Post FI Notes 007: An Exceptionally Low Withdrawal Rate & No Desire to Spend More

I’m not familiar with today’s interviewee beyond what I’ve read below, but the words I would choose to describe her post-FI existence are grounded and content.

She has found balance that works well for her with a laid-back side gig, volunteer positions, and a net worth that could support an annual spend about three times her current outflow.

While she could easily spend much more, she wants for nothing and has no desire to inflate her lifestyle. I find this to be a picture of approachable success.

If you’re interested in participating in one of three interview series, please download the most appropriate form for your life situation: FIRE Starter, FIRE Crossroads, or Post-FI Notes. To see other posts in the series, visit our Q&A archive.

 

 

Getting to Know You

 

You’re financially independent. About how much does your household spend in a typical year? How much could you spend while still abiding by the 4% rule?

After a recent move to a smaller residence, my annual household spend is approximately $40,000 for one individual. That does not include investments that I continue to make while I can.

If I apply the 4% rule, I could spend triple what I do, $120,000. I’m not sure that I could make that happen, though. I am not 100% frugal, but generally, I am practical. I enjoy and purchase nice things, but I am not excessive.

 

Tell us about your household. How many people and at what ages? Are you supporting anyone outside of your home? Where do you live?

I live in a low-cost-of-living area in a Midwest state. I am a single woman, and I retired in 2017 when I was in my mid-fifties. I recently sold my 4,000 square foot home and downsized into a 900 square foot condo that I purchased as a rental property several years ago.

My mother previously lived with me but is now in a nursing home with dementia. I handle her affairs for her, but I do not provide financial support. My son is grown and self-sufficient.

 

Are you still working? In what career? Did your work schedule or attitude towards work change once you knew you were FI

I initially retired several years ago from a career in insurance. I currently work in what I consider a retirement gig which is a minimal-effort contracting position that is low stress and offers remote work. It gives me a way to get inexpensive group health insurance and Roth investments via a 401(k) and IRA.

 

Was financial independence a long-term goal of yours? Did you think you might retire early or be able to do so when you first got started in your career?

FI was not necessarily a goal, but I discovered Dave Ramsey and got serious about not having debt, saving, and investing. I initially focused on non-mortgage debt, but I eventually paid off my mortgage for the home that I just sold for $450,000.

I realize that paying off a mortgage is a controversial topic in the financial world, and why. However, not having a mortgage enabled me to consider early retirement.

As a single woman, it was an empowering step for me to feel financially free. It was more empowering for me than reaching the millionaire level.

 

Investing

 

How is your nest egg invested? Approximately what percentage is allocated to stocks, bonds, real estate, and alternatives?

A small portion of my nest egg consists of company stock (7%). Otherwise, I have mostly mutual funds and bonds. I also own 3 investment condos including the owner-occupied one I am living in. I have more cash than normal due to the recent home sale.

 

  • Cash – $425,000 (11%)
  • Real Estate – $500,000 (14%)
  • Stock – $230,000 (6%)
  • Mutual Funds – $1,750,000 (48%)
  • Bonds – $750,000 (21%)
  • Total – $3,655,000

 

For the condo I currently have rented out, I receive $1,100 per month in rent payments.

I have a mortgage for the investment condos of $180,000. Otherwise, I do not have any debt.

 

Are your investments primarily in tax-deferred, Roth, or “taxable” post-tax accounts?

My investments are largely in tax-deferred accounts (401(k) and IRA)). I have been investing in Roth versions of both for the last several years and have about $60,000 saved at the moment. I also have after-tax investments of $200,000. With that said, I need to determine a conversion strategy.

 

Do you have investments in an HSA? How about 529 Plans?

Yes, I do have an HSA account that I also use for investing. The balance is $50,000. I don’t use the HSA for medical expenses yet and keep receipts for future tax-free withdrawals.

I have a small 529 account ($10,000) that I opened as a tax strategy. I don’t invest regularly in it because of restricted usage.

 

What has been your best investment?

Honestly, my best investment in time and effort was my career. I started in an entry-level position at $8,000 annually and ended it earning six figures with annual bonuses and stock options.

My best financial decision is likely my investment property purchase in 2019. It included two combined condominiums. I separated them, updated both, and then rented them each individually.

I am currently living in one since I sold my home. I recently purchased a third condo in the same area. Eventually, I may live elsewhere and use all three for an income stream.

My best financial investment has been company stock.

 

Your worst investment?

I had company stock options that I sold earlier than I should have, missing out on increased value.

 

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Post-FI Life

 

 

What do you like to do with your free time? How much free time do you have these days?

Since I recently moved, I am living in a growing metropolitan area. It is completely different than my previous suburban lifestyle. I am meeting many new people and staying active with community events. I recently volunteered to assist with coordinating a local music festival which I am totally excited about!

Of course, I spend time with my mom visiting and helping with her needs. This is a primary issue for me and does inhibit me from traveling for extended periods of time.

 

Do you enjoy travel? Tell us about a favorite trip you’ve taken.

I do enjoy travel. In 2018, I was able to take a European cruise with friends. It was a wonderful experience! I hope to do more of this in the future.

 

Do you incorporate giving (money or time) into your post-FI life?

Absolutely. I volunteered as Treasurer for my church and communications for a local women’s group. As mentioned, I will be helping with the future music festival.

