[DISCLAIMER: This is a catch-up post, documenting our financials from the fourth quarter of 2022. It’s 2023, but I’m trying to organize and document our financial history so that I can have this record to look back on.]
The kiddos learned about national monuments in school, so we took trips to visit some of them in Q4 (October-December) of 2022. We visited the National Mall in DC, the Liberty Bell in PA, and Statue of Liberty in NY, to name a few. We also upgraded some of our laptops and tablets this quarter. Finally, we celebrated a bunch of holidays at the end of the year — Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. It was a good quarter!
Here’s how we looked financially during Q4 of 2022.
Monthly Spending and Income
October 2022 Spending
|Primary Residence – Property Tax+Assoc. Fees||$2,630|
|Rental – Property Tax+Assoc. Fees||$323|
|Gas + Electric||$73|
|Water + Sewer||$0|
|Food [Groceries/ Household]||$1,466|
|Food [Eating Out]||$802|
|Transportation [Gas/ Parking]||$157|
|Life/ Home/ Umbrella Insurance||$90|
|Health + Dental [Dentist/ Meds]||$0|
|Misc Buffer [Laptop/ Tablets/ Art Class/ Netflix/ Hulu/ Amazon Kids+ / Statue of Liberty/ Donations/ Battery]||$3,232|
|Total Monthly Spending||$8,844|
November 2022 Spending
|Primary Residence – Property Tax+Assoc. Fees||$300|
|Rental – Property Tax+Assoc. Fees||$2,173|
|Gas + Electric||$103|
|Water + Sewer||$119|
|Food [Groceries/ Household]||$1,777|
|Food [Eating Out]||$676|
|Transportation [Gas/ Parking/ Tolls]||$312|
|Life/ Home/ Umbrella Insurance||$409|
|Health + Dental [Vision/ Dentist]||$600|
|Misc Buffer [Thanksgiving/ Netflix/ HBO Max/ Amazon Kids+/ Art Class/ Tablet/ Philly Trip/ Clothes]||$709|
|Total Monthly Spending||$8,429|
December 2022 Spending
|Primary Residence – Property Tax + Assoc. Fees||$300|
|Rental – Property Tax + Assoc. Fees + Repairs||$265|
|Gas + Electric||$147|
|Water + Sewer||$72|
|Food [Groceries/ Household]||$1,006|
|Food [Eating Out]||$658|
|Transportation [Gas/ Parking/ Tolls/ Oil Change/ 7-yr Tune-up]||$1,890|
|Life/ Home/ Umbrella Insurance||$1,349|
|Health + Dental||$3,550|
|Misc Buffer [Netflix/ Gifts/ Credit Monitoring]||$1,132|
|Total Monthly Spending||$10,442|
Like previous quarters in 2022, we spent on experiences. We visited multiple national monuments this quarter, including those in and around the Washington DC National Mall, Philadelphia Liberty Bell, and Statue of Liberty.
We also signed the kids up for another 8-week art course. I think they enjoyed this second round less than the first, and we didn’t sign up for a third.
After 7 years, we finally took our minivan for a tune-up. This was a first for this car, and it was long overdue. During this time, we also replaced our timing belt and flushed our transmission fluid to get rid of a “shudder” that happened when we applied the brakes. In total, we spent ~$1,750 in parts and labor. Looking back now, we probably could have waited on some of the work, especially the belt change. It’s too late now, though. We’re hoping to get a least 10 years out of our minivan. I think we can do that. I like having a reliable car, so I honestly don’t mind this expense too much, but I wish we knew more about car maintenance.
We did a technology upgrade this quarter. With the new school year, we purchased two tablets — one 10″ iPad (~$300) and one 10″ Fire Tablet (~$100). The kids had been using 8″ fire tablets since before the pandemic, so it seemed like a good time to upgrade. Mr. FD also purchased a new 15″ HP laptop for work (~$700), which will hopefully replace another one that he’d kept for 10+ years. He uses it for work, so it’s a good investment. I purchased a M1 Macbook Air (~$850) to replace my older 8+ year old Macbook Air. I don’t expect that we’ll replace our laptops for another 5-6 years at least, but the tablets might get a refresh in about 3 years. We’ll see. Since Mr. FD and I both work in tech, we should be planning better for these expenses when we think about FIRE. Right now, they just go into a giant miscellaneous bucket that just exploded this year. I need to find a better way to plan for this.
