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Category: Financial Independence

Corey’s Financial Independence Update – August 2018

journey to FI on a winding road

Welcome to another post in my Financial Independence Update series! If you don’t know what the purpose of this series is, please read this first. This month, I am covering August of 2018.

I want to follow this particular format in these posts:

  • Main Goal(s). This will talk about my main financial goal(s) that I set out for the particular time period.
  • Ups and Downs. This will be a general reflection of what went well, what did not go well, and some improvements I am looking to make.
  • Financial Picture. This is not a net worth update. In this section, I will talk about how I deployed my cash in a way that improved my financial situation and why I did it the way that I did.
  • Looking Forward. In this last section, I will talk about what I plan on doing going forward. This can include how I plan on deploying cash, any changes in my strategy, or any significant expected changes in my financial situation in general.

How Moving to Another Country Changed Got Me on the Path to FI

I’ve been thinking about how I got into Financial Independence and why I decided to pursue it. I think part of it was actually moving to London for a short time. Why was that? Well I wanted to write about that how I became more into FI.

Less Stuff

When I moved, I didn’t bring a lot of things I had accumulated like my books, my electronics, and a few other things I couldn’t take across the ocean. By doing this, I realized I didn’t need nearly as many of the things I had accumulated over the years to live a good life. Granted I did miss a few things I grown accustomed to, but I also learned ways I could get around it.

Started Watching Less TV

Britain requires a TV license to watch live TV, which is essentially a tax I didn’t want to pay. So no TV meant, I had to rely on other things for entertainment. Good thing was London has a bunch of free things to check out like museums, but also there’s plenty of good stuff on podcasts, YouTube, and the Library. Not having a TV meant I ended up reading more as well, and some how I stumbled onto FI with the reading.

My Top 4 Financial Independence Books

old books on a shelf

A common thread in the financial independence community is reading books. It is one of the best ways to learn, relax, and grow. Some of the most successful people in the world are voracious readers, and even say that reading everyday is key to success.

So, where should you start? I believe that there are 4 books that everybody should start with on their path to financial independence. Don’t get me wrong – these 4 books are not the “best” books, nor are they the only books you should be reading. I simply believe that these 4 books are a great starting point to achieving financial independence. Without further ado, let’s get to reading!

DISCLAIMER: The post will contain affiliate links that gives The FI Guys commission.

Corey’s Financial Independence Update – July 2018

journey to FI on a winding road

Welcome to another post in my Financial Independence Update series! If you don’t know what the purpose of this series is, please read this first. This month, I am covering July of 2018.

I want to follow this particular format in these posts:

  • Main Goal(s). This will talk about my main financial goal(s) that I set out for the particular time period.
  • Ups and Downs. This will be a general reflection of what went well, what did not go well, and some improvements I am looking to make.
  • Financial Picture. This is not a net worth update. In this section, I will talk about how I deployed my cash in a way that improved my financial situation and why I did it the way that I did.
  • Looking Forward. In this last section, I will talk about what I plan on doing going forward. This can include how I plan on deploying cash, any changes in my strategy, or any significant expected changes in my financial situation in general.

Before diving in, I just want to give you a heads up on what you are going to read. This month, the main focus was experiencing life a bit more than usual. My wife and I had some profound conversations about money and life, which was reflected in July’s overall spending. I’ll explain more below!

Taxes and Investing as an American in the UK

As I mention in my last post, I currently live in London, England. However, as an American citizen living abroad, reaching financial independence becomes more difficult as I describe below. So what does that mean for folks who want to be financially independent? I’m going to run down the steps I’ve gathered from information sources around the net and speaking to several advisors. Hopefully this helps you with your investments like it did for me.

(Disclaimer: Please note the standard disclaimer here applies. I am presenting my own experiences that have been presented to me by others who have researched this topic. I have done my best to distill it down as a simple action plan. However, as I illustrate below, there are a surprisingly large amount of people willing to trade their time to help you. Please do consult a professional with your situation.)

The Main Problem – Taxes

If you could boil it down to one problem, though, it would have to be taxes. Unlike most countries in the world besides Eritrea, the United States government taxes its citizens and residency card holders even when they are not living in the US. So Americans working and living abroad have to worry about taxes in two different tax jurisdictions. One break you do get from the US government though is the foreign earned income exclusion, meaning you won’t be taxed on any of your income if you make less than $103,900 in 2018, but you’ll still have to file taxes every year.

Because of the tax reporting requirements of American citizens living abroad, most investment companies (even American ones like Vanguard) don’t want to deal with Americans living abroad. They won’t just shut down your accounts of course, so if you’ve been investing you will be ok. But for the beginners, without a US address (or for those of you who attempt to have your mail sent to your new address), you won’t be able to open a new account.

