Ether to FI: Waste Not Want Not & a Net Worth Update

 
Ether to FI is back!

The anesthesiologist with a keen eye on FI is back with his second update of the year and 10th overall in the nearly two years since he finished residency and got on the fast track to financial freedom.

Today’s post is all about waste. I’ll be honest. Having the luxury to “waste time” is one thing I really look forward to in my upcoming retirement. Waste may not be the best word, but doing as I please rather than what needs to be done will be awfully nice.

Then again, I’ll probably continually add to the list of things that “need” to be done. But I’ll be the one to choose them, and I take comfort in that.

Let’s see what E.T.F. has to say about waste and stick around to the end to see how they’ve grown their net worth!

Ether to FI: Waste Not Want Not & a Net Worth Update

 

How is everyone doing?  Spring has flown past, and the heat of summer is fast approaching.  Little E.T.F. 1 is starting school in the fall.  Time has really flown.

Not long ago, we brought home this little human without a guidebook and with no idea of what we were doing.  Somehow, we made it to the start of kindergarten.  To those of you who are farther along the journey with kids in high school and college, humor me for a minute…this feels like a big deal!

We are now shackled to the school schedule like everyone else;  no more off-season travel to avoid the crowds and the expenses.  We will see all of you at Thanksgiving, winter, spring, and summer breaks in the long lines and overpriced hotels.

Speaking of summer break, we need to change this 12-week holiday by giving parents 12 weeks off or shortening the break. While neither option seems viable in the immediate future, achieving financial freedom will allow me to embrace the 12-week summer vacation, and as a family, explore our vast world.

In light of Little E.T.F. 1’s transition to kindergarten, Mrs. ETF and I have refocused our efforts on achieving financial independence. We read a startling statistic that more than 90% of the time a child will spend with their parents occurs between birth and age 18.  This means we need to maximize the time both of our children have left in our home; there is no more time to waste.

Today’s post will focus on how we are re-examining our approach to wasting time, food, and natural resources.

 

Wasting Time

 

The most precious resource we have is time, and I need to do a better job of managing it.  Can you remember when cell phones were a luxury and not a necessity? My children have never seen a landline in our house. When Little ETF 1 saw a rotary phone, the look of confusion was amusing.

My cellphone is my kryptonite and the most significant waste of my time.  One glance at YouTube can lead to a three-hour descent into a rabbit hole.  I am sure that I am not the only one who suffers from the constant need to look at my cell phone.

The first step is removing the cell phone from the bedside as it is the first thing I touch in the morning and the last thing I touch before bed. Limiting my cell phone use is a work in progress as I pursue digital minimalism.

Mrs. ETF just shook her head while she read that paragraph (she was not smiling).

There are so many other things we do that waste time and do not contribute positively to our lives.  Television is another culprit.  It’s a mind suck that drains hours of your life.  I have been guilty of coming home and sitting in front of the screen as a means of relaxation.  Which begs the question, what exactly is relaxing on television?

The news is always about some current disaster or impending doomsday scenario.  Every news story is “BREAKING NEWS.”  Well, sports are relaxing, you say.  Not when I watch it. I spend more time screaming at my favorite sports team than watching the game.  At the end of the game, my delight from a win is fleeting, and my annoyance from a loss lasts the rest of the day. Another reason to severely limit television.

I am taking stock of what I am spending my time doing because each hour spent mindlessly watching a screen is an hour I will never recoup.  Wasting time is extremely expensive since you never get time back.

My primary reason for chasing financial independence is creating more opportunities to have experiences with my family.  I could achieve that now by limiting low priority tasks and distractions, in exchange for being present and focused on my family.

 

Wasting Food

 

Over the last few months, we have significantly reduced our food waste. We now plan our meals weekly as a way to limit the amount of food that ends up in the trash. Mapping out our meals before the week begins has created better structure in our home.

Our old “plan,” if you can call it that, was to see what we were in the mood for at dinner time.  That route usually led to ordering food or preparing the old faithful meal of chicken nuggets and French fries, hot from the oven.  With our new approach to meal planning and preparation, feelings are eliminated from the equation.

Before going to the grocery store, we “shop” in our pantry to find ways to use remaining food and prepare meals based on what we already have. This process limits the amount of new food brought into the house, reduces the chance of purchasing duplicate items, and also minimizes the amount of food waste.

