Time to Reflect on 2021 and Look Forward to 2022

I started this blog as we began transitioning to FIRE around March 2021. It’s now the start of 2022, and I wanted to reflect a bit about how it went and how it looks like for the coming year.

The Expected

I expected that I would have time to exercise and start to take care of myself more. I started to exercise more around May of 2021, and I’ve been able to more or less maintain regular exercise since then. I’ve gotten my flu shot and three Pfizer Covid-19 vaccinations. I saw my Primary Care Physician once, and completed a round of annual blood tests. I saw my gynecologist for my annual “well-woman” visit. I even saw a specialist for an issue that had been annoying me for a few years. This has been good.

I expected our investments would work for us in the long term. They have. Our financial numbers are pretty solid. We grew our Net Worth by more than what we earned and saved, mainly due to the market working in our favor.

I knew securing health insurance in the NJ marketplace was doable, but I expected the process of attaining it would be a pain in the butt. It was. I’m glad this option exists, but I wish it was easier to go through!

The Unexpected

I didn’t expect that Mr. FD would earn as much as he did. When I started this blog, I expected him only to work freelance for a few months. Those few months turned into a few more months and eventually into the end of this year. Now, in 2022, he still has the opportunity and desire to continue with freelancing for potentially another year. This leaves us in another year of a sort of “quasi-FIRE” state. Mr. FD can stop when he wants or reduce his hours even more if he chooses. Or, he’s free to keep going. I don’t think he’ll increase his hours. I hope not at least.

I didn’t expect that I would drop my grad course two terms in a row. And, I didn’t expect that I would end up with contract work for 2022. I think I’m still trying to figure out what to do with my time. I didn’t expect that I’d go the direction of contract work, but I’m glad that FIRE gives me the opportunity to try for different things. I can try these things without having to worry about being able to afford it. I can also not worry too much financially if I fail. It’s not the greatest feeling to fail, but I’m glad I have the option to without worrying about our expenses. FIRE definitely gives me that.

I knew there was the potential to increase our Net Worth in a good year, but I didn’t expect our Net Worth to increase as much as it did in 2021. This was an unexpected surprise, and it’s a good one.

I didn’t expect Covid-19 would be this bad by the end of 2021. I had expected us to go on more trips in 2021. Instead, we spent more time at home, eating out often (take-out) and splurging on local events. FIRE gave us A LOT of security during this time. I’m thankful for that, and I’m aware that not everyone was so lucky. Still, I’m hoping 2022 will give us more opportunity to take trips across the US, or abroad, with our kids and still feel safe.

Annual and Monthly Stats for 2021

Here are some numbers from 2021:

[DISCLAIMER: So, in writing this post, I found a big mistake in my spending totals. I left out close to $3.5k from rental expenses during the year. I should eventually go back and fix this, or at least note it, in my previous posts. Eh… not looking forward to that. For now, I’ll note that we actually spent about $60,155 in 2021, and our withdrawal rate is more likely between 3% and 3.25%. Similarly, we saved about $73,709. I basically pulled $3.5k from our savings and added it to our spending.]

Total Spending $60,155
Average Monthly Spending $5,013
   
Total Hobby Site Income $4,349
Averagely Monthly Hobby Income $362
   
Total Rental Income $15,710
Average Monthly Rental Income $1,309
   
Total Savings (Including Retirement) $73,709
Average Monthly Savings $6,142
   
Total Increase in Net Worth $364,525
Average Monthly NW Increase $30,377

In full retirement, we expect to keep our rental and hobby income. In 2021, if we were to offset our Total Spending ($60,155) with that of rental and hobby income ($15,710 + $4,349), we’d only have used up about $40,096 of our nest egg. Divide that by 12, and we’d have used up $3,341 per month on average. That’s awesome!

Because Mr. FireDesired worked all year, albeit part-time mostly, we were able to save over $73k in 2021, or over $6k per month.

Finally, our Total Net Worth increased by about $365k in 2021, which comes out to about $30k per month. It blows my mind how much our Net Worth increased in just a year, even with Mr. FD working so much less than he used to. I’m not expecting 2022 to be this good, but I am glad we’ve increased our savings buffer to potentially weather bad years in the future.

