Progress to Financial Independence- August 2017

Summer is coming to an end and the days are getting shorter. Although the weather this time of year is great (chilly nights/mornings and warm afternoons), I always get a little depressed when it starts getting dark before 8 PM again. We are still on our contract in western NC, and this area is amazing. We have done a decent amount of hiking, some kayaking, as well as a little playing in waterfalls. Western NC is now at the top of my list of places to live after we finish traveling, which is impressive considering how much I enjoyed living at the beach in eastern NC this past winter. This is not only our favorite place that we’ve lived so far, but these are also the best jobs we’ve had to this point. The positives include: outpatient facility, 1:1 patient care with 45 minute to 1 hour blocks for each patient, friendly coworkers and nice patients, rural area with very little traffic, highest paying jobs, cheap campgrounds nearby ($400/month with all utilities included), and a plethora of outdoor activities. As for negatives… there honestly aren’t any as far as I’m concerned. Whitney has mentioned a negative is that there are no malls nearby or any type of “big city” activities, like a big downtown or bars/clubs. But those things don’t bother me at all. I feel comfortable in saying that we will extend these contracts as long as possible, which will likely be when they eventually hire full time PTs to take our place. Unfortunately these contracts are the shortest we’ve ever agreed to at only 9 weeks due to the management of the hospital system not being willing to offer any longer contracts initially because of the cost. As of me writing this, we are over halfway through our 9 weeks and our contracts are set to end on 10/6. Fortunately for us, they haven’t found any full time therapists to take our places yet, so we are doing our best to extend the contracts for as long as they will let us, and the chances are good based on what the manager has said.

As far as weekend trips since my last update, we went to Greenville, South Carolina where we explored the city as well as “hiked” to the highest point in South Carolina (Sassafras Mountain). We went kayaking on the Nantahala River. We visited the highest point in Tennessee (Clingmans Dome). We also just got back from a weekend trip to Nashville, Tennessee where we stayed for free with hotel points and got to walk around and experience the city. Nashville is our favorite big city that we’ve visited so far, and if you’ve never been, I’d recommend it for the music and atmosphere. Also since starting these jobs, we’ve taken advantage of not having to work late by walking around the town and hiking some nearby trails after work in the evenings. On one such trail we came within 15-20 feet of a large elk, which I later learned are known to charge people that get too close to them. Definitely not the smartest move on our part, but we assumed that elk were just like big deer and would move as we got closer. But instead he stood his ground and stared us down. Check my Instagram account on the right side of the page for pictures of the elk and me standing near it.

Along with going on walks and hikes after work, Whitney and I have decided to get back in shape over the next several months. My focus on personal finance and investing over the past few years has caused us to neglect diet and exercise which has been unfortunate. We signed up for new gym memberships near work and also bet on ourselves using HealthyWage to help with the weight loss. The bet has been a great motivator for me so far, and after two weeks I’m down a few pounds and quickly regaining my strength in the gym.

Another goal I decided to embark on this month, which kinda goes along with fitness, is to reach the high points in all of the lower 48 states by the time I turn 32. Along with South Carolina and Tennessee, that I mentioned above, Whitney and I have also made it to the high points in Virginia and Vermont since we started traveling. That puts me at 4/48 so far, so quite a ways to go but I’m already making plans to reach the high points in Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina before the end of September. The reason I have given myself such a long time to achieve this goal is that we likely won’t be returning to the Northeast until after we finish traveling in a couple of years, so those states will have to wait for a while. It should be a fun challenge and a great way to see the rest of the country after we finish our travel PT careers.

Financially, I have continued to exceed my monthly savings goal. That combined with the stock market still hovering around all time highs has led to another decent jump in my net worth. I’m still on track to reach financial independence in June 2019, but slowly creeping up on May now. Something interesting that I calculated a few days ago is that I am already over 20x my current expenses, which puts me at “Flex FI” if I continued to only spend what I’m spending now (adjusted for inflation) for the rest of my life. As I mentioned previously, I am including a significant buffer into my current expenses when calculating my financial independence date to account for kids in the future, which will likely cause a decent increase in expenses. It’s still pretty cool to know that if I was able to continue with my current expenses and willing to cut back in a bear market, I could stop working now and be fine. After living in the fifth wheel for almost two years now, I’m completely convinced that Whitney and I could live this lifestyle indefinitely, although kids would change things.

September should be a good month financially as well due to there being five Fridays in the month meaning an extra pay day! I’ve also got three bank account bonuses in the works that should pay out in the next month or two. A side benefit of the bets we made on healthy wage is that the bet is broken down into monthly payments which can be paid with a credit card. This means easy spending for meeting credit card bonuses, so Whitney and I have both signed up for new cards to take advantage of this perk.

