As net worth grows, it becomes a decreasingly useful metric. When I had $100k, changes in net worth were mostly reflecting my behaviour. At $1m, the change from the markets on net worth was often greater than the impact of my savings in a given month. Beyond $2m, the behaviour is almost unmeasurable in net worth changes. I spend more time now on monthly savings rate, and don't track net worth so much
bigchrisb, this has really stuck with me.
Our net worth is at 2.3 right now. My husband maxes out his 403(b), which, including maxing catch-up contributions and the employer match, added up to $30.5K last year. But it read as "noise" in the overall net worth. The additions we are making don't make a big difference when the market goes up, and they won't make a big difference when the market goes down.
So here's the thing.
Mathematically, if you believe this to be true (contributions basically noise, not much difference, just market movement is the main thing), and you're saving 50% or more, then you should ER! (Aside from the case where you love your job--in the scenario where you're working towards ER.)
Basically the logic is pretty simple:
1) If you're saving > 50%, your withdrawals (spending) is less than your contribution/savings (by definition of savings and spending).
2) If the amount you're saving is fluctuations/noise among market movements, withdrawing an even smaller amount would be even smaller noise.
3) Therefore you could ER, and the market will do its thing. There's no difference between adding a tiny bit of noise as a tiny boost, or an even smaller amount of noise as a tiny drag.
If you don't agree, then I'd posit there's something else wrong besides the logic--either you don't believe it's just noise (i.e. you think the drawdowns could be significant, in which case the contributions should count as "significant," since they're an even larger amount), or you have psychological hangups around ER'ing (or you aren't trying to ER, e.g. in the case you love your job).
But contributions shouldn't be "noise" until you're at the ER point, basically.
Simply put, most people are saving > 1 year of ER each working year (1 year @ 50% savings rate, 2 years @ 66%, 3 @ 75%, etc.). When you're saving some number > 1, and your overall stache is < 25x annual spend, it shouldn't be noise.
E.g. say your stache is 18x expenses, and you add 3x. That's 16% of your stache you add that year. Certainly not noise.
And this, since it's a percent, is irrelevant of stache size.
If you're at 2MM, but saving 300k/yr, that's not noise. If you're at 2MM but saving only 20k (and that's > 50%) that's noise, sure, but then you're well past FI (spending < 20k on a 2MM stache).
So I'd posit if contributions are noise, you can/should (if you don't like your job) ER.