Wandering with a Purpose

Author: therosywanderer (Page 1 of 6)

My Path to FI

In 2017, I started my path to FI. Technically, it was probably the end of 2016, but in January 2017, I started my debt-free journey and became a self-proclaimed member of the FI movement. Three-and-a-half years later, it is satisfying to look back and see the major progress I’ve made and new goals I’ve set to achieve. I constantly wonder why I don’t know anyone who is also part of this movement. Why doesn’t everyone want to jump on board this path?

If you don’t know, FI stands for Financial Independence. The FIRE (Financial Independence Retire Early) movement has been around for several years, taking its formal start after the 2008 financial crisis. A few good resources to understand what this is are:

I’m fortunate that I’ve always had some regard for money. I managed my allowance as a kid, got really excited to go to the bank to deposit money in my saving account where I accurately tracked the balance, and set savings goals in high school. These goals were all quite small. I never thought big or long-term. I’m also blessed that my parents had the discipline to tell me I had 4 years of college then I would be on my own. No support; I just had to make it in the world. My parents also showed me how to be responsible with money.

When I became independent with my first job, I was blessed that I made a lot of money for a 22-year-old. I worried incessantly about how to budget, what I should do with it, and what was right. I followed advice like “put 6% in your 401k and make sure to get the match” but never questioned doing more. Goals like saving an emergency fund would be my main focus, and after I saved up the money, I would get bored of seeing it sitting there, so I would spend it. Ultimately, I made more money than I needed for expenses and didn’t have long-term saving goals, so I would find ways to spend it but was disciplined enough to not overspend.

I am also blessed that I started working in July 2007. A year into my job at a large, international financial institution, the industry and world collapsed. I had money coming in and my job was safe because I was cheaper than other employees. At that time, I learned firsthand the benefits of buying low. I thought understanding money meant understanding the stock market. Since I’ve always had an interest in finance, I worked to understand how to buy and sell stocks. I opened an E-Trade account, deposited a couple of hundred dollars, and start buying.

My First Trading Account

I was fortunate to buy companies like Bank of America ($4.15/share), Ford ($2/share), and other large companies for low amounts of money. It would be okay if I lost the couple of hundred dollars I invested. I did lose some (thanks GM bankruptcy), but ultimately, I learned more than the money I lost. Over the next few years, those shares went up immensely. I sold them to put towards my down payment for a house in 2009. Imagine if I kept my Apple stock this whole time!

Getting My Feet Wet

I loved tracking my stocks and watching my portfolio. Market crashes are a great time to buy, but you have to understand the long-term perspective and not get emotional. While I understand the benefits that had for me 10 years later, I didn’t appreciate it at the time. I kept trying to understand what to do with my money, but I was never sure. I thought about buying a house in 2008, but after a day of shopping, I told the realtor that I wasn’t mature enough yet for this decision. Finally, in 2009, I made a decision to move forward with a new construction townhouse for $201,931. It was a HUGE purchase and a HUGE house with 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths. 1900 square feet and just me. I should have house hacked it if I had the knowledge I have now.

At that time, my 2002 yellow VW Beetle named Frank started to die. I’m not passionate about cars, but I loved that little guy. I went car shopping, got completely overwhelmed and cried to my dad. He was looking for a new car, so he said I could take his Passat and pay him a car payment. Awesome! The car was a nice car. I considered it done and didn’t even think of the monthly payment. I paid it off in less than 3 years at $300/month.

Tracking My Spending

With a new house, a car payment, and an increasing income, I knew I needed to do something. I had to figure out personal finances. Somehow I came across Mint.com. I wrote about Mint before because I love this site. I’ve tracked my expenses since July 2011 when my net worth was $71,000. This was huge for me because it started giving me insight into my spending and net worth that I couldn’t see through the budget spreadsheets I would try to make

Around that time, I stumbled across a show on NPR called Marketplace Money. I listened to this religiously, and I could have discovered Mint.com through this show. I learned about credit scores and how to monitor your credit reports on annualcreditreport.com. That show was fantastic and provided a lot of good insight into personal finance that I had never considered before. When Apple released the podcast app in June 2012, this was my number one listen. I didn’t explore many other podcasts at that time.

My NYC Journey

In 2013, I decided to move to NYC. I had a good amount of money in savings and needed a change of scenery for my life. This led me to sell the car back to my dad and sell my house instead of renting it. I still wonder if that was a good decision when I saw the house was valued at $300,000 in July 2019. But looking back doesn’t do any good! I knew NYC would be expensive, but I wanted the experience. Before I moved, I interviewed several people who already moved there. Most of them told me it was impossible to not go into credit card debt when you live there. I have always been wary of debt, so my one financial goal was to live within my means.

During that time, I spent more of my savings than I would have wanted, but I didn’t add new debt. I started running while I lived there, and I listened to podcasts like Marketplace Money. When they canceled the show in June 2014, I was very sad. To this day, personal finance podcasts are my favorite choice of running entertainment.

Returning to Normal

I decided to end my NYC adventure a year later, but during that time I started a new adventure to visit all 50 states by the time I was 30. This would be expensive, but I would do it without going into debt. Living in the Northeast let me visit New England via train and bus, which helped with costs and time off work. When planning (and expensing) expensive work events, I collected AmEx points and exchanged them for Marriott gift cards. I used these to pay for a lot of my hotel rooms on my trips.

Even though this was an expensive goal, I was still contributing 6% to my 401k, dabbling in an employer-sponsored ROTH 401k that I didn’t understand, and tracking my spending. I know I wanted to understand it, but I couldn’t understand anything I read about it. I didn’t think to Google for more information.

