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33y/o married, $900K investable assets, free house, can I retire?
Old 07-18-2014, 12:42 AM   #1
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33y/o married, $900K investable assets, free house, can I retire?

Hi all - After reading Jacob Lund Fisker's book Early Retirement Extreme, I've been enlightened

My job as a middle manager at a Silicon Valley megacorp is okay, but I'm yearning to leave the rat race altogether and find a different path that's not driven by consumption and would give me the luxury of time and space to explore my passions. I've taken two year-long sabbaticals since starting my career (spent first year volunteering in Asia, spent second year filming a documentary on LGBT rights around the world with my spouse) and those have absolutely helped define who I am.

To do this, I've been considering two options, both of which require some degree of FI:

Option 1: Keep my megacorp career, but break it up every ~5 years by taking an extended 1-2 year sabbatical, similar to what I have been doing. Pros: I earn a good salary, and I probably would only have to do this for 2-3 more cycles before retiring for good in my mid-40s. Cons: The idea of spending another ~10 years in megacorp life feels a bit depressing, as I wonder how I could have otherwise used those years of my life to explore and accomplish something potentially much more meaningful?

Option 2: Leave my megacorp career altogether after a couple more years to aggressively build up a bigger nest egg, and retire from the rat race immediately. We'd still do some kind of income-producing work to cover our annual expenses, at least for next 10 yrs so that our nest egg has a chance to grow, but it may mean that only my spouse works, or that I pursue a totally different job (e.g. non-profit, entrepreneur) that may only bring in a fraction of the income I have at my megacorp.

Some more about my situation:

Me: 33y/o. $250K income, reasonably expected to grow if I stay at megacorp.
Spouse: 35y/o. $90K income, pretty fixed. She just vested for her pension, but she's only 5 years in so the payout is still pretty small and many decades away.
We just got married last year (though been together for much longer) and combined all assets.

Taxable account: $450K
Tax-deferred account: $450K
Housing: We're lucky enough that we live in a family house that we'll eventually inherit. On another note, we're considering building out the lower level (currently a humongous garage and storage space) for rental income. Expect that a $150K investment could conservatively yield $15K/year in rental income. Does that kind of investment make sense? Not really sure how to think about this one.

No debt.
Expenses: We're undergoing dramatic cost cutting measures, which should get us to $60K/year in expenses.
Savings rate: If we go with Option 2, the plan is to sock away at least $150K for next three years (2015-2017), which means by 2017 (my age 36) its reasonable to assume we'd have at least $1.5M if markets don't have a massive downswing.
Kids: That's the big question mark. We're in process of starting a family, and we hope to have two kids. We think we're wise enough to be able to raise our kids well without spending hand over fist, and we don't feel the need to pay for their college educations, but unclear what that will do to our expenses.

What do you guys think about option 1 vs option 2? Does my plan seem viable, or am I missing something?

Thanks!!
Nerdjenni
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Old 07-18-2014, 07:50 AM   #2
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Hi NerdJenni and welcome to the forum!

It looks as if you have a great start! $60,000 in expenses is great for the bay area. I assume that despite living for free, no mortgage, there could still be significant property taxes depending on where in the bay area you live.
You should include any taxes in your expense category to better estimate your income needs. On $340k, there are hefty income taxes, so your "expenses" likely to be twice that of the $60k you state.

I would tough it out as long as I could at Mega Corp realizing that once you want to start a family this could change.

It would be a lot easier for you to do something meaningful when you are FI and can dedicate full time to that cause vs. having it as a job. But that is just my point of view.
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Old 07-18-2014, 08:09 PM   #3
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Nerdjenni - I worked for about ~12 years in silicon valley after coming out of school and then fired. Basically I put my nose to the grindstone and saved/invested most of our money. I think our yearly expenses were around 70-80k including housing (that's about half of that) but not including taxes.

I did something similar to option 1 on a compressed scale as I switched jobs a few times and took a break in between (3months and 6 months). The main problem was that my vacation got out of sync with DW. Also she wasn't able to take time off so this restricted what we could do.

Once you leave megacorp / your main field, you may find it extremely difficult to find a job that pays anywhere near what you get now. My preference was to not leave until I could just FIRE outright. I also suspect that were I to find another "low stress" job there would just be different s*** that would bother me.

