It’s Saturday, October 31!

Spooky! I’ll be dressed as Waldo tonight. Last year I counted 13 Waldos at the Halloween shindig I went to, so it ironically won’t be that easy to spot me.

The awesomeness of not being important by Steve, thinksaveretire.com. This is a great, if under-appreciated, goal to achieve in one’s career.

Volkswagen’s emissions cheating scandal has a long, complicated history by Megan Geuss, arstechnica.com. This has been a really interesting story to follow, both from an engineering point-of-view and a business point-of-view. This story goes into depth over the history of why (probably) Volkswagen did what it did.

Financial Independence: How Long Will It Take? gocurrycracker.com. An interesting look at how tweaking some numbers can make early retirement much more feasible, or at least move that retirement date a little closer. Always run the numbers!

The IRS Tax Code Makes No Sense – What You Should Know About IRA Tax Deduction Phase Outs, genyfinanceguy.com. The tax code is complicated. It’s especially interesting how marriage isn’t the financial benefit it once was, too.

BONUS: What I’m listening to this week:

Photo: I’m in this picture somewhere. Can you find me? 

401k: Not Just A Bunch of Numbers and a Letter Anymore

I’m one of the lucky ones whose employer makes matching contributions to a 401k. For that reason alone, I contributed enough money to get that company match when I hired on, but only just enough to get that match. Free money, right?

In the past few years I’ve been promoted and have gotten a few modest (cost-of-living) raises as well, but I’ve never increased my 401k contribution. I had a “set it and forget it” mindset, though, and it never occurred to me to contribute more to it even though I make a little more money now. If I wasn’t getting more company match, then anything that I added above that was money that would go into nothingness, and that I wouldn’t ever get to enjoy it.

I was falling prey to a common fallacy with retirement and financial independence: it’s so far away I’ll never get there.

Recently, though, with my adventure into a simpler way of living I’ve realized that minimalism is a route to financial independence. For me, retirement isn’t 62 or 65, it’s more in the 42 to 45 range. That’s only about 15 years away! I can easily remember what I was doing 15 years ago: I was about to start high school. Really puts this time frame into perspective! At least, I don’t feel like high school was that long ago…

Anyway, this made me realize one thing, in bold neon letters: I need to step up my saving game!

Of course, I was doing this somewhat indirectly. I don’t buy stuff just for stuff’s sake anymore. I sold a ton of my junk and I don’t order non-consumable things on Amazon with reckless abandon like I once did. However, this is all after-tax saving, and the more I looked into it the more I realized there was more I could be doing for myself.

So I increased my 401k contribution a few percentage points. Even though my company won’t match my contributions above the amount I was already making, the tax shelter that the 401k provides is kind of like getting free money anyway. Even though I’ll have to pay taxes when I make withdrawals (one day!), my tax-free earnings can grow unfettered until then.

I started off with a 2% increase above what I was already contributing. This amounts to well under $100 for me per paycheck which won’t hurt me at all, and will account for well over $1000 per year at my current pay rate. I’ll look to increase this even more in the near future in order to increase my savings percentage and progress with my goal of becoming financially independent. Right now my savings rate is about 20% but with some more lifestyle changes hopefully I will be able to increase this even further.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

It’s Saturday, October 17th!

…and I’m back from a brief internet hiatus. But lots of other things have happened in the past month that are worth looking into:

This is What a Real Bomb Looks Like by Adam Fabio, hackaday.com. Definitely not anything to do with minimalism or financial independence, but in the wake of the “bomb” incident in Texas, some perspective is in order.

Why Your $80,000 Car Doesn’t Impress Me Any Longer by Steve, thinksaveretire.com. I work for a Fortune-500 company, and these cars are everywhere. But I also see people who have no other purpose in life except for their job, so I guess it kind of fits in certain situations. Not for me though!

From zero to $15,000 in dividend income in 8 years, dividendgrowthinvestor.com. I’ve become a big fan of this blog because it gets into the specifics of (at least one way of) how to become financially independent. I’m in this guy’s shoes circa 2007, but dividend investing is looking more and more appealing to me as I research it.

BONUS! What I’m listening to this week.

Any guesses why? Hint: it’s in the first verse!

Photo: Another hint. 

Saturday Links! July 4, 2015

Mortgage as a Forced Savings Account to Build Wealth by Financial Samurai. An interesting way to think about your mortgage is as a savings account that you absolutely have to put money into. An upside to buying a house is that your asset will probably appreciate as you’re saving, but the downside is that your savings account probably isn’t very liquid.

What Would Happen If We All Stopped Paying Our Student Loans, Together? by Jennifer Schaffer, Vice. An interesting take on the student debt problem wich involves forming what looks like a “debt union”. Really, it’s about using a “debt strike” as a tool to promote social change, because there is definitely a problem that no one seems willing to address on their own.

Yo ho, yo ho, an FI life for me! by Mr. 1500, 1500days.com. “FI” stands for “Financially Independent” in case you were wondering; Mr. 1500 is on a 1500-day mission to build a portfolio large enough to retire on. He touches on one of my pet peeves about retiring early: people asking you if you’ll just be bored once you don’t have to work anymore. ABSOLUTELY NOT. There’s so much to do! I think people that are afraid of this are more likely to have this happen to them.

BONUS! What I’m listening to this week:

The late-90s Britpop resurgence had some gems in it, and not all of them were Oasis.

Photo: I grew this pineapple in my back yard. It’s huge! It’s almost like I’m living in Hawaii!