2019 in review and looking forward to 2020

We had a phenomenal 2019. Our net worth increased by over $231k. Assets rose not only because we maxed out contributing to our respective 401(k) and in taxable brokerage but primarily due to the extraordinary run of the stock market which raised the valuation of all our investment accounts. Debt has gone down by aggressively paying down our mortgage.

Since we started tracking and documenting our financial journey from beginning of 2017, we’re amazed how far we’ve come. In January 2017, our net worth stood at $458k. In 3 full years, it has more than doubled to $943k.


Now to keep us honest on our goals from the last year-end post.

First, we’ll be maximizing our 401(k) at our respective employers. With an increase to $19k in 2019, that’s $38k tax-free shaved right at the top.

– Check. Done.

Then, we’ll be contributing to the max in in either Roth or T-IRA. With new limits of $6k this year, that’s another $12k for both of us.

– Almost check, we’ll be working on this till April 15 to get our respective t-IRAs fully contributed with $6k each.

Next, we plan to invest at least $9k in our taxable accounts for the full year. This will almost certainly bump up to $10k by the end of the year. As a comparison, for 2018 we invested $6,850 in taxable accounts.

– Not quite but pretty darn close at $8,400.

With automated pulls we’ll be putting $2.4k in our child’s 529 account for the year. I want to top it off to $3k.

– Managed a bit more than just automated pulls, but at $2,550 a bit short where I wanted to be at. But we have about $500 that is laying in a saving account and I’ll pump that in when a correction happens.

Our mortgage balance stands at $206k right now. Aim is to bring this down to $160k, mixed between regular payments and additional payments applied towards principal. This will be the stretch goal!

– We were on our way to reach this stretch goal till about September but scaled back (reasons in the next section). Current balance of $175.8k is a reduction of $26.5 is not shabby


Looking forward to 2020.

So, a big change happened in the first week of 2020. M left the full time job and became a stay-at-home-parent, with part time work. We outlined the plan in this post. This is one of the reason that we slowed down aggressively paying down the mortgage. We still pay $106 extra to principal on the monthly mortgage payment.

Since this will be the first year riding out this big change, I’m not going to set goals for 2020. We’ll report the contributions to 401(k), Roth IRAs, taxable brokerage, and 529 account at the end of the year.


Here’s hoping to an amazing 2020 everyone! Maybe your life, and journey towards FIRE, be a glorious one.

December 2019

Another solid month to wrap up the year. December 2018 was sort of a bloodbath for the markets, if you all recall. I was expecting at least a slow bleed for this time in 2019. But no, the markets just keep going forward!

Major expenses for last month was …surprisingly nothing, if you exclude the gifts purchased for the holiday season. As those are seasonal, and recurring every year, we already have them baked into our saving/spending buckets.

November 2019

Net worth reaches another high of $915k. Buzz of an impending recession is everywhere but we still plow into our tax advantaged and taxable accounts. We are also hoarding some cash. The recession will come but we don’t, and neither does anyone else, know when. And it will pass too.

There were a major expense of $2,706 this month, where we booked a vacation with a credit card and then promptly paid it off.

Things to keep in mind when looking at these numbers:

  • These numbers are snapshots in time, most likely the last day of the month
  • Since I copy/paste the numbers from the online accounts, the decimals remain but they are insignificant (obviously, duh!). Neither are the ones and tens digits of each account balance. What is important is the trend.

If you’re reading this for the first time, welcome! If you’re thinking if now is the “right time” to invest in the market ….well, everyday is the right time to invest, if you’re in it for the long haul. Remember the adage, “time in the market is more important than timing the market

October 2019

Our net worth is close to $900K! After an initial hiccup at the beginning of October, the markets have continued moving up. As you’ll notice our cash holding is at an all-time high. Major part of it is due to known expenses coming up, part of it is dry powder when the markets takes a dive. Does this sound like market timing? Well, yes, it is! But the amounts are so small to what we have out in the market invested, it does not really matter in the large scheme of things. It’s more to do with mental jujitsu, that we have some cash around when the correction comes.

Incomes 2019

This is what we are on track to make through the end of the year.

