Keeping Up With The Blogger Joneses

I read several blogs that publish a net worth update each month, including Root of Good, Dividend Mantra, and Budgets are Sexy.  Additionally, J Money publishes a list of blogger net worth figures.  My question is, can I catch someone that has already reach financial independence (retired early) if they are $500,000 ahead of my current net worth?  What about $250,000 or $1,000,000?  Should I just get used to the idea that they planned ahead better than me and saved up faster?  Or should I just work that much harder to catch up or even pass some of them.

the joneses house

the joneses house

Some might just think that it is too late because they compare themselves to what they read on blogs and forums.  Sometimes it seems like everyone has made it or has a ton of debt.  There are people at every stage of the game.  Besides, there is a lot of support out there in the finance community no matter what your current financial situation.

We all reach the tipping point for financial independence at different times.  By that I mean that some people are naturally frugal and are increase their net worth’s money and others suddenly make a 180 degree turn and make a mad dash to save and get out of the rat race.  I am somewhere in the middle and was saving more than the general 10%, but nowhere near the 50%+ needed to get done by 40 (or earlier).  As such, my target is to have an investment nest egg (primary residence excluded) big enough to retire at age 45 (about 7 years from now).

I decided to play a little game and compare myself to the general population of personal finance bloggers that I read on a regular basis.  I don’t read many get our of debt sites, so most of the bloggers have a solid positive net worth and plans to keep increasing it.  The game is simple, a head-to-head comparison in a few made up categories as displayed in the table below.

Positive Things Going For Me

I am pretty sure my primary income is higher than most of the bloggers out there, especially when you factor in high cost of living areas (although I live in California, mine is definitely not in a high cost of living area).  Unfortunately my frugal muscles are on the lower end.  I enjoy cable television, dinners out, vacations with airfare, and playing golf.  Those are all things that severely limit your savings rate.  In addition, our grocery bill could (and probably should) be cut in half each month to free up another $4,800 a year.  The good news is a higher income gives a lot more of a cushion.  I have to assume I can whittle down some of the discretionary spending in the next few years so that my nest egg can support more years of a lower spending level.

I also have access to save $36,000 pre-tax from just my job (403b and 457b) and a very healthy defined contribution pension match.  Most only have $18,000 from a 401k with a moderate match.  I can save twice as much tax free as the next guy.  That should be counted as +1 to me right?

Tide Going Against Me

I really don’t have a side income.  This blog doesn’t make money and I don’t do a lot of side projects.  I don’t have the hustle to put in more hours after 50+ at my main gig.  I just want to relax and play with my kids.  I easily award the +1 to the Bloggers.

Obviously as mentioned above, I didn’t start full-fledged FIRE (financial independence/retire early) mode until about 2 years ago.  Incidentally it was the arrival of my first kid that got me going.  For many, a kid slows them down, but for me it motivated me to double my efforts and get our faster so I can spend more time before he is gone from the house.  Based on that Bloggers would get a +1 for starting sooner than me.

I would like to think my years in corporate finance have given me the skills to be quite efficient with my money.  It doesn’t take years and years of experience to be good with money, just a plan, common sense, and some good ole commitment.  Just because of self-confidence I am giving myself the edge here, but still award a half vote to the Bloggers.  

My 15 year mortgage will be nearly done at my financial independence date.  I don’t want to pay it off early as the 2.625% rate is too good to pass up.  I have a lot of equity in my house (including solar panels).

Factor

Me

Blogger Joneses

Frugalness

+1 (I am a leaky ship compared to some)

Main Income

+1 (I make a solid salary in my field)

Side Income

+1 (I have nothing)

Starting Point

+1 (they started sooner)

Financial Technical Skills

+1 (I think my field of finance gives me an edge over most)

+.5 (still some points because it takes planning and preparation)

Proximity to Las Vegas

-1 (there is always a risk of a bad weekend)

Mojo

+1 (Moxie is a good trait)

Total

+2 (including a category I added just to make it look closer)

+4.5 (WINNER)

Well it turns out that I have some work to do.  In my own comparison poll I have lost.  That should not surprise me, but the good news is everyone can be a winner.  Financial independence and early retirement are something everyone can achieve given time.  Hopefully, those mainstream article reporting that $3 million is needed for a middle class retirement have not scared everyone into denial.

