All bark, no bite

I’m such a sucker.


How it all began.

A little while back I wrote about my stateside job offer. It’s a non-deployable position and a dream job, but it means 3.2 hours in a vehicle per day.

Let me give a super quick backstory.

Think about a hobby that you’ve had since you were young. You decide that college isn’t for you so you drop out before the first semester even finishes. You find a job at a hobby store paying less than ten bucks an hour. Eventually you start to travel with your hobby-job to trade shows selling products and meeting other vendors. Your flying gets noticed and people start talking. A friend of your employer casually asks “What do you want to do with your life?” and you say “I have no idea.” Four months later you are driving across the country for a $60,000 job with a fortune 500 company, flying unmanned aerial vehicles (read: actual “drones”) because of this unique skill set. Little do you know you’re set for life.

Super quick backstory!

The next time I live in the US is eight years later. Eight years working has made me (technically) FI, and I sure as hell don’t want to go back to a war zone. In accordance with the Super Plan, I’d work through 2016 here stateside during my “dwell time”. When January rolls around I’d begin a year long leave of absence to test life without work.

Reality kicks in

While on the FI bandwagon it’s easy to say “fuck it, I’ll just quit next year because I’ll have enough”.


“If they don’t give me the raise I want, I’ll pass it up quicker than shit!”

I also said, “I’m going to negotiate towards the top at 19% (additional $14,480), with a floor of 15% ($11,431).”

Can you guess what happened?

My hiring manager (also my actual manager) wouldn’t budge from the initial offer. Not even a little bit! $78,000 it is. While 78k is nothing to sneeze at, it’s nowhere near what I believe I’m worth. I’ll admit I felt a little shitty as I completed the offer process on the careers website.

All bark, no bite.

There are many reasons I accepted though. (This is the part where I try to justify myself). My primary duty is to train new hires from the ground up how to fly, essentially, a giant RC airplane. It’s often fun, and I’m really good at it.

Also, my potential savings rate is at least 70% if I can keep monthly spending at my FIRE rate of $2,500.

I want to be sure my spend rate is comfortable after being away for so long, and be able to adjust fire as necessary.


I’m on a gravy train with biscuit wheels. It’s easy work. Even fun at times. I just hope I know when enough’s enough.


A few thoughts

It’s 2:44 in the afternoon on a Friday. I’m sitting on my deck with a Pinkus Hefeweizen and my laptop. Someone in the condo complex is outside as well singing aloud as if they are the only one who hears.

All the while I’m thinking about how much I love my current lifestyle. It’s an “exploding volcano of awesomeness” in every way, bursting with luxuries I sometimes take for granted.

I’ve only been home for ten weeks, but I’m already super happy with how my lifestyle is evolving. My routine has consisted of most things I really enjoy: paragliding, hiking, road and trail running, and making new friends.

Just a few days ago was the best day I’ve had in years. I drove down to Saratoga Springs to meet a gal I’ve been seeing for a while. It was a beautiful day so we went hiking on Horsetail Falls Trail in Alpine. It was more of an excuse just to get outside, but enjoyable nonetheless. We were back by lunch time and I made us romaine lettuce wraps with rice and veggies. Unable to keep our hands off each other, we stayed busy for a while until she had to pick up her kids. I had the foresight to bring my paraglider with me, so I stopped by Point of The Mountain on the way home to get an evening flight in at the north side. I met some great pilot friends, and had incredible views over the Salt Lake valley as the sun was setting. And as a bonus, when I got home there were a couple delicious beers in the fridge to really finish off the day.*

Looking back at that day, and many like it, I can see what this early retirement craze is all about. Living intentionally for yourself and the ones you care about is the greatest luxury. Knowing that I’ll soon be able to live this lifestyle in perpetuity is an incredible, almost unbelievable feeling.

I guess what I’m trying to put into words is that it has all been worth it. Stashing cash, living (mostly) below my means, and delayed gratification has paved the way towards a great life.





*Yes, I broke my own rule about not drinking alone. It’s a slippery slope, but I’ve got plenty of traction.