Will you have the minimum of 10 years work experience to qualify for SS?

Regarding kids -- a friend of mine spends 20k x 3 for daycare in mountain view. I don't think that amount is unusual. I also don't think you are obligated to pay for your kids college, but you have a great salary and paying for their college (or a part) would give them a huge step up in life. Your kids may not end up in professions that pay as well as yours.

I think the big question is what are you retiring toward? My understanding is that Fisker got bored and returned to work (arguably this may be due to under-capitalization of the retirement portfolio).
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Old 07-18-2014, 09:30 PM   #4
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In short, I think your funds are short.
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Old 07-18-2014, 09:37 PM   #5
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Do not forget, $60K in after tax is $80K+ in pretax. Also, make sure you are not living a lifestyle that you have to put water on your cereal to save money.
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Old 07-18-2014, 10:17 PM   #6
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We become enlightened at a much later age on reigning in expenses so good for you for starting much earlier.

I left my IT management job and went back to school to update my tech skills. Eventually I was able to work from home and make more per hour than I did at megacorp. After the kids were older we realized if we cut expenses my husband could quit the megacorp job, too, and either help me or do whatever.

Lap top jobs are nice because you can work part time from really any place in the world with Internet connections, allowing travel or a move to a lower cost of living area.

We didn't have any major day care expenses because I worked at home. For college between community college credits, online credits and in state public 4 year schools the cost hasn't been a budget buster so far. Many of the public 4 year schools in California have very good ROIs on cost vs expected salaries, especially in the the more in demand majors:

http://www.payscale.com/college-sala...ist-of-schools
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Old 07-19-2014, 07:28 AM   #7
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Unfortunately No, a reasonable safe withdraw rate for someone so young would be 3 to 3.3% range before taxes. Clearly your decision on lifestyle but to me it seems cutting off income too young for your asset base. I would suggest you live on your targeted retirement level and save to the maximum and with market luck the answer can be yes in relatively short order. Also will confirm you like living on expected retirement budget. Your savings at your age shows you already accomplished a lot and will FIRE young.
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Old 07-19-2014, 08:55 AM   #8
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I'm a little bit older than you guys with a bit over half the amount you guys have in invested assets. The difference is that i'm single and live abroad at the moment where my cost of living is about the same as the cheapest state in the U.S.

Even with the free house it may be pretty difficult to make the amount you stated work for two people. I don't want to be a downer but you also have to consider unexpected things like marital longevity in the equation too.

Down the road if you guys get "tired" of being retired together that sum will get divvied up into nothing with little security to fall back on. Plus from my experiences a married couple spends much more twice the amount of a single person. The reason why is that married couples tend to splurge more.
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Old 07-19-2014, 09:23 AM   #9
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I think there can be more long term financial security in having your own business with perhaps many products, services and customers than relying on the whims of a single megacorp for your livelihood. Plus the upside income potential is unlimited and the tax advantages are better than W2 jobs. In the tech field there is a lot of security and low competition in continually learning whatever is bleeding edge. I doubt there are a lot of app developers worried about getting laid off at Microsoft with their 18K planned layoffs compared to all the corporate middle managers.
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Old 07-19-2014, 09:46 AM   #10
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I'd vote twice for option two, but if you're having children, I'm dubious if your wife can maintain her career uninterrupted. Physically, she's doing well over 90% of the work during the baby stage. Even if her job gives generous maternal-leave, the very best of us might get a bit resentful of the husband for giving up the money making job so he can search and try to fulfill his destiny. But maybe your wife is that awesome and you really can have it all. If so, you are one lucky sob.


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Old 07-19-2014, 11:27 AM   #11
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Option 2 would be my vote since you indicate doing some type of income producing activity to cover most expenses, while allowing investments to grow.
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Old 07-19-2014, 01:13 PM   #12
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I'd like to comment on the rental unit part of your plan.

- You don't own the house yet, do you have authority, permission, and clear line of inheritance that is non-revokable. I don't think I'd improve the property by putting in a rental unit till you were on the title. Also - the new/converted construction would trigger a prop-13 adjustment for the new construction/updated area.