 

If retired, do you miss work? Do you get bored?

I do have a retirement gig, but it is low-key and nothing like my career, which was challenging. I miss the opportunities to problem solve and manage implementations that I had during my career.

I don’t miss the stress or environment though. I continue to stay close to friends and when I listen to them talk work, I’m glad that I have moved on!

 

What advice do you have for others hoping to achieve the financial success you’ve found?

Save, invest, and monitor your spending. You can probably outspend any income if you put your mind to it. Delayed gratification is important self-control, as well as realizing that you can’t take it with you. Balance.

It is also important to monitor investments and net worth over time, as well as reading, researching, and learning from others.

 

 

Finally, is there anything under the sun that you’d like some help with? The hive mind would be happy to weigh in.

I am definitely interested in suggestions on Roth conversion approaches, and retirement income strategies. I expect my retirement gig will end this year and I am planning to draw my income from my investments next year.

Also, I am currently using a fee-only financial advisor ($1,500 annually) with the majority of my investments at Vanguard. Any thoughts on that setup are welcome too.

 

 

PoF: Catch all the future interviews from those just getting started, at a crossroads, or at the end of their FI journey with a free subscription to Physician on FIRE.

 

 

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I’ve shared my feedback privately with today’s guest. I wouldn’t want my opinions to influence yours. Please give your take in the space below!

Again, if you’d like to partake in a future Q&A, please download a FIRE Starter, FIRE Crossroads, or Post-FI Notes interview form.

 

6 thoughts on “Post FI Notes 007: An Exceptionally Low Withdrawal Rate & No Desire to Spend More”

  1. Also retired and could be spending a lot more. But i think i have a different reason for not spending. My hobbies/activities/interests are all very inexpensive. Two examples – my favorite activity is running. Cost is a pair of running shoes. Coming in second is either kayaking or back country skiing or softball. Only cost is gasoline to get to activity and about a dollar a game for softball. My last big trip was to New Zealand for 6 weeks. Turned out to be less money than touring the USA by car (it was self guided, we drove about 3,300 miles). Have no debt. Bought my Toyota in 2008, at the mileage i am putting on it should last until California bans I.C. Disclaimer – hard to say what i would be spending without Covid concerns. I do love visiting tropical islands. But Covid is real, as is Zika.

    Reply
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  3. Also fully retired as of July 2021. Or I should say, I am now down to just having to run my horse farm, which I’ve restructured so as to minimize the work other than the grounds maintenance.

    I spend probably half what I could afford to spend. Simply not really doing much yet, and with zero debt my monthly expenses are just food/misc supplies, utilities and home and car insurance. Plus expenses for my personal horses and any medical that comes along. This year I had higher medical expenses than usual due to knee surgery and treatment for an autoimmune condition, but both apparently have calmed down. Still, my medical outlay is probably in the $1800 range overall for the year.

    Biggest outing for me is eating a meal out with a friend and/or taking a short road trip to Ocala with my bestie to spend the day piddling around at horse equipment stores.

    My biggest challenge is getting motivated to work on all the home and vehicle maintenance tasks that were deferred over the years while my attention was elsewhere.

    Reply
    • I’m not retired yet but would love to know the costs of running a horse farm! How many horses do you have? I’ve always heard they are expensive to own but never have heard any hard numbers to know the true cost.

      Reply
      • Well a lot of folks think it is cheaper to keep a horse at home, but when you add up the costs of owning the farm and running the equipment to maintain it, not to mention the work, it soon becomes obvious it’s not cheaper unless you own a LOT of horses. But it can be very satisfying to look out at your horses on your own place, plus you get to run it exactly the way you want to. It’s also a bit of a ball and chain because they need twice daily care.

        Biggest ongoing expense of keeping a horse in my state, other than land acquisition, is the feed/hay. This cost varies greatly depending on your horse’s metabolism and available pasture. I’ve owned some that literally cost me nothing in feed to keep in summer from June through at least October, when pastures are growing, and have boarded others here who cost $160/month just in senior feed alone in summer, and that cost can double in winter due to hay. The variation typically is due to breed/body type and age. Thoroughbreds tend to be very costly and Quarter Horses tend to be far less costly, and cost tends to increase as any horse gets into its 20s and its teeth and digestive system become less efficient. In general, short, round body types tend to be easier on your wallet and tall, lanky body types tend to empty your wallet. My Arabian has also been inexpensive to keep but I never rode him competitively.

        Good quality hay here costs anywhere from $12 to $22 a small square bale, and the average horse can eat 8-10 bales a month after pastures have gone dormant for the winter.

        In my area it costs between $400-800 a month to board a horse at someone else’s farm where they do all the work and provide the supplies. The cost varies depending on whether your horse lives outside 24/7 or if it is kept in a stall part of the time. Many farms have changed to a price structure where you pay a flat fee for keeping the horse there, and you as an owner buy all the supplies. This is because of the huge feed cost variations that you can see from what I’ve written.
        Horse ownership is definitely a lifestyle choice. There are a lot of luxuries I don’t spend money on so I can afford my horses instead, but I don’t mind it one bit.

        There are also semi-annual veterinarian expenses that cost roughly $100-150 for vaccinations and an annual required Coggins blood test, plus an annual visit from the horse dentist that costs in the neighborhood of $200 for a good quality dental. Dental is one thing I don’t skimp on anymore.

        Reply

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