April 2016 Spending Report

Another month in Test #3 has come and gone, and I’m now into my third month back in the US. I’m hardly working, so it’s been the best two months in a long time! I’ve been keeping track of my cash spending in a spreadsheet, so what you see in the screenshots is only credit/debit card spending. I’ve updated the spend rate per category in the respective paragraphs.

Let’s have a look at income first.

April income

Overall my income was high again mostly due to my state tax refund of just over $17,000. Investment income was interest earned from VBTLX. Interest was from my Capital One 360 checking and savings accounts. Nice.

On the other hand expenses were a little rough.

April Spending 1

April spending 2

Spending was pretty high again this month. A combination of social outings, buying a scooter, and my sister getting married increased my spending.



Meet Sasha, my Genuine Roughhouse 50


Okay, so it’s not really named Sasha. I wanted to call it that because of John Dorian’s scooter in the TV show “Scrubs”, but it just so happens that I’ve been seeing someone named Sasha. So it remains nick-nameless.

The R50 is a 2008 and had 107 miles on it when I bought it. The owner rode it for a little while, and then it sat until this year. The asking price was $900 and included a wheel lock, weather cover, and battery tender/charger. I negotiated and got the price down to $850 since it was in need of a new battery. These scooters retail for $2,000, so I got a barely used older model for 58% off the new purchase price.

It was cash only since it was on consignment. I had a stack of foreign currency left over from my travels, so I used that to mostly fund the purchase. The conversion was about $830 of it, so it was nice not to really pull much out of my wallet.

A new battery and safety inspection was $71, registration was $140, a motorcycle permit was $27, two quarts of oil was $21, and two spark plugs and a can of starter fluid was $8.

To top off this category my car needed a new air intake housing, and that set me back $207. Total automotive spending was $1,326.

Rent for my 800 square foot condo in Salt Lake City is just $900.

The next category is one that I wish to not see this high again for a long time. Clothing & Shoes. Bleh!

My sister is getting married and the men in the wedding party are wearing grey suits. Although I play no role in the wedding I am still the brother of the bride, and therefore want to look the part. The suit and shirt cost $259, and then tailoring was an additional $75. My dad has been strapped for cash lately, and was planning to wear a suit he’s had for probably twenty years. It’s his only daughter’s wedding so I bought him the same suit for $216. It’s just what a good son would do. $552 for Clothing and Shoes.

Groceries are still a high expense, and I don’t see that dropping anytime soon. I eat a ton of produce, and buy organic when it’s not cost prohibitive. For example, organic bananas are only 10 cents more per pound, but organic cucumbers are 200% the cost of a regular one.

One of my work buddies has a Costco membership, so I gave him $100 to get me a gift card.  Now I can shop there without my own membership. Groceries were $571.

I completely blew the budget this month for alcohol. Fancy shots of gin on a date ($17), a couple beers after events (around $16 each time), multiple bar runs, and my state liquor store purchase ($74), meant my total spending on booze was $313! Epic fail. The state liquor store beer purchase was at the end of the month, so that will cover some of May’s drinks.

My annual United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding membership was $175, and a power cable from Radio Shack was around $10, putting Hobbies at $185.

The restaurant tab wasn’t too bad. I treated my mom and sister to lunch ($49), and paid for dinner on a date ($32). Restaurant spending was $89.

Utilities were light – just the way I like ’em – because I only had three. Internet is a flat $50, gas was $19, and electric was $17 making my monthly utility bill $85.

Annual insurance for the scooter is only $75, thanks to Progressive’s great prices. Geico wanted something crazy like $38 per month. No thanks!

I spent $69 in fuel for my Chevy Sonic, and $4 for the scooter. Gasoline/Fuel was $74.

General merchandise was $71, and included mostly household items like ice cube trays, cheese cloth to make a nut milk bag on the cheap, mason jars, and some personal items. I also got an inexpensive pair of sunglasses that promptly broke after two days. Damn.

My entertainment spending was higher than normal due to women. Fun fact, it costs money to date! Two cups of tea at Barnes and Noble was $4 and two movie tickets after cost $14. For myself, I bought one ticket to the Minimalists movie screening for $11. Entertainment costs were $30.

