Minafi 2019 Q3 Fall Investment Report

For the last three months, my main focuses have been getting outside to enjoy Utah, running a half-marathon, taking a break from stress and finding ways to have fun being productive.
Adam

Written by Adam on October 21, 2019.
18 min read. Investing, Personal. 8 comments.

Minafi's finances are an open book. Find out how I make money.

At the end of every quarter, I share a snapshot of my current finances. This includes what I’m invested in, their values and the change over time. The goal of sharing this information is to show it’s possible to make money investing in super-simple ways without the need to watch the latest news.

If you want to look back at past investment reports, you can view them all in one handy place or check out these links to the past few:

Sundial Peak overlooking Lake Blanche
Sundial Peak overlooking Lake Blanche

In November I was finally able to access a bunch of company stock – which was a HUGE boost to my net worth. Soon after I left my job last December at age 36. The last year has been all about figuring out what to next.

If you’re new to Minafi, here’s the tl;dr about me: I’m 37 now, married with a dog, no kids. We live out in Salt Lake City in an apartment. My wife is currently still working.

One thing I write a bunch about is investing in a life you love. From setting and pursuing goals to organizing your finances, to being a mindful consumer. This post takes a look at how I’ve been approaching these topics over the last 3 months.

Here’s a rough look of what’s included in this post:

  1. What’s new with me?
  2. Goals and progress update
  3. Income and expenses
  4. Current investments
  5. What’s next?

1. What’s New With Me?

Summer in Utah is hot on a different level than I’ve ever experienced before. Back in Florida where I grew up, you couldn’t cross the street without soaking a shirt in sweat. In Utah, there’s little to no sweat, but the sun feels like it’s trying to burn your skin off.

This summer meant a lot of hiking, a bunch of running (before finally running the Pioneer Day Half Marathon), travel to Moab here in Utah for Mrs. Minafi’s birthday, and a trip to Washington, D.C for FinCon.

Looking at the highlight reel for the last three months, it looks like I spent every day outside. In reality, I spent 6 days relaxing in bed binge-watching shows on Netflix for every one that I spent out in the mountains.

  • Travel
    • August – Moab, Utah to go to Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Dead Horse State Park.
    • September – Washington, D.C for FinCon and exploring the city
  • Hiking
    • Lake Blanche Trail for backpacking (possibly my favorite trail in Utah).
    • Moab – We hiked all throughout the parks here. The Delicate Arch hike was my favorite.
    • Alta – Hiked up to Lake Catherine with some friends.
    • Bells Canyon to Lower Falls
    • Cataract Gorge Hike
  • Fun
    • Saw Pink Martini in concert
    • Hot Ones Challenge with friends
    • Saw Book Of Mormon from the front row! (thanks to a winning the ticket lottery)
    • Baseball game with friends

Again, this is a highlight reel. Most days when I went out hiking I had to force myself just to get out of the comfort of my own bed.

One of my favorite things to do is find a good audiobook, head to the mountains and go for a multi-hour hike alone (note: Recursion by Blake Crouch is my favorite book I’ve read so far this year). Hours pass by and my muscles don’t feel the pain I’m putting them through.

We had a few household goals for this year, with one being to spend more time exploring Utah – and hiking has been the absolute best (and cheapest) way to do it. We’re chipping away at the national parks closeby, with Zion still as my favorite so far.

I also spent quite a bit of time creating my presentation for FinCon during these 3 months. When I give a presentation I always try to put my best foot forward, and I was happy with how it came out. If you want to see my slides, they’re available on my FinCon post.

2. Goals and Progress Update

For Q2 I took a break from setting specific goals or even working hard on habits. Instead, I wanted to enjoy the summer and take a little break from the rigid structure I was imposing on myself. For the first half of the year I was trying to do way too much: read daily, stay off social media, practice Japanese every day, exercise, track calories, hit targets for time outside, for cooking – it was just way too much.

Part of this was trying to be the absolute “best version of myself” since leaving my job. Suddenly having an additional 10 hours, 5 days a week is a lot of time to fill after all.

On one hand, I’m glad I went too far to the point of getting stressed out. It’s hard for me to figure out where the line is until crossed. After that point, I can reel things back and make a new plan.

What I’ve realized is that I can’t do everything. Even when I’ve tried to build up more and more habits slowly over time I’ll eventually get to the point where I feel completely stressed out and the entire system fails. When that happens I stop everything, look at what’s working and what isn’t and come up with a new plan. If I’m not fun AND making progress then something is wrong!