Even better, our grocery bill has declined by approximately $200 per month. We reduced how frequently we eat out to twice monthly or less and developed an awareness of the lack of quality provided by most restaurant meals. On the rare occasion when we do eat out, I have actually started to feel that we are just wasting our money. Eating at home and planning meals saves both the pocketbook and the waistline.

 

Taco Taco Taco

i think i’ll have the tacos

 

Wasting Natural Resources

 

If you met me, “tree hugger” would likely not be a term you would use to describe me. However, appearances are deceiving because I have started to embrace my inner conservationist.

One of our favorite family activities is to go hiking; at least for Mrs. ETF and me.  Our two children are lovingly forced to enjoy their parents’ adventures through the woods.  It is difficult to describe the peace you experience while walking along trails and observing nature.  We, as a society, take the environment for granted.  I want my great grandkids to be able to enjoy hiking grudgingly behind their parents.

We have taken a few steps to decrease our impact on the environment. First, we decided to purchase a smaller home by purchasing a 2,000 square foot single family home. The amount of resources needed to heat, cool, and maintain our house is considerably less than the 4,000+ square foot house our realtor thought would be a great purchase (eye roll).

Second, I started using public transportation or carpooling with Mrs. ETF to get to work.  Taking the train extends my travel by about ten minutes, but there is something very relaxing about having someone else drive after a hard shift at work. I wish I would have taken this step much sooner.  We are now a one-car household which reduces gas consumption and maintenance costs.

We have also been more conscious about the little things day to day, such as turning off lights and limiting the length of showers. In the grand scheme of things, purchasing a smaller home, taking public transportation, and being more conscious of utility use may be minor, but it is our small contribution to saving our limited natural resources.

The constant theme that emerges when you think of wasting time, food, resources, and money is that we already have more than we need. Everyone talks about how busy they are, yet spends countless hours engaged in trivial tasks.

We, as a society, complain about lack of money, but in the next breath brag about our shiny new purchase. We say “there is nothing to eat in the fridge,” yet throw away pounds of spoiled food every week.

The list of complaints with simple solutions are extensive: gas prices are too high – drive less; the electricity bill is too high – buy or rent a smaller place; I do not want to work until I am 65 – save more and spend less.  The ETF household is trying to implement more of these simple solutions and avoid the constant threat of lifestyle creep.

 

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Net Worth Update

 

$561,532. Moving along, nicely. As I review our net worth, I am both excited and disappointed.  Patience is not my strong suit, and I wish I could make increase our net worth at a faster pace.

 

 

We continue to make steady gains due to continued savings and investing. In the big picture, we are building our net worth at an average of $20,000 a month.  However, the first million is still a while away. We will continue to seek ways to hasten the journey. See you all in a few months. Enjoy the summer!

 

 

[PoF: In the three months or so since we last heard from you, the family net worth has jumped by over $70,000 or nearly 15%! We haven’t seen much in the way of investment gains over that timeframe; if you had checked in at the start of June, we’d have losses. The gains are mainly from brute force savings.

As the numbers continue to grow, the more potential there will be for significant growth from your investments themselves. It’s fun when you reach that crossover point and you have a year in which your investments outearn the two of you. That’s when you start to question how important it is to continue working at your current pace.

Thanks again for your thoughts and the update on your progress. With the changes you’re making and the growing pile of assets, I’m confident you’ll reach your goal of financial independence within ten years. Cheers!]

 

Follow Ether to FI’s progress to FI in his previous posts:

 

 

 

 

What’s the biggest source of waste in your life? How do you combat it? What do you think of the E.T.F. family’s progress in their first couple of years out from residency?

 

20 comments

  • My biggest time suck is my cell phone. As I hike across Spain, it is what I turn to for entertainment at the end of the day. If I want to get going in the morning, I can’t look at it. If I look at it, an hour will go by in the blink of an eye.

    Keep on saving. You will reach your goal if you keep moving towards it.

    Dr. Cory S. Fawcett
    Prescription for Financial Success

    • Ether to FI

      I am happy I am not the only one suffering from cell phoneitis. It’s funny how fast time flies with a phone in your hand. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  • Congratulations E.T.F. on your net worth progress! Related to the idea of “shopping” the pantry before a grocery trip — in preparation for a big move we found some strange and curious items in its darker corners. It’s a good challenge to make them into a meal.

    • Ether to FI

      Strange and curious are not words that I like to describe my food. I laughed out loud when I read your comment. I hope the meal you created was good. Thanks for reading the article.

    • Ether to FI

      Strange and curious are not words that I like to describe my food. I laughed out loud when I read your comment. I hope the meal you created was good. Thanks for reading.