When I visited my sister I used Uber to get to the airport in Salt Lake City ($11), and then to her house in Louisiana ($12). I wised up and used the public light rail system to get home for only $2.50. Later in the month, Lyft pinged my phone and gave me $5 off the next 15 rides, so I used one while on a date and it cost just over $1. Travel this month was $28.

Last but not least is postage and shipping at $18. I shed about 20 pounds over the last year so I gave my dad some of my nicer pants that no longer fit me. They fit him great, so he got four pair of pants for free.


Overall I spent $4,331.25 this month which is $1,831 more than my early retirement budget. I’m still working, so I’m not overly concerned with my higher-than-target spending. There are just a couple categories that could use trimming (I’m looking at you, alcohol).

What I do need to think about is how I’m going to make larger purchases once I leave my job. I won’t need a car for the next long while, but I will eventually need a new paraglider, cell phone, possibly a snowboard, etc and those things aren’t particularly cheap.

Could I get a part time job and make an extra $1000 per month? Hell yeah I could. Would I want to? Hell no! For now I’ll just keep trying to increase efficiency while maximizing enjoyment of all this free time.

March 2016 Spending Report

This is the continuation of The Working Years. Part #3, to be exact. Now that I’m back in the USA I actually have normal expenses. Rent, utilities, insurance, gas, etc. It’s crucial that I get my spending under control because my FIRE date is only eight months away!

Will I be able to maintain a $2,500 per month spend rate? We’ll see…

Let’s start with income.


Income for March was great. Paychecks/Salary included my Federal tax return of $18,307, a contract completion bonus from my job of about $13,000, and regular paychecks. Investment income was from VTSAX and VBTLX, and interest income from my Capital One 360 checking and savings accounts.

On to spending.



Spending was a little crazy. Over the past eight years I was lucky enough not to own a car, so when I came back I bought a used Chevy Sonic. It had just under 50,000 miles and cost $8,995 before stealership fees. I know what you’re thinking – it wasn’t the most efficient way to buy a vehicle – but this car fit my needs perfectly and it’s completely paid off. I also moved into a condo, so $52 went to a U-Haul rental in the Automotive category.

I rent a 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom, 800 square foot condo for $900 per month. The remaining $267 was for the security deposit. $1,167

Next is Insurance, where I pre-paid my 6 month premium for the Chevy, and paid for annual Umbrella Insurance. I could have got a better rate on my car insurance, but there were some minimums I had to meet in order to qualify for the umbrella insurance. $678

My grocery tab was enormous, mostly because I was starting from absolutely nothing. Also, organic produce is expensive! I paid once with cash, so my grocery tab was $617.

I’ve been using professional tax services since I’ve been overseas. It’s definitely expensive, but has been money well spent while working. I will be doing my own once I don’t have W2 income and save the $550.

Although I’ve been racking up the points with my Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card, I decided to pay cash for the flight to see my sister in Louisiana. By doing that it bumped my points up enough where I now have two free domestic round trip flights. There are also a few $2 public transit expenses, and parking station fees in there. $536

General merchandise was pretty high, but again mostly due to moving into a new home and not having essentials, e.g. bath mats, shower curtain, some kitchen utensils, cleaning supplies, picture hooks, miscellaneous household goods. I also bought a bike lock, a simple wrist watch, some ear plugs, an anemometer for paragliding, two power strips, and a new gasket for my sweet German growler. $325

Hobby expenses included R/C airplane batteries, my Academy of Model Aeronautics annual membership, Meet annual group dues, my paragliding check ride and P2 pilot rating, and Utah Hang Gliding and Paragliding membership dues. $316

I got a good deal on my internet connection through Comcast. Fast enough internet, modem included, month-to-month basis for $50 per month. Since I was a new subscriber, they required a $100 refundable deposit. Also, my gas provider hit me with a $35 new account fee, but the usage was low. $200

It had been a full year since I bought my last pair of running shoes. Since I actually run these days, I bought a really nice pair of Adidas Ultra Boost for $115.

