7 min read
I recently received an email from a reader:
I’m an expat Scottish dude, turning 40 this year and married with two young kids about to enter the school system. As you can imagine, I have quite high outgoings! We have had a solid savings regime in place for a few years now, but I know we can do better.
We are planning on relocating from the Middle East to Australia within the next twelve months, and I intend to spend the ‘middle chapter’ of my adult life focused on F.I.R.R.E. (the 2nd R being Relatively…). Would be great to hear back from you and to get some help running some visuals.
Once done, I’m happy for you to share my details to help others in a similar position to mine to plan for a better way of life.
I thought it would be neat to do a case study using Jock’s financial numbers to help him (and others in a similar position) see where he’s at financially and where he and his family could potentially be 15 years from now when he turns 55.
Let’s jump in!
Jock is 40 years old, married, with two kids. He and his family are originally from Scotland, currently live in Qatar, and plan on moving to Australia within the coming year.
Jock’s salary is his family’s primary source of income. In addition, he also receives stock dividends, which he currently reinvests each month.
He owns a property back in Scotland, which he currently rents out. The rental income covers the mortgage and insurances. The interest rate is low enough that he doesn’t plan on paying off the remaining mortgage balance ($52,500) early.
At this rate, the mortgage should be paid off by 2030. He plans to keep the property until he retires at which point he’ll sell it and throw the proceeds into a mix of stocks and bonds.
He also has a UK pension sitting in a SIPP (self-investment pension plan), which he doesn’t plan on accessing until age 65.
Let’s take a look at Jock’s finances.
Currently Jock has $213,850 in assets spread across various accounts including his UK house. He has $55,800 in liabilities including the mortgage on the UK house, some minor credit card debt, and his remaining payments on his car.
Subtracting the liabilities from the assets, we see that Jock and his family have a net worth of $158,050.
While net worth is a great metric for measuring where Jock is at financially, to see where he and his family are headed financially, let’s check out their monthly cash flow.
Here’s a look at Jock’s monthly income and expenses:
Subtracting the expenses from the income, we see that Jock and his family currently save $4,029 per month, which is about a 25% monthly savings rate.
This means that over the course of an entire year, Jock and his family could save $48,348.
Visualizing the Future
Let’s assume Jock and his family save $48,348 every year for the next 12 years. At that point, once the mortgage on the UK house is paid off, they’ll be able to save an extra $6,300 per year that no longer goes towards mortgage payments. This means they could save $54,648 per year for the final 3 years.
Let’s check out what their net worth could become using a few different annual rates of return on their investments:
And visualizing these potential growths:
Keep in mind the market could potentially deliver returns outside of the 4 – 8 % annual range, but to run these visuals we have to make some assumptions.
Recall that Jock and his family currently spend $12,026 per month, which equates to $144,312 per year. Once the UK mortgage is paid off, their annual expenses will drop to $144,312 – $6,300 = $138,012 per year.
If they plan on spending $138,012 per year in retirement, they won’t quite have the traditional 25 times annual expenses saved up that they would need to be financially independent:
This means they have two options:
Option 1. Spend less in retirement
Option 2. Increase savings rate on the way to retirement
Using Option 1: Suppose at the end of the 15 years that Jock’s kids move out, his overall cost of living decreases, and that his annual expenses drop to $100,00 per year:
Or $80,000 per year:
Or perhaps $60,000 per year:
By dropping his annual expenses in retirement, Jock and his family could achieve the 25 times expenses mark without changing their current annual savings.
Using Option 2: The other obvious choice is to simply cut their spending on the way to retirement over the next 15 years.
Recall his family’s current monthly spending:
The obvious places to reduce spending would be on the rent, the groceries, the car rental, and the travel if possible (travel hacking with credit cards perhaps?).
Even shaving off a few hundred bucks in each of these categories could add up to an additional monthly savings of $1,000 – $2,000. Over the course of 15 years, this would have a massive impact.
Saving an Additional $1,000 per Month
Suppose Jock and his family save and invest an additional $1,000 per month, or $12,000 per year. This means that they could instead save $60,348 for the next 12 years and $66,648 in the final 3 years when the UK mortgage is paid off:
And visualizing these potential growths:
Saving an Additional $2,000 per Month
Or suppose Jock and his family save and invest an additional $2,000 per month, or $24,000 per year. This means that they could instead save $72,348 for the next 12 years and $78,648 in the final 3 years when the UK mortgage is paid off:
And visualizing these potential growths:
Let’s take a look at the ending net worth amounts based on these different savings levels:
Notice that by saving an additional $2,000 per month over the next 15 years, Jock and his family’s net worth could be over half a million dollars higher in any of the investment return scenarios.
Based on their current monthly savings, Jock and his family would need to spend significantly less in retirement than they currently do to hit the 25 times expenses net worth mark. This could certainly be possible if their cost of living turns out to be significantly lower in 15 years.
Another great idea would be to cut expenses by a few hundred (possibly thousand) dollars in some of the big spending categories like rent, transportation, travel, groceries, etc. and throw those extra savings into investment accounts each month.
In fact, if they were able to cut their spending by more than $2,000 per month I don’t see why they couldn’t achieve retirement in less than 15 years.
Jock and his family have two major variables working in their favor:
1. A high monthly income
2. A time horizon of more than one decade
Due to the high income, they have the potential to save a serious amount of money each month. They currently save 25% of their income, but with a few tweaks they could move this number up to 30 – 40% quite easily.
And thanks to the lengthy time horizon, they have plenty of time to increase their net worth while also experimenting with lower spending strategies.
Perhaps one month they could make it a goal to spend half of their usual amount on groceries. Or another month they could research travel hacking to eliminate their travel expenses. On another month they could research alternative choices to paying $1,000 nursery fees.
By looking for multiple areas to cut down on spending, Jock and his family can ensure that they accumulate 25 times their annual expenses or more by the end of this 15-year period.
Thanks again to Jock for reaching out to me about this idea and being willing to share his personal financial numbers. Hopefully this post is useful to him and his family as well as anyone else in a similar situation looking to reach retirement in 15 years or less 🙂
Zach is the author behind Four Pillar Freedom, a blog that teaches you how to build wealth and gain freedom in life.
Zach's favorite free financial tool he's been using since 2015 to manage his net worth is Personal Capital. Each month he uses their free Investment Checkup tool and Retirement Planner to track his investments and ensure that he's on the fast track to financial freedom.
Although the bulk of his net worth is invested in index funds, his favorite place to invest in individual stocks is M1 Finance, a site that allows you to build a custom portfolio of stocks for free.
His favorite way to save money each month on his recurring bills is by using Trim, a free financial app that negotiates lower cable, internet, and phone bills with any provider on your behalf.
His favorite micro-investing app is Acorns, a free financial app that takes just 5 minutes to set up and allows you to invest your spare change in a diversified portfolio.
His favorite place to find new personal finance articles to read is Collecting Wisdom, a site that collects the best personal finance articles floating around the web on a daily basis.
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