I switched from AT&T Prepaid to Mint Mobile in December, but I paid for it at the end of November. I paid about $72 for 6 months of Mint Mobile (unlimited call/text with 5 GB/month data). I got 3 free months of Google FI, so I switched over our emergency phone to that. I have to say that it was quite convenient. By the end of the year, we had one phone still on AT&T prepaid, one phone on GoogleFi, and one phone on Mint Mobile. Eventually, I’d like to consolidate these into a family plan, but I’m not sure which one yet.
Our grocery and household spending hit an all time high of $1,777 in November. I think this was in part due to a shopping spree at Sam’s club. We used a deal to get free membership last year, and we actually went into the store as a family. Our bill totaled nearly $400 in a single trip, and purchases included things that we plan to use over the year (e.g., trash bags, ziplock bags, storage containers, etc.) along with food that we were still eating into 2023 (school snacks, condiments, etc.). I’m not sure if it was worth it. We decided not to renew the membership. The Sam’s Club bill doesn’t explain it all, but that did stand out.
December had a lot of gifts. In addition to our parents and people in our immediate family, Mr. FD and I have a lot of nephew, nieces, and cousins that are young. Gift buying is part of the holiday season, for better or worse. We spent close to $1k on gifts this year.
We had a few health expenses this quarter. For me, I finally got my first dental cleaning since the pandemic started, and I got a new night guard. The stress for working again has me grinding my teeth more at night, so I’m hoping it’ll help with that. Mr. FD is in his mid-40s. A major health expense in November and December was a combined colonoscopy and endoscopy. It boggles my mind that, even with decent health insurance, this preventative procedure cost us between $3k-4k. The cost included two visits to a specialist. The first was a consultation, and the second was the actual procedure. Everything looked good for Mr. FD in the end, but we can expect to have to repeat this at least every five years as Mr. FD continues to grow older. We can safely afford this procedure, but there are so many families that cannot. It’s things like this that make me realize that our health system is broken. It favors those with financial means. How is the average person in the US supposed to afford this?
One other notable thing is that we didn’t go too much out of budget for food in December. [Reminder: We were expecting $1,100/month for groceries + household expenses and $500 for eating out — 2022 Expectations.] It’s funny when it’s notable to stay close to our budget rather than go wildly out of range. Maybe, after eating out so much, we finally reached a point where we wanted simpler foods again? Other than that, I don’t have an explanation as to why we cut back in December. In general, I need to look closer at what caused our increase in grocery spending and eating out expenses. I know inflation played some part, but not all.
October 2022 InCOME
|Total Monthly Income||$14,561|
November 2022 InCOME
|Total Monthly Income||$14,619|
December 2022 InCOME
|Mr. FD Freelance||($379)|
|Mrs. FD Full-time||$7,339|
|Total Monthly Income||$9,208|
Income was pretty steady this quarter. Rent and the hobby site were also consistent. Mr. FD and I had pretty stable income as well. You can always tell when Mr. FD paid his quarterly taxes (December). It’s part of the freelance experience.
Being dual-income means we can save more for FIRE. Since starting work again, this section has reminded me of how lucky we are to be able to save as much as we do. I think we work hard, but I can’t deny that luck is on our side as well.
Q4 RETIREMENT CONTRIBUTIONS + HSA
We made consistent retirement and HSA contributions this quarter, over $15k in these tax sheltered savings. That’s something I feel good about. The steady decrease in 401k for me over 2022 was to compensate for front-loading my 401k earlier in the year.
|Month||Mr. FD’s Solo 401k||Mrs. FD’s 401k (w/ company match)||HSA||Monthly Total|
By subtracting our expenses from our income and retirement/HSA contributions, we saved more than $26k this quarter.
Here’s the breakdown by month:
October Savings: $14,561 – $8,844 + $5,448 = $11,164 in total
November Savings: $14,619 – $8,429 + $5,604 = $11,793 in total
December Savings: $9,208 – $10,442 + $4,812 = $3,579 in total
Here’s the total for the quarter:
Q4 Savings: $38,388 – $27,715 + $15,864 = $26,537 in total
Spending and Savings Summary for the year
Here’s a table of our spending and savings for all of 2022.
Net Worth for the year
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.
We saved over $26k during Q4, and our net worth INCREASED by roughly $120k this quarter. Our FIRE assets increased by about the same amount. It really is a good thing to be able to save that much in a quarter. The downside is that, if you zoom out a bit to look at the whole year, you’ll see that even though we saved close to $135k in total, our net worth actually dropped by 40-50k during 2022.
|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|
|March 2022||$2.48 M||$1.88 M|
|April 2022||$2.40 M||$1.80 M|
|May 2022||$2.43 M||$1.83 M|
|June 2022||$2.38 M||$1.78 M|
|July 2022||$2.46 M||$1.86 M|
|August 2022||$2.46 M||$1.86 M|
|September 2022||$2.36 M||$1.76 M|
|October 2022||$2.45 M||$1.85 M|
|November 2022||$2.45 M||$1.85 M|
|December 2022||$2.48 M||$1.88 M|
FIRE Failure Indicators
Here’s our sanity check for the month.