My restaurant tab was more than I’d like. Yeah, I’d been deployed for a 1.5 years so it’s not a huge deal. The most expensive outing was lunch for two at $60. My friend helped me move the heavy things from my storage unit to my condo, and I took him to lunch as thanks. $165.57

On the 1st of the month, my Eagle Cash withdrawal kicked in from late February. Eagle Cash is a great way to pay for things while deployed because nearly every store or vendor accepts it, and you don’t have to use your personal credit/debit card where you normally don’t shop. You have to load funds onto it, and the cash is held on the card. $60

The dive bars (the type I like!) around here only accept cash, and I spent $58.50 on delicious adult beverages. I sold a few things over in Afghanistan, so I’ve been using the cash from those as beer coupons.

I didn’t use much fuel in March simply because I essentially relaxed for the month. It doesn’t hurt that my car gets 32mpg combined, either. Not bad. $48.

The rest of the smaller expenses included a little bit of dental work, postage and shipping, a renters application fee, my Utah license, a Ting sim card, coin operated laundry, and some personal items. $139

The grand tally is $15,902 and change. Ouch! Moving back to the US, buying a car, pre-paying insurance, and small luxuries (food and beer) made for an expensive, but unavoidable month of spending.

My net worth climbed nicely due to the tax refund and contract completion bonus. My employer recently made some brokerage changes, so my historical net worth on personal capital is a bit wonky.

I’m interested to see how the rest of the year plays out and see what I get for averages. After all, this is a test to prove whether my $2,500 per month spend rate is possible.

But it’s so good.



Hiking in Sandy, UT

Living in Salt Lake City has been awesome so far. The mountains provide endless recreation and beautiful photo opportunities. There are plenty of great people to meet. There are also a few great breweries that make some awfully tasty beverages.

The problem is that it’s just so damn expensive, and that’s an issue for an aspiring early-retiree.

Looking back at Test #2 in October 2015, I initially set my booze budget to $50. I blew past that mugger within about four days. In hindsight I probably shouldn’t have bothered considering I was on vacation from Afghanistan. It was also an impromptu trip to see a lady (which flopped horribly) and therefore I had a ton of extra time on my hands and thoughts in my head. I definitely drank in the same style of my 20’s, i.e. often and a lot.

I turned 30 this year, and I engineered that day so I would be home and done deploying. But mostly, I vowed to change my old drinking habit.

No more drinking alone.

Seems like a great idea. I don’t keep any booze in my apartment, so I’m not tempted to fall into old ways. Therefore, lately I’ve been waking to the bar down the street for a couple beers when the craving comes, because there are people there. This place is a total dive, but it has Spiral Jetty for $6.25. It’s essentially two pints of great IPA for $3.62 per pint, tip included. Anyone who has drank in Utah can see the value in this.

So when I’m at the bar, I’m technically not alone. There are other people there. College kids, riffraff, drug dealers, etc. But lately this has felt like a shitty excuse every time I walk through that door. The last couple times I’ve found myself thinking “What the hell am I doing in here?”

The answer was simple. IPA.

IPA is just so delicious. I really do love the taste, and the slow coat of comfort that 6.6% ABV provides.

But in the end I really was drinking alone. I had no friends with me, and the people there weren’t the type of folks whom I would befriend.

It’s time to revise and improve upon my rule. I shouldn’t be finding loopholes in my own rules. A small leak can sink a big ship, in more ways than one.

New rule: No drinking without friend(s) also partaking.

Or something like that. It’s progress.

Option #3. An impromptu interview and afterthoughts

IMG_2616I had an interview for a job yesterday. That’s right, Option #3, “continue working the same job because I’m a big scaredy-cat.” is in full effect.

Why the hell do I want to take this job?

Here’s the real reason I’m even considering it.

If I’d been smart enough to start investing back in 2008, I wouldn’t even consider this. I wasn’t, therefore my cost basis is super high and this bull market is already over seven years old. It’s also election year and I’m concerned that the bull is tired, and I don’t want to test the sequence of returns risk. If there is a bear market or recession I’d rather have a paycheck to pay the bills rather than a limping portfolio. This is a young and naive investor talking here.

Yes, I realize that I’m contradicting myself big time.

Since I’ve been back in the US, I’ve gone to work twice to maintain flight currency. The first time I was in one of the full time instructors had just given his notice. That’s right, right as I get home a non-deployable position becomes available. What timing! Of course I’ll apply. The primal self-preservation instinct kicked in.