    • It’s like the show Chopped, but with your own mystery ingredients!

      Cheers!
      -PoF

  • ETF continues to impress! We are on a very similar journey and timeline, except that ETF is crushing it in the networth department! We lag behind a touch, but I think we had a slightly different starting point in terms of our medical school debt (and my propensity for stupid car loans).

    I’m also right there with you on the time suck that is cell phones! I’ve backed the Light Phone 2 on IndieGoGo as a forced option to get away from my normal cell phone. Switch the sim card and now youtube, social media, email, and a web browser are no longer a temptation. I plan to do this on the weekends in order to be more intentional with my time with my family.

    Keep up the strong work, ETF!

    TPP

    • Lordosis

      I am of an age with you guys as well. I had a shorter training being in Family medicine. I got a jump start on my career by a year but I saw ETF’s net worth fly by mine with his last post. This is just leaving me in the dust. Good for you. I just have to remember that personal finance is a single player game. Or a co-op with your spouse. Having a real person to man the guns while you drive is always better then the AI. Anyways I digress.

      I noticed a lot of Roth!?! Both of you seem to be contributing to roth 403bs. Now a dual high earning couple who lives below their means would benefit most from tax deferred. Unless you have no desire to retire early and will have tremendous assets in 30 years. Then I can see the advantage of Roth.

      Keep up the great work!

      • Ether to FI

        I am a big fan of the Roth because my intention is to be very wealthy. One of my tongue and cheek stated goals is to have a “RMD problem”. Even if I retire from medicine, I think I will start businesses or do something else that generates a decent amount of money. Therefore I want to have a good amount of Roth money to balance the contributions that will be in non-Roth accounts. We also have to factor in the fact that Mrs. ETF will have a decent size pension. Thanks for commenting, and the encouragement.

    • Ether to FI

      I agree with being intentional with the time spent with family. I have actually started leaving my phone in a drawer in my room, when my family is home. I hope Mrs. ETF does not find out about the light phone 2, because I will be getting it as a present. Thanks for your comments as always.

  • An increase of $70k in 3 months is nothing to scoff at. Impressive as like Leif said, it is likely due to addition rather than market gains.

    At a certain level there is a tipping point where you have enough capital working for you that the money it brings does add quite a significant boost to your net worth. They do say the first million is the hardest because of so many factors (you likely have debt during this time that needs paying off and the capital in play is not that much). But trust me the subsequent millions come at a much faster pace as the capital snowball (as I like to call it) really picks up steam and becomes a money printing machine.

    As far as waste, I am so guilty of the cell phone and TV time sucks. My guilty pleasure is reality TV. I do try and combine it with something beneficial (like doing the elliptical for an hour while watching a show).

    Thanks for the update and keep up the good work.

  • Not sure how old your kids are but great to see these healthy 529 balances.

    And be patient. The journey is the reward. If you climbed a mountain and reached the summit after an hour with no pitfalls, views, or wildlife encounters, you’d much less enjoy the summit. You’ll get to where you’re going. Enjoy the walk.

  • Astrid

    Disorganization. I have wasted so much time probably years of my life looking for things or being unprepared. Hiring a personal organizer was one of the best things I’ve done. Still have a ways to go not being a naturally organized person. But it’s a skill that I am trying to cultivate in my kids because it affects everything.

    Lack of organization wastes time, money, food and natural resources.

  • Nice job. Did you grow a mustache too? Just reading your description wore me out

    • Ether to FI

      Thanks for commenting as always. I think MMM has the mustache moniker already. I will put it on the to-do list.

  • Prashant Patel

    Hi, I’m wondering how does one really know if they are financially independent. For example if all your assets (besides the home) are invested through a 401k, Brokerage Account (Use Vanguard due to low fee structure of 0.3% for advisor based management as well as low cost fund fees all less that 1% and the lowest in the industry?
    We have no personal debt (home, car, credit card, student loans, etc).
    How does one account for market fluctuations? For example if you have $3 million or for that matter $5 milllion plus and the markets tank and the investments go down 25% on $3 miiilon versus a 25% reduction on $5 million. These are two very different scenarios. In the former it may mean you still need to work and grow your nest egg.
    Also have 529K funds for the kids one is in a state university. Whew, but still costs around $30k per year and who know about graduate school costs and another a year away from entering college and may end up costing $350k for four years if it’s Duke, U of Chicago versus UNC Chapel Hill. Any thoughts?

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