Author Topic: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?  (Read 3832 times)

Wess

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Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« on: December 30, 2017, 08:25:15 PM »



Life Situation: Single, 29, no dependents, living in Portland, OR.

After Tax annual wages: around $25,000 (varies)

Investments: $16,970 in a Roth IRA

Current Annual Expenses: $14,544

   Rent/mortgage -- zero. I live in a van :)
   Health (Counseling, Super Fancy Luxury Exercise class, Acupuncture and physical therapy, misc doctor) -- avg $575/month.
   Food -- $300/month   (this is the van life trade-off for me -- currently working on eating out less, but groceries are difficult)
        - Groceries 120
        - Alcohol 20
        - Restaurants 70
        - Coffee shops & fast food 90
   Auto (She's an old van, and I am driving her more than I could) -- avg $125/month
        - Insurance 50
        - Gas 35 (this is an average -- some months I don't drive, some months I road trip)
        - Service & parts 40 (this is an average based on the last 6 months -- hopefully this decreases)
   Phone $12/month
   Other $200
        - Gifts 125 (last 6 months avg)
        - Clothes or things for the bike or van 30 (last 6 months avg)
        - Misc shit hitting the fan and needing to be paid for 45

Expected ER expenses:  I think these will go up, but I also think I'll keep earning a little bit so let's say this number stays the same.

Assets:
     - Cash: $2,443.77
     - Car: $1000?    (1991 GMC SportVan with problems)

Liabilities: None

Specific Question(s):
I'm a financial-math infant and was intimidated by the spreadsheet provided in the How To thread ... Do I really need $363,600 to retire? And how do I figure out how long this will take me to stash (the quick online retirement calculator I googled says age 50)? And where do I stash it (since maxing out my IRA is just $5500?)

AND. If those numbers are right... is there any way I can speed this up? I love my job SO so much, and I love my lifestyle, but I crave the freedom. I'm wondering if there's some secret I'm missing that will make me richer faster without screwing up my currently amazing life too much. The obvious is to cut out the health expenses, which I might be able to do in a year or so. The other obvious is to find an awesome side-gig, but the job that I love does take up almost all of my time. I'm wondering if it would be crazy or even feasible at this rate to save up and buy a house to rent out?


maizeman

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #1 on: December 30, 2017, 08:46:57 PM »
So the short answer: right now you're able to save ~40% of your after tax income and are living on the rest. That means you'd take about 22 years to hit FI. So yes, the online calculator was right, around 50.

Where do you put your savings in excess of your IRA's annual limit? In a taxable account somewhere like Vanguard (or really any online brokerage, since you can just buy ETFs).

How do you speed things up? Well you've got the basics. You need to either decrease your living expenses or increase your income. Normally, people tend to see a lot more return on figuring out ways to reduce their cost of living than to increase their cost of living, but you've got your cost of living so minimized already that growing your income may make more sense in this particular case. If you do want to reduce your cost of living even more, you might get better suggestions over on the ERE website, since their annual budgets can get as low as four figures. 

Is your current occupation something with the potential for income growth? Are there ways to get promoted? Or can you raise your hourly or per job rate as you grow your skillset and/or reputation?

Real estate could help you get to a sort of semi-FIRE faster at the expense of increasing your financial risk (a mortgage is an awful lot of leverage which increases both of those things). However, generally mortgages max out at about the point where you'd be spending 43% of your annual income on mortgage payments. For you that's about $900/month, which I'm guessing would not be enough to buy a house in Portland. To add insult to injury, although it's unfair generally banks are going to be less willing to go all the way up to 43% for freelancers and the self employed than for people who earn a fixed salary every year.

MrUpwardlyMobile

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2017, 01:53:55 AM »
Side gig, new job, more hours, or a big raise.  If you want to speed it up, more money is the only surefire way.  Youíre already living in a van... there isnít really any more you can cut reasonably. 

PDM

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2017, 02:19:10 AM »
Hey,
There are people on here with plans to FIRE who have low income, but the maths doesn't lie. It takes longer to save up enough if you earn a small amount.

As per above posts, earning more seems the answer because cutting expenses more seems hard.

Isn't there a Saturday Night Live skit with Chris Farley living in a van down by the river?

maizeman

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2017, 07:49:56 AM »
Hopefully OP is happier with how his/her life turned turned out that Matt Foley's character:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xv2VIEY9-A8&t=138

Wess

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2017, 11:38:07 AM »
Thank you! 
... The math really is amazingly simple, isn't it? except how do you get from 40% to 22 years?

I'm going to have to go check out how in the heavens four figures would be possible. That sounds delicious!