The second time I went to work it had been nearly four weeks since I had applied and I still hadn’t heard anything. When my manager wasn’t busy I asked about it, and of course I got the normal “I’ve been waiting for all of the applicants to finish applying” and that was that. More waiting I guess.

Until he said we would interview in about an hour. Oh! Okay then.


The interview

It started out with the usual stupid questions.

“Why do you want to work here?” and,

“What qualifications or skills do you bring to this team?”

Booorring. But whatever. I played along.

As he was explaining the duties and tasks of the job position I was weighing each one in my head. Phrases like create lesson plans, maintain accurate grade sheets, and complaints to human resources stuck out like sore thumbs.

The whole time we were talking I couldn’t help but think about how this is a great job that I don’t actually want. I could see the future and picture myself stressed from the sheer busyness, more tired from the horrendous commute, and less fit because of 12 hour work days.

Let me expand on that. I live in Salt Lake City. The job site is 86 miles away. Most of the time they work four days a week, averaging around 11 hours per day. I wake up at 4:15am, and am out the door by 5. I get home by 6pm and have a measly three hours to eat, shower, and get the lunch box ready for the next day. Besides the lack of time left in the day, I just don’t have energy left to go running, work out, or anything else.

Looking around the double-wide trailer at the flight line I saw one, maybe two people who looked reasonably fit. Most of the other employees are at least twenty pounds overweight with most of it hanging out around their abdomen.

Sitting while driving to the office. Sitting while riding to the Job Site. Sitting while flying. I couldn’t help but think of how my health and well-being would be affected. Being financially independent makes you hyper-sensitive to all of the bullshit that comes with wage slavery.


The salary

At the end of the Q & A part of the interview, I asked what the salary range was for this position. He didn’t remember off the top of his head, and I had to coax him to look at the documentation. He was willing to give it to me after I expressed the need to know.

55k  to 91k. Quite a spread. I’m sitting right in the middle, so there’s an opportunity to get a good raise.

“But the raise would only be a few percent” he said.

Yeah, we’ll see about that. Let’s run some numbers.

I make $76,210 annually. A 3% raise would bump that up to $78,496. I’d be sacrificing a lot of flexibility and free time for only $2,286 extra per year. No thanks. Did I mention how much human time is wasted in a car just for this job? I’ll reiterate in a minute.

So what would be worthwhile? Let’s just look at the sheer numbers first, and then I’ll consider what my free time is worth.

4% $79,258, or an additional $3,048

6% $80,783, or an additional $4,572

8% $82,783, or an additional $6,096

10%  $83,831, or an additional $7,621

15% $87,642, or an additional $11,431

19% $90,690, or an additional $14,480. This is just under the cap for the position.


Determining my value

I’m going to calculate this on a keep working vs. initiate the SuperPlan basis. I’ve got the end in mind, so it’s all or nothing.

My biggest issue is the human time wasted by commuting: 28 FULL DAYS PER YEAR! That deserves shouty-capitals and expletives. I should just stop there; what the hell am I thinking? What would you do with an extra 28 whole days?

Next is the cost of commuting. I bought a used Chevy Sonic LT in cash for $9,000, and my insurance is  $875 per year. Calculating the distance to The Office and back (72 miles), my observed MPG (37 highway), and frequency of work (4 days per week * 50 weeks per year) leads me to shell out around $1,000 for fuel (if gas prices remain the same). I don’t really know what to put for maintenance, but I just had to take it in for minor service that set me back $207. I’ll triple that to err on the side of caution. $2,496 is the tab.

Next is my skill and usefulness in that position. Why should they choose me over the other applicants? It’s simple; I’m the best candidate, hands down. Not only am I one of the most talented people in the program, I’m also a competent operator in all positions held. My reputation is sound and it speaks for itself within the program. I’m already in Utah, so they won’t have to wait for someone to finish a deployment, or relocate them from another job site. If we are unable to agree on a price, they will soon lose an experienced and valuable employee and it costs around $200,000 to train me.

What if I didn’t take this permanent position? How would my aforementioned health and well-being be and how would it shape my future?

