April Update// Three Pictures Are Worth…

It was a crazy busy month in the Elephant Eater household, which meant little time for writing. However, I do want to share three images in this monthly update. If a picture is worth a thousand words, that means this short post is packing 3,000+ words of knowledge. BAM!

Picture 1


The upward march toward our financial goal continues as our assets as a multiple of our annual spending reached another all time high at 19.4X, increased from 18.7X last month. That leads to the first picture, which is looking pretty good.

Assets were up by 1.7% due to continued monthly contributions and strong market performance. As anticipated, expenses again dropped substantially, decreasing our average monthly spending by $100.

This decreased spending was despite the last week of the month being split between four days on a Disney Cruise, courtesy of a very generous Christmas present from my parents (thanks mom and dad!). We also spent 2 days and three nights at Cocoa Beach Florida and all 5 of us flew for free courtesy of travel hacking (thanks AGAIN Travel Miles 101!) This extreme frugality stuff really ain’t so bad.

Picture 2

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 1.57.22 PM

The second picture comes from outdoor writer Brendan Leonard’s blog Semi-Rad.com. I decided to start this blog to give a different perspective of an “average couple” working towards FIRE to contrast the seemingly perfect path of the “gurus”. Similarly, Brendan writes from the perspective of the every man doing stuff in the outdoors that is not quite rad, just “semi-rad”. I admire the fact that he made a name for himself writing for magazines including Climbing and Outside, being a regular content contributor to the REI blog, and my favorite podcast, The Dirtbag Diaries.

His post featuring the above diagram hit home for me because it is a sentiment I come across frequently as I explain our path to FIRE. People I talk to frequently say they would love to do the same thing, or something similar to what we are. Despite knowing our humble beginnings, normal jobs, and rough road with many mistakes that we openly share, they see we can do it. But they can’t.

They don’t make enough money. They could never figure out how to invest. They are starting with debt. They are too old to start. They have more kids than we do. ________________. (Fill in your own excuse)

The bottom line is that we all have weaknesses and liabilities that could easily become excuses. At the end of the day, people that are doing something to change their lives aren’t generally any smarter, braver, younger, older/wiser, stronger, more beautiful, more talented, etc than those that aren’t.

We have simply made the conscious decision to start “doing shit”. That is almost always better than sitting around thinking and talking about some shit you want to do, or are going to do, some day.

Picture 3

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 5.47.13 PM

Well, doing shit is almost always better than thinking and talking about doing shit. However, as the third picture shows, investing may be the exception to this rule.

JL Collins, in his most recent post, mentioned that a retrospective Fidelity study showed that the group of investors whose portfolios performed best were… dead. They were followed closely by those that had forgotten they had accounts. Even with someone I trust as much as Mr. Collins, I always like to verify things that I read. So I did a quick Google search to read the study for myself.

It turns out that Fidelity did not publish the results of this study anywhere. (Apparently it is not the type of thing those selling investment advisory services feel compelled to publicize). However, the study has been leaked and widely reported on, including a Business Insider article which included the above graphic taken from the work of William Bernstein. It was modified to add the words YOU SUCK! for emphasis as a message for “average investors” who are still living and remember they have accounts that they manage to muck up.

It made me laugh out loud a little, gain some respect for a major online outlet to print it, and feel the need to share.

Well that’s it folks. Almost 4,000 words of wisdom dropped in one short post! Cheers!

I hope you all had as good a month as we did. Chime in below to share your thoughts about the “shit” you are doing and learning on your journey, or hopefully not doing with your investments. We look forward to hearing from you.

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8 comments on April Update// Three Pictures Are Worth…

  1. The shit I got done: selling 25pct of my mutual funds to invest in ETFS according to a value based system… Proud and scared at the same time!
    And today we took the kids for a first time on a longer hike (3km) and the 2 days before on a 12km biking tour. kinda proud of that as well.

    1. I feel you on the fear when switching up investments. I had the same when we sold off our old investments and became passive indexers over the past few years. I think seeing that third picture means that doing anything should give you a bit of fear. However, as long as you are following a mechanical plan that makes sense, you should be more proud b/c you are setting up yourself and your family for future success. Good for you all, and good for you all for getting outside and getting after it.

    1. Keep “doing shit” to lead the charge my friend. Others will continue to follow.

  2. What I like to do is break down larger or more difficult tasks into smaller pieces and do a little each day, week, month etc. Once you get started and make progress momentum can really accellerate. Its unfortunate, but sometimes you gotta trick yourself into it 🙂 I tend to think its true about doing less with your investments. More times than not, any moves I made ended up being less beneficial than just leaving it alone.

    1. Agree on both counts Arrgo.

      I generally try to stay positive in my writing, but recently I’ve come across several people in my work and social life that I have gotten tired of hearing talking about all of the things that they want to do, while never actually doing anything differently. Just do something, even if it seems tiny, and momentum can really start to pick up fast.

      All that said, investing seems to be the exception. Develop a good initial plan. Add as much and as often as able. Then get out of the way!

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