Brace Yourself for Expenses

The vast majority of US kids have orthodontic work done at some point in their childhood. My gut feeling is that there is a tendency to over brace kids. It seems to be a very American obsession with perfect teeth. Bit if the dentists says that kids need braces then as a parent our natural tendency is of course to accept that diagnosis. No one wants to be the parent who feels guilty because their child has dental problems later in life.

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June Financial Update

Halfway through the year already. The year seems to be flying! Based on the markets for the first six months we can have a reasonable idea of how the year is going to go. Most markets are pretty much flat through the first half, so it’s not unreasonable to expect the overall year to stay fairly flat (though we could all be surprised!)

So here is how the major markets and out own net worth did through H1.

Market Jun-18 Q2 18 YTD
S&P500 0.48% 2.93% 1.67%
NASDAQ 0.92% 6.33% 8.79%
DOW 30 -0.59% 0.70% -1.81%
Benchmark Vanguard 2040 Fund -0.33% 0.90% 0.36%
Our Net Worth -0.43% 0.49% -0.68%

FIRE rate through June = 2.2%

So as mentioned other than the NASDAQ the other markets are pretty flat. The benchmark Vanguard 2040 fund is only up 0.35% in the first half of the year and was down a small amount in June.

Our own net worth was down a bit in June and we ended the first half of the year down around 0.7%

Our current spend rate is at 2.2% which i’m happy with as it is well under our target of 2.7% (and even our stretch goal of 2.5%). However our largest expenses will all be in H2.

Our expenses in June were under our budget, which is pretty good considering it covers both the credit card from May and quite a lot of June’s expenses too. When we were on vacation we didn’t use the credit card at all, we tried to stick with cash. So that will show up in June’s numbers.

We had a couple of large expenses, we finally paid the $400 vet bill. Also we paid the quarterly estimated state tax. We also paid our 6 monthly car insurance bill, so that was another $500.

In theory July should be a pretty good month however our son is getting braces – which are expensive. I’ll write more about that later in the month.

How did your first half of the year go?

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Back From Vacation

So just a short post today to let everyone know we are back from our vacation. It was great to go back to the UK, we ate too much and saw lots of things and got to spend some quality time with my family. We also all came home with colds.

I had some ideas for posts while on holiday. Such as the myth that driving in Europe is expensive, how vacations helps one to really appreciate home, the emotional roller coaster of  following your favorite sports team (you try being an England supporter!) and the importance of estate planning for the older generation. Hopefully I’ll follow up on some of these in the coming weeks.

I’ll update on the June numbers next week as well as a Q2 update on the annual objectives.

Summer is here and with the kids out of school our schedules are very different to normal. It will be interesting to see how this effects our routine as in retirement we have found routine to be very important.

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Best Board Games – H1 2018 Update

Over the last few months I’ve become more involved in board gaming as a hobby. At the end of last year I outlined some of my favorite games. Here is an update of some of the best games I’ve played over the last 6 months.

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May Financial Update

May is now over and we are heading rapidly into summer. The kids will soon be off and we are heading off on vacation next week.

So here is how the major markets and our own net worth did in May.

Market May-18 Q2 18 YTD
S&P500 1.78% 2.44% 1.18%
NASDAQ 5.32% 5.36% 7.80%
DOW 30 1.05% 1.30% -1.23%
Benchmark Vanguard 2040 Fund 0.84% 1.24% 0.70%
Our Net Worth 0.67% 0.92% -0.26%

FIRE rate YTD = 2.18%

All the markets were up this month, and after the turmoil of February and March things seem to have settled down to be flat to slightly up for the year. The NASDAQ has been the big mover for the year, so far with the DOW 30 down slightly.

Our own net worth is down slightly overall for the year. Which based on the market is about what I would expect. Our FIRE rate is currently at about 2.2% which is under our yearly target of 2.7%

May in Detail

So we had a pretty good month and ended up $2000 under our budget. Our only large bills was for some required ant treatment (an issue here in the North West) and our quarterly water bill.

Grocery expenses were good at under $500, which after a couple of months that were out of control was pleasing. We spent more on clothes than normal as we needed new hiking shoes for the summer.

Everything else was pretty much under control and where we hoped. Almost halfway through the year and i’m happy with how things are going. Next month will be mainly on vacation. This will actually not be too expensive as most of our expenses have already been paid for.

Have a great June!

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If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail – Vacation Edition

In a week’s time we will be on vacation (the blog will take a three week vacation too – you’ll find it on the beach!) and while as mentioned before we have most of it paid for we have discovered before that it’s important to plan what we actually are going to do.

With kids we have often found that just getting them out of the hotel in the morning is tricky. This alongside the family bickering over what we are actually going to do has led to some vacation tension.

We will be heading back to the UK for three weeks and half of this time will be doing some traveling and sightseeing. Therefore for the travel period we wanted to determine some themes for what we wanted to do. This involved all the family giving ideas – castles! bakeries! culture!

This enabled us to set up a framework to plan around. For flexibility and to save costs we wanted to get some sort of pass. The one we went with is the English Heritage Pass, this is for overseas visitors and is valid for either 9 days (62GBP for a family) or 16 days (72GBP). This turns out to be a really good value, as for example family entry to a typical castle will be at least 25GBP. So as long as we visit at least 3 locations (and they run hundreds) then we have made our money back. The other advantage is that if we go somewhere and are not impressed by it then we only have to stay an hour and don’t feel forced to stay the entire day.

The other thing we looked into was the London Pass, as we will have 2 full days in London, however this is pretty expensive and would set back the 4 of us close to 400 GBP. As such we would feel like we would need to be rushing around all the time to maximize the usage. We felt this would be stressful and deeply unfair on the kids.

So we now have an activity sheet with each day planned out including driving, and activities. Of course we have included contingencies for rain (it’s England in June after all!), this should keep us focused as well as keeping children excited for the next days activities.

The other thing we have planned for is food. We know where the grocery stores are and possible stop offs for cakes and snacks.  We are going to try and avoid formal restaurants as much as we can, so that we can be nimble. Having a 10 year old boy who gets hungry approximately every 30 minutes means we need to be prepared!

The last thing we just need to sort out is access to laundry, as we are trying to travel light and only have clothing for 5 or 6 days. So we will need to wash clothing after a few days.

We will also be keeping track of our expenses as per normal, probably work mainly with cash so that we can easily see what we have spent. Obviously we don’t want the kids to feel like we are being cheap, but we need to keep control of things. The one thing they do want to do that is a bit expensive is visit the Cadbury factory. We did this a few years back and the kids liked all the free chocolate, so we might do that again.

We are not the sort of family to spend all day just sitting around so we want to keep active. By meticulous planning we can maximize our activities without creating stress and friction in the family – as long as we don’t come across as control freaks!

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Camping It Up

Over the Holiday weekend we went camping in the mountains. I’ll be honest camping is not really my thing, but it’s a cheap way to get away for a day or two. For people on a more frugal budget it’s a good vacation choice.

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The Cost of Entertainment

The average American family spends around $3000 a year on entertainment. This is of course just the average’ for upper middle class families (say $100,000 a year income) the number is closer to $6000 a year. For us we would prefer to be closer to the $250 a month but realistically we are closer to the the $500 a month.

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Come the Revolution

Most financial blogs are not political. That’s not what they are there for, but certain parts of political philosophy and policy will naturally become entangled with the way any FIRE oriented person might think.

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The Hidden Cost of Leisure

Our daughter is 15, so she is at an age when music and friends are the two of the most important things in her life. There is a big concert in town in over a years time (!) so she asked for tickets as an early birthday present.

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