Every time we are in California I have to make a stop at In-N-Out Burger for a Double Double (protein style.)
Even after that time I threw up a Double Double and chocolate milkshake out my nose, I still love them. (Can’t say the same for Jack Daniels…)
Similarly, every time I enter my tax preparation state I have to check on our investment portfolio…
I can say without a doubt, the only thing better than Double Beef is Double Dollars.
I left the traditional work force in October 2012 with a portfolio worth $X. (Winnie left 3 years prior.)
Today that portfolio is worth more than $2X.
This is incredibly fascinating… and at first I was just confused, especially after the portfolio was down 7 figures in early 2020.
Is this a math error? This can’t possibly be real?!
Did our portfolio just get silly drunk and vomit out a whole ‘nother copy of itself?
I tried to look at it all in other ways to see if I could make sense of it…
Net worth isn’t the only (or most important) way to look at overall financial status… but it can be an useful money metric.
Other interesting ways to look at things:
After 8 full years of early retirement we have spent over $650k (roughly $82k/year.) That is more than we spent in the previous 20 years combined, including college tuition (but excluding taxes.)
By spending more each year, it certainly doesn’t make it easier for our portfolio to grow. But despite our best efforts, the portfolio still doubled.
In the process, our net worth grew beyond our lifetime gross earned income. We have more dollars than we ever worked for. Or another way to say the same thing, our capital has earned more than our lifetime of labor by a significant amount.
Mostly this has just tracked the S&P500. (You can see where I started and stopped closely tracking.)
It’s all very surreal… Was this all inevitable? Or did we just get really lucky?
We were fortunate to stop working in the early stages of a prolonged upward trending stock market.
What if we called it quits at a different time? What should others expect to see 8 years into retirement?
To explore, I used cFIREsim (completely re-done in late 2020, it’s very nice, consider tapping that donate button maybe? I just did $10) which can tell us what would have happened had we retired at any time in the past ~150 years.
Using our exact blog income and expenses these past 8 years and a solid approximation of our asset allocation, cFIREsim spit out the following chart that shows the portfolio value growing in most cases:
Overall we had only a 1 in 10 chance for less money today and a 1 in 3 chance for a double or more. On average we would have 1.5x-1.7x our starting value. We are doing better than expected.
- Mean portfolio value after 8 years: 1.7x starting value
- Median: 1.5x
- Best case / max: ~4x (at start of 1929 though)
- Probability of portfolio growing 2x or more: 30%
- Probability of portfolio remaining the same or increasing, 1x: 90%
Since we spend less than 4% of portfolio value, here are the 4% numbers for comparison:
- Mean: 1.5x
- Median: 1.35x
- Best case: 3.5x
- Prob of 2x: 20%
- Prob of 1x: 75%
What We Did and Where We Are Going
The plan we have, as I explained it 6 years ago, is quite simple (copied here for your convenience):
- Plan on a 4% withdrawal rate
- Spend less in the early years, the lower the better
- Minimize taxes
- Travel hack for free flights and hotel stays
- Minimize investment costs through Vanguard index funds
- Earn a little accidental income
- Be prepared to move bond position into stock in a severe downturn
- Be OK with going back to work for awhile
We are doing pretty well with regards to plan adherence.
Our original “plan on a 4% withdrawal rate” was to live our desired lifestyle in Seattle (white picket fence and a BBQ, couple of rug rats, a minivan for those rainy days, anniversary dinners at Canlis, regular international travel, etc…)
Then we went to Mexico/Thailand/etc… where our desired lifestyle cost a fraction of Seattle prices, earned a nice income in our spare time via blogging, did a little tax optimization, and moved a bunch of bond money into stocks when COVID collapsed the stock market.
So far so good.
We don’t plan to continue to increase spending in part because we aren’t creative enough. If the portfolio doubles again, maybe we will fly business class more often. We will also ramp up charitable giving.
8 years is also still early into a 60+ year retirement – we could certainly give back some of these gains in the future, so there is no need to get crazy.
In short, the future looks to be more of the same.
We “retired” 8 years ago. Our portfolio doubled. Beef is delicious.