My decision to return to North Carolina was the right one. I was going to start on a new career path, and my parents let me come home for a short period of time before I found a place to live in Greensboro. Unfortunately, this job was not the right fit for me. I ended up living with my parents for about a year-and-a-half while I figured out what to do. The end result was to work for our family business and move to Charlotte. Living with them not only help me emotionally, but it allowed me to have incredibly low living expenses and put money towards my goal of visiting all 50 states.

Anxiety and Independence

When I started working for our family business, I took a significant pay cut. I also moved out on my own again by buying a less expensive townhouse in 2016. My expenses were higher than they had been in some time, which made me scared. I didn’t know if I could pay all of my bills each month, even though I purchased a small house. I had money in savings, but the paycheck-to-paycheck life was overwhelming. In reality, it shouldn’t have been stressful. I needed to learn how to control my money. This fear is what I think leads most people to research and learn more about FI.

The Final Runway to Fi

In the midst of my financial fears and the wake of completing my first half marathon in November 2015, I knew I needed help getting my finances together. I remembered how much I loved running and listening to Marketplace Money, so I decided to search for a new podcast on personal finance. Here, I stumbled onto The Dave Ramsey Show. I had heard his name before, and I only associated paying off debt.

Since I “didn’t have debt,” I never thought it was for me, but I decided to give it a shot. I needed something to listen to. A few episodes in and I was hooked! I started listening to him in the summer or early fall of 2016. It gave me hope and a way to have a plan for my money. At the time, I had a car loan at 0% financing. Eventually, I made the decision to start aggressively tackling it in January 2017. I thought it would take me 2 years, but I did it in 6 months by controlling my budget and using my savings.

Mint.com gives you offers and advertisements as a way to keep the service free. One day during that time, I saw an advertisement for Acorns.com as a way to invest small amounts of money and grow wealth overtime. I’m always a fan of a new app and wanted to feel more financially secure. It was worth a try since I didn’t know how I was going to save for retirement.

Acorns has an email newsletter with articles and tips. One day in March 2017, I saw an article “How One 31 Year Old Went From Broke to Millionaire in Five Years” which started the biggest paradigm shift of my life. I couldn’t believe that someone my age could accomplish something like this. Grant’s dedication, focus, and outside-the-norm thinking was impressive. If he could do this, couldn’t I? His blog, which was probably the first blog I ever read, was so out-of-the-box; I was hooked. What amazing ideas! I couldn’t believe people were doing things like this. In addition, he had a podcast! I had more financial inspiration to listen to during my runs. I was still doing half marathons and trying to run often.

During this podcast, I learned about side hustles. It never occurred to me to earn money outside of my W-2 job. I read The Millionaire Next Door and read that millionaires usually have 6-10 streams of income. I needed to have multiple streams of income. My first side hustle was to rent out my spare room on Airbnb. I felt empowered and excited. When I purchased it, I had plans to turn my townhome into a rental one day. I knew I wanted to learn about real estate, and this was my first intro. I wanted to learn more, but I didn’t know how until I thought about my success with podcasts. Upon this search, I discovered BiggerPockets podcast.

At this time at the end of 2017, I had direction and a plan. I paid off my car, was fully funding my emergency fund, and I knew that I could accomplish these goals. It was then that BiggerPockets released their money show, and I stumbled into ChooseFI. My life plan changed completely – these two shows brought it all together for me.

My Takeaways
  • Search with curiosity. I’ve never been one to Google for things or spend time reading blogs. I wish I would have started sooner because there is so much information out there, and sometimes you just need one idea to push you in a new direction.
  • Learn from others. Blogging is a way for people to share their stories. People do so many amazing things! Explore ideas. If you have an idea, chances are others have to and they may be actioning it. Go and take a look!
  • Everyone should have a plan for their money. I think we use money to fill space. We shop, go out to eat, buy expensive drinks. It is all smoke and mirrors. It never occurred to me what else I could do with it. Make a plan for your life that is bigger than you thought it could be. You can do it!
  • The path may be long, but keep going. My Path to FI journey spans almost a decade because I just didn’t know what to do. But I kept thinking about it and each small stone unturned led me to something new. Everyone’s FI journey is different, but I truly believe everyone should take the journey.

Chicago Marathon: Training Update 2

I’m not sure if I should call this month’s training update a training update, but my goal is to keep pushing myself. Unfortunately, the 2020 Chicago Marathon was canceled on July 15. Luckily, we have the option to defer our registration to another year in 2021, 2022, or 2023. I really want to do it next year, but I have a feeling only 1/3 of the registrants will get to do it each year. So, my training updates will continue in the future.

Changing Goals

I’m bummed about the decision for many reasons, but mostly because I lost motivation. I was doing a good job running and was motivated. Now I’m not. I wasn’t going to write this update, but I need to do something to keep my going. I think that’s how most goals are – we need something to continue to work towards. To get there, we need to take little steps to lead us in the right direction. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what those little steps will be for me.

  • Make good food choices
  • Continue to run at least 3 days a week – build up a really solid 6-mile base
  • Do strength training – Pure Barre is opening near my house, and this is a type of strength training that I enjoy
Cancellation logistics

I had to cancel my plane tickets and hotel. American Airlines gave me a credit for my ticket, which I know I will use in the future. Marriott almost didn’t refund me my $780 for the hotel room! Hotels are incredibly expensive that weekend, and I got a reduced rate if I did a non-refundable option. I was going to do the marathon, so I thought it was a safe bet…in February! When I called customer service to cancel, they told me they changed their adapted cancellation policy to end on July 5 – just 10 days before they canceled the marathon. I escalated to the manager who told me the same thing! Luckily, the hotel helped, and I wasn’t charged a fee. It was a very stressful situation.