Well, for starters I could work as much or as little as I want for the rest of 2016, and I’d be on track to initiate the SuperPlan.

I would work just enough to get $2,500 per month to test my early retirement budget. Possibly a little bit more to pay for the gas to commute to work. About 56 hours, or five work days per pay-period makes this happen. I can choose which days of the week to work because I’m just an extra body. I’d have four days off per week, providing ample time for fun, exercise, and socializing.


The tally

Human time wasted: Priceless

Cost of commuting: $2,496 annually

Skills, usefulness, and potential loss: Extremely high



I’m going to negotiate towards the top at 19% (additional $14,480), with a floor of 15% ($11,431). The additional dollars per year are pre-tax, and the tally real dollars are post-tax which also needs consideration.

The power of FI allows you to choose. I’m still doing this job because I want to, not because I need to, and that is such a heady feeling.





Addition: I received this great article on how presidential elections affect the markets in Wade Pfau’s email list. You can sign up or check out his articles at


Well, I’m back in the US. Eight years of doing this job has left me well off financially, but it’s taken it’s toll. I’m ready for a break!

I’m taking a ton of PTO – March through mid May – to unwind, visit family, and attend a wedding. After that it would be back to the same old grind, only this time with a crap-tastic commute. Or not.

It’s March of 2016 and I’m turning 30 years old in a very good position: I’ve got a million invested, I’m at an ideal weight and in relatively good physical fitness, and I have choices. I don’t really want to have that insane commute, so let’s explore some options.


Option #1 – Initiate the Superplan.

Quit the job and consider myself FIRE’d. This option is the most ballsy, yet has a statistically high success rate. In accordance with the SuperPlan, I’d work through the fall and resign in December. This sounds good, but I’m having a hard time not investing the $50k cash buffer for years 1-5. That same $50k, if invested, could pay me $1k per year, every year in dividends alone if the yield remains around 2%. Plus growth.

I could do a lot with $1,000. Plane tickets to see family. A season pass to go snowboarding. All kinds of things.

Also, I’m a little uncertain about kicking off early retirement in Salt Lake City. I dunno. Something about being so close to Former Employer.


Option #2 – The Gap Year

I could take a leave of absence for up to a year and test out early retirement. Basically have $15k in cash set aside, and turn on the dividend faucet to pay for the rest. This would do a few things:

  1. Further test my $2,500/month spend rate
  2. Get used to planning around the quarterly dividend & interest payments
  3. Allow me to jump back into work if SHTF, or I feel I miss the structured nature of a day job (yeah right).


Option #3 – Continue working the same job because I’m a big scaredy-cat.

Since the commute is outrageous, the only logical move forward in this career is to say f**k it and deploy once again. I’ve already calculated that another year gives me an additional $350 per month, forever, but it really isn’t the best option when I think back to how unhappy as I was most of the time during the last deployment. Besides, I think I have enough money, so going after more would be greedy.

There’s also a non-deployable position open here instructing the new hires. Maybe I’ll just do One More Year stateside and deal with the aforementioned commute.

Fear and greed. Such nasty things.


Option #4 – is an awesome website that shows jobs postings for non-cubicle types. I often dream of being able to go snowboarding on a regular basis like I used to ten years ago, so I select “Ski Resort Jobs” and see what’s open at the moment.

For example, I could be a Gondola Operator at Telluride in Colorado. Operate a gondola for $14/hr for at least 20hrs per week and get a free season pass? That doesn’t sound too bad! I could even go full-time, four days a week and continue to pad that 401(k), get employer health insurance, and receive other benefits.


So what’s it gonna be? Time will tell. But for now, vacation!

Where to live? My latest dilemma.

It’s almost over! A six month deployment turned into eighteen months is almost done and I’m about to head home.

Head.. where? Oh, right, I’m homeless.

I don’t have my own place to return to since I haven’t lived in the US recently, but luckily my friend and coworker offered to rent me a room at his house for an attractive price. The catch? It’s in the absolute middle of nowhere. It’s car-dependent for everything except the grocery store 2.6 miles away. The Office is ten miles away, so that is bikeable during fair weather.