My gut is kind of saying that you're right, real estate is probably just too scary for me to want to get involved with. Scary and... one-dimensional. Experience has told me I don't have a lot of stamina for doing things just for the money; I burn out. And that's assuming I could afford the mortgage. So I guess I'll keep brainstorming, and maybe one day be more upwardly mobile at work, but for now just keep living the dream... DOWN BY THE RIVER!!







Wess

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2017, 11:44:07 AM »
Also --
I haven't yet found a space on this forum for lower-income mustachians. Is there one, that you know of?



maizeman

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2017, 11:58:48 AM »
Oh I just pulled it from the "shockingly simple math" MMM post here which assumes 5% annual return from now to FIRE and a 4% withdrawal rate in FIRE: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/01/13/the-shockingly-simple-math-behind-early-retirement/

The point of that post is simply that how long it will take you to save up enough money to FIRE (starting from zero net worth) can be determined solely by your savings rate without knowing anything about your absolute level of income or expenses.

If you want to read more about Jacob (the author over at ERE), who has been happily living on $5-$7k/year for an awfully long time, I'd recommend these two posts:

http://earlyretirementextreme.com/how-i-live-on-7000-per-year.html

http://earlyretirementextreme.com/frequently-asked-questions

The first is more philosophical, and the second gets into more nuts and bolts.

maizeman

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2017, 12:06:32 PM »
Unfortunately no. There are individual journals where reading between the lines people are aiming for very simple retirements and likely have rather low incomes, but when it comes to people who post and discuss actual numbers, it seems like the majority of folks here are aiming for a stash in the $600k-$1.5M range (call it $24k-$60k/year in post FIRE expenses). Bogleheads tends to cater to people with even higher -- multimillion dollar -- net worth goals before they pull the plug, and ERE to people to people with lower spending goals.

Wess

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #9 on: December 31, 2017, 01:09:03 PM »
Thanks!

I've been reacquainting myself with the ERE site now all morning. Found the "How to get wealthy on minimum wage" post (http://earlyretirementextreme.com/how-to-get-wealthy-on-minimum-wage.html) and trying to plug in to those forums, too.

It's funny. Philosophically I guess I'm more of an ERE type person, but there's a vibe with MMM that seems to fit me so much more.





maizeman

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2017, 01:25:00 PM »
I know what you mean. The MMM group is more... cheerful? optimistic? something like that. I don't think Jacob ever would have written something like Pete's "optimism gun" post. In addition there are just a lot more total people here which makes the forums more active.

There's no reason you cannot have a foot in both worlds. Or just hang out here, and be prepared to shrug it off that every so often some well meaning person is going to try to explain to you that you really need to save up 2-4x as much because clearly you're going to get tired of living in a van down by the river and want a conventional middle class lifestyle someday.

Have you read C40's journal (I think he keeps it in parallel both here and there)? He's FIREd with an annual spend not much higher than yours and its currently living out of a van while tooling around the country.

WhiteTrashCash

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2017, 01:54:12 PM »
Well, I hope you are at least guarding your van, so keep it safe from thieves. Guarding your van is one of the most important factors to financial success. Also, if you can, you should try to keep at least a 40 lb bag of lentils with you at all times. I would suggest getting one with a friend's Costco membership instead of getting your own so you can save a little extra cash. Whatever you do, don't try to time the markets, because it's absolutely impossible.

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2017, 02:06:23 PM »
Re: the low income getting to FIRE. There have been some threads on it, but not a current sub-forum or active community on here. But, people will start "group journals" or similar for topics of interest. Ex, I have a "pregnancy, infertility, and babies" group journal. And I think it's high time there be a "Low income FIRE" group journal! We certainly have some lower income members around the board.

I do recommend the journals over the general topics subsection. Then you get less people "helping" you (ie, telling you to just find a new job), and more people who want to form a like-minded community.

Be warned though, some of the lower income lower spending threads in the past have turned into... for lack of a better term... dick swinging contests. "Yeah well you're a grocery store softie, I dumpster dive and eat dandelions, I WIN."
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Wess

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2017, 02:16:31 PM »
@maizeman  Yes! The MMM group is more playful. The tone of the MMM blog is a bit more generous. And I didn't realize MMM was bigger, but that makes sense. Active is good.

Haven't read C40. How do I find it?

@WhiteTrashCash -- what do you mean, guarding? The van I had a couple years ago (my first excursion in van life) was a white cargo van, which eventually got broken into while we were sleeping inside (precipitated a move back to apartment purgatory). This one is, for better or for worse, definitely a camper van where someone lives. Personally I think that makes a break-in less likely.

@Bracken_Joy  -- Thanks for the tip! Those journals sound like exactly what I'm looking for. And I can put up with a healthy amount of dick-swinging if it makes me think. Maybe I'd like dandelions!

