6|
|International Stocks (EFAE)||-6.3%||-5.0%||7.8|
|MegaCorp #1 Stock Options||3.0%||12.5%||8.0|
|Bonds – VBMFX Fund||1.7%||3.1%||1.4|
|TTL Weighted Portfolio (w/cash)||1.1%||8.1%||6.7|
You can see that our overall portfolio is up +8.1% so far in 2016, compared with just +1.1% earlier in the year. That’s great. In fact, all of the asset classes I carry are UP since February, although the growth in MegaCorp #1 stock options has the biggest influence on the total portfolio, since they are heavily leveraged. A small change in the MegaCorp stock price (a food company) yields an exponentially greater impact on the portfolio’s growth. This company has been on-and-off rumored to be an acquisition target and
So, you can see why I haven’t been paying as much attention to the markets as I might have when I was still working. Markets are up, and our savings are up. Our net worth is up almost 8% from the start of the year, despite not working and buying an expensive car. We are already ahead of our 2016 year-end goals, even though we are not quite half-way through the year. Obviously, not every year will be this way, but it is a nice way to get started in early retirement.
We continue to hold a good deal of cash as our insurance policy against unfavorable market winds. We are currently sitting at about 3 years of normal spending, a lot of which is discretionary. Said another way, if the market cratered over the next few months, we could ride out the challenge for 3 years before having to sell any other assets in a recessionary environment. Three years is a pretty good safety net based on historical economic performance benchmarks.
(The money in our “Angel Fund” is kept separate from the household finances. It is sitting in a money market fund and I’ll give you an update on some of the charitable giving and “social good” investments we are making with those funds in the next couple weeks.)
So that is the update from the Fire Station. I don’t typically dig deeply into spending as much as overall net worth tracking. If the nest egg is growing faster than expected, I don’t worry too much about tracking every nickel spent. I typically just track the bigger expenses and worry about the overall number closer to the end of the year.
How are you feeling about your retirement nest egg in 2016? What returns are you seeing?
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