  • W’s base salary is $101,296
  • W got a bonus of $2,865
  • M’s base salary is $153,000
  • M got a bonus of $11,400

Our total yearly income is (or would be if we continued our employment till the end of the year) $268,561

This puts us in the top 3% of US household income. Let’s pause for a moment and reflect on that. We are incredibly blessed to have a number of factors working in our favor, a lot of which are just plain birth circumstances. Sure, we work hard and made conscious choices to invest in college educations but that doesn’t even tell half the story.

See 2018 Income.

September 2019

A late monthly update post! We had some planned travel from end of September so didn’t get this out in time. Let’s dive in.

Another good month in the books. We’re hoarding some cash due to a planned expense coming in the next few months. Markets have been doing well. All is good.

New phone carriers

Yes, carriers – plural.

We had been with T-Mobile for about 12 years. Our monthly bill, for a family plan of two, had averaged out to around $75/month for the past couple of years. Not bad. We were grandfathered into an old plan and didn’t quite think much about it.

But starting this year, T-Mobile dropped the corporate discount we used to get. Monthly bill jumped to $84. Just a $9 increase, still it got me thinking if other comparable options were out there with a lower cost.

After a bit of research and a lot of procrastinating, we finally pulled the trigger to switch in August.

W went with Google FI. You pay $20 for unlimited calls and texts, and $10/GB of data used. One month cost was $32. This is post paid with users only paying for the amount of data they use. Coverage is quite possibly even superior to Verizon as Google FI uses combination of any available network and wi-fi spots. Can keep old number.

M went with Mint Mobile. This is a prepaid MVNO operating on the T-Mobile network. They have “free” unlimited talk and text on all of their plans. You “only” pay for data. Paid upfront $66 for 6 month, with 8 GB of 4G LTE data every month. That works out to $11 a month. This is a promotional offer that anyone can avail. Regular priced plans start at $15/month for 12 months, for 3 GB of data every month; and other combinations of number of months and data limits – all prepaid. Coverage is same as T-Mobile. Can keep old number.

By switching we have effectively cut our phone bill in half, with same or better coverage. Boom.

August 2019

August was the second month this year that our net worth dipped by over $12K. And that’s ok. How ok? Even with the monthly dip, our net worth is over $144K for the year! Frankly, the market run we’ve been having is almost unprecedented and it is bound to end at some point. But from that end it will rise again. All is good.

Valuation of retirement assets, which is almost 70% of all our non-property assets, decreased by ~$17K. Liquid cash in bank accounts increased over $3K but most of that increase will go towards paying off the fence we had installed couple of months ago (they billed the invoice late).

We also stopped paying the extra monthly $3K towards mortgage principal that we’d been doing since the start of the year, in anticipation of the reduction in income that will happen when M stops full-time work.

Other than that, a mostly quiet month. We’re enjoying the long Labor Day weekend. Kiddo will be going back to school this week. Some travel planned for end of September.

July 2019

A quietly steady month for us. Markets have been doing their upward trajectory. There is a big group of people who think a correction is due, including me. It could come in a couple of months, in a couple of weeks, or we could be in the middle of one right now. Who knows? That’s why we keep investing every week, every month.

Major expense for last month was our semi-yearly auto insurance premium for $839. Obviously an expected expense, and we plan and save for this throughout the year.

Other than that, summer has been treating us well. We have a few short travels – extended weekend – planned for this and next month. Life is good.

A big change in FIRE plan

In one of our first posts, The Who and the What, we had alluded to our plan (hope?) of being FIRE by 2023. The time has now come to throw some light on activities behind the scenes that will radically change the 2023 timeline.

First, why 2023? With the accelerated pay-down of our mortgage, we would outright own our home in 4 more years. Assets would have grown as well and it would be the perfect time to bow out of full-time jobs.

What’s changing? Well, we are going to super charge one of our RE (not quite the FI) date and slow burn the other’s FIRE date.

M is going to stop working full-time by beginning of 2020. (possibly earlier)

W is going to work full-time, foresee-ably, till 2030.

Why is the timeline changing so drastically and differently for both of us?