WhiteTrashCash

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #14 on: December 31, 2017, 03:59:57 PM »
@WhiteTrashCash -- what do you mean, guarding? The van I had a couple years ago (my first excursion in van life) was a white cargo van, which eventually got broken into while we were sleeping inside (precipitated a move back to apartment purgatory). This one is, for better or for worse, definitely a camper van where someone lives. Personally I think that makes a break-in less likely.

There's a lot to be said for having a VAN to GUARD. In fact, you could say it's the key to financial success. :-P

PDM

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #15 on: December 31, 2017, 04:34:53 PM »
Hopefully OP is happier with how his/her life turned turned out that Matt Foley's character:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xv2VIEY9-A8&t=138

That's what I was thinking of!

Wess

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #16 on: December 31, 2017, 04:38:40 PM »
HA!

(Case in point re: playful)

PDM

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #17 on: December 31, 2017, 04:49:21 PM »
In 2010 I rented a van in San Francisco for a month and drove up the coast and spent time in and around Portland. I had the best time. It was pretty basic with a mattress and camp stove in the back. One of the best holidays I've had.
I'm terms of lifestyle I'd love to live in a van. Pretty jealous.

Wess

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #18 on: December 31, 2017, 05:03:58 PM »
It's SO good!!  Do it!

Dicey

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #19 on: December 31, 2017, 05:10:12 PM »
Before there was MMM for Dicey, there was ERE and Get Rich Slowly. There was also this guy, living in his van while doing grad school without debt. I read along in real time and enjoyed it very much. Now he's published a book and moved on to other travels. This looks like a synopsis of his experiences. If you haven't "met" Ken Ilgunas, please allow me the pleasure of this introduction:

http://www.kenilgunas.com/p/vandwelling.html
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Bracken_Joy

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #20 on: December 31, 2017, 06:13:02 PM »
Re: the maybe I'll like the dandelions. http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2014/04/dandelion-recipes.html
 I highly recommend looking into some of the homesteading and self sufficiency blogs then, and corresponding community in Portland! Some of the things are very space intensive, so not an option while van living, but not all of it.

Depending on your inclinations too, there's almost always someone willing to share produce, beer, whatever, in exchange for work and community in Portland. If you ever want a van alternative, there are (or were anyway) a lot of co-living type arrangements. Admittedly, these are becoming less easy to maintain as rents rise up there. But alternative community or co-living options to give you access to a kitchen could help reduce those food costs.
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Wess

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #21 on: December 31, 2017, 06:19:18 PM »
@Dicey  -- pleased to make his acquaintance! I'll have to sit down with that one on a rainy day. Esp because I discovered today that I have a LOT more condensation on my windows than I thought. the mold's a comin, I can feel it.

@Bracken_Joy -- I've been somewhat stubborn up to this point; the truth is, my brother lives in an apartment here in town as well, and I could easily ask to use his kitchen once a week to make better, cheaper meals. I just have to swallow my pride and do it. And deal with the principle of the thing (and my lack of being able to ever re-heat said meals...). I'm really self-conscious about being seen as a moocher, and fairly susceptible to feeling like I'm not "legit" if I'm relying on family for help. I wonder if there's something I could provide in return for an hour a week of kitchen use...

Dicey

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #22 on: December 31, 2017, 06:42:53 PM »
@Dicey  -- pleased to make his acquaintance! I'll have to sit down with that one on a rainy day. Esp because I discovered today that I have a LOT more condensation on my windows than I thought. the mold's a comin, I can feel it.

@Bracken_Joy -- I've been somewhat stubborn up to this point; the truth is, my brother lives in an apartment here in town as well, and I could easily ask to use his kitchen once a week to make better, cheaper meals. I just have to swallow my pride and do it. And deal with the principle of the thing (and my lack of being able to ever re-heat said meals...). I'm really self-conscious about being seen as a moocher, and fairly susceptible to feeling like I'm not "legit" if I'm relying on family for help. I wonder if there's something I could provide in return for an hour a week of kitchen use...
Re: Kitchen use. I know this sounds nuts, but find a senior lady who lives independently if you can. Having someone available who can change light bulbs, do minor repairs, do heavy (-ish) lifting, putting out the trash cans and such in exchange for time in the kitchen is a perfect swap. It might even enrich both of your lives. Start asking around,  there's someone out there who could really use your help.

My dear friend is 92. She is trying to clean out her garage and attic. Just bringing down boxes from the attic periodically results in oceans of gratitude and it's literally nothing off my back. Another super frugal friend stops by and puts her cans out for her each week. Of course, frugal friend adds her own small bag o'trash, so she doesn't have to pay for trash service. A frugal, friendly win for each of them.

