February has come and is almost gone. Life has been busy, but we got to go out and enjoy some yummy treats this past month. I hope everyone had a good Valentine’s Day. (I love cakes from Paris Baguette!) I feel like there’s so much to be thankful for. Covid-19 cases are continuing their trend downward here in NJ. Our kids will be maskless in schools starting March 7th. I feel like I’m finally hearing consistently good news on this front. To contrast that, it’s crazy hearing about everything going on in Ukraine. I feel lucky and grateful to be in a place that’s safe and away from war.

February has been better than January, financially, but it’s still been a bit rocky. Our net worth is up about $10k, but a big part of that comes from the fact that both Mr. FD and I are working for now. This won’t always be the case, and I’m hoping that the markets turn around later this year.

In any case, here’s how we did financially in February.

Monthly Spending and Income

February 2022 Spending

Primary Residence – Property Tax+Assoc. Fees $300
Rental – Property Tax+Assoc. Fees $1,961
Internet $40
Cell Phone $0
Gas + Electric $159
Water/Sewer $119
Food (Groceries/Household) $968
Food (Eating Out) $471
Transportation [Gas] $45
Car Insurance $0
Life/Home/Umbrella Insurance $90
Health/Dental Insurance $0
Misc/Buffer [Cash, Clothes, Netflix/Hulu/HBOMax/Peacock] $292
Total Monthly Spending $4,444

Our spending on groceries/household items and eating out are roughly where they should be, below average even. This includes extra treats from Valentine’s Day and Lunar New Year. I’m not sure what happened there this month, but I’ll take it. Perhaps it’s that I have less time to eat out due to the fact that I’m working again? We paid property tax on our investment property this month.  Our gas and electric spending was lower than usual because our electric bill hasn’t been paid yet. I think it’s because February is a short month. I expect March’s spending to be higher here. We paid $0 to our cell phones this month because we both pre-paid in previous months.

Health insurance and dental are $0 because I get free coverage for our family through my contract work. Otherwise, it’d be around $1k through the NJ Marketplace. I’m not looking forward to spending that again once my contract is up in May. It’s strange. I don’t think I’ve ever worked anywhere with benefits as good as these. Mr. FD hasn’t either. I can see why folks want to hang on to certain benefits tied to work. 

Overall, our expenses this month are on the lower side. We made an ATM withdrawal and bought some clothes for the kids. Netflix and Hulu are our staples in terms of streaming entertainment. We also have Disney+, but we pre-paid for multiple years early on, and it’ll be a bit before that renews. We signed up for one month of Peacock to enjoy the Super Bowl and Winter Olympics. And, I’m a period drama addict, so I’ll be watching The Gilded Age on HBOMax until it finishes its season.

FEBRUARY 2022 InCOME

Rent $1400
Hobby Site $501
Mr. FD Freelance $5,608
Mrs. FD Contract $5,576
Total Monthly Income $13,085

Wow, it’s weird adding myself to the income section. Mr. FD and I both brought in decent income this month. The hobby site did fine. Rent was also what we expected, without any additional expenses.

February 2021 RETIREMENT CONTRIBUTIONS + HSA

Mr. FD’s Solo 401k Mrs. FD’s 401k HSA
$3,417 $3,071 $395

Mr. FD contributed to his Solo 401k this month (both from the employee and employer side). I contributed to my 401k for the first time in years. My contribution is high because I’m trying to get as close as possible to the annual limit during my short-term contract. There’s a bit of employer matching as well, another benefit that I didn’t realize I missed. Finally, the health insurance plan we’re on is a high-deductible plan that allows for HSA contributions.  That’s $6,883 in total for tax-sheltered pay if you add everything up from this section. That’s really great.

By subtracting our expenses from our income and retirement/HSA contributions, we saved $15,524 this month. That is a huge number. I’m honestly not used to seeing that.

February Savings: $13,085 –  $4,444 + $6,883 = $15,524 in total

Spending and Savings Summary for the year

Here’s a table of our spending and savings for this year.

  Spending Saving
January 2022 -$6,110 $4,193
February 2022 -$4,444 $15,524
TOTAL -$10,554 $19,716

Net Worth for the year

For net worth, here’s how we’ve been doing. I calculate net worth near the end of the month, but not always on the final day of the month. Most of our net worth changes are heavily dependent on the stock market. I’m also including our total FIRE assets, which are invested and expected to grow in our retirement.

Our net worth went up by about $10k this month, and our FIRE assets went up by about the same. Our dual income has saved us from another down month compared to January, which is good. I’m grateful for this.

  Net Worth FIRE Assets
December 2021 $2.53 M $1.92 M
January 2022 $2.44 M $1.83 M
February 2022 $2.45 M $1.84 M

FIRE Failure Indicators

Here’s our sanity check for the month.  

  1. Is our spending on track? So far, yes. We projected in a previous post that we’re expecting to spend about $73,000 this year. Because one of our biggest expenses (health care) is covered for 4 months,  we’re doing better in terms of spending for these first two months. We’ve spent just over $10k this year. If we project that spending rate until the end of the year, we’re on track to spend a little more than $63k. We’re good here.
  2. Is our withdrawal rate okay? We’re not doing our Roth Ladder yet. If we were, our projected spending for this year is about 4%. Currently, we’re on track to spend about $63k, which is closer to 3.5%. Ultimately,  we want our spending to be at or below 3%. However, spending 3.5-4% without yet having to start a Roth Ladder is okay for us. I need to do some number crunching to figure out how much we actually expect to spend in retirement again. I’ve been putting that off. Until I do that, this section is very hand-wavy. Still, it feels like a comfortable hand-wave. I think we’d be a little worried but ultimately okay if we were actually in retirement right now.
     

    Withdrawal Rate Withdrawal Amount
    4.00% $73,600
    3.75% $69,000
    3.50% $64,400
    3.25% $59,800
    3.00% $55,200
    2.75% $50,600

Happiness Indicators

On a scale of 1-10, how would I rate my happiness?

8. 

I think the honeymoon period of returning to work is fading. Between work and school, I’m tired. I still feel really lucky to be working on my project. It’s interesting and in a field that I’d love to learn more about. I chose a grad course that is easy and fun. I wish all my courses could be like this, but I’m pretty sure none of the ones left will be. I realize again how good it feels to get a steady paycheck and benefits such as health insurance, 401k matching, and the ability to contribute to a HSA. But, I wonder how quickly I’d burn out if I had to do this for multiple years. I wonder how quickly I’d drop my grad program, thinking I’d pick it up again once I FIRE in earnest.  

Haha. I feel lucky and on the verge of burning out at the same time. I’m somehow holding on to things, but I feel like I could slip at any moment. So, for now I’m at 8. Once I slip, I’m not sure how hard I’ll fall.

FIRE changes everything. I’m trying to hold these pieces of my life together. I want to work. I like the meaning it brings my life. However, if I do fail or fall or stumble, financial worries aren’t huge on my radar. That’s pretty amazing.

Okay, I may be in a weird place right now. I hope you all are doing well, or even better! 

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