Who Are You–Really?

I’ve found one of the real benefits of retirement is being able to be 100% me, all the time.

I remember my surprise 30th birthday party like it was yesterday. Partially because it was so damn stressful.

In the same house (ours that thankfully my Mom had cleaned) were my work friends who knew Liz version 1.0, my college friend who had become very religious who knew Liz version 2.0, my party at the lake friends who knew Liz version 3.0, my family who knew Liz version 4.0 and Mr. Ms. Liz who knew them all.

I felt a bit like Sybil (now I’m really dating myself) with all of her personalities in the same room. Though each personality wasn’t completely different from the others, they were different sides of me.

As I got older, my non-working personalities merged and I landed in a job and in a company that allowed me to be, well more me. But there were still a few work personalities. The Liz that my boss knew was a bit different from the Liz that my staff knew and both were quite different from the Liz that my Boards of Directors knew.

At times, these versions of me didn’t feel authentic.  Because you can’t tell a staff member to shut up and get to work and you can’t tell a Board Member he’s a psychotic self serving ass. Well, you can’t say those things and keep your job anyway. So there was still a bit of tongue biting going on.

One of the many benefits of retirement has been dropping those less authentic personas and just being me. With all of my quirks and imperfections.  And sure, some people bring out my best and others may not but it has been easier to be authentic as retired Liz.

But then, enter Ms. Liz.  Some people in my real life know about Ms. Liz and others do not. I’m not one of those bloggers who list their net worth, their income (except when it’s $0) or the location of each of their accounts.  But I’ve been pretty open about my financial status.  I have enough and I may have more than enough.

And I talk a lot on this blog about how amazing financial independence and early retirement is. Because I’m trying to encourage you to reach for your own financial goals. But if I spoke similarly in real life, it could come off as a brag. And that is not my intention. Because getting here took real work; it took sacrifices many around us were unwilling or unable to make.

I’ve feared some people in my real life would be uncomfortable to read my stories and to know about my finances. So I’ve been fearful to share. Would people expect us to help them–i.e. fund their bad decisions with our good ones?  Would they be resentful–“oh sure, they can retire early because of this good fortune or that”. Or would they compare their choices to ours only to feel bad? These outcomes do not help me achieve my goal of leading folks to their fantastic futures.

So I haven’t linked any of my personal social media accounts to Ms. Liz’s. Most of my family didn’t know about Ms. Liz until my Dad included it in his holiday letter (oops!). Mr. Ms. Liz’s family knows nothing. You get the picture.

So last Tuesday, I awoke at 5:30 (for no good reason!), made my coffee and sat down at my computer as I do most mornings. In my inbox was an email that said “You’re Famous Today!”. I still get chills as I type that!

My article about $10 a day being life changing had been selected by J-Money of BudgetsAreSexy fame and Cait Flanders of BlondeOnABudget (now Cait Flanders) fame as one of their 3 favorite articles that day. They linked to it from their very influential website RockstarFinance.com, and they tweeted it.

My little blog that typically has about 100 people a week looking at it had 1,900 people looking at it in that one day. And traffic the following days was still strong.  I had positive comments from strangers all over the world.

My world had been rocked in a good way. At 5:30 in the morning. And who could I tell?  No one.

Mr. Ms. Liz was asleep, and would not have taken kindly to being wakened, even with this news.

Few people in my real life know about Ms. Liz, and no one who does know would really understand how freaking amazing this was. Actually, one former colleague is a fan of RockstarFinance so she got it–and I couldn’t wait to hear from her!

So thank goodness for Twitter:

Rockstar

My friends in the blogging world–they get it. They get Ms. Liz.

So maybe it is enough that my blogging friends get Ms. Liz and my friends in real life get the real, authentic, warts and all Liz. And over time, I may feel more comfortable merging the two personas into one–we’ll see.

And I’ll add one more benefit of early retirement to my list–the ability to be authentically, completely you.

Photo credit-Mr. Ms. Liz at Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona.  If you haven’t been, put this one on your list!

$10 Can Be Life Changing

I tried out a new stylist this week.  I was long overdue and my regular stylist was booked up.  We started with the normal salon chit chat, where you live, what you do, and in our small town who you know.

She asked about being retired. I try to let people know I did it by saving a lot.

She said her Dad had recently been to a class about personal finance.  I’m hoping it was a legit. one at the community college and not a sales seminar.  But anyway, he was telling her everything he learned that he wished he knew when he was her age.

He told her if she invested $100 a month she could have a million dollars.  Super, seriously, impactful to hear that in your mid-twenties.  Not completely accurate (more about this later) but impactful.  He wished he knew this stuff when he was her age so he was doing his best to pass it to her.

I started gushing about how cool it was that she was having these conversations with her Dad.  How important this was.  What an amazing legacy he was creating for her.  I wanted to nominate him for Dad of the Year–is there such a thing???

