Oops. I retired when I shouldn’t have.

It dawned on my today – I retired (and gave up my FT freelancing job that allowed me to work from home), but maybe i should have worked longer. Why? My passive income stream is just not there. Let me break it down.

I have about $380k in VTSAX. Like a good little girl, it’s all tied up in an IRA, Roth IRA and a Solo 401k. It’s great because i’ve taken advantage of all the tax deductions that incentivize this path, BUT i can’t touch any of it right now. Nor do i really want to.

I’ve got one investment property house. I collect rent on it monthly. The revenue is $500/month – approx $100 for water and misc expenses. I owe $222k on it, but it’s worth at least $425k (maybe even $525k). I purchased it for $375k.

THAT’S IT. That’s all i’ve got for a passive income stream.

All the FI teaching out there tells us that if you have 25x your annual spending, then you can retire. My monthly spending is about $2000 (1000 rent+1000 everything else). I’ve got $51k cash lying around + 380k retirement + $202k (equity using conservative $425k value) = $633k net worth. This number meets my monthly needs of $2k/month.

What I didn’t really take into account was the amount of income i get each month. Sure, i get the $500 or so from rental income, but i’ve reinvested my dividends in my retirement. The cash i have is a big bundle of safety + emergency fund. I may have too quickly “retired” from a purely monetary POV.

BUT, I’m not totally freaking out actually. I’ve got a few safeguards in place, such as the $51k cash i’ve got lying around. With that as a worst-case scenario, i can at least fund a 2-year semi-retirement. I plan to freelance. In fact, I’ve got a very easy recurring gig that will effectively cover my rent for the year. That leaves me $1k in expenses each month. I can dip into the $500/month revenue on investment, which means i only need to come up with $500/mo to sustain myself, or dip into the cash. And i somehow managed to get another gig recently that pays more than 2x what i was making hourly at the freelance job that i retired from. So that will be a nice chunk of change. I should be good for at least 6 months without touching my cash.

Do i regret leaving my FT job? NO WAY. The benefits of my uncertainty in retiring (or semi-retiring) surely outweighs the cost of the 9-5, politics, deadlines, etc. I love the days where i can wake up whenever i feel like it, enjoy a cup or two of hot coffee and curl up with a book, or take an afternoon nap with Wiggles. So i’m super confident that things will be fine for me. And if push comes to shove, I can surely look for more work or even (gasp!) get a job.


Wanting what you have.

Years ago, before i got on the FI bandwagon, i would buy unhealthy food. My favorite salty snacks are Cheetos and Fritos – i even named my cat Cheeto! After unloading my groceries and storing them away in the pantry, you’d think that i’d be stuffing my face. In fact, the opposite happened. They just sat there.

There’s a psychological phenomena about wanting what you don’t have. Essentially, people want something that they don’t already possess. I want that fancy purse because I don’t currently have it. This can apply to food, material possession, even people. It’s a juvenile feeling that can be defeated with discipline and training. Being a minimalist also helps in this arena, assuming the object is a tangible thing.

There’s another phenomena that is somewhat tied to wanting what you don’t have – the thrill of the chase. I recently experienced this exact thing and didn’t even realize it until i was well into the task. If you’ve read the first few posts, you’ll know that i retired from my advertising career in July. A new person was not hired until it was very close to the end. I excitedly contemplated an offer to train the newbie at 1.5x my regular rate. Is it too much? Am i worth it? Would they laugh at me? Would they reject the offer, which would mean that i thought way too highly of myself? Or, more frighteningly, would they accept it???

They accepted it. In hindsight, i should have increased my rate. After the initial excitement of having my proposal accepted, i started to drown in thoughts such as “why did i do this?,” “this is going to suck,” “what have i done???” It was a thrilling chase for those few days when i hadn’t yet pulled that trigger, but once it became reality, i didn’t want it.

On the flip side, wanting what you already have is liberating. I can find delight and enjoyment from things that are at the tip of my fingers. It’s exhilarating to wake up, brew a cup of coffee at home, dive into the books that are just waiting for me, or prepare a lunch (Fritos go with lunch!) with stuff i have. Wanting what you have is a game changer. 

The lesson i’ve learned is to really think about what I want and why I want something. These days, i think twice and thrice before making commitments. Do i really want it, or do i just want to see if i can get it? Is it the chase? Will be be happy with my sparkly new toy if i manage to get it?

While i still struggle with all of this (wanting what i can’t have/not wanting what i do have, thrill of the chase), i’m happy to report that there is no longer a Cheetos problem. =D

Things I don’t understand about my husband.

There are some things that i just don’t understand. They are illogical and completely nonsensical to me. They come from my husband, naturally.