To find someone if word of mouth or community contacts come up dry, try NextDoor.
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maizeman

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #23 on: December 31, 2017, 06:55:19 PM »
Here is the C40 journal thread here on the forums:

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/journals/c40's-journal-'cause-my-life-is-dope-and-i-do-dope-sh*t'/msg1758063/#msg1758063

Looks like he may actually be spending about the same amount as you in recent months (~$1,000/month), but I don't know how he manages the lack of kitchen issue.

Wess

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #24 on: December 31, 2017, 07:08:37 PM »
Beat you to it! I found the "member search" function. 

HOLY JOURNAL, BATMAN. I'm only on page 8 as of yet (and skipping lots), but WOW this is everything I thought I was going to do in moving into my van (spoiler: I did about 1/8 of it).

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #25 on: December 31, 2017, 07:20:21 PM »
Why not get a camp stove? We use a Coleman 2 Burner Propane Camp Stove. We often go out camping or hunting for a week or more at a time. Just ensure ventilation when you cook- we use a stove stand and cook outside. In Oregon, there's no shortage of park areas with covered tables that you can use for a time. I bet some propane canisters would be a lot cheaper than restaurant spending =) And then no pride issues with family (which I 100% DO NOT fault you on, to be clear). I really like Dicey's idea too- that's kinda what I was getting at. An alternative arrangement, where it's about community, not about feeling beholden to your family.
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Wess

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #26 on: December 31, 2017, 07:38:38 PM »
Re: Kitchen use. I know this sounds nuts, but find a senior lady who lives independently if you can. Having someone available who can change light bulbs, do minor repairs, do heavy (-ish) lifting, putting out the trash cans and such in exchange for time in the kitchen is a perfect swap. It might even enrich both of your lives. Start asking around,  there's someone out there who could really use your help.

Great idea! This kind of thing would be great to find. I've also sort of randomly happened on a lot of housesitting gigs. These are unpredictable, but so far they have completely covered my laundry needs (I keep saving my quarters to go to the laundromat, but haven't needed to!). I will need to cook more often than do laundry, but it would be a start. I just need to market my housesitting abilities more, maybe (I'm limited by the fact that I work 5am to 8pm most days, so taking care of pets isn't really an option unless it's a low-maintenance cat or something).

@Bracken_Joy  - That's a good point, and it helps me clarify the issue a bit. I mostly just hate cooking and never make the time for it. Though I think an hour a week and then eating cold leftovers might be something I could work toward.

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #27 on: December 31, 2017, 07:55:25 PM »
There's also "cooking" options that hardly even count as that. The obvious backpacker's food- tuna salad, PBJ, that sort of stuff. Then less obvious stuff like hardboiled eggs and bacon, actually keep really well for a week in a cooler, pretty resilient. If you have the option, cooking food, putting it in individual serving size bags and freezing it, then your food serves as your ice pack for a few days.

From what I've gathered (from being a broke college student, and from reading a lot of ERE and homesteading and the like), if you want to reduce already bone thin expenses, you need to get insanely creative and motivated. Otherwise, you need to increase income or accept a longer timeline. That's just... kinda the options. Well, that or marry rich or inherit ;)

If you haven't heard of the "tightwad gazette" or "possum living", I really recommend those reads. Fantastic.
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maizeman

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #28 on: December 31, 2017, 08:09:06 PM »
...I'm limited by the fact that I work 5am to 8pm most days...

If you're logging 15 hour days most days of the week it sounds like you're earning well below the Portland minimum wage of $11.25. I hope I'm reading the subtext correctly that you don't want to talk about what you do for a living, but would it be feasible to scale back your hours somewhat?

On the margin, it may be that you'd be able to save more money by having more than one non-sleeping hour per day to focus on doing more of your own food prep than you'd lose in income. I know back when I was in grad school, whenever I was logging a bunch of 14+ hour days in series I'd start to see my spending creep up because I didn't have time to do things cost effectively.

Wess

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #29 on: December 31, 2017, 08:31:34 PM »
This is so good for me! I'm so glad I've found a little traction on this forum again, because it's just this kind of discussion that I need to figure out where my thinking blocks are coming from and whether I can or even want to un-block them. That's usually what these case study threads are anyway, right? Just people who need a little help figuring out where the borderline is between their knowledge and motivation, figuring out what exactly are the hard choices in front of them?  i.e. you say you want to cut your food expenses, but you're not willing to [XYZ] ... do you REALLY want to cut your food expenses or are you actually just fine?

