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Financial Autopilot

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In an era of two income households struggling to make ends meet, my story sounds extreme. I retired from my career as a physical therapist at the age of 41 while my wife cut back to part-time work five years earlier at age 35. Some might think we spent a lot of time thinking about money.

That assumption would be wrong. We achieved financial independence by our early 40’s because we spent less time thinking about money than most people. We embrace financial simplicity.

We focused on getting the big things right from the beginning – advancing in our careers while not overspending for college degrees, housing and cars. We then put our financial lives on autopilot so we rarely had to think about money.

This worked amazingly well for us… until it didn’t. I recently wrote a post about struggling through the first year of early retirement.

Autopilot works well when cruising at 30,000 feet, but the pilot needs to take control of the plane for landing. Similarly, having your finances on autopilot is great when cruising along through the accumulation phase. But making a stressful transition demands taking control.

For the first time in years, we had to devote frequent time and energy to financial decisions. Frankly, it’s something we’re not good at.

We’re working on automating our finances for this new stage of life, including developing tax strategies and systems to manage cash flow. But this is challenging while fluctuating between net saver and spender from month to month and likely from year to year going forward.

So I’ve been reflecting on how putting our finances on autopilot got us to this point. I question whether playing to this strength is possible in early retirement.

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Building Your Work Optional Life

Tanja Hester and her husband, Mark Bunge, retired in December 2017 at the ripe old ages of 38 and 41. Hester, author of the award winning blog Our Next Life, is releasing a new book, “Work Optional: Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way,” to help … [Continue reading]

We Finally Get Better Credit Cards

Stack of credit cards

What would you do for an extra $500/year? I've written about how much I value my time and often choose financial simplicity over saving a few bucks here and there. For that reason, we'd been using the same 1% cash rewards USAA credit cards for many … [Continue reading]

January 2019 Best of the Web

The biggest news from the investing world this month was also the saddest. John Bogle passed away. Investors lost their biggest ally. The world lost a great man. We start our round up of the best articles from around the web with a few paying tribute … [Continue reading]

Early Retirement Tax Planning 101

Complaining about taxes is our national pastime. Many people think others aren’t paying their fair share. At the same time, we’re all certain we’re paying too much. Nearly everyone complains about taxes. Few people take the time to actually … [Continue reading]

Using Leverage to Create Retirement Income

Traditional retirement planning focuses on accumulating assets, which eventually are converted into an income stream to last a lifetime. Creating retirement income without exhausting your portfolio presents a fundamental challenge. This is … [Continue reading]

My Investment Portfolio: 2019

Stock certificates - 6

I can't predict the future, but 2018 was bad for the markets, and 2019 could be worse. If you're a seasoned investor, you've seen this before.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average was in positive territory much of the year, but ended with a blowout. … [Continue reading]

December 2018 Best of the Web

2018 is coming to an end and it's time for December's best articles from around the internet to help you save more, invest better and retire sooner. This month's articles share insight on investing in the face of recent market volatility. We … [Continue reading]

Finding the Right Financial Advisor

This blog is written for and by DIY investors and retirement planners. In the process of working on it, I've learned a lot of people need personalized financial advice and guidance. It would be failing a large percentage of our audience to … [Continue reading]

Does FIRE Make Life Harder?

I was an avid reader of financial independence, retire early (FIRE) blogs on the path to my own early retirement. They served as inspiration and education. However, I found them to be an echo chamber. Each tries to outdo the next in an effort to … [Continue reading]

My Favorite Books and Podcasts: 2018

Pen, notebook, earbuds, phone, microphone

When we need advice, most of us consult a friend. There is nothing like a personal referral from someone who has "been there/done that," and has your best interests at heart. So, traditionally, around this time of the year, I've written a … [Continue reading]

November 2018 Best of the Web

It's time for our monthly collection of articles to help you save more, invest smarter and retire sooner. We share several newsworthy events and announcements that occurred in November. The IRS announced increased contribution and income limits … [Continue reading]

Are Health Care Sharing Ministries A Viable Alternative To Health Insurance For Early Retirement?

Like many Americans planning early retirement, our family’s biggest challenge is obtaining affordable health insurance. We’re searching for an affordable, long-term solution to bridge the gap from employer provided coverage to Medicare. My recent … [Continue reading]

Navigating ACA Tax Credits to Purchase Affordable Health Insurance

A massive challenge for Americans planning to retire early is determining how we’ll obtain affordable health insurance. The earlier you want to retire, the more challenging it is to determine how much you need to bridge the gap until Medicare … [Continue reading]

Getting Higher Returns on Your Cash

dollars through hourglass

"Put your money to work," my grandmother would advise. Getting the highest possible return on your cash seems to be a mark of honor among frugal prospective retirees. But, with interest rates in the tank for most of a decade, if you haven't bothered, … [Continue reading]

October 2018 Best of the Web

October has been a crazy month in the world of finance. The stock markets have been volatile and trending downward. In the past week, the market gave up all of its gains for the year to that point. Many wonder if this could be the start of a bear … [Continue reading]

Pretirement: What Is It and Why Should You Care?

Pretirement is a term being proposed to describe a phase of life between career and retirement. Pretirement is a process that takes place over years, even decades, versus a single decision to retire. It is characterized by cutting back on work … [Continue reading]

Is The Three-Fund Portfolio Right For You?

Investing is simple. But it's not easy. Most people do best with a passive investing approach utilizing index funds. This minimizes unnecessary investing costs, taxes and common behavioral mistakes made when more active approaches to investing are … [Continue reading]

How Accurate Should Your Retirement Calculation Be?

caliper measurement

You run out of money. That's the fundamental event that most retirement calculators try to predict. If there's a strong probability that your money will last your lifetime -- congratulations -- you're financially independent! But, if not, then you … [Continue reading]

September 2018 Best of the Web

It's time for the best articles we've found around the internet in the last month to help you save more, invest smarter, and retire sooner. This month's articles explore how to generate income in retirement from your portfolio and Social … [Continue reading]

A Week In The Life of a FIRE Household

My journey to financial independence and retiring early (FIRE) started largely because I was burnt out on my career. This led to an oversimplified solution. If my career was the source of my unhappiness, I should pursue the opposite: … [Continue reading]