Long-ish story …

M started a job last year that increased the paycheck by about 50%. But with that added money comes the multiplied baggage of corporate America – longer hours, more responsibility, travel. Ah, travel. M has been traveling every week since the beginning of the year! People within this industry are are expected to, and do, travel a lot. Before taking the job we were aware about the travel aspect but did not quite understand the rigors it would put on the entire family. The burden it puts on one parent to take care of everything in the home.

Especially, not being home for our child, D. One thing that became painfully apparent was how much M was missing D, and vice-versa. So Travel, bye Felicia!

Another factor is the culture of the industry M works in. People are very, VERY driven. Most will not think twice before putting in an 80-hour work week. The unwritten “expectation” is 60 hours, which M was aware of and have no problem in following. The more M interacted with senior leadership the more M questioned whether M want to be like them in 5 years or so. So completely invested – heart and soul – into the company and what it stood for and the work. It is not in M’s nature to be that invested in work.

Maybe switching to a job that did not involve travel, or moving to a different industry, could be the cure?

This led to a greater introspection of what M wants from a job or life in general.

What M realized is that spending time with family is the #1 thing right now. Especially since D is growing up so fast that missing days away from family is akin to missing a new facet of personality developing. Even a job that doesn’t require travel would require going in to work from 9 to 5. During the summer. On a gorgeous day.

Go out and play. Hit a ball. Catch a fish. Kick a ball. Ride a bike. Throw a ball. Build a castle in the sand. Ride kayak. Get a couple of bruises to reminisce about.

When being at daycare is grandly trumped by the above actions!

FIRE, technically, should give us the time to spend together as family. There is a meme doing the rounds of social media. It says,

We get 18 delicious summers with our children. This is one of your 18. If that’s not perspective, I don’t know what it is.

As parents we get 18 years to really interact with our progeny to mold them into functioning human beings. I would argue that it is actually less than 18 years when you subtract the 0-4 years in front, and possibly the 4 years of high school. 10 full years. If we can’t give our kids the highest priority for these formative years, which is on average one-eighth of our life span, what does that tell about us?

Another thing that came out of the conversations was how W did not see the RE aspect of FIRE the same way M does. W really likes the work, the workplace, the people interaction. Even if we stayed on our current plan, and were to be on the verge of FIRE in 2023, W is not sure if quitting the full-time job would be the calling. W’s health insurance continuing through work is another added bonus, which in turn keeps our out of pocket costs down.

This double realization – where M does not want to continue full-time work and W does want to continue full-time work – made us stop and rethink our FIRE path forward. Could we be at a point where if we did not put in a single dollar towards investments, we still could end up being FIRE in 11 years?

And running the numbers, the answer is a resounding yes!

From our end of June post, we have $604k in retirement accounts. If we stopped funding all of our retirement accounts right now, at the end of 11 years, that sum would have grown to $1.16M, at 6% compound interest. Which is quite a conservative estimate.

It is a very realistic scenario that we might be truly FIRE by year 9 or 10.

Adam, over at Brewing FIRE, had this very lucid and dear to heart post about “Coast FIRE”. He explains the “stopping point” where “we will stop pedaling and let our momentum carry us to financial independence“. Encourage everyone to go over there and read his piece in entirety. He ran some good numbers as well.

We think we are at this coast point now. We can cut back on work, we can remain thrifty (maybe a bit more so), and can start to appreciate the mundane aspects of life.

Wait, what will M actually do after leaving full-time job? Being more involved in taking care of the family is where most of the freed up time will now be spent. Things like cooking dinner most days of the week. Mowing the yard and cleaning the house, and not outsourcing those chores. Less or no before and after school care for D. Even self-care activities as going to the gym regularly, playing on recreational adult sport teams.

M is certain to do some sort of part-time work as well in RE. M really wants to pursue some hands-on endeavor where the fruits of labor are tangible. Coaching athletics/sports, substitute teaching, tutoring school aged kids. Getting a commercial driving license and doing some seasonal work. Maybe get a CFP certification and become a financial planner to help families who aren’t as savvy. Maybe getting involved in local and grass-root activism. There are plenty of options around.

Netting around $1K a month shouldn’t be a huge deal with a few days worth of few-hours-a-day work.

M has worked all 15-years of professional life sitting in front of a computer. That is about to change and the excitement is palpable 🙂