Likewise: I say I want to earn more money and that I have no time because that's the simple way to put it, but the truth is I'm actually just putting in TONS and TONS of unpaid hours. I work 15 hour days but timesheet sometimes only half of it. THAT's the shit I have to figure out. The math is simple; the choices are not. I love my work, I love the organization I work for, I love my boss and the people I serve ... I love my lifestyle... but I'm craving the freedom of FIRE...

Here's my to do list.
- use my brother's kitchen one time. See how it feels. (I'm thinking of making tuna salad sandwiches and some kind of bean soup a la ERE.)
- ask around for house sitting and for anyone who knows nice old ladies :)
- spend some (more) time thinking about my job and weighing what I want.


PDM

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #30 on: December 31, 2017, 10:11:05 PM »

Likewise: I say I want to earn more money and that I have no time because that's the simple way to put it, but the truth is I'm actually just putting in TONS and TONS of unpaid hours. I work 15 hour days but timesheet sometimes only half of it. THAT's the shit I have to figure out. The math is simple; the choices are not. I love my work, I love the organization I work for, I love my boss and the people I serve ... I love my lifestyle... but I'm craving the freedom of FIRE...
- spend some (more) time thinking about my job and weighing what I want.
This sounds like the root cause of your problems. A lot on these forums work jobs they don't love but accept that short/medium term staying will allow them to FIRE then seek meaning and enjoyment.
I'm in this camp. I like my job, find it moderately challenging and at times interesting but I wouldnt say I love it - or would do it for free. It pays well though and that will let me FIRE sooner than if I sought out a job I loved.

Tough choices but ideally you can find a middle ground that doesn't compromise values or purpose but pays enough to set yourself up for the future.

westtoeast

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #31 on: December 31, 2017, 10:17:56 PM »
Re: the low income getting to FIRE. There have been some threads on it, but not a current sub-forum or active community on here. But, people will start "group journals" or similar for topics of interest. Ex, I have a "pregnancy, infertility, and babies" group journal. And I think it's high time there be a "Low income FIRE" group journal! We certainly have some lower income members around the board.

It would be great to have a sub forum or group journal! How does one advocate for that to exist?



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Ms Ida

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #32 on: December 31, 2017, 10:51:16 PM »
Do you have access to a kitchen at work? If you find a kitchen for weekly batch cooking you could store more meals at work. It probably depends on your workplace but at mine people store several meals or ingredients for salads and sandwiches for the week. If you can get it might as well take advantage of reliable refrigeration.

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #33 on: January 01, 2018, 08:58:31 AM »
Re: the low income getting to FIRE. There have been some threads on it, but not a current sub-forum or active community on here. But, people will start "group journals" or similar for topics of interest. Ex, I have a "pregnancy, infertility, and babies" group journal. And I think it's high time there be a "Low income FIRE" group journal! We certainly have some lower income members around the board.

It would be great to have a sub forum or group journal! How does one advocate for that to exist?

If you want a new sub forum, talk to a mod =) But a group journal you can do yourself- just start a journal and make it clear it's a group one! I know of two in particular- the one I started "Baby and Pregnancy Chat" and a second one someone else started, "Menopause Chat". There could very well be a "Low Income FIRE Quest Chat" or something. It's not any type of official designation, just a concept. And all in setting up the first post right so you set the tone/rules/goals/expectations.
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Dicey

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #34 on: January 01, 2018, 01:32:34 PM »
There's also "cooking" options that hardly even count as that. The obvious backpacker's food- tuna salad, PBJ, that sort of stuff. Then less obvious stuff like hardboiled eggs and bacon, actually keep really well for a week in a cooler, pretty resilient. If you have the option, cooking food, putting it in individual serving size bags and freezing it, then your food serves as your ice pack for a few days.

From what I've gathered (from being a broke college student, and from reading a lot of ERE and homesteading and the like), if you want to reduce already bone thin expenses, you need to get insanely creative and motivated. Otherwise, you need to increase income or accept a longer timeline. That's just... kinda the options. Well, that or marry rich or inherit ;)

If you haven't heard of the "tightwad gazette" or "possum living", I really recommend those reads. Fantastic.
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Wintergreen78

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #35 on: January 01, 2018, 04:25:13 PM »
Eating more food at home is the easiest way to save money. If all you want to do is heat up water/simple foods, you can even make an alcohol stove yourself for basically nothing.

Oatmeal, boiled eggs, coffee!!!, canned beans, and diced/boiled potatoes are all really good, cheap, and simple. The biggest thing is making them appealing. Figure out seasonings you like, and use those liberally. I love adding cumin, garlic, and black pepper to beans. Garlic and rosemary goes good on potatoes. Cinnamon, brown sugar, honey, and dried fruit are all great in oatmeal. A lot of people who donít cook much tend to not use enough spices. Then they decide their home-cooked meals are bland and fix the problem by eating out more. Once you figure out simple meals that are tasty and easy to clean up after, youíll get more motivated to cook for yourself.