Until Then…

Even though I’m not actively training for the 2020 Chicago Marathon, I am training for it in the future. If I do a good job with these four items, my general health will improve which will make it easier to run a marathon in 2021, 2022, or 2023. So here goes nothing! My next update will be Training Update 3 – and I can’t wait!

Chicago Marathon: Training Update 1

October 11, 2020, is the Chicago Marathon! I am really looking forward to this run and hope it won’t be canceled due to COVID-19 concerns. I am training like there is no chance of cancellation, even though I know that is still a possibility.

In June, I started training using the RunDisney marathon training plan. This is the plan is simple and steady. Just three days per week using short runs on Tuesday and Thursday with a long run on the weekend with increasing mileage. It is a longer plan than some because every other week you do a 4 mile “long” run, which helps me with my schedule and other commitments. Marathon training requires serious time commitments when you get to 10 miles and more! I used this when I did the 2018 WDW Marathon.

If there are too many days required, I get overwhelmed and can’t commit to training. If I cannot commit to 3 days, then I should not run the race. That being said, my goal is not to qualify for Boston or have an outrageously good time!

GOALS – Making IT PUBLIC

My goal for the race (saying this publicly!) is to finish in less than 5:30. This works out to be about a 12:30 pace for the entirety of the race. I feel like this is an achievable goal. I finished my first marathon in 5:52 at Disney. This means there were character distractions and more. I also stopped at the restroom more times than was necessary because I was nervous. The second marathon at Disney was awful! 80 degrees and 90% humidity are not what you want to do a marathon. It was so horrible. I finished that one in 6:46, so at least I know I can finish about that time with walking and character stops.

So far, my runs have varied. There have been ones where I felt strong and confident and others that have been dreadful. Humidity levels make a big difference for me. I just need to focus on getting the time on my feet those days. I feel like this is not normal for others, but I need to accept that it is for me. Maybe others feel this way, too, but it amazes me when I see runners running during lunch on a Southern, summer day.

If I did a really good job training, I would add in strength exercises and yoga. I definitely need motivation and guidance on this. In the end, I can’t wait! Only 117 days left!

US Presidents: A Reading List

It’s funny how interests and passions show themselves at a young age, but sometimes are not appreciated until later in life. In seventh grade, we had to take an assessment for various subjects and my top score was in history. I remember being upset about that because what can you do with history? If I had scored higher in math or writing, those at least had a practical application. I enjoyed history class, but I didn’t give it a lot of thought until after my first time abroad when I went to London in my sophomore year. It was here that history came to life!

Even though I will not have a career that is centered around history, and I think it’s hard to make a case for most people to major in the subject, I think history is a fantastic topic to study. Over time, I have come to appreciate that I can truly enjoy and experience what I spend time learning. The two areas I enjoy the most are American history and the history of the British monarchy. I love to read biographies and learn about life events through the eyes of leaders who impacted the world at that time. It isn’t surprising then that I added “Read a biography of every US President in order of term” to my list of life goals back when I was 20. I told a friend about this when I was 26, and she ended up buying me my first book on George Washington for my 27th birthday. I finally got started in April 2013.

My American Journey

Over the next 7 years, I had a fascinating journey learning about my country’s 232+ year history from the perspective of 44 different men. Each one has a unique perspective and their background gives insight into their decision making and handling of that moment in time. In my travels, I visit their birthplaces, homes, and libraries where I try to envision their daily activities and lives. It has become a hobby, and I am very appreciative of these men who sacrificed their personal independence to lead our country. In reading their stories, I do believe each person did what he thought was best at the time.

It is also possible that historians and authors tend to fall in love with their subjects while they research them, but I think that is because some people are misunderstood and once you learn their story, it gives you an appreciation of their decision-making process – even if you personally don’t like their decisions. I think this is how historians have come to view Hoover’s and Nixon’s legacy over time despite the initial reaction in popular culture.

My journey started with George Washington and ended with George W. Bush’s memoirs. As soon as President Obama publishes his memoirs, I will pick up with that. I said before that I read America’s history through the eyes of 44 men – the 44th I included was Confederate President Jefferson Davis. While not a president of the Union, he led half of the country through the Civil War and that is still an important perspective. I’m really glad I added that one. Teddy Roosevelt is my favorite, so I read all three books in Edmund Morris’s trilogy.

Selection and Evaluation

I selected books that were well researched and had generally strong reviews. Sometimes, I would get stuck and would default to the American Presidents’ Series edited by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and Sean Wilentz. Over time, as I read more, I was attracted to books by certain historians. Sometimes I chose an option because an audiobook was available (I listen to books when I run), other times it may be because I could borrow it for free from the library. All-in-all, I think I had a good assortment of books. I wanted to list them for people doing a similar journey to see what someone else chose to read.

How then do you evaluate a book? I tracked everything on GoodReads and was good about writing book reviews at the beginning, but then I stopped because I couldn’t focus long enough to provide the necessary detail. I did consistently rate them on the 5-star scale. Unlike fiction, biographies are difficult because are you rating the subject or the research/writing? In the end, I think you do both. It’s unfortunate for the author because some subjects have more documents, journals, and letters; others were given more challenges, which lead to a better story and abundant research. Unfortunately, William Henry Harrison will never have a single biography that is equal to a mediocre-quality biography on Theodore Roosevelt.

