A shift to investing, travel while traveling, & up $8K – July 2021 Freedom update

Hi from wild and wonderful West Virginia! I’m stationed right outside New River Gorge National Parkour newest one. The Mountain State surely lives up to its name. I’ll spend the weekend hiking in the park and exploring the little towns up and down the 53-mile stretch of river the park occupies.

After this, it’s Pittsburgh for a week, Philadelphia for a week, and finishing the month in upstate New York in the Catskill Mountains.

July 2021 Freedom update

I’ve been hiking every chance I get – this was on the North Carolina side of the Smokies last weekend at Hemphill Bald

In the background, I’ve stuck to my investment strategy and have been stashing away everything I can to build up savings. I’ve almost reached my savings goal and will shift into throwing every spare cent into my taxable brokerage account – something I’ve been looking forward to for a while.

Before that happens, I have a couple of expensive hotel stays to pay for. Asheville and Fayetteville (where I am now) were expensive tbh. That’s part of the danger with choosing the place instead of chasing the cheap deals, but I wanted to see them both.

After upstate New York, I’ll be more open to following cheap prices. And I’ll be able to complete my savings goal in the next month and switch to investing mode.

Despite everything, I’m still up almost $8,000 this month over last – and at 42% of my $500,000 goal. Let’s get into it.

July 2021 Freedom update

I knew Asheville would be expensive. And West Virginia is expensive. I’m blowing my budget a bit this month because I’ll be staying with friends for about a month and that’ll allow me to save a few checks and meet my savings goal. It also balances my overall lodging budget. I’ve been on the road four months by now and still finding my groove.

a man standing on a balcony with a city in the background

Asheville was so pretty

Later this year, in the fall, I want to chase cheap hotels and let the destinations guide me a bit more. I’ve been toying with the idea of living in Mexico City for a few months over the holidays. Hotels and long-term rentals are cheap there and I adore Mexico City. I can already imagine myself exploring the endless parks and museums and staying in Roma Norte or La Condesa. We’ll see.

Travel while traveling

Speaking of which, I’ve had some opportunities come my way for side trips. Work wants me back in Knoxville, I want to be at my son’s second birthday party in OKC, and I’ll be speaking at FTU Dallas in September. And yet – I still have my car and dog to take care of. And all my stuff in my car.

So… how do I “travel while traveling?” It’s stuff like this that makes me wonder how feasible long-term travel is, and the need for a “home base.” It’s hard to plan because I don’t know where I’ll be so can’t buy a plane ticket until I know what airport I’ll be near.

Or, I could plan side trips and work toward a particular airport, but that zaps the fun out of letting destinations decide for me.

a black and white photo of a valley with trees

I love a sea of mountains

On the other hand, I still want to plan trips. So it’s a bit of contradiction of terms- and a balance/flow I’m still figuring out. I’m not sure there will ever be a resolution or anything as elegant as that, but rather – something more like a haphazard throwing it all together and hoping it all works out.

I get the feeling this will be my eternal dilemma as this lifestyle begins to take hold. It’s hard to plan and therefore hard to travel.

Finally investing extra funds!

I feel like I’ve been working toward my $30,000 savings goal foreverrrr. But now I’m only ~$2,800 away and will knock that out in July or August. Then I’ll throw every thin cent into investing. Mostly my trusty friend FSKAX, but also some cryto (I’ve been using Donut for DeFi investing and Coinbase for other crypto) and maybe a REIT fund or something more speculative, like marijuana index funds.

I’ll keep 90% of my investments in broad-market index funds and let the other 10% be fun stuff or whatever I find interesting. I’d even be open to buying some real estate again in the future.

It will feel good being able to do this, knowing I have a fully stocked emergency fund. I also expect it’ll propel me toward my overall goal that much faster.

By the numbers

Right now, I’m putting 25% of my paycheck into my 401k and into Vanguard’s 500 Index Fund (VFIAX), which has been performing really well. My YTD return is 13.69%, which is insane. Seeing that type of return makes me wonder if I should keep less cash and throw more into index funds.

I also put $200 per month into an HSA account. Whatever I have left, I transfer to savings. I have no credit card debt and own my car. My only recurring payments are car insurance, storage unit, Netflix, and Spotify.

I’ve also been opening new credit cards and should get the $500 welcome bonus on the Bank of America Premium Rewards card (plus oodles of extra cash back because I’m at the Platinum Honors tier). That’ll go directly into savings later this month.

