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Early retirement cost & targets - June 2022

At the end of every month, I update my money spreadsheet. I check our investments - no surprise, they've gone down, but they're held for the long term so today's valuation isn't something I'm panicking about. Then I look at what we've spent in the month and for the year to date. I take much more time on the costs: are they what I expected, am I happy what we're spending our money on, does it feel like we're getting good value for money?


I used the pronouns "we" and "our" a lot in that first paragraph. But actually, it's only me who looks at the costs. Sally doesn't pay much attention to it, which I suspect is the more typical behaviour - I bet it's a small minority of people who can say how much they spend on what with a reasonable degree of accuracy.


That seems strange to me. Given how much effort goes into earning our money, surely it's sensible to understand where it disappears to? To test my theory, I sprung some questions on Sally, asking how much she thought we spent on different items each month. After totting up her answers, it came to only half of what we actually spend. She underestimated our costs on almost every item.


Whether we're trying to get to financial independence, needing to make the best use of our money in today's inflationary climate, or wanting to fund an awesome early retirement, keeping track of our costs can help. Sally tells me that our friends think it's weird that I keep track of our costs, but I still think doing so makes a lot of sense.


Early retirement costs

I was a bachelor in France this month, while Sally was in the UK to care for her Dad who had a surgery. That different dynamic changed our costs somewhat.


We hardly spent anything on going out, and coffee shop spend was mostly Sally grabbing a coffee and maybe a sandwich in the hospital cafe between afternoon and evening visiting hours. For groceries, my spend was only a third of Sally's. I did wonder if that was because Sally shopped for a carnivore diet while my grocery basket was plant based - it might be an interesting thing to track and compare one day. However, this month, I suspect that the main difference was that Sally's shopping included a fair amount of "looking after her Dad expenditure".


Early retirement targets

I suspect those people who think I'm weird to track our costs will think I'm equally weird to set myself targets each year and track them each month too. Guess what...I think it makes a lot of sense! Before retiring, my career in finance was very structured, with targets and deadlines being part of every day work life, so carrying those traits into early retirement felt normal to me. I'm convinced it helps me keep occupied and to get things done, the things I want to do as well as a few chores that I need to do.


Half way through the year, I feel I'm doing OK. In June, I've:

  • Invested a little more cash. There's more to invest, but I'm wondering whether to hold this position in case the markets take a dive - it's probably a bad idea, I never seem to get this right!

  • Realised that I'm not going to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc this year, but I have a firm plan with friends to do it next year.

  • Hardly worth mentioning, but I've done a little bit of French practice each day using Duolingo. It's not much, but it must be better than nothing.

  • Kept up with my blog post target.

  • Maintained my weekly exercise target.


My exercise target included doing some trail events, and I did my first one in June. The most challenging part of the 30km Tour du Giffre was the 1,900m of ascent. We "ran" (power hiked more like) up a mountain, ran down, followed by more power hiking up another mountain before running down to the finish. It was hot, and it was a tough day - I was done about 5km before the finish, but pushed through. The lesson is a little more leg training/practice is required, and probably much more head training - the mental side is half the battle, and not always my strong point! Still, I got third place in my age group, and 57th out of 681 which includes all the young runners - I'll take that. My next event is on 24 July - it's longer and it has more elevation...ouch!


Training for my next trail race - there are worse places to do it!

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I never liked tracking expenses. It was a necessary evil for planning an early retirement- I needed to do it to figure out how much we needed to retire comfortably. I don't need to anymore so I don't. I would actually like to do it again just to see how much our spending has gone up, but can't seem to make myself do it. Maybe a new year's resolution. I understand why you do it though. Projects like that can be satisfying.


I'm fascinated by your trail races. I'd never heard of this before- sounds like fun!

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Running trails is fun, although I find it very tough in the mountains, both going up and down the hills! I'm also quite new to trail running (my running, which started 10 years ago, has mostly been on roads/sidewalks), and it is nice to run in such awesome surroundings. I watch a few YouTube channels from the US about trail runners, so it's definitely going strong in your backyard. As to tracking my costs, I wonder if I'll still be doing it in a few, or five years time? 🤔

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Sorry, Sally, I’m with David on this one! I’m still setting goals and using spreadsheets to monitor spending and use them for most things actually! I’m a retired accountant too 😊 so maybe that explains a lot! Congratulations too, David, on your French. Practise every day and you’ll be amazed at how much better you are every week 😊

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Haha, I won't tell Sally that you agree with her! I think you're right, it may well be an accountant trait to keep doing these things, although it often does make a lot of sense to carry the things that we are familiar with into our retirement life.

On French, my big issue is understanding what others say, i.e. I understand almost nothing. I give speaking a reasonable go, although don't ask a French person what they think of that!🤣

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Hi David, have you got a post that breaks down the assets and income that you use to fund your expenses? I suspect yours differs to the usual 4% rule due to the rental income? Would like to see your thoughts and analysis of income to expenses if shareable?


Secondly, do you feel that the income from your assets easily covers expenses plus fat plus some reinvestment , or do you feel when there is a market correction it can get close to the margin?

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Good questions...I think I have done a post about at least some of what you are asking. I'll have a look and see what I can find, or maybe it could be something I look to write about in the coming weeks. I'll therefore get back to you with either a link to a post (if I find one) or look our for a new post on this subject if I go that route.

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David, As you are probably aware from previous comments on your posts I am totally with you on tracking costs. I have tracked my spend since I opened my first bank account aged 18, initially in the back of diary on the finance pages that were invariably included, then I discovered filofax with the packs of cashflow pages that could be inserted with the diary pages. A hand-held electronic personal organiser followed eventually evolving to computers and spreadsheets, initially an Amstrad running CP/M and Supercalc, eventually ending up with Excel on a modern PC! My wife similary thinks tracking spend is a waste of time, but I fail to see how I can manage our spend in retirement without understanding…


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Hi Peter,

Supercalc, wow, that's a blast from the past. I think I used that in my first job. I wonder what happened to them? I didn't used to track my expenditure in the same detail as I do now, but I have always kept a record of incomings and outgoings - perhaps it was the same for you, it's something that I had to do to know how much we had in the bank, as we didn't have internet banking back then.


It's interesting to hear that you aren't noticing a significant impact from the current higher levels of inflation. It's difficult for me to make an assessment of the impact on our own spend, spending time in different…


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