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ben
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2005 5:18 am    Post subject: Hocus your FIRE status? Reply with quote

Hi Hocus Very Happy ,
Now that you have reached ultimate fame with your own Hoco-mania board and everything, I am sure that there are may interested in your FIRE status based on your current plan. One big confusion point I believe is how you manage on an income from $400k only (family of 4 - maybe one more).

If I remember correctly you FIREd about 4-5 years ago with $300k paid house and $400k in mostly TIPs and CDs - most with higher rates/interest than avaliable today. Total NW then $700k.

You also calculated on earning about $10k/year (minimum) on your writings as part of base costs?

Anything above the $10k would be considered gravy/fun money?

Since you have had 4-5 years of no writing earnings does that mean that you are now closer to a NW of $650k? (todays $).

Also: what w/r have you used sofar from the $400k and what is your future plan considering lower new CD rates and TIPs rates?

Do you have a head line budget of how you manage costs for a family of 4-5 based on living of the original $400k?

I think answering the above questions in this thread would stop people from their mental block of a family not being able to live of $400k plus paid house.

Cheers, Ben



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hocus2004
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2005 5:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think answering the above questions in this thread would stop people from their mental block of a family not being able to live of $400k plus paid house.

You're onto something with that comment, Ben. Most community members don't read every post. They don't have time to work through all of the history. They see some reference to $400,000 being used to support a family of four in retirement and they are shocked and they conclude "this guy is off his rocker" and then their take on the SWR stuff is influenced by that.

My "retirement" is not a conventional retirement. I have never tried to mislead anyone on this. From the first day I have always told it the way it is. I think it is fair to refer to it as a "retirement" (but with a caveat that it is not a complete retirement from the world of work, only from the need to rely on corporate work to pay the bills). But I certainly acknowledge that it is an unconventional one.

I don't think it is a crime that my plan is unconventional. I think it is a cool unconventional plan But it is indeed something other than the norm. That is why it is so harmful when people post deliberate deceptions as to what the plan entails. If people are to come to understand how the plan works, they need to at least know the facts about it. The DCMs have made a practice of posting deceptions about the facts of my plan, and that has generated a great deal of unnecessary and counter-productive confusion.

So I appreciate where you are coming from with your questions. I do ask, though, that when you see deceptions posted about the facts of the plan at other boards at which you participate, that you correct the record. That would help a lot.

I hope that we can agree that that is the fair way to proceed. You should feel free to ask any questions on matters on which you are unclear. But you should then feel some obligation, knowing the facts yourself, to correct those community members who are deliberately misleading other community members as a means of pursuing their own personal objectives of shutting down important debates.


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hocus2004
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2005 5:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Before I proceed to your specific questions, I am going to put forward a general observation that in a sense is responsive to all of them.

There are some people who become freelance writers without saving anything in advance. There are people in the world who do this who are not in mental institutions. So I do not belong in a mental institution for doing it after putting aside $700,000 in financing to ease the transition. I did something that a lot of otther perfectly reasonable people do in a less financially risky way that they do it. That's the bottom line on all this.

Those who do it without any financial backing are not "retired" in any sense of the word. They are "wage slaves," in the terminology that I sometimes use. They may be happy and well-treated wage slaves, but they are wage slaves of a sort all the same. That's just the way it is.

I am not. My $700,000 of financial backing means that I am "retired" from certain aspects of the wage slavery phenomenon. My family is never going to go without food even if I fail to sell one tiny little article for 30 years. My family is never going to go without heat. My family is never going to go without clothing or transportation. Those things are covered. For life. So we don't need to worry about any of that.

That is "retirement," in my use of the word. It is not retirement like the retirement you get when they hand you a gold watch and you go sit on a rocker and wait to die. It's not like that. I think it is about 100 times better!

It is a "retirement" only from the aspects of the work experience that I don't like. It is a "retirement" only from having people boss me around and send me off to silly press conferences and all the nonsense I had to endure in the years before I won the measure of financial freedom that I now possess.

I am "retired" from corporate work. That is all that I wanted to be "retired" from, so that is all that I sought to be "retired" from. If they pass a law that all retirees must refrain from all forms of income-producing work for the remainder of their days on this planet, I am going to give the money to charity and figure out some way to make do without all of this financial freedom junk. If intercst becomes the Lord of All Retirement Discussions, I want no part of it because his vision of "retirement" is my vision of hell. You ain't never going to see this boy agreeing to sit in front of a television screen for the next 30 years of his life. You can forget about it.

We do not own a television set. I have a little thing that we watch videos on that I believe could permit us to watch television programs if we got cable, but the way things are set up today I have to ask friends to let me come over their house if I want to watch the Super Bowl. There is no possibility of the Bennett family ever meeting the intercst definition of what it takes to be truly "retired." That is just not in the cards.