As you probably know - you can transfer the prop-13 tax rate if this is a generational transfer (from parents/grandparents to you. But that doesn't happen if it's from an aunt/uncle/cousin, whatever.

I speak with some experience on this - I bought my house from my dad when he was looking to downsize. So we inherited the prop 13 rate after filing the appropriate paperwork. We built a companion unit (granny flat) that is now providing rental income (but was used for my in-laws initially. Our taxes tripled when we built the 700 sf granny flat - we were at the lowest possible tax rate (mom and dad bought pre-prop13) and now we're at 2008 levels for the new construction part of the parcel.

That said - rental income is a big part of our retirement cash flow.
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Old 07-20-2014, 04:00 AM   #13
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I retired very early (also Silicon Valley) and my Megacorp job was really dragging on me. You can't easily jump into and out of those kind of jobs with year plus gaps. Even if you have done it in the past. And you are about to have kids (!). You live and will be staying in an expensive area.

Key point 1: Each additional year you work in your current job is equivalent to a decade of "income-producing work". This fear did help me get through some of the tough times.

My recommendation: Man up and keep your current job/career and tough it out for at least several more years. You will be able to retire much earlier and better that way, and it is not 10x worse than that "income-producing work" will be.

Also, with negative real interest rates and fully valued equity markets, even 3% SWR is a stretch for a mid-30's person with a family (60 year retirement, raising a family, college expenses, yet-to-be-known issues with children, etc.).

Key Point 2: Your payoff for each additional year of work is high compared to your existing Net Worth.

Here is what each additional year of work gets you: $150k savings, higher Social Security payout (you are still in the early life period where your marginal payout is increasing faster than older workers, think around 17 years max earnings hits lower marginal increase), increase in SWR due to lowered life expectancy, a year of higher cost raising-a-family expenses behind you, a year of portfolio growth, a year of tax deferred contributions into your tax deferred accounts, another year of your job paying for your family's health insurance.
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Old 07-20-2014, 09:42 AM   #14
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If you plan to continue working and maybe do some entrepreneur work, some good books to read are The Millionaire Next Door and follow up books by Thomas Stanley. It is a different model than many here follow. The MND methodology tends to be develop a business you enjoy, invest in your business and not so much in stocks (30% at most, usually 25% or less), since you can control your business but you can't control the stock market.
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Old 07-20-2014, 09:45 AM   #15
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I think it looks a little short, especially if you want to live in a very high-cost area. I'd sooner stick with the present course, keep saving and investing aggressively until the numbers suggest you can make a clean break, and any income from future endeavors would be just gravy -- and you could quit it at any time....
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Old 12-30-2015, 07:26 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nerdjenni View Post
Hi all - After reading Jacob Lund Fisker's book Early Retirement Extreme, I've been enlightened

My job as a middle manager at a Silicon Valley megacorp is okay, but I'm yearning to leave the rat race altogether and find a different path that's not driven by consumption and would give me the luxury of time and space to explore my passions. I've taken two year-long sabbaticals since starting my career (spent first year volunteering in Asia, spent second year filming a documentary on LGBT rights around the world with my spouse) and those have absolutely helped define who I am.

To do this, I've been considering two options, both of which require some degree of FI:

Option 1: Keep my megacorp career, but break it up every ~5 years by taking an extended 1-2 year sabbatical, similar to what I have been doing. Pros: I earn a good salary, and I probably would only have to do this for 2-3 more cycles before retiring for good in my mid-40s. Cons: The idea of spending another ~10 years in megacorp life feels a bit depressing, as I wonder how I could have otherwise used those years of my life to explore and accomplish something potentially much more meaningful?

Option 2: Leave my megacorp career altogether after a couple more years to aggressively build up a bigger nest egg, and retire from the rat race immediately. We'd still do some kind of income-producing work to cover our annual expenses, at least for next 10 yrs so that our nest egg has a chance to grow, but it may mean that only my spouse works, or that I pursue a totally different job (e.g. non-profit, entrepreneur) that may only bring in a fraction of the income I have at my megacorp.

Some more about my situation:

Me: 33y/o. $250K income, reasonably expected to grow if I stay at megacorp.
Spouse: 35y/o. $90K income, pretty fixed. She just vested for her pension, but she's only 5 years in so the payout is still pretty small and many decades away.
We just got married last year (though been together for much longer) and combined all assets.