An aside: Once I arrive at The Office, I get to climb in a 15 passenger van and ride an additional hour to The Job Site! WTF?!@#! The only upside is that it’s a four day work week.

I know, I know, either way this situation is preposterous, but it’s what I’ve got to work with for now. Let’s look at the pros and cons for both locations.

Grantsville, a.k.a. The “Shorter” Commute.

The good

  • $500 per month rent in a brand new house, all utilities included.
  • The only occupants will be myself and the owner. Total bachelor pad.
  • Next to zero noise pollution due to the remote location.
  • Open land to fly R/C’s.
  • Shorter commute to work.
  • No rental contract makes leaving anytime a breeze.

The meh

  • It’s in the middle of nowhere, so I can say good-bye to any mid-week social life.
  • 2.6 miles to the nearest grocery store. Not ideal for frequent trips on foot, but biking is feasible.

The bad

  • 60 miles one way to go paragliding
  • That means no mid-week after work paragliding
  • 66 miles one way to ski resorts. Consider that only once a week.
  • Zero mid-week social life outside of work colleagues. Who want’s to hang out with their co-workers outside of work anyway?
  • 2 hours 20 minutes round trip commute to the job site.

Salt Lake City, a.k.a The Fun Place

The good

  • A walkable, inner city location
  • Ideal population density for a 30 y/o single person
  • 30 miles to ski resorts, and a City Ski bus for $8 round trip.
  • 22 miles to the nearest paragliding spot.
  • Mid week after work paragliding!
  • Mid-week social life is possible
  • Farmers markets within walking distance

The meh

  • I’ll have to pay “real rent” prices. Small price to pay I suppose.
  • Could have increased noise pollution due to location.

The bad

  • Insane amount of car-time per day: 3 hours 20 minutes round trip commute!

When I read this I think to myself “holy shit that’s a lot of commute time”, and it is. It’s borderline insane. Once I finish up my vacation,  I’ll spend 12 full twenty-four hour days commuting back and fourth to work by the time the year is over. 17 days if I live in SLC.

Either way it’s a ton of time. Like, a whole ‘nother average two-weeks-per-year-vacation amount of time. What would you do with an extra 17 days?

Aside from the social and recreational advantages of being in SLC, the opportunity cost of living there while having to commute to The Job Site is expensive enough to merit real consideration.

Coming in at 70 miles per day, the cost of commuting from SLC proper to The Office per IRS mileage rates is a staggering $37.80 per day. Add in a Mustache mobile for $6,000, $400 per year for auto insurance, $436 for gas, and driving through the end of 2016 costs at least $11,523, plus maintenance, registration, depreciation, and various other things. Sheesh.

Weighing in the pros/cons and overall travel required to keep this job, both options are equally terrible. If it weren’t for the additional commute, I’d choose Salt Lake City. But if it weren’t for the job, would I choose Salt Lake City?

The opportunity cost of One More Year

Free housing at B Hut Village!

Free housing at B Hut Village!

Anyone considering leaving a perfectly good job really ought to have a plan. Or at least know what they are giving up, right? 

As my FIRE date approaches, I’m asking myself these types of questions. 

Will leaving a $75,000/year job end up being a terrible decision?

What will I lose in the long run?

Will future me be happy for this decision or will I be kicking myself for it?

These are good questions, but for me, the more important one is,

What will I gain?


I’m working in a high tech field making right around $75,000 per year working in the states. If I deploy instead of work stateside (this is usually 50% of the time) I make about 2.5x my stateside pay. We’ll call that $187,500. Big difference. 

I want to weigh, financially, where I stand right right now and what One More Year would do for me.

The Stash

My FI number from The SuperPlan is $1,000,000. I’ll service an ultra safe 3% withdrawal rate that will provide $2,500 per month. While my FI number has come and gone (thanks Mr. Market),  I’m still working and expecting another ~$50,000 saved before the Quit Date. This should put me close enough.

Nick catches OMY fever. 

Let’s say my FI date comes and I’m just not ready to let go. I’m scared, doubtful, whatever the case may be. Heck with it, I’ll work just one more year!

One More Year, stateside pay of about $75,000

First, let’s subtract the tax deductible 401(k) contribution, pay taxes, and see what’s left. 