  1. When my husband fixes himself a cocktail, he fills the glass with ice. When he is finished drinking the liquid portion and wants to make a 2nd of the same cocktail, he THROWS OUT the remaining ice pieces, and starts completely over. This completely boggles my mind. It is ICE. It functions equally well at different sizes. When we first started living together and i noticed this habit, I tried to fix him. After all, coming from drought-ridden SoCal, this was an abomination. It is good ice. Just. Use. It.  I’ve had to accept this idiotic habit, for the sake of the marriage. Still makes no sense to me whatsoever.
  2. Again, with water conservation. In the mornings, my husband will walk to the kitchen, turn on the kitchen sink FULL BLAST, place his head under the running water and drink from it. I don’t know why he acts like a barbarian, especially since he is already in the kitchen and he can fill up a glass of filtered water from the fridge and drink from it. This habit irks me two-fold – 1) water wasting and 2) barbarian. I don’t know exactly why he does this, but seriously????
  3. The other day, my husband asked me to help spray the weeds around the house. Now, I’ve come a long way in my gardening knowledge. A few years ago, i had no idea what “mulch” was. I had no idea it was a thing. Now, we have a garden every summer, and we grow mostly peppers. Anyways, there are certain green things that spring up. He likes to call them weeds. Sure, there are some that do look weird and prickly and jagged and not pretty. However, when literally 2 blades of grass come up thru the mulch and i have to spray weed killer on them, come on.
  4. In the winter, we sleep with a bedsheet, a blanket and a comforter. And we usually have the heat on. In previous summers, we slept with the same exact setup – bedsheet, blanket and comforter, with the air conditioner on. When the weather started turning this year, i removed the blanket so now it’s just the bedsheet and comforter. It took 4 summers of this and discussing why can’t we be more efficient until i just upped and removed the blanket. He has no idea what hit him.

It is finished.

Actually, it finished a while ago, on August 14th, to be exact. My end date was technically July 31, but no one was even “hired” until July 28. So, out of the goodness of my heart, i negotiated to stay on another 2 weeks to train the new person, for a much higher fee. During that time, i was reminded that i hate training and i should not have done it. Thankfully, it is over.

The freedom is exhilarating. I’ve been reading a lot of books that i get (for free!) from the library. And since i shuttle back and forth from Denver – LA, i get to access to both libraries!!! Best of both literary worlds. I also have time to cook and make stuff. I enjoy cooking and baking in general. The other day, i cooked dinner but it took me almost all day, it seemed. Or at least several hours, but normally i would not get to spend so long in the kitchen.

What hasn’t changed though, is my patience level with mom. I am still as annoyed as ever when she doesn’t listen to me or does pointless tasks. I thought that since i would not be constrained by time without a ft job, this would give me more patience and empathy. I was wrong.

Good news is that my financials have increased since i last posted about them back in February. Using the same house valuation, my net worth is approx 563k. The market has been good to me thus far, as everything i have is in stock mutual funds, except for the house. I know it may go down, but i just have to stay the course. Be like Jack Bogle.


2 week here, 2 weeks there

Since the beginning of this year (2017), i’ve been living a double life. I spend 2 weeks in Denver with Jeremy and Wiggles, and 2 weeks in LA with my mom. The sibs and i have a loose rotational mom-duty schedule, so we’re all putting in our time. 2 weeks is quite a long time, i’ve come to realize. Patterns start to get a rhythm, but then get destroyed without discipline and regularity.

When i’m with my mom, a typical day is something like this:
Morning – mom wakes up before i do and goes outside to do yardwork. I eventually wake up, do my morning routine, then call her in for breakfast. She eats, we go to get newspaper, come home and i work while she looks at newspaper/falls asleep on couch.
Noon – For lunch, we usually go out. Some of the regular places we visit are Ono Hawaiian, i heart boba, Vietnamese place. After coming back home, mom sleeps on the floor, ideally for 2 hours.
Afternoon – I let mom go outside at about 5 pm to do yard work or water her guava trees. At least it’s cooler then. She’ll stay out until i call her in for dinner, around 7:30-ish.
Dinner – Eat a small bowl of food, usually leftovers.
Evening – if i’m feeling magnanimous, i will offer to take her to Goodwill to shop. She loves that place. If not Goodwill, then it’s probably 168 so she can buy apples.

I think she experiences a little bit of withdrawal once i leave. She’s all alone, even though my sister comes by every day to take care of her. And not just a short visit, it’s for hours. But eventually, she has to go home and tend to her own family and she doesn’t sleep over at moms. I not only sleep at moms, i sleep in the same bed with her.

I don’t know how long i will be able to keep this up. I do know that while it’s not ideal for any one person, it seems to be buying us some time. My own home life is suffering, but when JS is just drinking it all away anyways, it’s not too difficult a choice.

It’s the 4-month countdown….

Today is April 1 – just 4 more months until I’m free. No joke.