Taxable account: $450K
Tax-deferred account: $450K
Housing: We're lucky enough that we live in a family house that we'll eventually inherit. On another note, we're considering building out the lower level (currently a humongous garage and storage space) for rental income. Expect that a $150K investment could conservatively yield $15K/year in rental income. Does that kind of investment make sense? Not really sure how to think about this one.

No debt.
Expenses: We're undergoing dramatic cost cutting measures, which should get us to $60K/year in expenses.
Savings rate: If we go with Option 2, the plan is to sock away at least $150K for next three years (2015-2017), which means by 2017 (my age 36) its reasonable to assume we'd have at least $1.5M if markets don't have a massive downswing.
Kids: That's the big question mark. We're in process of starting a family, and we hope to have two kids. We think we're wise enough to be able to raise our kids well without spending hand over fist, and we don't feel the need to pay for their college educations, but unclear what that will do to our expenses.

What do you guys think about option 1 vs option 2? Does my plan seem viable, or am I missing something?

Thanks!!
Nerdjenni
A quick update on 12/15: I did "man up" as some of you suggested and stayed with MegaCorp for the past year and half since my previous post. (btw, I'm actually a woman, and yes I'm married to another woman, but hey I'm all for "manning up") It's definitely been the right decision. As a lot of the commenters have said, it's worth it to keep socking more money away given my age and my ability to sock away a lot of money with the high wages.

Now at 12/15, I've upped my net worth to $1.35M, with $1.25M in investable assets. How the heck did I go from $900K->$1.25M in investable assets in the past year and half? I have actually been able to sock away $200K+/year thanks to an already great stock grant from my employer that then doubled in value, plus the market has helped. Anyways - I consider myself incredibly blessed.

Other changes and follow-ups:
-Real estate: Haven't done anything here. Per Rodi's comment, I don't want to do anything until the house is under our name. And thanks for heads up on taxes, I did not think about that.
-Expenses: '15 spend is $87K, so still working towards goal of cutting expenses to $60K/yr (and that's excluding tax, since my current tax bill is way more than that and the $60K is a post-FIRE goal).
-Kids: Baby on way and due in March '16. So we'll see what that does to our spending. Also, DW is going to leave her job to take care of kid next year. Good news is that my Megacorp's maternity leave policy just got upped to cover nearly 6mos full pay, so now I really feel like it's worth sticking around until baby #2 to sock away more money, collect a second mat leave, and then ride off into the sunset in greater security.

We're still just as committed to FIRE as ever. New goal is $2M, end of 2018, age 37 me, age 39 DW, and god-willing two healthy kids.
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Old 12-30-2015, 07:32 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by rodi View Post
I'd like to comment on the rental unit part of your plan.

- You don't own the house yet, do you have authority, permission, and clear line of inheritance that is non-revokable. I don't think I'd improve the property by putting in a rental unit till you were on the title. Also - the new/converted construction would trigger a prop-13 adjustment for the new construction/updated area.

As you probably know - you can transfer the prop-13 tax rate if this is a generational transfer (from parents/grandparents to you. But that doesn't happen if it's from an aunt/uncle/cousin, whatever.

I speak with some experience on this - I bought my house from my dad when he was looking to downsize. So we inherited the prop 13 rate after filing the appropriate paperwork. We built a companion unit (granny flat) that is now providing rental income (but was used for my in-laws initially. Our taxes tripled when we built the 700 sf granny flat - we were at the lowest possible tax rate (mom and dad bought pre-prop13) and now we're at 2008 levels for the new construction part of the parcel.

That said - rental income is a big part of our retirement cash flow.
Hi Rodi - I only *just* saw this as I totally forgot I had made my original post years ago. Anyways, I just wrote a quick update to my situation which I'll copy/paste below. I totally did not think about the tax situation on the house, so thank you so much for that. Like you, my expectation is we'd inherit the prop 13 rates on the house. Having to pay 2008 taxes on the granny flat is a big bummer (again, did not think of that), but you still get to keep the prop13 rates on the rest of house right? Also, how did you even think about whether or not it was worth it to do the renovation in the first place? And like you say - I do not intend to do a thing until the house is under our name. Too much risk otherwise.