Expected vs Actual Spending vs Projected for 2022

Here’s a table of our expected spending compared to our actual spending in 2021. It also has our projected spending for 2022.

MONTHLY 2021 Expected 2021 Actual 2022 Projected
Primary Residence – Property Tax+Assoc. Fees $972 $995 $1,100
Rental – Property Tax+Assoc. Fees $936 $797 $850
Internet $56 $72 $40
Cell Phone $82 $93 60
Gas + Electric $160 $120 $130
Water/Sewer $40 $43 $50
Groceries/Household $1,000 $1,086 $1,100
Eating out $600 $442 $500
Car Gas + Maintenance $200 $108 $200
Car Insurance $240 $169 $200
Health Insurance $690 $438 $1,000
Life/Home/Umbrella Insurance $213 $214 $215
Everything Else (aka “Buffer”) $600 $436 $686
     
TOTAL $5,789 $5,013 $6,131

For property expenses, we spent a little more than expected on our primary and spent less than expected on our rental. We ended up spending more for our primary home because the HOA fees went up. I’m not sure why there’s such a big difference between the expected and actual rental costs. (I did account for my $3.5k mistake noted above.) I must have made a mistake in my initial projections. For 2022 projections, I’m going to do some hand-wavy projections on actual 2021 expenses because I expect HOA fees and property taxes to keep going up.

For Internet, we ended up making a one-time purchase on an expensive Verizon router in 2021. That’s why it’s higher than expected per month. For 2022, it should stay at $40 per month.

For cell phone expenses, we ended up prepaying for a whole year on my phone in 2021 for services in 2022. Also, we purchased an additional phone to be used by our kids in emergencies. Those two things added to more expenses in the cell phone area. For 2022, we expect the costs to settle a bit around $60 per month.

So, for gas, electric, water and sewer, I remember just eyeballing all the bills and coming up with an estimate that way. It makes sense that I was a little off for those in 2021. In the end, I somehow overestimated and underestimated in such a way that it didn’t matter much. I got pretty close cumulatively for these bills. For 2022, we’ll project them to be around the same amount, just a few bucks higher.

Groceries/Household and eating-out expenses were also off but close enough. We tended to spend more for groceries and households. We spent a little less for eating out. So, I adjusted the 2022 projections a bit, keeping the total the same.

Overall, car insurance and expenses were lower than expected. We removed comprehensive coverage for one of our cars in 2021, so that’s why the insurance came up lower than expected. Being in a pandemic, we drove around less, and this lowered our gas expenses and maintenance. I remember getting an email from Geico about potentially increasing rates for 2022. So, I’ll keep our gas at $200 and up our insurance projections.

The health insurance and dental premiums were kind of crazy in 2021. We started with insuring just myself and Mr. FD. Then, we were able to add our two kids. Then, we had an income increase due to Mr. FD working freelance for longer than expected. With all the changes, I’m not sure if we got the appropriate subsidies. We’ll probably need to pay back a bunch at tax time. For now, we came in under initial expectations. For 2022, we got an email telling us our new premium, and it’ll be close to $1k per month.

For all other insurance (life/home/umbrella), we pretty much paid what we expected. We’ll keep the projection close for 2022.

Finally, our buffer was just that — some buffer of expected miscellaneous expenses. We came under-budget most likely due to our lack of big vacation in 2021.  I upped the buffer a bit to maybe cover a vacation for 2022.

On the whole, we’ll expect to spend over $73k in 2022. That’s a lot. However, Mr. FD and I will be both be working at least part of 2022, so we won’t need to start our Roth Ladder yet. Maybe in 2023, if we do less freelance and contract work, we’ll have lower health insurance bills. Also, our rental and hobby site income (~20k) should still offset a part of that, bringing our estimated withdrawal amounts from our nest egg to about $53k (less than 3%) if we were in fact starting our Roth ladder.

Whew!

So, there you have it. This is what our year looked like financially last year. I’m really looking forward to what this year brings us. I hope 2022 is as successful as 2021 for us and for you all!

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