We got over a foot of snow recently. As a result, we got a chance to snow tube down a local hill for a few days. Super fun! Hope the weather has been good for everyone! Our kids have definitely been having a blast this winter.

It’s been an interesting start to 2022. Our net worth is down about $90k, but that’s okay. I started working again, and it’s been really gratifying and really exhausting at the same time. I have so many mixed feelings about it.

In any case, here’s how we did financially for January.

Monthly Spending and Income

January 2022 Spending

Primary Residence – Property Tax+Assoc. Fees $2,426
Rental – Property Tax+Assoc. Fees $215
Internet $40
Cell Phone $82
Gas + Electric $195
Water/Sewer $0
Food (Groceries/Household) $1,128
Food (Eating Out) $503
Transportation [Gas] $107
Car Insurance $0
Life/Home/Umbrella Insurance $90
Health/Dental Insurance $992
Misc/Buffer [TurboTax, Passport Renewals, desk, Netflix/Hulu, clothes] $361
Total Monthly Spending $6,110

Last year, I worried a little that we were spending too much for groceries, household items, and eating out. This year, I’m going to worry less. We’re right around average for these items compared to last year,  and that’s how it is.

We paid property tax on our primary home. Health insurance and dental made up another big ticket item for January. My contracting gig comes with health insurance, so we’ll be paying less on that front for at least a few months. We were still paying the NJ health marketplace rate for January, but February should see a drop there. I don’t think my contract will extend beyond May, so we’ll expect to go back on a GetCovered NJ plan around then. (I am not looking forward to reapplying for health insurance, but financially it made sense to take the benefit that I got with my contract.)

Overall, there wasn’t anything unexpected about our expenses this month. We’d been putting off passport renewal for a while now, and we finally got around to renewing. Hopefully, we’ll get to use that for travel later in the year. The renewal fees took about $260 for both Mr. FD and myself. We also paid for TurboTax software. Some clothes, a cheap desk, and finally Netflix and Hulu round out our miscellaneous expenses this month.

January 2022 InCOME

Rent $1319
Hobby Site $733
Mr. FD Freelance $4,833
Total Monthly Income $6,886

Mr. FD’s freelance income was decent this month. The hobby site did well this month too. Rent was also what we expected, minus some minor expenses.

January 2021 RETIREMENT CONTRIBUTIONS

Solo 401k Contributions
$3,416.66

Mr. FD contributed to his Solo 401k this month.

By subtracting our expenses from our income and retirement contributions, we saved $4,193 this month.

January Savings: $6,886 –  $6,110 + $3,416.66 = $4,193 in total

Spending and Savings Summary for the year

Here’s a table of our spending and savings for this year. It’s the beginning of the year, so it’s pretty sparse.

  Spending Saving
January 2022 -$6,110 $4,193
TOTAL -$6,110 $4,193

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 down by about $90k this month, and our FIRE assets went down by about the same. That’s more than what we expect to spend this entire year. It’s a little depressing to look at, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not so bad considering how much these numbers went up in 2021.

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

FIRE Failure Indicators

Here’s our sanity check for the month.  

  1. Is our spending on track? We projected in the previous post that we’re expecting to spend about $73,000 this year. Nothing is really standing out as too much as of this month. The year is just getting started, so we’re okay. 
  2. Is our withdrawal rate okay? If we were doing a Roth Ladder for our expenses this year, we’d expect to have a withdrawal rate close to 4%. I think I need to qualify this a bit, though. In 2021, I used the amount that we’d expect to spend if we weren’t working, which includes drastically lowered health insurance premiums. For this year, I’m using a projection of what we’re actually going to spend, which is more than what we would expect to spend in a retirement scenario. So, for now, I’m going to relax our standards a bit and make sure we’re at 4% withdrawal rate. I guess it seems like I’m moving the bar a bit. I really should do the exercise of calculating again what we expect to spend in retirement. Then, I could use that for this section. I just haven’t had the time. For now, this is where we are, and we’re okay with it. Below is a table of withdrawal rates and equivalent withdrawal amounts given our current FIRE assets. Ultimately,  we want our spending to be at or below 3%. However, spending 4% without yet having to start a Roth Ladder is okay for us.
     

    Withdrawal Rate Withdrawal Amount
    4.00% $73,200
    3.75% $68,600
    3.50% $64,000
    3.25% $59,500
    3.00% $54,900
    2.75% $50,300

Happiness Indicators

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

8.5. That’s really high for me.

After years of not working, I’m back in it again.

I am super busy. I’m exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. I started my contract work in January. I love and hate it at the same time, but I think the scale is slightly tipped just a little more on the loving it side. I love it because I feel a sense of pride that I’m useful, that I can contribute to work that is interesting, difficult, and impactful. The hate part comes from the uncertainty of whether or not I’m able to do good work. What if my manager doesn’t think I’m doing a good job? What if my co-workers think I’m a slacker? What if I take too long and slow my team down? I used to feel a little uneasiness come Sunday night. I’m starting to remember that feeling.

Years ago, my career had taken a dive when I had kids. I had the responsibility of a primary care-giver, and I had difficulty finding that balance between doing well at work and doing well at being a mom. The kids always came first. They got so sick so often. There weren’t enough hours in the day. Now, that they’re old enough to go to school, there’s a lot less pressure on me.  I feel like there’s an opportunity to find a career for me again, if that’ s what I want.

Major props to Mr. FD. He’s really stepped up to take care of the kids and household tasks so that I can hit the ground running on my contract work. I’m also taking an easier grad school course. I’m working during the week, and schooling during the weekend. I have another 3+ months of this ahead of me. I just might be able to do it.

Some Time to Reflect

I’ve had little time to reflect other than this blog post. There are a few things that stick out in my mind as I write this post.

  1. I got more gratification and feelings of self-worth from my work than I previously realized.  Being able to set up my working environment and start to solve what I consider to be non-trivial problems is a GREAT feeling for me.  I love that the work that I do is bigger than what I could do by myself. I like that I have a piece to solve in a much bigger puzzle. I feel a part of something good.
  2. I didn’t appreciate enough the ability to take my time before taking on this contract role. I wanted to get started quickly, so I haven’t been kind enough to myself these past few weeks. My showers are rushed. I haven’t been exercising regularly. My eating pattern is all over the place. I need to eventually put these things back in place.
  3. I didn’t realize how isolated I’d been these past few years. A group of us contractors started around the same time, and we’ve been meeting up virtually for training or for “cohort” time. It’s been really good. I’m more of a pessimistic person, and my negative feelings have been greatly tempered by the positivity of others in the group.  

As of now, I feel I can still be productive. I can still do good work. I still have good working years left in me. How do I want to spend them after this contract is up in 3 months? I’m not sure. Being financially independent means that I’m not bound to a job because of its paycheck. This particular job is interesting. If I get to work on it, I feel honored in many ways. If they’re willing to pay me for it, it’s a bonus. If I could just find a job that feels this good but allows me to sleep more, then I’d be even happier. However, I don’t know if I’ll be able to find something like that. So, I’m grateful with what I have now.

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