ElleFiji

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #36 on: January 01, 2018, 06:22:21 PM »
Camping stove and camping food!

You can use a pressure cooker on a camping stove to save money!
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Wess

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #37 on: January 01, 2018, 07:04:08 PM »
@PDM
I was thinking about this today and I realized this has ALWAYS been my biggest problem in really going after FI. Two years ago I got all caught up in the morality of surplus and the gross feeling the stock market gives me -- never really solved that, actually, but now it's that I want to beat the system but ... I actually really would do my job for free... so I kind of basically already have the system beat ... except if my job for some reason evaporates then I'm screwed. And I can't afford to fix my own front tooth when I crash my bike and break it off (which happened last month).

@Ms Ida -- I don't have a kitchen at work per se (although I do have some shower rooms with sinks that I've been using) and I do have (very limited, somewhat covert) access to a fridge. My breakfast solution that's worked out really well thus far has been an "overnight oats" parfait situation with oats, yogurt and jam. I keep a couple in the back corner of the fridge and try not to be too conspicuous.

I completely forgot about my pressure cooker! Dear Mother gave it to me a couple years ago, I re-gifted it to my brother when I moved into the van. The thing is electric (it's an Instant Pot) so I could use it in a frickin McDonalds' BATHROOM if I wanted to!!

Wess

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #38 on: January 02, 2018, 12:14:53 PM »
@Bracken_Joy -- If it's easy, would you point me to some of the lower income/lower spending threads you were talking about? Not just because I want to witness dick-swinging; I also want to do a little background reading and friend-making.

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #39 on: January 02, 2018, 07:22:53 PM »
So I'm sure you've noticed the search function on the forum is shit? The workaround is to go to google and do "site:https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com low income" for example. Just so you can poke around on your own more easily! My links will be misc and useless probably, because I just got done with work and am utterly braindead.

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/any-low-income-mustachians-out-there/
https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/case-study-low-income-noob-needs-direction/

...okay I can't find anymore. I have a date with some whiskey =P
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Sailor Sam

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #40 on: January 02, 2018, 07:46:12 PM »
Oh man, I aspire to van living. Cool thread, Wess.

You might want to check out the leanfire reddit. Like all reddits, it can devolve towards name calling, but there's some useful stuff there.

Wess

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #41 on: January 02, 2018, 08:34:49 PM »
The workaround is to go to google and do "site:https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com low income" for example. 

Exactly what I was looking for and I didn't even know it. Thanks.

Wess

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #42 on: January 02, 2018, 08:41:12 PM »
And thanks, Sailor!

I'm terrified of Reddit, but I'm going to dip my toes in just for that lean fire.

Bicycle_B

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #43 on: January 02, 2018, 08:44:48 PM »
Wess, it's wonderful to have an activity you love, especially if it pays you!

On the other hand, many of the Low Paying Jobs For Friendly Unusual People have a quiet tendency to... unintentionally take advantage of participants' goodwill by allowing or inviting them to work extra hours, work off the clock, work under the table, and so on.  The tricky part for an individual is setting boundaries on how much unpaid work you do, because the extra time is necessary for self care, including thinking through your personal living techniques and taking the time to upgrade them.  It sounds like doing this is within your power.  Take charge of this and don't feel guilty.  None of the people who enjoy your extra hours can anticipate or properly value the benefits that will accrue to everyone later when you have a better stash due to taking more time to yourself. 

Keep reading up on other van dwellers.  There are a number of Youtube channels on the topic too.  Each day, try putting at least one of their ideas into practice.  Soon you'll have tastier cheaper food, more cash on hand, better insulation against mold, etc. 

PS.  I have several friends whose morality style includes suspicion of surplus, stock markets, etc.  Fwiw, I think that it's worth considering that saving some money or investing in stocks isn't inherently bad - it's doing it to excess, or personally maximizing the oppression of the system, that is bad.  Having enough money to control your daily life easily and share in appropriate situations is a good thing.  And stocks bring good to the world as well as oppression, because they produce many things that people need (food, vans, pressure cookers, etc).  As long as you do good where you can, just using the system judiciously is not evil in my opinion. 
« Last Edit: January 02, 2018, 08:50:27 PM by Bicycle_B »

ElleFiji

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #44 on: January 02, 2018, 09:11:44 PM »
Fiddle faddle around in the journals. I had one, but I stomped on its pretty little head. I can't quite remember if I posted about money at any point, but you can for sure find pics of my cat and redacted posts about an ex.

