So… remember back in October/November when we decided not to receive a paycheck for the rest of the year?

I sure do! In a way, it seems like ages ago.

Only 3 months before that, we were throwing around the idea of getting serious about financial independence and early retirement. Then, the very next month, we pulled the trigger and put our plan in motion – we were shooting for early retirement.

So back in 2015 (since we started so late in the year) we both together didn’t quite make it to max-out our 401ks – but we came very close! Since we were shoving in everything we could of our paychecks (literally 100%), it took some time to also save enough to max-out our IRAs for 2015.

So what was the result?

In 2015, of the $36,000 limit possible for 401ks ($18,000 each) we made it to $30,216.60 or 84% of our max-out goal! We were cut-off due to the end of the year catching up with us. On top of that goal, since you can contribute to the previous year’s IRA up until April, we also maxed those out! Woot!

Success! So, what’s next?

Okay, so once those goals were met and we had all this built up energy and excitement for ourselves reaching those goals, what was there for us to do next?   ———-> We doubled down.

What I mean by that is we had months at the end of the year where we didn’t receive a single dime of income and had to live only off of our savings and thrift.

Then, at the beginning of 2016 we made another big decision, we decided to front-load everything and max-out 2016 401ks & IRAs as well – so we did the same thing again back-to-back!

401k Maxed-Out for 2016

(that moment you finally cross-over & start getting a paycheck)

When we first started this last year, I didn’t know we’d be continuing this through to the next year, but after getting through it I’m so glad we did! Now that that’s behind us, it won’t be such a long stretch between actual checks. Whew!

Now the plan is after maxing-out retirement accounts for the year, when there’s additional funds, those will go into the taxable brokerage account so we can start building that chunk up for long-term capital gains. If we could put more into our tax-advantaged accounts we would, but with the current limits those are the options we have for now. We also don’t have access to Health Savings Account (HSA) or we’d contribute to that.

What did we put the money in?

Our 401ks don’t have the best options to invest in compared to our IRAs (such as Vanguard’s VTSAX), but in general we found some low-fee funds that track the S&P 500 index fairly closely.

As far as our IRAs go, since we had contributed to the 2015 IRA, we had kept the money in the settlement fund which is more of a stable fund not in the stock market called Vanguard’s Prime Money Market Fund (VMMXX).

Vanguard

We decided since we were just starting out, until we reached the buy-in amount of $10,000 for Vanguard’s Total Stock Market Index – Admiral Shares (VTSAX), we’d keep it in the money market fund.

Well, as planned, we max-out the 401ks and once we both went over the buy-in limit, we transferred all the IRA funds into VTSAX! Let the retirement games begin!

It’s a little nerve-wracking putting our hard-earned funds into the stock market when it’s hitting all-time highs, but we’re sticking to the plan and trying not to time the market.

How do we track our Expenses & Net Worth?

I love being able to see our progress as we continue this journey and at first I began a simple Excel spreadsheet with totals, but quickly found that fairly tedious. Then I moved onto using Google Sheets with monthly totals using which I still use to keep hard, static numbers, but one tool that I’ve found invaluable is Personal Capital:

Personal Capital – Join for Free!

If you haven’t checked it out, it’s worth the time to give it some serious consideration! The time alone saved logging into every possible financial portal and looking up our house value on Zillow has been a dream come true!

I’ve been using only Personal Capital to check all transactions that run through our finances and so far it’s been awesome. My other favorite feature is the expense reports that you can customize into a nice pie chart. Anyways, cool stuff!

Wrapping Up

I can tell you it’s quite a strange feeling when you’re working at your job like everyone else and in the back of your mind you have this little secret knowing that you haven’t been getting a paycheck for several months on end – almost like you’re just working for the fun of it!

It’s an odd feeling indeed, but in a way it’s a little liberating like we had this feeling that we weren’t slaving away – but really, working towards something much better.

I feel extremely fortunate that we both have this opportunity and also the focus to build a nice foundation for our future. I’ve overheard comments from several people around me at work about things like:

  • Living paycheck-to-paycheck
  • How hard life is & they have no time to do anything fun
  • Not being able to take the stairs up a single flight of steps to our office due to failing health
  • How they’re looking forward to finally affording the payments for a brand-new sports car while still in college (don’t do it! it’s a trap!)
  • And finally, how a newly empty-nest couple are upgrading to a super-sized home probably doubling their yearly taxes!*

*Side note – they were recently happy to have finally paid off the previous mortgage & weren’t excited about having a mortgage again.

Oh man. In any case, everyone makes their own decisions on what they want in their life whether they realize it or not. The future isn’t guaranteed, but it’s nice to have a plan put in place and see it working for you!

How about you guys out there? Are things going according to plan?