And then I came home and checked the math. Continue reading “$10 Can Be Life Changing”

The Math Is the Easy Part

Achieving financial independence is hard in spite of the math being surprisingly easy.

Here’s the math: 

Mr. Money Mustache tells the shockingly simple math behind early retirement much better than I can.

Save 5% of your take home pay and you’ll need to work 66 years; save 20% and you’ll need to work 37 years; save 50% and you’ll need to work 17 years; save 70% and you’ll need to work 8.5 years.  Yep just 8.5 years.

This is a bit simplistic–but close.

I have my retirement mapped out in mind numbing detail.  And you should too.

But for the smarty pants readers of this blog, it’s not too hard, right?

But here’s what’s hard:  Continue reading “The Math Is the Easy Part”

My Lovely, Inefficient Life

I read a lot of my fellow bloggers stuff.  Some, I read because I love how they write (frugalwoods), some, I read because I love how they think (OurNextLife),  some I read because they are irreverent (BitchesGetRitches), and some, because they have such great hacks.

Many of the hacks are to help people save time.  Because these bloggers have to fit a lot into each day.  They often have full time + jobs and families and successful, money making, blogs.  I run a money losing blog and it still takes a lot of time.  I can’t even imagine how much time is devoted to a money making blog–oh the pinterest pins, the facebook groups, the tweeting that is necessary . . . it’s so daunting, I haven’t even attempted it.

And, I have to admit, when I read about hacks to save time, I kind of giggle inside.  I’m still celebrating that I don’t need to be so damn efficient.

I’ve created a life for myself that has a ton of inefficiency built into it . . . because I can. Continue reading “My Lovely, Inefficient Life”

The High Cost of Marriage

Please don’t think I’m questioning my relationship or my life partner.  Mr. Ms. Liz is truly my best friend; he makes me a better person.  There’s no one I’d rather have along side me in this adventure of life.  We’ve created a life, together, I could not have created without him by my side.

But that doesn’t mean I won’t examine what marriage has cost us . . . financially speaking.

First, some history.  I was married at 24–crazy and amazing that I found the person who would make me happy over these last 28 years at such a tender age.

When I married, I changed my name.  Mr. thought it was unnecessary to do so but I wanted to be MARRIED and changing my name made me feel MARRIED.

In fact, Mr. wasn’t all fired up to be married, he was perfectly happy to cohabitate.  Smart guy.  But, I wanted to be MARRIED and he wanted me to be happy so we were married.   And we’ve been quite happy.

My frequent readers know we keep our money completely separate.  I never thought we needed to combine finances in order to feel MARRIED.

For the first 25 years of marriage, we split our house related bills based on our incomes.  When Mr. made twice what I did, he paid 2/3 and I paid 1/3 toward these bills.  As my income grew, I paid more.  This allowed us to live at a blended lifestyle rather than at the lower earner’s (mine) lifestyle.  Over the last few years, we have split our house related bills based upon our relative net worth.  Again, he pays more than I do because his net worth is higher.  This has always worked well for us.  We’ve always split groceries and other joint purchases evenly.

Because we keep our money separate, I’ve always split our income tax bill based on what we would have paid if we were single.

You see, the U.S. tax code is set up for a family where there is a high wage earner and a low or no wage earner.  The tax code penalizes families where both partners have similar or high earnings.  This additional tax cost is referred to as the “marriage penalty”.

The penalty exists because the upper earnings limits for the married filing joint tax tables are not two times the limits in the single tax tables.

Then, at higher income levels, an alternate minimum tax kicks in which makes the marriage penalty even worse.  Oh and Obamacare added some pesky charges when your income is quite high and we hit that.

And because I am a strange money nerd who looks at this stuff, I can tell you how much marriage penalty we’ve paid over the last 22 years.

In the highest year, our marriage penalty was over $7,100.  Yep, $590 a month not for a car payment or a fancy trip but for the privilege of being married. Continue reading “The High Cost of Marriage”

The Bad Guys are On Their Way . . .

You’ve probably heard a bit about the Equifax breach.  In light of this breach, I thought it may be useful to remind everyone about the things we can do to protect ourselves from unauthorized access to our financial accounts.

Equifax is one of the three major credit reporting agencies in the U.S.  They maintain credit reports for 143 million American consumers.  Hackers were able to access Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and drivers license numbers.  There are also a small number of people whose credit card numbers were accessed.

S-U-P-E-R   S-C-A-R-Y

With that information, scammers can obtain credit in your name, file a tax return and obtain your refund and basically wreak havoc on your life.  If they successfully do this, you’ll spend years and countless hours working to restore your good credit and obtain your tax refund.

What the experts say you should do to protect yourself: Continue reading “The Bad Guys are On Their Way . . .”

The Joy of Working . . . When Working Is a Choice

The job I retired from was with a terrific company.  I spent 17 years working with some of my best friends and even my fake kid.

