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Refresh Mint obsessively. Update Spreadsheet. Stalk Personal Capital.
Rinse and Repeat.
Are we there yet? Are we there yet?
If you are journeying towards financial independence and early retirement (FIRE), there is a good chance that you know what I’m talking about.
I discovered the twin concepts of financial independence and early retirement (FIRE) in 2016. I plan to retire in January 2021. That is a journey of over four years. It might be the longest that I have ever strived towards a single goal. I am not good at waiting patiently and these four years sometimes feel like an eternity. Yet, by the standards of FIRE, my journey is relatively short. Some people work towards this goal for over a decade, others closer to a score of years. To put it scientifically, that is a metric ass-tonne of time.
Once you have your spending under control, your savings rate is as good as it is likely to get, and you have your investment strategy down pat, all that is left is the waiting.
Now, one could be sensible. One could exercise some self-control and avoid Mint-enabled numeric onanism. One could leave the stock market to work its magic quietly over the years, while one pursues one’s hobbies or hones one’s skills. One could do all these things, but instead one spends an inordinate amount of time watching one’s balance inch towards that magic F-U money at a rate that makes a snail look like Usain Bolt.
The Journey Should Be Fun
If you’re determined to watch the numbers, you might as well have some fun.
You could do the boring thing and track various milestones – your first $10,000, your first quarter million, your entry into the Double Comma Club. Or, as I suggested a while ago, you could learn how to have fun with your FIRE numbers.
One of the methods I describe in that post is to pretend that your entire multi-year journey to FIRE is condensed into a single calendar year. At the start of your journey it is the 1st of January, and your investable assets are worth $0 (unless you have debt, in which case it is still the previous year). At the end of your journey it is the 31st of December, the skies are filled with fireworks, the air is heavy with the hope of a new year and you will have accumulated your F-U money. Along the way you can celebrate whatever dates strike your fancy. You can celebrate reaching federal holidays, like the 4th of July or festivals that are meaningful to you, like Diwali or Festivus. You could celebrate when you reach your birthday or anniversary.
I received some feedback that indicated that folks thought this might be a fun thing to do, and wished that such a calendar existed.
I spent a little while with Google Sheets, and ta-da, now it does.
Input to the Calendar
The calendar only needs two numbers from you:
- Your F-U number. This is the number at which you will flip off your boss and sail into the sunset. Or just politely resign.
- The current size of your Stash a.k.a your investments. This is the sum of your cash holdings, 401ks, IRAs and taxable brokerage accounts.
How do you know your current portfolio value? Personal Capital is the way to go, and if you haven’t yet, you should sign up now.
The Financial Independence Calendar
Based on your input the sheet will calculate which month of your FIRE year you are in and what day of that month you are at.
In this example, having accumulated $330,000 out of the required $1,000,000 puts you at April 29th.
The sheet makes some simplistic assumptions:
- A year has 365 days; the FIRE year isn’t a leap year.
- Every month is weighted equally in the journey to FIRE. This means that you will move slightly more slowly through February that only has 28 days when compared to March with 31 days.
When you have your F-U money, this is what you will see:
Rewards Along the Way
The sheet allows you to plan to reward yourself when you hit certain arbitrarily defined milestones. To set up your rewards you use the ‘Rewards’ sheet.
Pretty simple stuff – the month, the day of the month and a description of your hard earned reward. Currently the sheet allows for only a single reward per month.
When you enter a month that has a defined reward, it will show up in the calendar like this:
Get the Calendar
I briefly (to be honest, not quite so briefly) considered making this an exchange – your email address for the spreadsheet. My better self prevailed, so here it is:
Obviously, you won’t be able to edit my copy, so here is what you need to do to make your own:
Click on “File”, then “Make a Copy” to get a local copy of the spreadsheet in your own Google Drive. You will then be able to modify the sheet.
Note that you can easily use this as a debt countdown calendar too (where on the 1st of January you owe the size of your debt and on the 31st of December you are debt free). All you have to do is:
- Rename ‘FIRE target number’ to ‘Debt amount’ and
- Rename ‘Current portfolio value’ to ‘Debt paid off’
Lastly, where am I in my FIRE year? May 15th. How about you?