I cannot wait. I’ve been jotting down a list of things that might interest me when i’m retired. Anytime something catches my curiosity, i write it down. A few items on the list are:

bartending school
book clubs
making a fire pit
cooking classes
real estate
Diverbo (volunteer conversation partner program abroad)

I’ve also got a few items on this list that might help me to generate cash, if i need. Such as:

Uber driving
networking contacts
Visit Denver (for restaurant week program)
refi home loan

Who knows if i’ll get to all or even any of these when August comes. I’ve even got a loose travel plan from August to December!

August – stay home and take care of JS while he recovers from foot surgery
September – enjoy Denver, bring Mom? or take Mom to Taiwan?
October – personal trip!
November – Cabo with JS and his parents
December – LA for Christmas

The beauty of this is that there is absolutely no pressure. I can pick and choose whatever i want at the moment i want. I’m also enjoying the list as a daydreaming tool. It’s glorious.


Yes, i said it. Urinary tract infection. It’s uncomfortable to talk about because of the implications, but this is a common and pretty serious thing for the elderly. I’m fairly certain my mom has had one, actually many, in the past. She is on antibiotics now.

Last week was a very bad week for my mom. And by that, i meant it was a bad week for me dealing with my mom. She was just so stubborn, doing crazy nonsensical things. Her fall was what finally clicked – maybe she has a UTI. Took her to the doc, told them i think she has a UTI, got a urine sample, and they put her on antibiotics right away. There was a marked improvement in her behavior in just a couple of days. She’s not acting crazy, she doesn’t have to pee all the time, and her bathroom habits don’t seem as bad as in the recent past. She’s even said she feels much better.

I’m thrilled that she feels better on the meds. I’m also slightly horrified that we’ve let her go on this long with a UTI. I mean, she fell several years ago in the back yard and hit her head. That’s when i took her to the ER. Interestingly, no one in the ER even though of testing her for a UTI. They took a lot of other tests though, but not a simple urine test.

Apparently, UTIs in elderly don’t show the same symptoms as in young people. There is no pain or burning sensation to let you know there’s a problem. I think acting crazier than normal is a big indication, plus falling.

So that’s something us kids will need to watch out for. And if there’s any suspicion that she has it, we’ve got to take her immediately to the doc to get antibiotics.

On Mom

This week has been a very bad week for me and mom. It’s extremely difficult when we have different values, coupled with mom not knowing what is appropriate. For example, she went to get her hair washed yesterday, which costs about $16-17. An appropriate tip on that is just rounding it up to $20. But, because she says there are 2 different people who touch her hair, she needs to tip them each $5. Each. That becomes a very expensive hair wash.

I got very angry with her and said that it’s too much, but she just wouldn’t listen. She suggested that she walk home after it was done, and i said ok. (I had dropped her off.) Naturally, i did not make her walk home, but it felt like the right retort in the moment.

Looking back, i’m still angry about it. However, it’s just one of the many things she does that misaligns with values that i hold. In the end, it’s just money (in this case), and what’s an extra $10 spent when you (mom) feels like it was worth it?

Closet Extrovert

My entire life, i’ve identified as an introvert – quiet, introspective, thinking, observant. And my self diagnosis solidified when i read the bible of introverts – Quiet by Susan Cain. It spoke directly to me, as if it just got me, ya know?

Imagine my surprise last weekend, when i attended a dear friend’s baby shower. Over the years, our circles of influence have had many touch points – college roommates, 20s friendship of hanging out and having fun, 30s networking, and…we can stop there. So, when i attended her shower, even being one of the first persons there and arriving alone (I did walk in with her parents), i found that i knew many many people! I chatted with her previous colleagues who retired from advertising, the hosts of the shower whom i’ve met many times at her bridal shower, wedding, etc, her current colleagues that i now also work with on a seasonal project, her brother, and of course, the friends we had in college and in our 20s-30s. I actually found myself not uncomfortable and even working the room and flitting from one conversation to another! I felt confident, self-assured, and definitely not self-conscious like i normally do when i’m in a social situation. In fact, i left the event energized and wondering, “Who am I??”

Granted, this event occurred after 2 very long weeks of dealing with my mother; perhaps it was pent-up angst? Not sure what is happening here….

Not Winning

All around me, stupid and evil are winning. Take the election for example. Take the Superbowl for example.

I’ve just come to realize that after working my ass off for almost 2 decades with the same company/group, that stupidity and laziness wins. Passing the buck wins. Not taking responsibility wins. Doing nothing wins.

Here i am, trying to figure out if i should still complete my timesheets. Nobody else is doing them, and nobody did them before. But upper management has asked us to do them. So, i do them, i encourage my team to do them. Does anyone even look at them? Does it matter? I’m certain that the higher ups are not doing them either.

And if i can focus on something as trivial as timesheets, consider how i might exhaust a real task that directly generates cash.

There is so much stupidity and inanity around. I can’t take it anymore. This is 1 of many reasons why i’m quitting. Clearly, my work ethic is not being rewarded. It’s the ones that don’t do anything well or right or even much that are being rewarded.

It’s not fair and i don’t need it. All i look forward to is the light at the end of the tunnel.