Books I Read

REVOLUTIONARY WAR
  • Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow
  • John Adams by David McCullough
  • Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meacham
  • James Madison: A Life Reconsidered by Lynne Cheney
  • The Last Founding Father: James Monroe and a Nation’s Call to Greatness by Harlow Giles Unger
  • John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life by Paul C. Nagel
  • Andrew Jackson: His Life and Times by H.W. Brands
The Forgotten or Unknown (America Moves West)
  • Martin Van Buren: The American Presidents’ Series by Ted Widmer
  • The Life and Times of William Henry Harrison by Samuel Jones Burr
  • A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War, and the Conquest of the American Continent by Robert W. Merry
  • Zachary Taylor: The American Presidents’ Series by John S.D. Eisenhower
  • Millard Fillmore: The American Presidents’ Series by Paul Finkelman
  • Franklin Pierce: The American Presidents’ Series by Michael F. Holt
  • James Buchanan: The American Presidents’ Series by Jean H. Baker
The Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • Jefferson Davis: The Man and His Hour by William C. Davis
  • The Loyalist: The Life and Times of Andrew Johnson by Jeffrey K. Smith
  • The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace by H.W. Brands
Industrial revolution and the building of america
  • Chester Alan Arthur: The American Presidents’ Series by Zachary Karabell
  • Rutherford B. Hayes: The American Presidents’ Series by Hans L. Trefousse
  • James A. Garfield: The American Presidents’ Series by Ira Rutkow
  • An Honest President: The Life and Presidencies of Grover Cleveland by H. Paul Jeffers
  • Benjamin Harrison: The American Presidents’ Series by Charles W. Calhoun
  • William McKinley: The American Presidents’ Series by Kevin Phillips
  • Theodore Roosevelt trilogy by Edmund Morris
    • The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt
    • Theodore Rex
    • Colonel Roosevelt
  • The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin
The World Wars
  • Woodrow Wilson: A Biography by John Milton Cooper, Jr.
  • Warren G. Harding: The American Presidents’ Series by John W. Dean
  • Coolidge by Amity Shlaes
  • Herbert Hoover: The Life and Presidencies by William E. Leuchtenburg
  • FDR by Jean Edward Smith
  • Truman by David McCullough
  • Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith
“Modern” Day
  • An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy 1917-1963 by Robert Dallek
  • Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  • Richard Nixon: The Life by John A. Farrell
  • Ambition, Pragmatism, and Party: A Political Biography of Gerald R. Ford by Scott Kaufman
  • Redeemer: The Life of Jimmy Carter by Randall Balmer
  • Reagan: The Life by H.W. Brands
My Lifetime
  • 41: A Portrait of my Father by George W. Bush
  • Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush by Jon Meacham
  • My Life by Bill Clinton
  • Decision Points by George W. Bush

That’s it. Those are the books I read, but history is not finished. As time continues to pass, I will add biographies for the people who serve as president during my lifetime as time continues to pass. Eventually, President Obama will publish his memoirs, as will President Trump. What is interesting to think about is that I will be old before enough time passes for current and future presidents to be studied like the individuals I have finished reading. History is an ongoing adventure that doesn’t end – it is lived.

Investing 101

I feel like an imposter writing this because I am not a CFP, CPA, or have any certifications in finance. Even though I am not a professional, I love to read about personal finance. I am interested in investing and the markets at a high level. Friends and family know this, so I had a few of them come to me because they are nervous about how the markets are performing right now because of the reaction to COVID-19. I wanted to outline my perspective on this in a way that (I hope) isn’t overwhelming or intimidating. It is basic information that I think all people should know and maybe this downturn is the wake-up call you need to start that learning process.

Annual stock market performance as of March 27, 2020
At a high level…

Investing your money is important to build long-term wealth, which is something we all want to do if you want to “retire” one day. It is your money. It is your responsibility to understand these things. Spend time researching these things and constantly learning so you understand and can take control of your future!

Do not invest your money if you…

This is because you want to use investments for the long-term. If you may take this money out of the market, that isn’t smart. Therefore, you should only invest money you don’t need to live day-to-day.

Types of Investment accounts

Assuming you are in control and planning for your future, you have a few options on where to invest. This is what I think people find confusing.

  1. Tax-advantaged (meaning you get a tax benefit in one way or another)
  2. Taxable (you will invest with your take-home money, so you already paid tax on it and will pay taxes on any gains you make. There are no tax benefits on these accounts.)

Let’s go a little deeper into these pots so you know what vehicles these include:

Tax-Advantaged: at a high level, these are mostly retirement plans. The government is giving you a tax advantage because they want you to plan for your long-term so they don’t have to. They are encouraging you by giving you a tax break. You may recognize some of these types of accounts (think of these as different pots):

  • 401k: different types, but company sponsored)
  • Traditional IRA: reduces your taxable income now, pay taxes when you take it out
  • ROTH IRA: invest after-tax money so you don’t pay taxes on its growth
  • SEP: for individual entrepreneurs
  • Simple IRA: 401k for small businesses
  • 403b: like a 401k for non-profit and government employees
  • 457: deferred comp plan for entities listed above
  • Healthcare Savings Account (HSA): available to individuals with high-deductable healthcare plans to help them plan for their future healthcare needs

Taxable: these accounts are a regular brokerage account where you can buy and sell securities. If someone says they have mutual funds with Charles Schwab or that they just bought some Apple stock with their broker, then the likelihood they did that in a taxable brokerage account is high, but you can still do those things in your retirement pots.

What do you Invest in?

So you have your pots (and likely have many different ones), but what do you put in them? Regardless of whether or not there is a tax break, you can buy or sell different types of securities. (This is very basic, and I think what everyone needs to understand. Like all financial products, you can make this much more complicated.)