What’s worked best for me so far is having a few projects going at once, but all with different focuses. If I’m trying to focus on 3 different creative projects or learn 5 different things, my time will be split in ways where I don’t make significant progress on anything. That’s the problem I ran into earlier this year where I was spending time learning Japanese, learning to cook, learning meditation (more of a daily reflection actually) and trying to read more. All of these goals were at odds with each other. If I did more of one did then the others lagged behind.

Instead, I’m aiming to have one creative project, 1 physical project and 1 educational project that I can shift focus between. Each “project” can multiple parts. For example, Minafi (creative) might include writing articles, programming new features, and working on a new course. “CrossFit” might include going to classes, focusing on nutrition and reading about ways to improve a certain movement (I’m currently trying to increase the weight of my snatch from 130 -> 150ish). Educational might include reading books and watching videos on how to better visualize data.

I document what I’m currently working on over on my Now Page. Here’s a look at where my focus has been over the last few months:

Even though these are split out by creative, physical and education projects, most can’t be confined to a single category. Learning to cook is creative and educational. Data visualization is educational and creative. One creative project on my list is coming up with a visualization that better tells that story.

My biggest accomplishment in the last few months was running my first Half Marathon in 2 hours 8 minutes! I woke up at 4 AM to run the Pioneer Day Race – a Salt Lake City Tradition. The route follows the path Joseph Smith and the Mormon settlers took when they made their way into town the first time. Even as an Athiest it was a fun experience to run this route (it also helps that it was all downhill).

Since creating this, I realized that I’m happiest when I have a variety of projects to work on. Spending all of my time on one thing burns out me out – as does spreading myself too thin. Finding the right balance is a struggle. Having something that gets my creative juices flowing, something that gets me sweating and something else where just learning excites me has been the right combination.

3. Income and Expenses

For the quarter our spending was around $7k each month. Compared to others in the FIRE/personal finance community, we’re outliers way on the high-spending side – but we’re OK with that. These are expenses for two people living in an apartment in a medium-expensive city.

(Note: our home expenses are low in September because our apartment complex messed up their online payment system. We paid Septembers rent & Octobers rent in early October).

July Aug Sep Yearly
Avg
Home $2,117 $1,955 $74 $1,888
Food & Dining $1,284 $1,370 $815 $1,050
Entertainment $661 $505 $923 $583
Travel $689 $1,284 $473 $1,064
Bills & Utilities $309 $298 $256 $318
Auto & Transport $320 $439 $137 $251
Shopping $446 $313 $1,841 $969
Pets $324 $421 $120 $250
Health & Fitness $28 $243 $173 $111
TOTALS $7,383 $7,658 $5,713 $7,255

Based on our averages so far this year, our yearly spending would likely be around $87k a year. Honestly, this does seem high. Our target spending is closer to $75,000, so we’re more than a little over. With our $2.1m in savings, if we spent $87k/yr that’d be a withdrawal rate of 4.1%. That’s not awful, but I’d still like to see that get down to closer to 3.5% through some combination of additional income or cutting expenses.

So how do two childfree people who aren’t traveling too much manage to spend this much money? Well, read on! (and feel free to ask if you’re still curious). These are organized by their total percentage of our expenses

#1 Home (27%): $2k/month, $24k/yr. For the most part, this is all just rent for our apartment. We’re paying ~$1,950 for an amazing apartment downtown. This place is close enough that Mrs. Minafi can walk to work, we can walk to anywhere downtown, there are 3 grocery stores within 3 blocks and tons of bars, restaurants and coffee shops. We’ve been here 1 year and 10 months so far and plan to renew and stay for at least 3 years total. After 11 years of living in a house with constant maintenance, we are LOVING living in an apartment. We’re not counting out the idea of someday buying a house, but if we do it’ll likely come after trying out a bunch more cities first. We’re in no rush to lower this now, but we would like our next place to be a comparable cost (or lower).

#2 Travel (15%): $1,064/month, $13k/yr. We’ve traveled quite a bit this year. We spent a long weekend in Las Vegas seeing shows and eating everything ($3k), New York to stay with family and see a few more shows ($2k), a birthday hiking in Moab, Arches and Canyonlands ($1.5k), my birthday in Yellowstone within a stones throw from Old Faithful ($2k), Washington, D.C for a week at FinCon and touring the sites ($600) and roving around Utah on various backpacking trips with friends ($1.8k – including all camping/backpacking gear). These expenses also include some one-time purchases for camping gear that we’ll be able to reuse going forward. The “Travel” category for us includes everything we spent – from a sandwich at an airport to a Lyft, to a pack of gum. On the bright side, we haven’t paid for a single flight this year due to credit card rewards. Of the total travel expenses, 32% of them went to hotels, 31% went towards meals, 13% went to alcohol, 13% went to experiences (shows, tours, tickets to anything) and the last 11% for transit during/to/from our trips.