Each year, the CFO would gather her leadership group–the accounting, HR and IT professionals who reported to her for a “Summit”.  A gathering to share knowledge, communicate updates and, frankly, to spend some time wining, dining and team building.  Attending these Summits was always a highlight in my year–a paid vacation with my buddies.

I retired 14 months ago.  But this year, I was asked to attend the summit.  And wait, it gets better.  I was asked to ***geek alert*** present a short class on one of my favorite subjects–Excel.

Initially, I was both terrified and thrilled.  Terrified because I HATE public speaking.  My hope was that my short speech at my retirement party would be my last.  Thrilled because it was an incredible honor to be asked to return.  I was excited to see my former colleagues and I love teaching people about Excel.  Helping people with Excel was my favorite thing about my old job.

I got over my terror by convincing myself I’d just be sitting at a table behind my laptop screen.  And I was–it didn’t end up being scary once I got started.  It helped that the room was filled with my friends.

It was really invigorating.  The group was super excited to learn new tips and make their processes more efficient.  There was more than one “wow” comment while I was presenting.  How often does that happen?!

And I was asked to stay over–in a beautiful resort and join the group for dinner and shenanigans after my session.  The shenanigans included sake bombs that sent more than one person stumbling back to their room–thankfully, not me.

Oh, and I got paid to do this!  It will help me fund my IRA this year.

I spent a ton of time preparing.  I developed an agenda that allowed both novices and experts to walk away with a couple new tips.  And being ultra prepared helped me get over my fear.  It was so worth it!

If I thought I had to take this on because I needed the money, my fear of public speaking would have been more than a bit paralyzing.  I would have resented the amount of time it took to prepare–especially because I spent way more time on this than I could bill.  Since it was a choice, I could focus on my excitement.

Not needing the money transformed the way I thought about the entire situation.

There are more benefits to being financially independent than I ever expected. 

I expected my financial independence would mean I could replace work with fun activities.  And, yes, I have.

I didn’t really think about being able to pick and choose money-making opportunities based on whether I thought they would be fun.

Last week was a perfect example.  Hanging out with my old friends, making some new friends and being able to contribute again was a rush.  Having people thank me and tell me how they would use what they learned to improve their processes was incredibly rewarding.

Oh and at least one of them wants to hire me to help them one on one.  That sounds fun, so I’ll do it!

But even before I quit my job, my financial independence paid dividends.  My boss was doing everything he could to keep me around.  This gave me a lot more control–I took advantage of it by working from our desert home as much as I felt comfortable.

So I’d say whether you want to retire early or not, save your money.  Save a lot of money.  Save as if you were pursuing financial independence.  The rewards go beyond the ability to replace work with fun–and that’s pretty awesome on its own!

Could You Live On Social Security Alone?

The experts say Social Security provides about 40% of the typical retiree’s pre-retirement earnings.

But that percentage varies a lot.  Lower earners receive a higher percentage of their earnings and higher earners receive a lower percentage of their earnings.

I write a lot about the importance of saving money for retirement because of this 40% statistic.  But COULD I live on my social security alone?  If I could, what would that life look like? Continue reading “Could You Live On Social Security Alone?”

Make The Hard Choices

I just watched a TED talk by Tim Ferriss.  It is well worth 13 minutes of your time to watch the entire talk but one thing he said struck me:

“Easy choices, hard life
Hard choices, easy life”

Jerzy Gregorek as told to Tim Ferriss

This statement is true in so many areas of our lives but, I believe, particularly true when thinking about our finances.

Buying something on credit–easy
Paying for your past rather than saving for your future–hard

Learning new skills and making ourselves more valuable at work–hard
Taking home a bigger paycheck–easy

Aligning your spending with your values–hard
Having money for the things that matter most–easy

You get it.  Think about what you’re struggling with, what choices can you make that will turn that struggle into something that is easy?

My life is astonishingly easy right now.  I don’t worry about money.  I only set my alarm for fun things.  I’m meeting new people and enjoying new activities.  The decisions I’m struggling with fall squarely in the category of first world problems.

But my easy life was built on a foundation of hard choices–saving rather than spending, working rather than playing.

The choice is yours–make it a hard one.

Save To Retire Early Even If You Won’t

I listened to a good bit of the James Comey hearing last week.  I don’t follow politics closely but Mr. Ms. Liz does so it was on the TV while I was working.

I kept wondering–does he have F U money?

We haven’t talked about F U money before because I find it to be a bit vulgar and I know some of my readers are sensitive to such things.  But I haven’t found a better way to express this concept.

Jim Collins, one of my personal finance heroes, coined the term.  If you haven’t read his stock series yet, do it right after you finish this insightful post :).

Does James Comey have enough money to move on to something else without worrying about how he will keep his family afloat during the interim?  He’s 56, could he retire? Continue reading “Save To Retire Early Even If You Won’t”