There are two groups of securities:

  • Equities: This is when you are buying ownership or equity in a company. Think about your house, you have the value of your house – the mortgage (liability). The remaining amount is your equity or ownership. Publicly traded companies allow individuals and institutions to buy a share of their equity to give them more capital to grow over time.
  • Fixed Income: This is a note or a loan that will pay out a fixed amount of interest/income over time. You may have government savings bonds – this is a type of fixed income. Your mortgage note is an example of this on a bank’s balance sheet, whereas it is a liability on your personal balance sheet.
How do I purchase securities for investing

There are a lot of ways that you can purchase securities, and it all depends on your risk profile, timeline to invest, and understanding of investing. For the purposes of this article, I want people to understand that you can buy any of the below items and put them in any of your pots. There are pros and cons of each, but this is where you need to learn, research, and feel comfortable with where your money is going. You can put any of these into any of the pots listed above.

  • Mutual Funds: These are a group of stocks (and/or bonds) that a firm will put together to meet various goals. You may have a group of stocks from all non-US companies which could be labeled as an “international fund.” Another one may be built with long-standing, stable companies (think Coke or Johnson & Johnson) for a “large-cap” or “growth and income” type fund. Another one may be made entirely of tech stocks that will fluctuate a lot since it’s a less stable industry, but it will likely see a lot of growth.
  • ETF: This stands for Exchange-Traded Fund. These have lower fees than mutual funds and can be made up of different types of investments. This review will give you a lot more information!
  • Index Funds: This means there will be lower fees since the stocks in this fund are built to mirror a certain exchange or index (like the S&P 500, a total stock market, FTSE100, etc.) There isn’t a lot of thought that goes into these because they are going to deliver what the market brings. That means, their returns will be what that specific market returns.
  • Individual stocks or bonds: You can also go to your brokerage service and buy individual options instead of the pre-packaged, already diversified options that are listed above. The general consensus is this is not the way to go for long-term investing as an index fund will outperform most individual stock-pickers’ success rates. Even Warren Buffett agrees.
What I do

I would never suggest someone copy me and my investment strategy because everyone has different goals and different levels of risk. That being said, I really enjoy hearing about how people invest and manage their money to see if there is anything I could do to improve my portfolio.

Currently, I house almost all of my pots at Fidelity because of their low fees and no commissions. People will also recommend brokers like Vanguard, Charles Schwab, and others. I use Fidelity likely because my first job ran our 401k through Fidelity so I know the site. As of March 2020, I have a rollover traditional IRA, a ROTH IRA, a trading account, and an HSA. I also have a trading account at E-Trade because that is what I used when I first started buying stocks during the 2008 crash.

My accounts
  • Rollover traditional IRA: This is made up of all of my 401k contributions from my first job. I rolled it to an IRA because I didn’t need it in the 401k anymore. New money cannot be added to this account, so its outstanding balance is what it is. I just watch it go up and down. Since this is for the long-term, I invest in a total stock market index fund. Dividends get added in as the fund earns them, but I cannot touch the money.
  • ROTH IRA: I have been building this up over several years and was able to roll over my ROTH contributions from my first company into this fund. Since I paid taxes on it already, the government doesn’t need to track it separately. Since I follow the Dave Ramsey baby steps, I put 15% of my income into retirement. This is the first place I put my money. You can contribute up to $6,000/person each year unless you are older. I invest in the same total market index fund as my rollover IRA (FSKAX).
  • Trading Account: This is where I put any extra retirement funds and also have fun investing in stocks. I don’t invest a lot of individual stocks, but when the markets go south like they are now, I have a lot of fun buying poorly performing companies that I understand (currently airlines, cruise lines, a share of Disney, and such) that I believe will come back when the world recovers. This is not part of my wealth strategy, just something I do because I love doing it. It is an insanely small part of my net worth, but I love to watch how they perform. Any long-term funds are put into a total stock market index fund. Since this is a taxable account, I can pull the money out at any time. I may do this at some point to buy rental real estate.
  • Healthcare Savings Account: I decided this year that I should invest my HSA for the long-term, but I don’t think this is something everyone should do. I have been lucky because I have been generally healthy and have an emergency fund saved. Last year, I was able to have an HSA for the first time in a while, so I want to make the most of it. I plan to use this for the long-term, so I’m investing in a total stock market index fund for this. Once I get to age 65, I can pull this money out for anything without a penalty. Until that time, I can only use it for healthcare-related expenses. Later in life, maybe I will change this strategy, but for now, I’ve decided to use this as a retirement-like account.

Next Steps

  1. Track your net worth with a tool like Personal Capital
  2. Create goals. What do you want to accomplish in your future? How much money will you need to make that happen? You may not know the specific amount, but if you have goals, then saving for the long-term will be easier.
  3. Know what pots are available to you. Do you have a 401k at work? Have you been contributing? Do you have accounts from a former job? Try to collect everything.
  4. Read and learn. After you know where you are, learn more! This is just an intro. That new knowledge will help you go in the right direction.
Helpful Resources
  • Dave Ramsey (love the podcast and listen to it daily)
  • ChooseFI (I love their podcast. It’s definitely worth it to listen to catch up on old episodes)
  • BiggerPockets Money Podcast (Same as ChooseFI – listen to the old episodes, and then keep up with the new interview weekly!)
  • There is a whole slew of books I love, but I’ll list those in a future post!

Trip Synopsis: 2020 Dopey Challenge

Dopey 2020 Medal

Dopey 2020 is the ultimate challenge of the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. This year, it was on January 9 – 12, and it was fantastic! I’m writing this a month and a half later, so I’ve had a chance to reflect and reminisce over the weekend. I’m going to share other details later, but I wanted to give the highlights of the weekend because it was just SO. MUCH. FUN!! Spoiler alert – I would do it again!

Wednesday, January 8

My friend Ursula and I traveled to Orlando on Wednesday, January 8. This year, we stayed at Pop Century again because of the location, price, and the new Skyliner. We had to go to the expo, which in the past has been so much fun. We learned that Wednesday expo is not the same as Friday or Saturday – it was awful. The expo was overwhelming and entirely too crowded. I bought a Dopey finisher shirt as a gift for Ursula to have if she did a good job (she did the same for me because – come on! You can’t actually buy it unless you finish!) We had a low-key day and hung around the hotel and Disney Springs – we had a long few days ahead!