#3 Food & Dining (15%): $1,050/month, $13k/year. This is entirely food that we eat while not traveling. We love trying out new restaurants, but this year I’ve tried to focus just as much on recreating dishes we love at home. This has meant more money towards groceries and fewer expensive dinners out. Groceries make up 53% of this, restaurants another 43%, with 4% for coffee, snacks, and desserts. Of the 43% spent on restaurants, about only about 1/10 of it goes to lunches – which isn’t too much.

#4 Shopping (14%): $969/month, $12k/year. So how do two people spend $1,000 a month shopping? Well, most months we didn’t. Some months we spent $300, others $2,000. I split these out by Adam vs Mrs. Minafi spending in our detailed spending analysis to better understand this one. We spend money on very different things, but our spending isn’t too far off (she’ll spend about $3 for ever $2 I spend). This year we picked up some big-ticket items too: a new projector, a Mac Mini (which is a media center & backup system), a backpack and sleeping bags for camping and a bunch more. For this quarter, electronics made up 58%, clothing made up 26%, various luxuries 9% with the rest going towards some seasonal or sporting goods purchases.

#5 Entertainment (8%): $700/month, $8,400/year. $700 on entertainment a month sounds insane to me. How? Well, the main reason is that I put all alcohol in this category, whether it’s for home use or a beer with dinner out. 47% of our entertainment expenses go straight to alcohol. As part of a healthier diet, we’ve decided to drink less lately. I’m curious to see how this number changes over the next few months. In the last few months, we also went to a BUNCH of live events (21% of entertainment spending) – seeing Babymetal in concert, TedX Salt Lake City, FanX, The Bee (kind of like The Moth) and a Baseball game. All those live events meant more money on food and alcohol during them as well. Another 20% went towards movies and TV, including subscriptions and movies out. Our internet/TV is an inflexible $130, but I categorize that in our Bills and Utility section.

These 5 categories make up 77% of our spending. Personal care, auto, pets, and utilities all take up about another 4% each. The last 10% includes a combination of gifts, charity, and some business expenses.

It’s been a big change starting to eat into our savings slightly since I stopped working. So far our withdrawal rate has been below 2.5% for each month this year. The main reason our withdrawal rate is this low is that Mrs. Minafi is currently still working and we get health insurance through her job. If she wasn’t then our withdrawal rate would have been in the 2.5% – 4.7% range.

Savings Rate turning into withdrawal rate

Currently, we’re not too concerned about our spending since our WR is well within the safe zone. If/when my wife stops working then we’d probably want to reevaluate this and make sure we’re still sub-3.5%.

4. Current Investments

We made absolutely no changes to our investments in Q3. They just continued humming along while we mostly forgot about them. It looks like the market dropped a little right at the end of July too. Things are still up from their lows last year at least, which is a relief after a somewhat scary December. You never want to leave your job AND see a market crash in the same month.

Portfolio balance over the last year

Some of those jumps and declines were moving money around while I was selling company stock at the beginning of this year. Since then we haven’t done much in the way of stock transactions other than maxing out my wife’s 401k and my Roth IRA.

From a performance standpoint, our portfolio leans conservative right now, with about 30% of it in bonds and cash. That’s the big reason why this has been so consistent over the last quarter compared to the major indexes.

Returns vs Indexes
My returns vs the major Indexes

Note: These are screenshots from Personal Capital – a free tool for evaluating your investments that I use to track my own investments over time.

Considering the major drop at the end of July, I’m glad to be in the black for the quarter – even if only slightly.

Aside from the 5% in speculative stocks, all of these are in low-fee, diversified index funds.

Percentage Target
US Stocks ($VTSAX) 50% 45%
Intl Stocks ($VTIAX) 13% 15%
REITs ($VGSLX) 4% 5%
Speculative Stocks ($PS now) 4% 5%
Bonds ($VBTLX) 20% 20%
Cash 9% 10%

We are in a few other funds beyond these too. That includes some Small Cap Index I bought a decade ago and would need to pay taxes on to switch out of, an S&P 500 index fund and a Fidelity Bond fund in 401(k) accounts and an intermediate-term bond fund in a taxable account.

We’re leaning more conservative right now since we just started drawing down funds. I have a feeling we’ll get more conservative over the next year or two, or if my wife stops working. At about 5 years after we start taking withdrawals, we’d want to start going more aggressive, getting back to about a 20% bond stake for the long-run.