That's the prelim. I believe that I am truly "retired" from something, all of the things that I wanted to be retired from. I am of course not retired from the things that I do not want to be retired from and I hope to keep it that way. I gained this position of "retirement" by saving the $700,000. Owning that $700,.000 gives me an edge over all of the many people who become freelance writers without first accumulating $700,000 in savings.

I gave serious consideration to doing it the other way. I wanted to become a freelance writer without the $700,000 in the bank. Perhaps that would have been better. An argument can be made. I thought it would work better this way, and I still think that. But there are reasonable arguments both ways.

In any event, that was the driving idea behind my plan--to be able to retire from all of the aspects of the work experience that I hated and to hold onto all of the aspects of the work experience that I loved. It required $700,000 in savings to pull that off. So that was the amount I saved. I think it made sense to save the amount needed to achieve the dream that I was seeking to achieve when I started the saving effort. In my mind, it all hangs together just fine.


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hocus2004
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2005 6:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

family of 4 - maybe one more).

Please say a little prayer for me on the "one more" aspect of all this, Ben.

I get lots of complaints that I have too many children and not enough dollars bills, and I see it exactly the other way. The odds are very much stacked against us on the "one more" thing. If I could trade in a good number of those dollar bills for better odds on the "one more" part of this business (actually, I have already done a bit of that until it reached a point where it did not make practical sense to continue), I would gladly do it.

You all are ever so alarmed about my financial future, and the number one item on my prayer list is the "one more" that you are so worried is going to be the ruin of my plan. I know how to generate dollar bills, Ben. I have lots of experience at it. The prospect of generating more of the green demons fazes me not so much. I don't have what it takes to generate more of those guys who wake me up in the middle of the night to tell me that their stuffed bear fell between the beds and could I help them retrieve it. If you all are going to spend so much of your life energies worrying about something anyway, I wish that I could convince you to worry about something that I think is worthy of your concern.

Pray for Mr. and Mrs. hocus to have another bundle of sorrow/bundle of joy. Pray that we lose all the green pieces of paper and that we get our hands on one of those little troublemakers. That would be useful. That would be reasonable.

Worrying about the money angle is big waste of human energy. For two reasons. For one, it's not a problem for us. For two, even if it were, it would not be a bone-crushing one.

How many people have $700,000 put away by the time they reach their early 40s? Not too many. So the thought that anyone is worrying about my financial circumstances strikes me as exceedingly odd. Find something else to worry about.

We are doing just fine. Let's leave it at that. I will answer the specific questions, but I am talking general principles here. Anyone worrying about my finances has too much time on his or her hands. There are a million sad stories taking place right now out in the Naked City and hocus' financial situation is not one of them. Please try to let that one go.

I appreciate all of the concern. But it's just too much, you know. Worry about someone else. There must be someone else far more worthy of your never-ending concern than me. That's my take, anyway.

On to specifics!


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hocus2004
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2005 6:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If I remember correctly you FIREd about 4-5 years ago with $300k paid house and $400k in mostly TIPs and CDs - most with higher rates/interest than avaliable today. Total NW then $700k.

That's close.

My "retirement" began August 1, 2000.

My house was worth a lot less then.

There were also ibonds in the investment mix. The TIPS and ibonds pay about 3.5 percent real. Some of the CDs were paying 7 percent for five years when they were purchased. You cannot buy either the CDs or the TIPs/ibonds at those rates today.


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hocus2004
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2005 6:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Anything above the $10k would be considered gravy/fun money?

Some of it will go to fun stuff like more expensive vacations.

Some will go to charity. I want that number higher in years when we are able to afford to make it higher.

Some will go to savings so that over time I will no longer be counting on income from my writing work to cover my expenses.


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hocus2004
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2005 6:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Since you have had 4-5 years of no writing earnings does that mean that you are now closer to a NW of $650k? (todays $).

No. The $700,000 number is a roughly right number for today.

I have taken money out to cover living expenses. But I have had greater increases in net worth from increases in the value of my house than I have had diminishments from money taken out (there was also $15,000 that came in from sales of my "Secrets of Retiring Early" report).

My inflation-adjusted level of financial freedom is roughly the same today as it was when I left my corporate job on August 1, 2000. If you count the book that I will be self-publishing in a few months as an asset (I do), then I am a little up.


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hocus2004
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2005 6:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Also: what w/r have you used sofar from the $400k

I rewrite my budget every year. My goal is to always have my level of financial freedom either stay the same or increase.


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hocus2004
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2005 6:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

what is your future plan considering lower new CD rates and TIPs rates?

I don't plan to buy more TIPS. I already have lots of money in TIPS.

If the real rate of return were to go back to 4 percent, I would be tempted to buy more. I don't expect to see that happen anytime soon.