Thursday, January 9

WDW 5K course

The first race morning (start time 5:30 am, wake up: 3:30 am) is a 5K around Epcot. The course is fantastic because you run around Epcot the whole time. This is the only race they don’t time; you just have to complete it. It was surprising how many families were there with their children. That must have been fun for them. They had 3 or 4 character stops and one of them was the Beast. I should have stopped, but I get so nervous by the long lines. If I was faster, then I would do it. Goals for the future!

finishing 5K
Dopey 5K

I finished and got my first medal – Pluto! We were 3.1 miles down out of 48.6. I made a decision that I was going to get a picture with Dopey and my medal after each day, and I’m so happy that I did!

After the race, we went back to the hotel and showered. We spent the rest of the day at Animal Kingdom. Our stops:

  • Festival of the Lion King (awesome!)
  • Finding Nemo the Musical
  • Na’vi River Journey
  • (Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a pass to the Avatar journey, which I think is the coolest ride ever!)
  • The safari
  • Pictures with a whole lot of characters!
Chip and Dale

Friday, January 10

WDW 10K

Day 2 and we were ready for the 10K. It was another early morning, but we met up with more college friends. Like the 5K, the corrals starts were towards the front, and we wore the 5K bibs. The course was very similar to the 5K but added in more highway running. While on the highway, the two Frozen princesses were on the overpass looking down where it was snowing! On the course, they even had Abu, the Monkey from Aladdin. It was really neat.

When we finished, we got an Oswald medal, which I promptly took to Dopey for another victory shot.

10K finish Dopey

After showering, I headed to Hollywood Studios. I got to meet even more characters and saw:

  • Beauty and the Beast show
  • The Little Mermaid show
  • Played Toy Story Mania!
  • Toured the Disney Museum (saw in Oswald poster)
  • Went to Star Wars World
Monsters Inc
Buzz Lightyear

This won’t be a popular statement, and I have no credibility because I am not a Star Wars fan, but I hated that place. It was overwhelming and awful. We made a reservation for “lunch” months before at the “Cantina” but apparently, it’s just a bar. I was hungry! I won’t plan to go back there…

We spent the rest of the night at the hotel where our group hung out at the pool and a simple dinner at the hotel…we needed an early night.

Saturday, January 11

WDW Half Marathon 2020

Another 5:30 am race start, which means that we had to wake up at 3:00 am. Luckily, the early mornings hadn’t bothered me yet. I think I was just too excited about the races.

Cars

The half marathon was a long one. My friends all did a great job! I didn’t because I walked; I was having back problems, so I didn’t want to hurt myself before marathon day. That being said, it was my worse time ever. On the bright side, I stopped for a picture with Lilo and Lightning McQueen & Mater. There were so many characters, but the half course is my least favorite. Epcot and MK were a blast to run through, but there is just so much highway. There’s no way to change that, but it was just blah.

Half Marathon Castle
Lilo

At the end, we were awarded the Donald Duck medal! It is one of the best looking medals I have. We didn’t get to show it off in the parks since we needed to rest our feet. Instead, we walked around the boardwalk and hung out at the pool for the rest of the day. Two days down and 46% of the miles through; we needed a good night’s sleep.

Half Finish
Half Group
Sunday, January 12
WDW Marathon Course

Marathon day was finally upon us! Disney moved the start time up to 5 am, but it was ridiculous because they didn’t end up starting until 5:30 am because of traffic. I think I woke around 2:30 am. That morning was the hardest to get going because I was tired and also nervous for the marathon.

Stitch

This was a new marathon course from when I did the marathon in 2018. I liked the course a lot this year because we started running through Epcot which got us to MK around mile 10 instead of mile 6. It was nice to finish MK and be to the halfway point. The hardest part was after MK (around mile 13 to AK around mile 17). It was so long, just highway, and there was very little entertainment along the way. I thought they would have more characters there or the signs with jokes like they had in ESPN. But at least ESPN was GONE!

Sebastian

It was incredibly hot that day – around 85 degrees with 90% humidity. It was awful, and I was going slowly. I walked the beginning and ran through the parks. RunDisney decided to cut out Blizzard Beach at a certain point to reduce the course by 2 miles for people at the end. I was really lucky and got in before they cut it off, so I got to complete all 26.2 miles. Right before there was mile 19. I was done with the race and just wanted to finish. At that point, I blasted my workout mix and had a dance party until the finish line.

Marathon Finish

Because of the redirection, I actually caught up with Ursula, so I got to see her around mile 21 or so. I stuck with her and her new friends for a while, but then I just needed to finish. Dan Mott and his girlfriend met me at mile 25.7 with a margarita, so I had to go fast! I got it, and it was worth it!

Then I waited for Ursula to catch up so we could cross the finish line with each other. We did it and were relieved. 48.6% were complete, and we proved it by getting three new medals – marathon, Goofy Challenge, and the Dopey Challenge!

Marathon Finish with Dopey
The Celebration
Picture with Mini

Our tradition is to celebrate a race at Epcot where everyone wears their medals and drinks around the world. We had dinner at the Bier Garten in Epcot since it was a good location for a group. We also got to walk around and do some rides and see characters. It was a nice night, but I was exhausted!

Monday, January 13

Cinderella
Ariel

Most of our friends had left by this point, but today was our day to hang out in the Magic Kingdom and meet lots of characters. We started the day with breakfast at Be Our Guest with Belle and Beast. The food isn’t great, but it’s such a cool setting. Then I can’t even start on all of the characters we saw! We got a ton of pictures with my Dopey medal and rode some of the rides.

