Damn, life is good. As you know from last year‘s life-changing reflection, I hate New Years resolutions. Instead, I reflect on the past year to figure out the things that I should keep doing and what mistakes that I need to avoid in the future. I love these posts.
And one thing is for sure: 2015 was a bad ass year, and it all starts with our retirement.
How our retirement changed in 2015
Just a couple months into the existence of this blog, I was not shy about our desire to retire in Sedona. We love it there. It’s a beautiful city with amazing landscape. Hiking trails are all over the place. It’s a vacation spot for many, and during 2015, my wife and I decided to keep it just a vacation spot for us as well.
Oh, and we also plan on putting that into action at the end of this year.
Originally, our planned retirement was somewhere in the neighborhood of 2020. Then, we moved it up to 2018 after we began to consider Sedona. After nixing those plans in favor of RV living, the end of 2016 will be our epic escape date.
All I can say to this is…holy shit.
In one year’s time, my wife and I changed up our retirement plans that originally had us continuing to work for another five years to a plan that now has us quitting in a year (plus two months for my wife’s social security). We moved our retirement date up five years!
To exactly one year from this date – December 31st, 2016.
When I write this reflections article at the end of this coming year, I hope to be in a very different position – unemployed.
What turned out right
First and foremost, both my wife and I are pretty damn happy. We are happy about the decisions that we made this year and are excited to experience what 2016 has to offer.
Our savings rate kicked a lot of ass throughout the year. We averaged around 70% total savings rate from both of our salaries – and it’s this level of saving that is enabling us to retire so quickly.
Both my wife and I still have well-paying jobs and we remain steadfastly focused on our goals of early retirement and world-wide travel. There is no question that dual incomes help us to achieve our new early retirement schedule.
We sold the Honda Ridgeline. I liked the truck, but it was completely unnecessary for us. Now my brother is driving it, reducing our insurance and gas bill every month in the process.
My wife and I travel-hacked our way to Glacier National Park for my birthday in July, and it was a truly amazing experience. We baked some cupcakes at home before we left and brought them with us in a ziplock bag. On the first day we snagged some frosting from a gas station and prepared delicious birthday cupcakes each night at the park. Cheap dessert, and good!
But oh man, the kids…
In 2014, my wife declared that 2015 will be the year of consistency, and it was. We started tracking our net worth on the blog and also began publishing our monthly budgets. We consistently saved around 70% of our salaries every month and refused to make any major exceptions.
What I could have done better
This is always a tough section for me to write because I tend to think positively and literally forget about my mistakes throughout the year. I’m a “glass half full” kind of guy. But, I’ll try anyway!
First, I never should have bought the Honda Ridgeline to begin with. Though I eventually sold the truck, I rationalized the purchase to myself and made an error in judgment when I bought it.
Also, we failed to hit our budget some of the months – especially in April. But we didn’t vastly over-spend, either, and we like to consider our budget to be a yearly goal divided up over 12 months. So if we are over on some months, it may not push us beyond our yearly spending target.
We also found a couple of retirement accounts that got lost as we were bringing all of our accounts together and viewable within Personal Capital. While we did eventually find this money (one in May and another just a couple weeks ago), it shows that we probably need to improve our organization. We now believe that we have everything tracked, though!
What made me truly happy
As I look back on 2015, there is one element that made me smile more than any other – travel. Our trip to Disney, Glacier National Park and also Key West, Florida over the holidays rocked my happiness level over the year.
Downsizing our home and living with less stuff was another element in my overall happiness over the course of the year. Imagine this – we actually finished the year with less stuff than when it started. And that is an amazing statement to be able to honestly make.
And truthfully, just thinking about our retirement after achieving financial independence makes me happier than ever. While I certainly don’t dwell on what “could be”, I definitely do keep our goals firmly at the forefront of my mind. There’s hardly a day that goes by that I don’t reflect on what Courtney and I are trying to make happen.
And lastly, blogging made me happy. Yeah, I think that I’m going to keep doing it. I have met some truly amazing people this year. In fact, it’s been downright fascinating becoming a part of the personal finance and early retirement community. It is incredibly accepting of people who are willing to give saving money a try, and motivational for those who stick to it.
Thanks for reading, and happy new year to everyone! Stay tuned for my wife’s reflections post tomorrow!
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.