5. What’s Next?

For the last few months of the year, we don’t have much planned! I’m actually excited to stay in town this year.

Creative project-wise, I’m working on a few things. You may have noticed recent changes to the navigation here on Minafi and the revised Minimal Investor Course. I’m working on something new here on Minafi that I’m hoping to release before the end of the year (and I’m having a lot of fun working on it!). I’m loosely calling it the Minafi Investor Bootcamp – 3-months of content and support that gives you everything you need to successfully and confidently invest on your own. There’s still a lot of work to go on it, but it’s taking shape.

Physical project-wise, I’m continuing to go to CrossFit 3x a week, go running once a week and try to go for a hike at least once. After skiing a lot last season, I’m not planning to get a pass this year. I do want to pick up some snowshoes and enjoy some time out in the mountains in the snow.

This year also includes a few health-related procedures that I’ve been planning for a while. Winter is a good time for these since I can recover inside away from the snow. The big ones here are: getting a tooth implant for a baby tooth that I recently needed removing and getting a vasectomy (!). I’m much more nervous about the later. As I write this I’m all beaten up from falls hiking, flu shots, and CrossFit injuries already, so I plan to spend some of this quarter just recovering.

What do you plan to do this winter? Any goals you’re working to before the end of the year? How do you stop from spreading yourself too thin while still feeling like you’re making progress where you want? Let me know in the comments.

Adam

About Adam

Hi, I'm Adam! I help millennials invest to reach financial independence sooner than they ever thought possible. Want to see what you could do to reach FI sooner? You're in the right place!

8 Comments

Why not add to the conversation below? Your voice is welcome!

Wow! I read this to see how you’ve been doing since FinCon, and you’ve convinced me to put Utah on our 2020 summer travel list.

My favorite part of the Book of Mormon was all the Orlando love, since we saw it while we lived there 🙂

There’s so much to see in Utah for sure! I feel like we’re just scratching the surface too. Eventually, we want to make our way down to the Grand Canyon while we’re so close.

We saw it for the first time when we lived in Orlando too! The crowds for those scenes were so loud. Who knows – maybe we were at the same show.

Now I have “Orlando, Orlando, I love you, Orlando” stuck in my head!

I appreciate the details in the update, we are also spending more than we expected but see more cash flow coming in than expected as well.

Life goes on…and early retirement is pretty sweet

Haha, that’s such a catchy song. Now it’s stuck in my head too. 🤦

I’m still guessing that some of the added spending is a result of the change and that’ll that will likely go down in time as things settle in. Time will tell if that’s true!

Do you include income taxes in your spend analysis? I’ve been having a hard time modeling taxes as its a circular reference. The more money I need, the more money I need to pull from somewhere that will get taxed. I’ve contemplated adding in taxes as an overhead to each spend item, but it still perplexes me.

Hmm, that’s a good question Brian. For 2019, we’re in a weird flux state where my wife is still working, and our investment sales are solely to diversify rather than for income. In other words, we’re not living off that income very much, so we’re mostly able to sink almost all of it back into the market (after paying quarterly taxes for it). Our taxes for 2019 are going to top $100k which is awesome. 😅

For 2020 I think we’ll run into the issue you’re mentioning though – where we might want our “taxable income” to be $60k, but might actually spend $80k. Modeling that out with dividends, rebalancing, robo advisors and the need for some cash on hand is a lot to juggle. I’m not there yet though. Do you have any advice on that side?

Hey Adam,

Do you think you’ll do cross-country skiing or just snow-shoeing? After getting 8-10 inches this past weekend in Boulder, I’m wondering if I need to embrace the snow or continue hibernating and wonder why I left California until next May.

Re: spreading too thin. I’m down to 3-days a week at my “day job” so that’s how I’m doing it. I already feel less stressed out 😀

Good luck on the vasectomy! Wishing you a fast recovery.

Anna

Do you think you’ll do cross-country skiing or just snow-shoeing?

Right now I’m thinking I’ll just start snow-shoeing. I’ve really enjoyed hiking this past year, and that’ll be a good extension of that. It also helps that it’s a lot cheaper! I can rent snow-shoes for the day for $8 from REI, vs skiing (even cross-country) is going to be a big cost. I like the idea of doing something to get out of the house during the winter though. I don’t want to be cooped up until May next year!

Re: spreading too thin. I’m down to 3-days a week at my “day job” so that’s how I’m doing it. I already feel less stressed out

Ohh, nice! 3 days a week feels like a nice change. My dad went down to 3 days too before retiring and said it felt amazing. Hoping the recovery goes well too! They say I can be back in the gym within a week, but I’d be happy to be back within a month.