Aladdin and Jasmine
Gaston
Brave
Rapunzel

We ended the journey with the “Happily Ever After” fireworks show, and it just makes me so happy! This journey was definitely a “Dopey” fairy tale come true!

2020 Goals – Creating Accountability

It’s hard to believe 2020 will be here in a few weeks. Every year the time flies faster, and I don’t know where it went. There are so many goals I want to accomplish, but I get distracted by the demands of work and spend more time on quadrant 1 & 3 urgent tasks than quadrant 2 important items. (If you haven’t read The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen Covey then you need to make that a goal this year!)

First Things First Quadrant
Time Management Technique from First Things First by Stephen Covey. The image is taken from Wikipedia.

But how do I stay focus on the important and not urgent items? What are those for me? That is my goal for 2020. Historically, I have created checklists (I love checklists!) for each year to guide me and give me a purpose to the year. Sometimes those lists have been a little too long or complicated so I can’t accomplish everything. This year, I am going to go back to making a checklist and then use my blog to hold me accountable for achieving those things. 2020 will be used as a stepping stone to achieving the bigger goals I have for my life.

2020 Checklist
  • Complete the Dopey Challenge
  • Lose 30 pounds
  • PR the Chicago Marathon
  • Visit Australia (continent 5!)
  • Publish 4 posts/month on The Rosy Wanderer
  • Complete Google Analytics, Google AdWords certifications
  • Book African safari for 2021
  • Increase net worth by $30,000
  • Read 31 books
Understanding Goal Setting

The difficult part of the above checklist is that these are all lag measures – I have to implement different behaviors, habits, and mindset to achieve these 2020 goals. Health and general wellness have always been a challenge for me. Even though I am excited for Dopey, I didn’t execute my training plan well. Staying accountable is important – to my diet, to my budget, and to my commitments. In order for me to accomplish these goals, I have to find a way to hold myself accountable. That is the key everyone needs to figure out in their life.

Gretchen Rubin, 4 Tendencies

Gretchen Rubin has four quadrants to describe our tendencies. I am an obliger, which means I’m worried about letting other people down but not myself. I wish I wasn’t like that, but I am. As an obliger, I view other’s requests as urgent even though they may be unimportant or even not urgent, but I am trying to please others. This then reprioritizes my goals for the day.

Even though I wish I didn’t prioritize other people, I do. For me to be successful, I need to use this tendency to hold myself accountable for achieving my goals. I am going to share my successes and setbacks here to keep me accountable externally.

For me to be successful, I need to plan out the lead measures required for me to accomplish these goals and find ways to make sure others hold me accountable for these behaviors. Or I need to make myself a priority in my life and stop worrying about what other people think! But it is probably a better bet to set up systems to play to my natural tendencies.

Here goes nothing! Looking forward to 2020!

Machu Picchu: What to Know Before You Hike

sunrise in the Andes on the way to Machu Picchu
Beautiful sunrise from my tent in the Andres

“You’ll hike for three days and then the next morning, if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate. It’s an incredible view, so you need to do it!” I would wager a guess that anyone who has “hiking the Inca Trail” on their to-do list has heard someone summarize the trip in this way. That’s what I had heard before I left. I read several books and researched blogs, but only one of them gave a glimpse into the challenge that is the hike to Machu Picchu. Thank goodness I read that blog post (which I, unfortunately, didn’t save!) to prepare myself that it wouldn’t be a walk in the park.

Because I was surprised, I wanted to share those things that I think every Inca Trail adventurer should know before going.

1. You are going to Be dirty

For anyone who has been camping for multiple days in a row, this may seem obvious. I knew I wasn’t going to have a shower, but nothing could prepare me for how gross I was going to feel after strenuous hiking for three days. That’s why a hat is important and the porters bringing water to wash is a godsend. Not sure what you can do to prep for this…

2. Altitude can affect you even if you run

I knew altitude sickness was a possibility. When we met our group in Lima, our guide gave us a suggestion for a medication to help with altitude sickness. We got this at the drug store and took it just in case. The last thing we wanted was to ruin our trip because we were sick from this!

Before we left, I wasn’t worried because I had been to Tibet (around 12,000 feet). I was one of the only people in my group who didn’t feel ill – winded yes, but not ill. Well, that’s what happened this time, but with a lot more physical activity. I thought I was in better shape and had done a good job training for the Dopey Challenge. Needless to say, it didn’t help. I was still incredibly winded, which leads me to #3.

3. Dead Woman’s Pass is 13,828 feet high
hiking up Dead Woman's Pass - the hardest part on the hike to Machu Picchu

That’s very high and it is not the same as hiking the same distance at a lower altitude. It is not a stroll in the park; it is challenging and you need to go slowly. I was one of the last in my group to finish, but our guide said we still made good time. It took us about 6 hours to make it up! The advantage is you have an incredible view from the top and then it really is “all downhill from there!” The better your endurance, the easier this should be, so just make sure you are exercising a lot before your hike.

4. You Won’t lose weight because the food is so good

When I pictured this trip, I thought this would be a great, healthy trip and that I would lose weight because of all of the activity. I also thought the food would be simple, but instead, we have gourmet camping food that would have been impressive if it was made in a proper kitchen. I was also hungry from all the walking, but I always left the table wishing I hadn’t eaten so much!

view from my tent on day 3 on the Inca Trail
Beautiful views from the tent
5. sleeping in a tent is hard

My assumption is that many Incan Trail hikers are not used to camping. I don’t think many people in our group camped regularly, so it was hard for most people to sleep in a tent. Personally, I didn’t sleep a wink. I didn’t think I would have a problem with this, but I did. No idea why. I suggest bringing Benadryl or something. I took this after our hike over Dead Woman’s Pass, and it was critical to my getting some sleep that night.