In 2016 I made 33000 REAL dollars (non USD). The most I ever made to that point. I rented a 1020/mo apartment, put money towards my student loan, went on vacation, ate out a fuckton, furnished my apartment and gave lavish gifts. I'm actually not sure how you aren't saving 900+/mo more than I was.

This year I think I made more. I think I spent less. I have no clue.  I will analyze on the weekend.

Make the team journal and I will come.

PS, I spend lots, but sometimes I do crazy ere stuff too like handwashing clothes 🤔
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Wess

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #45 on: January 02, 2018, 09:38:50 PM »
Thank you so much Bicycle_B for your thoughts. I know I've got some serious chewing to do. It's setting simple boundaries, absolutely --  and I am actually already steadily improving at that -- but it's so messy too. It's also loyalty to the org and my team and personal relationships and if I'm honest, not being really sure what my next step forward career-wise should really be. I sort of have a choice between staying and trying to create a new position/division at the place I'm at currently, really trying to push the organization to the next level, at a time when its finances are a huge question-mark and they can only pay me to work a certain amount ... or starting to look for other places that might already have the structure in place for me to do this work at that level without having to create it from scratch. The hard part is that the idea of creating it from scratch, right here at home at the place and with the people I love, is an almost irresistible inspiration, even though I know it almost certainly means I don't get paid what I'm worth.
 
Meanwhile, I've got all sorts of renewed excitement about reducing my expenses (which is the fun part, let's be honest)!!

Fun =
Went to my brother's house for 2 hours and came away with some split pea soup that's actually really delicious eaten cold (and also enough tuna salad for sandwiches til Sunday -- all for $20!). Looked at my health expenses and scratched my head a bit, and I think I'm quitting the counseling (not because I like FI more than my mental health, but because I think I actually maybe don't need counseling right now, YAY). Cashed in on some CC rewards for gift certificates to lunch places I usually eat out with coworkers, so at least that won't come out of the income. Resolved to make January a No Eat Out month regardless, and 2018 a year where I save at least 55%.




None of the people who enjoy your extra hours can anticipate or properly value the benefits that will accrue to everyone later when you have a better stash due to taking more time to yourself. 
Talk to me about this. What benefits accrue to everyone due to my stash?

Fiddle faddle around in the journals. I had one, but I stomped on its pretty little head. I can't quite remember if I posted about money at any point, but you can for sure find pics of my cat and redacted posts about an ex.
I feel that. Both the fiddle faddling and the redacting -- in my first few journal posts I was going to get married, YAY! and now I'm divorced, and 2017 can fuck off and die.

In 2016 I made 33000 REAL dollars (non USD). The most I ever made to that point. I rented a 1020/mo apartment, put money towards my student loan, went on vacation, ate out a fuckton, furnished my apartment and gave lavish gifts. I'm actually not sure how you aren't saving 900+/mo more than I was.
I really don't know. I mean, I do know. I have a spreadsheet and Mint and have been STRIVING to try and reach 55% since I started reading MMM years ago... and today I was looking at my expenses going "wait, Where is all this money going? Why am I not saving like 68% right now, let alone 55? I have no idea. I mean, shit happens, I guess. The car breaks one month, and then I go on a trip another month, and spend way too much on a birthday present the next month... and slowly the lifestyle creep happens and I find myself craving espresso ... but on paper it just seems like with ZERO rent and too much work to really play that much, I've GOT to be able to save more.

Bicycle_B

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #46 on: January 02, 2018, 10:58:58 PM »

None of the people who enjoy your extra hours can anticipate or properly value the benefits that will accrue to everyone later when you have a better stash due to taking more time to yourself. 
Talk to me about this. What benefits accrue to everyone due to my stash?


1. You'll be calmer and make better decisions.  Assuming you are a person of goodwill, your decisions will benefit the system as a whole, not just you.
2. Stashless, there is a risk you become dependent on others.  Stashy, you are independent, a consistent economic contributor.
3. With stash, you have the power to help others in need if you wish.
4. With stash, you gain f-u power.  You naturally restrict yourself to worthwhile actions, refusing to be used or taken advantage of.  This reduces the amount of injustice in the world, and in some small way raises the bar for quality in the offers that the world provides to its people.
5. When you have capital, you can use it efficiently.  For example, you can afford to fix up and maintain a van that has maximum living efficiency.  This can keep you healthier, making you a better long term contributor.  Another example of capital well deployed is that you might buy a tool or machine that provides useful service, perhaps start a business that serves numerous people.  It is unpredictable what you will do with capital, but predictable that when you have it, you have more options for impacting people than if you don't.