____

A quick update on 12/15: I did "man up" as some of you suggested and stayed with MegaCorp for the past year and half since my previous post. (btw, I'm actually a woman, and yes I'm married to another woman, but hey I'm all for "manning up") It's definitely been the right decision. As a lot of the commenters have said, it's worth it to keep socking more money away given my age and my ability to sock away a lot of money with the high wages.

Now at 12/15, I've upped my net worth to $1.35M, with $1.25M in investable assets. How the heck did I go from $900K->$1.25M in investable assets in the past year and half? I have actually been able to sock away $200K+/year thanks to an already great stock grant from my employer that then doubled in value, plus the market has helped. Anyways - I consider myself incredibly blessed.

Other changes and follow-ups:
-Real estate: Haven't done anything here. Per Rodi's comment, I don't want to do anything until the house is under our name. And thanks for heads up on taxes, I did not think about that.
-Expenses: '15 spend is $87K, so still working towards goal of cutting expenses to $60K/yr (and that's excluding tax, since my current tax bill is way more than that and the $60K is a post-FIRE goal).
-Kids: Baby on way and due in March '16. So we'll see what that does to our spending. Also, DW is going to leave her job to take care of kid next year. Good news is that my Megacorp's maternity leave policy just got upped to cover nearly 6mos full pay, so now I really feel like it's worth sticking around until baby #2 to sock away more money, collect a second mat leave, and then ride off into the sunset in greater security.

We're still just as committed to FIRE as ever. New goal is $2M, end of 2018, age 37 me, age 39 DW, and god-willing two healthy kids.
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Old 12-30-2015, 07:38 PM   #18
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Nerdjenni - I worked for about ~12 years in silicon valley after coming out of school and then fired. Basically I put my nose to the grindstone and saved/invested most of our money. I think our yearly expenses were around 70-80k including housing (that's about half of that) but not including taxes.

I did something similar to option 1 on a compressed scale as I switched jobs a few times and took a break in between (3months and 6 months). The main problem was that my vacation got out of sync with DW. Also she wasn't able to take time off so this restricted what we could do.

Once you leave megacorp / your main field, you may find it extremely difficult to find a job that pays anywhere near what you get now. My preference was to not leave until I could just FIRE outright. I also suspect that were I to find another "low stress" job there would just be different s*** that would bother me.

Will you have the minimum of 10 years work experience to qualify for SS?

Regarding kids -- a friend of mine spends 20k x 3 for daycare in mountain view. I don't think that amount is unusual. I also don't think you are obligated to pay for your kids college, but you have a great salary and paying for their college (or a part) would give them a huge step up in life. Your kids may not end up in professions that pay as well as yours.

I think the big question is what are you retiring toward? My understanding is that Fisker got bored and returned to work (arguably this may be due to under-capitalization of the retirement portfolio).
Hi photoguy, thanks for your comment. Sorry I only just read this a year and half later as I forgot I made the original post.

Your comment on "what will you do post FIRE" made me think. Honestly, I don't know. Last time I took a one year break from my job and made a film documentary that has since gotten produced and broadcasted. So I'm pretty confident I'll come up with passion projects and will not be bored. But at this point, I really don't know for sure what I will do.

Like you, I think I'll end up having worked in SV for ~12 years before FIRE. What do you do now?? Do you miss working?
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Old 12-30-2015, 09:52 PM   #19
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Thanks for the update and congrats on the upcoming baby! I think you'll be glad you've built a bigger security net when you consider all the various options you may want with respect to your family. The bigger security net will also give you options to fund the post FIRE projects you may want to pursue - especially if they're not income producing right away.

My main point in reading your earlier posts is probably moot now. I was questioning whether your spouse would be ok continuing to work if you FIREd early, but based on your post, it sounds like she'll be staying home with your child for the immediate future.

If you still have the option of taking a sabbatical every so often, that's a wonderful benefit. it gives you a chance to explore what your post FIRE life may be, while still preserving options. Congrats again!
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Old 12-30-2015, 10:21 PM   #20
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You are too young to retire. Wait until they kick you out. The next bust is coming soon. But until then, keep working.


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