I am not too thrilled with long-term CDs at today's prices either. I have some money in short-term CDs which is just being held there until I can find some time to do the research I need to do before I move it into high-dividend stocks.

When stock prices return to more moderate levels, I will be moving ALL of the CD money into stocks. If stock prices get low enough, I might move some of the ibond money to stocks too. We will have to wait and see what happens and when it happens.

My hope is that by the time stock prices fall, I will have more than $10,000 coming in from the writing business. Then I could buy lots of stock shares at low prices. That would make me happy.


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hocus2004
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2005 6:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Do you have a head line budget of how you manage costs

I am not sure what is meant by the term "head line budget." I have a budget. I am publishing the one for the year just ended in my book.

That budget calls for $38,000 of spending. That's a big difference from the one we had before we had kids. I think the pre-kids one was $24,000 (I would have to check to know for sure). There was a year or two when Boo and I had our spending below $20,000 when we both were still employed and did not have kids. The increase to $24,000 was probably because of the health insurance change, but I am doing this from my head, so I cannot swear to that.

One of the things that I had hoped to do in the book was to have an entire chapter going through the changes in my budget numbers over the years in detail and in depth. I think that is a good exericise.

The problem is that it must be done in great detail or people get all sorts of mixed-up ideas in their heads. People have all sorts of preconceptions and they jump to conclusions on the basis of those. Just a tiny illustration. You say "I spend x on books" and they don't know whether that includes magazones or not, or whether it includes CDs or not. Some people break things down to more levels, some don't. So you get people saying "that sounds too high" or "that sounds too low" or whatever, and it is not necessarily so.

I have experieced this every single time I have put forward any details of my plan. There just seems to be some gene that people have that says "Is it possible to jump to some sort of conclusion here, is there any way to get mixed up about this?" and then they figure one out and they do it. I don't say this is intentional. But I have seen it happen so many times that I have become wary of it.

The way to do this so that it is productive is to tell the entire story in one place so that every possible question is addressed and you eliminate the possibility of confusion. I have on the drawing board a plan to publish a Research Report that will go through all of my budgets back to the pre-saving days and report on the reasons for the various changes and how they fit into an integrated plan and so on. I think that will be helpful. I think that you can only make complete sense of someone's plan when you know how all of the various pieces fit together.

The spending level in the budget set forth in my book is $38,000. Take out the $10,000 minimum assumption of writing income, and you have $28,000 to be generated from savings. In the book, I don't explain in any detail how this works in my case. I just use a 4 percent real return assumption and the $700,000 total net worth figure to get the $28,000 number.

I do not expect the money in the house to generate a 4 percent real return. I note that in the book. But I expect other portions of my capital to do better than that. The average long-term return for stocks is about 7 percent real. If you invest in a valuation-informed way, the historical data shows that you can expect to do better than that. So I assume a real return from the portion of my portfolio that will be invested in stocks of greater than 4 percent real.

That 4 percent number is not a SWR number. It is a real return number.


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hocus2004
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2005 6:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As John Lennon said on the "Let It Be' album, "I hope we passed the audition."


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ben
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2005 8:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the input. Good comments (and fairly few intercst rants! I am impressed Wink ).

Wish you all the best with getting to the "plus one" status. Very Happy

I think a budget of 38k/year for a resonably frugal family seems quite resonable - certainly not extravagant but with space enough for what is needed/important. Also to your general comment: I do not worry that you will not manage financially, you are clever enough to adjust budgets, w/r, income Etc. depending on circumstances.

$10k from writing. $28k from your investments. But investments are only $400k so in reality you are looking at a 7% w/r? With some inflation thrown in you will need 10% stable returns?

You mention you add the house in the w/r calculation - but if sold it you would need to buy another house (tying up at least some of the freed capital) or rent (increasing your budget from $38k to ?). I guess one could make mortgages or loans against the house for a resonable increase/amount.

Again; I believe that you are better of than most on the planet - and even if you just dumped the $400k in TIPS and used $28k from that yearly you would last 15-20 years(no calculator used!) before having to sell the house or similar extreme action.

Cheers, Ben



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hocus2004
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2005 8:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

fairly few intercst rants! I am impressed

Yes, well, if some others could find their way to putting forward MORE intercst rants perhaps I could begin to feel comfortable putting forward FEWER of them. It's something to cogitate on, Mr. 007.

Quote:
$10k from writing. $28k from your investments. But investments are only $400k so in reality you are looking at a 7% w/r? With some inflation thrown in you will need 10% stable returns?


I don't look at it in quite the way you look at it, Ben.

I see it as an income-stream game. I need a number of income streams that have a combined effect strong enough to ensure that my level of financial freedom over time gradually increases. I think I have that.

The writing business is one of the income streams. I very much expect the number from the writing business to be more than $10,000. If I don't get $10,000 from it, I need to make a change. That is required. But the expectation is that it will be more than that, and those extra dollars can go straight into the financial freedom pool.