There are also all sorts of tax rules involving investing in index funds in other countries. Those tax rules can negate the gains greatly. I don’t want to go into it here, because I don’t really understand it well, but look up Passive Foreign Investment Company or PFIC when you get the chance. Please note this doesn’t apply to individual stocks though, but we all know how hard it is to pick individual stock

The FI community starts with a do it yourself attitude, and while admirable, this is probably not the place for it (at least not at first). Your UK taxes will be easy as the government does your taxes for you. However, you are going to want help filing your tax returns in the US from one of the US expat tax firms out there (there are a few of them out there).

Update: I found a pretty good guide on taxes for US citizens living in the UK.

Corey’s Financial Independence Update – 2018 Part 1

Welcome to the first post in my Financial Independence Update series! If you don’t know what the purpose of this series is, please read this first. This being the first post in the series, I will cover the entire first half of 2018, so it might be a longer one. Every post after this will cover one month, with the next post covering July.

I want to follow this particular format in these posts:

  • Main Goal(s). This will talk about my main financial goal(s) that I set out for the particular time period.
  • Ups and Downs. This will be a general reflection of what went well, what did not go well, and some improvements I am looking to make.
  • Financial Picture. This is not a net worth update. In this section, I will talk about how I deployed my cash in a way that improved my financial situation and why I did it the way that I did.
  • Looking Forward. In this last section, I will talk about what I plan on doing going forward. This can include how I plan on deploying cash, any changes in my strategy, or any significant expected changes in my financial situation in general.

Tips for Reaching the Pillars of FI in the UK

As you can see from my bio, I’m currently living in London, England. In the UK, there appears to be less of a FI presence than in the US, but it is growing as the meetups show (the picture above is me at one of the FI London meetups). That said the overwhelming amount of FI resources are for the US, and I thought I’d take a stab at trying to take a starting point of FI and make it more UK friendly, that starting point being the Pillars of FI.

I’ve talked about the pillars of FI from a personal stand point, but today I want to try to approach them from a person living in the UK. Please note though, that as an American citizen living anywhere else in the world, there are complications, so this post is not for them. Next week, I will write up one a post on being an American and trying to achieve FI in the UK. For now though, let’s go through the Pillars of FI in order and see what they are like in the UK.

How Tax Reform Changed My IRA Strategy

retired couple relaxing on a bench

Retirement accounts are key to achieving financial independence. However, with all of the different types of accounts, it can be challenging to know which ones to use. Throw taxes into the mix and retirement planning gets even more complex! Throw early retirement into the mix and now you are royally screwed! The good news is that this post is going to discuss two types of accounts: Traditional IRA and Roth IRA. Specifically, how the new tax reform changed my IRA contribution strategy.

Brief Lesson On IRAs

Before I get into tax reform, let me give you a refresher on IRAs.

Personal Finance 101 – Starting Your First Budget

balancing your budget

The FI equation can be summed up as IncomeExpenses = Net Income. From there, net income (whatever is left over) can be invested into assets that grow, which eventually grow large enough to allow you to retire. One issue here is that too many people focus on the income side of the equation and completely forget about the expenses side. This makes sense, as income is easier to understand because it typically comes from one source (a job) while expenses come from many. Well, it’s time for you to start focusing on the expenses side with the use of a budget.

A large majority of Americans do not budget. According to Hanscom Federal Credit Union, 41% of Americans in 2014 said they used a budget. While this number was up from 2013, I believe we can do better. Creating a budget and sticking to it is a key practice of financial independence. It not only helps achieve FI, it also helps you stay FI. You want to keep the wealth you have worked so hard to build, so you need to make sure you budget.

If you don’t have a budget, you’re in the right place. I hope that you are ready to create your budget after reading this post. The art of budgeting can be split up into two main activities: tracking and evaluating.

Before I continue, let me just say that tracking and evaluating are typically done on a monthly basis. I’ll explain more below. Let’s dive into each category and help you start your first budget!

Car Ownership: The True Cost and Why I Sold My Car

car - black mercedes benz

Let’s face it: you probably need a car, but you probably don’t need your current car. If you commute to work, run errands, or do anything else, then a car makes your life significantly easier. But do you need a flashy, expensive car to accomplish those things? Having said that, do you really know how much your car is costing you? If you knew, would you still be driving it? Would you downgrade?

Look, I am not going to tell you to sell your car and only ride your bike everywhere. I am also not here to shame you for owning a car. Financial Independence is about creating the life you want to live. If cars are one area of your life you do not want to change, then that is ok! All I hope to do is expose you to some of the hidden costs to car ownership. This post aims to give you my perspective on car ownership, what it truly costs to own, through specific examples from my life. My hope for you, dear reader, is that my experience will help you evaluate your current car situation.

If I had to summarize this post in one little TL;DR blurb, it would be the following: your car’s hidden expenses are costing you much more than the obvious expenses. With that, let’s dive in!