Forbes posted 2016 tax brackets online, and my taxable wages would be $57,000 after the 401(k) contribution.

As a single filer I would pay $10,021. Plus, Utah State Tax of a flat 5% leads me to owe them about $2,850. In total, I would owe around $12,871.

My $75,000 wage, minus taxes, and less the 401(k) contribution leaves me with $44,129. 

Assuming I stuck with my proposed FIRE budget (under the 250% Modified Adjusted Gross Income scenario) of $29,242 annual spend, I’m left with $14,887.

$14,887 to invest, or more likely to blow on a car to drive myself to work in the first place.

If I did the smart thing and invest it, it would only increase my early retirement spending by $37 bucks a month. I don’t know about you, but working another year stateside for an extra $37 bucks a month just isn’t worth it to me.

One More Year, deployed pay of about $187,500

I’ll tell you right now, this scenario actually get’s me somewhere. But is it worth it?

Again, let’s subtract the tax deductible 401(k) contribution, pay taxes, and see what’s left. 

Luckily, due to the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, my federal taxable income would be $68,200, putting the bill at $12,821. The state doesn’t care about FEIE, so that would be $8,475 due to Utah, for a total tax bill of $21,296. 

This leaves me with $148,204 of net income. I’ll have a vacation during the year, and spend some on mail order goodies.

Obviously I won’t have the same expenses as my stateside scenario (free housing!), so I will actually be able to bank around $140,000.

Again, if I was smart and invested it, it would increase my early retirement spending by $350 per  month! Forever! That’s relatively significant. Hmm…

But wait!

Haven’t I figured out what enough is? Do I really need an extra $350 per month of passive income? Does this change anything?

The important question to address is, 

How would another $4,200/year effect my Affordable Care Act balancing act?

Let’s revisit the ACA scenarios in the Taxes and Insurance section of The Super Plan and look at Roth conversions.

Scenario #1  – Was $14,000, now only $9,800 room to convert. 

Scenario #2 – Was $20,342, now just $16,142 room to convert. 

Scenario #3 – Was $29,760, still $25,560 room to convert. 

Since I’m leaning heavily on the Roth pipeline to fund early retirement, Scenario #1 is no longer an attractive option unless my AGI was a lot less than calculated.

OMY syndrome is not only real, it can also negatively effect your early retirement plan! And that’s just one more year. If I felt I needed a lot more money to be comfortable, I would likely Fall Off The Affordable Care Act Subsidy Cliffs!

Alright, so I’m done exploring the financial aspect of OMY. Let’s see what I’m trading $350 a month for. 

Note that I get 1 month away from the job site in a 12 month deployment.

I lose out on: 11 months of free housing, free military food, free gym access, $166,204 of potential income, and the worst ISP known to man.

I gain: To name a few… 11 months of clean, geographically attractive housing. 72 hours of time each week. Fresh produce. Grocery stores! Beer!! Restful sleep. The great outdoors. Full, uninterrupted seasons. Recreational activities galore. Pretty ladies ALL OVER THE PLACE. A social life outside of work colleagues. Intentional living. Flexibility in location. No more incoming mortar alarms. 

That pretty much sums it up for me. Providing my $2,500/month spend rate in 2016 is acceptable, One More Year just isn’t worth it!

What I’ve learned

It’s been one hell of a ride. In 2008 I accepted a job that changed my life. Granted, I was only 22 at the time so it didn’t take much.

Fast forward to today. I’m moving back to the US after living abroad for the last eight years. These are some things that I’ve learned:

Knowledge is power. Read more and watch less TV.

You can miss out on the greatest stock buying opportunity of your generation, and still become financially independent.

Pay attention to your friends and who you spend time with. They help shape you, for better or worse.

You will often reflect on the past, so listen to your heart and do what you believe in.

You can’t change the past, so embrace what events have shaped you into the person you are today.

Spend money on what’s important. Invest the rest.

There is a marginal utility of money. Understand when you have enough.

Judge yourself by your own goals, not what your peers seem to be doing.

One lifetime is relatively short, so don’t give up your time so willingly.

And most importantly, question everything.