You have a reference at the end of your comment quoted above to "10 percent STABLE returns" (counting inflation). My returns from stocks DO NOT need to be stable. That's important. I need to get returns of more than 4 percent real from stocks on average, but I do not need to have returns of that size on a stable basis. The other income streams cover me for any years in which stocks don't do well.

The plan was put together so that it works on an integrated basis. I think it can be compared to your own plan re this aspect. There are people who would find fault with your Extreme Diversification approach on grounds that there are years when you will see smaller returns that others who are less diversified. That's so. But the benefit of Extreme Diversification is that, when one element of your plan is doing poorly, another element is doing well. So the plan hangs together as a whole.

That's my goal with my plan, for it to hang together as a whole. I don't say I have it all worked out. I come to the boards to learn new stuff and to make the plan better. But I think I put together a reasonable approach for achieving my particular goals. I'm reasonably happy with how it has worked out thus far, but always interested in hearing about potential enhancements.


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ben
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2005 8:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Hocus Very Happy ,

"cogitate" - now where is my dictionary when I need it!? Guessing it is when 2 farm animals create new life? Laughing

I agree that your plan has the flexibility needed to do you just fine. Also; you are open to jump into stocks which many community members keep misunderstanding. The difference between you and me there is that I am not gutsy or smart enough to follow a set P/E rule for that - but I certainly do consider valuations in my approach as to how much I dare to w/r.

Cheers, Ben



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hocus2004
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2005 11:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Guessing it is when 2 farm animals create new life?

Yes, that sounds close. I think of "to cogitate" as "to use your energies to bring something new and exciting into existence."

I went with a somewhat classier word that time than is my usual practice because Mr. Bond was in the room. Elegant dress calls for elegant conversation, does it not?

Quote:
The difference between you and me there is that I am not gutsy or smart enough to follow a set P/E rule for that


I'm not so sure about that. If I had more in the way of assets, I might have gone with something along the lines of what you are going with. We all need to figure out how best to play the cards we have been dealt.


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beachbumz
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2005 12:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello! I'm new to this board (have been over at Dory36's board for a while). Ben, I was wondering if you would be willing to answer the same question(s) you posed to Hocus? I enjoyed reading his response as I had never seen that before. He mentioned your "extreme diversification" and I'm curious about that. Also, if you don't mind, where in the Caribbean are you, we love the Caribbean, especially St. Maarten.

The Beachbumz



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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2005 12:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Might have to change that avatar into some fat slob so I can actually understand the postings! Cool

And yes plan to deal some cards at the casino tonight. Sofar up $570 against the casino here (yes, I keep a spreadsheet for that too) - will see whether my Bond luck will last.

My last posting in Asia had me up $7800 in total for the 4 years there.

BlackJack almost all of it - baccaret very little bit.

Fully agree that we have to play the cards we have been dealt.

Cheers, Ben



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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2005 12:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hello! I'm new to this board (have been over at Dory36's board for a while)

A warm welcome to the community to you, Beachbumz.

Quote:
He mentioned your "extreme diversification" and I'm curious about that.


I hope that Ben will stop by when he has a chance and supply some more detail re his approach. I think it is one worth examining. The thread below from the FIRE board gives some of the basics of what is meant by "Extreme Diversification."

http://www.nofeeboards.com/boards/viewtopic.php?t=3323


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JWR1945
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2005 12:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Beachbumz, welcome to these boards!

beachbumz wrote:
Hello! I'm new to this board (have been over at Dory36's board for a while). Ben, I was wondering if you would be willing to answer the same question(s) you posed to Hocus? I enjoyed reading his response as I had never seen that before. He mentioned your "extreme diversification" and I'm curious about that. Also, if you don't mind, where in the Caribbean are you, we love the Caribbean, especially St. Maarten.

The Beachbumz

I think that this is what you are after. Ben started this thread on the FIRE board:

The value of EXTREME diversification dated Fri Jan 28, 2005.
http://www.nofeeboards.com/boards/viewtopic.php?t=3323

Have fun.

John R.


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ben
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 08, 2005 2:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Most already covered by JWR and Hocus (thanks!). If you do a search on posts by me you will find quite a few from me babbling about not knowing what will go up next and therefore I buy the lot.

Current holdings: vti+ijj/brsix/efa+vtrix/eem/vnq+pcl/pcrix/vgpmx/tip/pfuix/pebix
10% in each (where "+" 5% in each)

I am not yet fired but am FI so most of the questions for hocus does not apply yet. I plan on a 3% w/r from $1M + 1 apartment in Bangkok Thailand, and 1 in Scandinavien home country.

As to where in the Caribbean - this is a small place so keeping a low profile. Cheers, Ben



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