In short, when you responsibly acquire resources, you become a more powerful and responsible actor in the world.  Not saying the poor are irresponsible, just that capital is a powerful multipurpose tool, and that barring ill will on your part, you are likely to use it in ways that eventually benefit others as well as yourself. 
« Last Edit: January 02, 2018, 11:02:53 PM by Bicycle_B »

Classical_Liberal

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #47 on: January 03, 2018, 05:06:59 AM »

None of the people who enjoy your extra hours can anticipate or properly value the benefits that will accrue to everyone later when you have a better stash due to taking more time to yourself. 
Talk to me about this. What benefits accrue to everyone due to my stash?


1. You'll be calmer and make better decisions.  Assuming you are a person of goodwill, your decisions will benefit the system as a whole, not just you.
2. Stashless, there is a risk you become dependent on others.  Stashy, you are independent, a consistent economic contributor.
3. With stash, you have the power to help others in need if you wish.
4. With stash, you gain f-u power.  You naturally restrict yourself to worthwhile actions, refusing to be used or taken advantage of.  This reduces the amount of injustice in the world, and in some small way raises the bar for quality in the offers that the world provides to its people.
5. When you have capital, you can use it efficiently.  For example, you can afford to fix up and maintain a van that has maximum living efficiency.  This can keep you healthier, making you a better long term contributor.  Another example of capital well deployed is that you might buy a tool or machine that provides useful service, perhaps start a business that serves numerous people.  It is unpredictable what you will do with capital, but predictable that when you have it, you have more options for impacting people than if you don't.

In short, when you responsibly acquire resources, you become a more powerful and responsible actor in the world.  Not saying the poor are irresponsible, just that capital is a powerful multipurpose tool, and that barring ill will on your part, you are likely to use it in ways that eventually benefit others as well as yourself.

6. You are able to act ethically in all of your actions.  Monetary compensation is secondary to personal moral code.

eliza

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #48 on: January 03, 2018, 06:00:02 AM »
I get that you are dedicated to the cause of your organization --- but having a worker being paid for x hours work x + a ton of hours is seems exploitative to me regardless of how good the mission of the org.  And depending on your employment status (hourly vs. salary; exempt vs. non-exempt) may be illegal, which would put your organization at risk.

In your shoes, with such low expenses --- I'd seriously consider separating earning money (job) from volunteering for the mission.   With some hustle and creativity you could theoretically be FI in a very short time period.   And you've shown that you are both hard-working and creative.  You can continue volunteering in the interim and once you are FI, if you want to volunteer your time from 5AM to 8PM every day to the cause ---- you can do so with a free heart. 

Wess

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Re: Case Study - I live in a van. How soon can I retire?
« Reply #49 on: January 03, 2018, 11:38:58 AM »
Ok. So what is really behind all these hours I'm spending at work and not reporting? I'm not just straight-up donating my time that much (anymore). I'm just doing things a little weird.

The ingredients are a) very little top-down structure in terms of when I'm at work, how I spend my time, and what I work on when, and b) a lot of pressure to keep my hours low. Because we can't afford to pay me for so many hours. But I don't want to just leave!

1) Like making a mistake and having to do something twice, and then not putting the doing-it-over on the timesheet, feeling like I should take responsibility and eat the cost of my own stupid mistake.

2) Or working, but getting distracted in the middle of working, so a task that should've taken me 30 minutes takes me 90. And putting only 30 down. Or not keeping track, and guesstimating at timesheet time that it was 30 when maybe it was really 90.

3) Or getting to work a couple hours early to set up, and then realizing that I really didn't need to set up very much at all, and then just starting the clock at the regular time instead.

4) Or estimating my boss will get there at a certain time (again, no structure) and set me to work in a certain direction, but then not guessing right and waiting around for a while to really get started. (this is what's happening right now, and why I'm chillin on the forums in the middle of the work day... )

5) Or, when I would otherwise go home at the end of the day, getting involved in some fun little side-project that's technically work, but it's just something extra and not necessary or so low-priority that it feels weird to put it on the timesheet when I have other more important projects that are less fun that I could've theoretically been doing instead.

Sigh.

1) this I should just suck up and put on there, because that's part of the cost of having human workers and I should be upfront about that cost.

2) Again, cost of being human. And I need to keep better track.

3) I should commit to working on something during this time, and then timesheet it. If I don't, then I should commit to working on something important in my personal life. Like that good ol side-hustle action.

4) See above.

5) Timesheet it. If I feel guilty about it, then I should keep better track of my tasks, and force myself to choose between a) going home or b) working on the important thing.




Your replies are really important concepts that I need to hear often. I've printed them out and pasted them to the front of my task notebook.

Let's talk about this hustle and creativity. If you suddenly found yourself able to carve 2-3 hours out of each work day, what would you spend that time doing?
« Last Edit: January 03, 2018, 11:40:47 AM by Wess »