CurrentLast monthChange2021 Goal
401k (contributions only)$9,167$7,500+$1,667$19,500
Overall investments$175,191$168,373+$6,818As much as possible
Net worth in Personal Capital $210,185 $202,508+$7,677$500,000Track your net worth with Personal Capital
July 2021 Freedom update

42% of the way toward my goal!

At this point, it’s looking like I’m going to hit $250,000 before the end of the year. I have almost $200,000 invested and am currently working toward my third $100K overall.

Between the 401k and what I’ve been saving, my overall savings rate is probably 50 to 60%. The rest I use to pay for travel. Sticking to this strategy is really working.

By the end of the year, I’ll max out my 401k. Already maxed out my Roth IRA on January 1. Moving forward, I’ll throw everything else into my Fidelity taxable brokerage account. Squeeee! 😁

a red shirt with white text

Lol but FSKAX

July 2021 Freedom update bottom line

My strategy is streamlined and automated – and I’m pleased with how the market has been performing. I struggle between wanting to look at market performance every day or only open it up on the 1st of each month to do these reports. But I confess, I do check it every day. The phone widgets make it way too easy! 🙈

In July 2020, my net worth was $123,577. And in July 2021, it’s $210,185. That’s up almost $87,000 at an average of ~$7,200 per month. Really, really cool. I’m hoping with my shift into investing my extra cash (instead of saving it), I can get that up to $10,000 per month on average. Let’s get this snowball rolling. ☃️

a number in white text

# of days left to reach my goal

I want to reach my goal by August 26, 2024 – my 40th birthday. That’s in a little over 3 years. I’m starting to think it’ll happen before then. But I know slow and steady wins the race. Onward and upward. It feels like the milestones are happening closer together now.

Thank you for reading – stay safe and scrappy out there! And if you’re thinking about opening new credit cards, please consider applying through my CardRatings links! ✨

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Memphis, traveling, and working toward financial independence.

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  1. Have you looked at a solo 401k or sep ira to be able to increase your tax advantaged contributions? That way you could fund possibly up to the $57k limit annually?

    • Hi Tom! I have thought about this a time or two but haven’t opened one for a couple of reasons. If you have an employer sponsored 401k, the limit is still $19,500 across all accounts. Although I could contribute as an employer (to myself) but that has some calculations and extra forms required.

      But ultimately I like a taxable account because if I do retire early, I can’t touch what’s in a 401k until I’m 60. So I’d like to let the retirement accounts grow in the background and potentially withdraw from the taxable account before age 60. Not certain I would, but would like to have the option. I like having a mix of accounts that would be there for the next 20 years and beyond.

      Excellent question! Is there anything I’m missing? I’m always open to refining the strategy!

  2. oooh didn’t know we were born on the same year! You’re getting close to the goal now 🙂

    Man I wish I could be a digital nomad, they’re asking us to go back to work in Sept! Technically our immediate boss wants us back at work a month ago but meh. WFH is so much fun, I save so much more time & money by not commuting (less gas & car maintenance expenses!) Oh and the time spent not driving to and from an office is amazing!

    • There are *plenty* of jobs out there rn. For all the reasons you said as well as being able to do the digital nomad thing. I don’t even know if I’ll do it forever – but I’d like to have the option. The flexibility to live your life is what I love about a WFH arrangement.

      And yassss for 1984 babies! I’ll be 37 next month! I find that really shocking because I still feel so young!

  3. Know what you’re getting yourself into with REITs. In a taxable account there’s more paperwork, and most dividends are treated as ordinary income and not qualified dividends. In a retirement account (for traditional IRA or 401k) there’s no extra forms and taxes are deferred. K-1 forms are a pain come tax time and I don’t want to make complicated tax filings more of a PITA than they already are.

    Otherwise keep on keepin on.

    • Those are incredibly useful insights! I hadn’t gotten that far in my research yet but it sounds like I’ll want to keep REITs in the Roth IRA – or see how Fundrise treats their dividends. Either way, it’s work looking into.

      Although I do like how Fidelity handles tax forms and I already have so many… what’s one more? But that’s great to keep in mind.

      Hope y’all are doing well over there! Great to hear from you. Hopefully I’ll be able to visit someday very soon!

      • You prolly have 1099s already. They’re not K1s and they’re a pain come tax time. I’ve avoided them in all our taxable accounts.

        Who knows when tourist travel will open up in Japan again. We’ve been to Tokyo once since getting here and no tourists is so nice at the popular spots, but many places have closed due to no tourists so that’s a shame.

        We FINALLY got our sea shipment after 128 days. Should’ve been 35-45 days. Nothing damaged and no mold so we’re happy. Got a guest room with new everything that you’re welcome to.

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