So after looking at all of this, do I have the capability to close the gap?  I think so, but I have to not lose focus.  I am on pace for a monster 2015 in terms of net worth growth and savings rate (I know its early, but my spreadsheet prediction must be right, right?).  My savings rate may not be as high as some, but my raw dollars getting put aside are helping to close the gap.  Catching up is a motivational thing for me, but it is obviously not necessary.

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Anyone else feel that they started too late?  What would you change about your financial past?

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12 Responses

  1. Hey Vawt,

    I am definitely with you on the frugal front. I try not to waste money, but I would also not consider myself a part of the frugal movement.

    There are some finer things in life that I enjoy and don’t spending money on. Since no one is guarenteed a tomorrow I think it is important to balance living in the present and planning for the future.

    Although I try to control my expenses, I would rather spend more time trying to increase my income than widdle away the pleasures of my everyday life. The key when using the income approach vs. the expense approach to finacial freedom is to make sure your lifestyle grows in proportion to your income and not at the same pace as your income growth itself.

    Cheers!

    • vawt says:

      I actually almost mentioned you in my post relating to something you wrote recently about your spending. I think I am closer to the middle of the pack on spending, but like seeing that you posted about not cutting every possible expense down to the bone.

      I agree that I would rather increase income than constantly whittling down expenses. Maybe I can call myself semi-frugal instead.

  2. Semi-Frugal…I like it!

  3. hahaha, awesome chart.
    I’ll support your moxie point!
    It’s all about trade offs and figuring out what works for you. A lot of bloggers have low incomes to work with (not all, but many), and low spending habits, so FIRE is a lot easier because it’s a lot sooner.
    Me? My spouse and I want $6M in assets to retire. (we have a rather long way to go, my friends.)
    Keep on trucking!

    • vawt says:

      Thanks Anne. That is a good point about lower income and spending to start with. I am a reformed spender, so even at a lower base spend I am only semi-frugal! $6m is a big number, good luck!

  4. Steve Adcock says:

    Here are my thoughts – Everybody has different goals. While it can be beneficial to use other bloggers out there as motivation to step up your game, I don’t think there is any reason to compare yourself to them. There are many out there who want to retire in 5 years (I’m one of them). But, maybe your goal is 10 years. Maybe 15. Nothing wrong with any of that. Different strokes for different folks.

    As for me, there is so much I would change about my financial past that it would literally extend past the reasonable length for a comment to your blog post. 🙂 I have written about this at some length over on my blog and I’ll leave it there for the sake of keeping your blog clean. Suffice it to say that I wish that I got started earlier, as I’d probably be retired now at the ripe old age of 33.

    But alas, I can’t lament the past. Instead, I am working to change my future and retire before I hit 40. Saving around 70% of my wife’s and my combined salaries is how we’re doing it – and we also have a move up to red rock country in northern Arizona to throw into the retirement mix as well.

    Cause, the heck with making this process easy. 🙂

    • vawt says:

      I hear you on the changes I wish I could make. I only hope I can prevent a few of them for my kids by being more open about money with them. Thanks for stopping by Steve!

  5. Jason says:

    I just found your blog and going through the posts i really relate to this one. I, like you, like cable TV, dinners out, golf, and vacations. I am probably pretty poor on the Mustachian scale. I also feel a touch of envy for those ahead of me, but I just have to learn to live in the moment, keep plugging away at my debt, and reach FI in my own time. Look forward to reading other posts.

  6. Confession, I joined the gang of PFbloggers the week I became debt free. Turns out websites only seem expensive when I was in debt.

    My favorite person from the blogger net worth figuers is Old School Coinage found at the bottom of the list, in debt. Old School Coinage counts the house as 100% liability. Even the equity has no value in the calculation of net work.

    I only bring that up because your score card could be discounting something that is in your advantage. For example, your income is your biggest wealth building tool.

    I wish you luck in finding the FI/RE that your seeking. When I become Financially Independent I am scared all I will seek out is bacon at that point. I kinda like the balance I have now of Money and Bacon.

  7. I just found your blog today and as I go through some of your posts I must say I can relate to this one. I think reading what others are doing and how far they have come with their own finances and wealth is a great way to stay motivated but you should never compare your situation. We are all different. Take me for example I began my own journey toward Financial independence late in life. Do I wish I had started earlier, sure but I too enjoy vacationing with my family, getting out with my friends and enjoying the simply pleasures that life has to offer. I may never hit the 1 million dollar mark but as long as I can enjoy the ride and maintain what I believe to be the perfect balance on this journey toward financial Independence I will be happy. We never know how long we have on this earth.

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