- Is our spending on track? NOPE! We projected in a previous post that we’re expecting to spend about $73k this year. We went WAY over. We ended up spending over $85k for 2022.
- Is our withdrawal rate okay? NOPE!! [We’re still working, so we don’t need to withdraw from our savings yet. However, this section is for us to reflect on how much we would have needed to withdraw, if we were retired.] Ultimately, we want our spending to be at or below 3%. Our actual rate would need to have been above 4.5% in 2022. For us, this means we’re not actually financial independent yet. We should save more before trying to retire early.
Withdrawal Rate Withdrawal Amount 4.50% $84,540 4.25% $79,840 4.00% $75,150 3.75% $70,450 3.50% $65,750 3.25% $61,060
I want to write a bit about FIRE and my career. Please bear with me on this.
Our FIRE attempts haven’t quite gone the way they were supposed to, but I’m not unhappy that we’re not fully retired yet.
When I started this blog, I felt so ready to FIRE. Mr. FD and I had a plan to transition to retirement in 2021. I was already not working. Mr. FD had transitioned from full-time W-2 employment to freelance that year, reducing his hours to effectively three days a week. The plan back in 2021 was for Mr. FD to only work a few more months before both of us retired. We were transitioning to FIRE.
However, if you’ve been reading this blog, you know that we were both still employed throughout 2022 and into the start of 2023. I’m at the point where I don’t need to work full-time financially, yet here I am stressed out by work again. How’d that even happen?
In a way, FIRE allowed me to start my career again.
When Mr. FD started taking care of the kids more, I finally felt I had more time to pursue what I wanted to do. I wasn’t entirely sure yet what that was. I had been a stay at home mom for a few years. It’s not that I didn’t love taking care of my kids. I did enjoy many parts of it, and I did feel lucky that I could take time off for it. Not everyone gets that opportunity. However, I felt something missing by just being a stay at home parent. Grad school was one possibility, and I had been pursuing that a bit. Surprisingly, even though FIRE usually means not working, restarting my career was also something that I pursued. The work I did before having kids was technology-related, but the type of work that I enjoyed was more on the research side — more math and analytical thinking. It’s not easy to just jump back into that, or it wasn’t for me at least. Getting to a financially stable place where I could risk Mr. FD’s income and our overall family balance in favor of something different, that was a big deal. I wouldn’t have tried to restart my career without attempting to transition to FIRE.
On a scale of 1-10, how would I rate my happiness?
I’m so glad I’ve had this opportunity to work. With so many companies laying people off, there’s no guarantee that I’ll still be employed by the end of this year, or even the end of this quarter. Still, I’m so happy to get non-trivial work that I’m proud of. I’m happy to continue to earn money to not only support our family, but to give us opportunities for experiences that we’ll hopefully keep with us as we get older. On the whole, I’m happy.
I’m also glad that we didn’t actually retire yet. We weren’t ready. We’re close, but we need to save more. We need to find ways to be more deliberate with our spending to avoid waste. I’m sure we’re being wasteful with our spending. This blog is showing me that.
The bad side is that I’m trying to find a balance, and I’m failing.
My family time is part of the trade-off here. I have continued to rely heavily on Mr. FD to be the primary care-giver to our kids during this time. We managed to go on trips and have some meaningful experiences, but I wasn’t as involved in my kids day to day activities as much as I would have liked.
Grad school was and is on-hold, and that’s okay. If I had to decide between grad school and work, I choose work for now.
My work situation had a bit of a twist this quarter. The end of 2022 was marked by burnout. I was really tired, not sleeping well, not eating well, and constantly thinking about work. It was hard for me to feel bad about my work, though. I was so grateful to even be working, and I saw the value in my work. This was the quarter where my company (like many other tech companies) announced layoffs. I’m sure it added to my stress and anxiety. My workplace offered voluntary unpaid leave to its employees as part of a short-term cost-saving program, and I signed up for one month in 2023. Mr. FD and I would be fine with a month-long drop in income, and the long working hours and stress were somehow made better by just the idea of taking a break.
So, that’s how we ended 2022. It was a good year overall, even if our net worth declined and even though we realized we’re not ready to FIRE yet.
We’ll keep going and get there eventually.