6. You can’t pack very much

You see people posting really cute pictures of themselves at the Sun Gate and along the trail. I have absolutely no idea how they do this. Maybe different tour companies have different packing limits, but porters have to carry all of the gear, so I can’t imagine there isn’t some type of restriction. Maybe some people are just normal and naturally cute. I give them kudos but there is no way I would be able to do that. I packed a variety of my long-sleeved running shirts and hiking pants. It really is all you need, and I don’t think anyone was judging us for our appearance! If they were, I really didn’t care.

I hope these tips are helpful for your trip to Machu Picchu! I hope it gives a little advice in resetting your expectations for the trip to make it even better.

Fine Dining on the Inca Trail

The fact that I am writing a post about the food on our Inca Trail hike should be proof of how impressed I was! I’m not someone who camps, but I expected our food to be sandwiches, granola bars, smores, hot dogs, or something. In fact, I called G Adventures before the trip because I am a vegetarian, and I wanted to make sure they had options for me to eat. The nice girl who answered the phone assured me I would have more than enough options…

Most of this post will be pictures since I took pictures of almost every meal we had along the way!

Day 1

Lunch

We had lunch at a stop about halfway between the trail start and our first campsite. When we arrived, the porters had drinks for us while they finished preparing the three-course meal.

sipping our drinks before lunch 1
Our team enjoying our juice before lunchtime at the start of our trip
Dinner

Our team had a good first day and were excited to get to our campsite. We always had tea time before dinner which consisted of crackers, butter, jam, and popcorn. The popcorn was always the star of the show. They had a variety of teas (green, black, orange), hot chocolate, and, of course, had coca leaves to make coca tea.

Day 2

Breakfast

We woke early to get breakfast to prepare us for our long, grueling hike ahead. It was so much food! We all complained about how full we were, but once we realized how much energy we needed to complete the hike, I think we all appreciated the large breakfast.

Lunch

We finished our hike before lunch, which is a good thing because there is no way I would have been able to eat on the way! By the time we had lunch, we were all insanely hungry!

Tea Time and Dinner

After we took naps, we reconvened for tea time and dinner. Even though we were still full from our large lunch, we ate it anyway. It was delicious. It was now time for bed.

veggie dinner
Even the plating is like fine dining. I can’t believe this is all made in a tent. Some types of vegetables and rice.
Day 3
breakfast
Lunch

This was probably the best meal, as it was a lot of food, but they made us a cake! I cannot understand how you can bake and ice a cake after carrying everything from our campsite, beating us to our lunch site, and doing all of that before we arrive. There are no words to express how impressed I was about this! What a surprise!

Tea Time and Dinner
Summary

I didn’t take a picture of my cheese sandwich on our way to Machu Picchu, but even that wasn’t bad! What I find most impressive was that the chefs made all of this food in a tent! I could barely make some of this in my fully-stocked kitchen, but they did it with items they had to lug from campsite to campsite.

Hands down, the food we had on our hike was the best food I had our entire time in Peru! I’m not sure if all tour companies have food this great, but I would say that is one reason to hike Machu Picchu with G Adventures.

Highlights: Rainbow Mountain, Peru

In researching my trip to Peru, I decided to follow Instagram accounts to learn more about the country. I knew about the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu, but I wanted to know what else we should see.

Something that appeared regularly on the feed was Rainbow Mountain. A beautifully layered mountain that was unlike anything I had ever seen before. I didn’t realize how close it was to Cusco or that G Adventures had a day trip to see it. For $50 USD, I decided to sign up for the trip; five members of our group from the Lares Trek were also going before their jungle adventure. When I travel, I take the all-or-nothing approach. I might as well live it up while I have the opportunity! Just worry about recovery later when I get home; I never want to miss an experience.

Apparently, the hike to Rainbow Mountain used to be a very strenuous 6-day hike because of the altitude. About 3 years ago (hello, Instagram!), they opened up a way to drive there and hike a much shorter distance. It increased tourism to the area, and now these pictures advertise that Peru has more than Machu Picchu. It worked on me!

Traffic jam of alpacas

We took a 4-hour bus ride (so not really close to Cusco!) southeast of Cusco. It was very remote; there weren’t big highways and eventually, we were on dirt roads. Even though it was desolate, we did hit a traffic jam – of alpacas! I was asleep when we got there, but I’m so glad I woke up! It was the funniest thing because I think they are so adorable!

Once we parked, we had a 14-kilometer hike to the top of the mountain which reaches 16,500 feet! I had no idea it was that high. When I got there, I could feel the altitude and started to struggle at the beginning. I knew I couldn’t keep up with the group, so I paid around $20 USD to ride a horse. They didn’t explain that the horse didn’t take you all the way…

Me riding a horse to get to Rainbow Mountain

Once my horse dropped me off halfway up, it was time to keep moving. It was so cold but slow and steady. I met some Americans who joined our group and we just went slowly. I had no idea how strenuous the hike would be because of the altitude. Eventually, I made it!

Me at Rainbow Mountain showing the sexy Llama

We followed our guide and came down the backside. That was much better because it is a steep hike up and there were a lot of people. My whole experience in Peru convinced me there are trips when it is a good idea to have a guide. They know the local culture and what to do, which will really improve your trip.

The Summary

Rainbow Mountain is quite a sight, and you can’t find many places like this in the world. It blows my mind to see these pictures and know that I made it there! While I still wrestle with whether this trip was a good decision, I at least have the pictures to treasure! This probably confirms my travel philosophy of taking advantage of every opportunity you have while you’re there!

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