Each month from now on, I plan to update both on my path to FI as well as my weight loss progress. Additional accountability is always a good thing.

Progress to Financial Independence- July 2017

As you can see, I’m very late on posting this monthly update. A lot happened in July, especially at the end of the month, which derailed me a little.

Where to start, where to start? Well, on the last day of the month, Whitney fell while coming out of the bathroom of a restaurant and fractured her radial head on her right arm. Luckily the fracture was stable and non-displaced so she didn’t require surgery or a cast, but has been wearing a sling for the past two weeks. The day she fell was actually the first day of the last week of our travel contract in VA, so she wasn’t able to work the rest of the week. She’s doing pretty well now and regaining her range of motion, although the fracture is no where near healed. She is only having slight pain now and has already started rehabbing it herself.

The last day of our contracts in VA was 8/4/2017, and we started our new jobs on the following Monday in western North Carolina. We really wanted to go to Illinois for the remainder of the summer, but these awesome outpatient jobs in NC fell in our laps and we couldn’t pass them up. We also weren’t having much luck finding two jobs in Illinois with a campground nearby because most of the jobs were in or close to Chicago. Our new jobs are hospital based outpatient, which is always our first choice when looking for new assignments. In addition, these jobs are by far the highest paying jobs we’ve had to date, paying a whopping $200/week more after taxes compared to our last contract in VA which was also a high paying contract. I finished out the VA contract strong with one last near 60 hour week and finished the 17 weeks there with a total of 162.5 hours of overtime!

Obviously Whitney’s fracture has caused problems with starting a new job. She attended orientation and was hoping to take one week off and then start working since outpatient jobs are not as physically demanding as other settings, but that didn’t work out. Since this is a hospital system, they have rules that don’t allow “light duty” work, so she was told she wouldn’t be able to work until she could lift at least 25 pounds with her broken arm… She was very upset about this and thought she might not be able to work for this entire contract, which is scheduled to be 9 weeks. But today she found out that she may be able to return to work in a week and a half, meaning she would only miss four weeks of work which would be fantastic. She has been enjoying the time off though and getting plenty of rest.

Our new campground is pretty nice. It’s the cheapest we’ve paid so far at only $400/month with all utilities included and is only a 15 minute drive to work. The Great Smoky Mountains are beautiful, and we are excited for Whitney’s arm to heal so we can do some hiking and river activities before it gets cold here.

For the blog, July was a huge month. We received over 13,000 total page views for the month, which is likely due to me going on a posting spree. I posted eight articles in July and Whitney posted one as well. I spent a lot of time on a few of those posts, and I believe that they were some of my best to date. So I was excited to see they got a lot of attention. Due to having such a big month (for us at least) I decided to go ahead and buy the “FifthWheelPT” domain name so that you guys no longer have to include “.wordpress” when visiting the site. So welcome to the new!

Financially, I made a lot of progress in July due to all of the overtime work. Since our plans changed quickly on our new assignments, we weren’t able to have the work done on the camper, so that is going to be pushed back a few months which means less money paid out in July. The truck repairs that I mentioned last month ended up being relatively minor. It just needed a new starter which was a few hundred dollars instead of the $1,000+ we were anticipating.

I am now well over halfway to financial independence after working only 25 months so far. My projections now have me reaching FI in less than 2 years, which still seems unbelievable to me. With this cheap campground we are staying at currently, I’m actually close to being able to support my living expenses with my investment returns already, but, of course, cheap campground rent won’t last forever so I will continue to save.

I’m excited for August with these higher paying jobs. It should be no problem to meet my savings goal for the month, and I should also be receiving a bonus for all of the overtime I worked during our last contracts, which will lead to a significant boost. Considering it’s the middle of August already as I write this, I don’t have much time until the next update, but I’m sure I’ll have some other crazy things to talk about next time.

Progress to Financial Independence- June 2017

This month was very busy, not so much because of weekend trips this time, but because of overtime at work. Although we did go on an awesome weekend trip to Washington DC which was a lot of fun and very interesting. We got to stay at a beautiful Fairmont hotel suite there for free by using a free night and room upgrade Whitney had from a credit card sign up bonus. She also got a $50 meal voucher on that card to use at the hotel restaurant which was very good. On another weekend, we went on an amazing hike near where we are staying that overlooked the historic town of Harpers Ferry, WV. Harpers Ferry is somewhere I would recommend everyone visit because there is some incredible scenery.

I definitely made some significant progress toward financial independence in June. I had two 60+ hour work weeks, as well as quite a bit of overtime the other weeks this past month, which meant some big paychecks. June had five Fridays which meant five paychecks as well. I also updated my financial assumptions and goals which involved reducing my target net worth and increasing my average savings per month to make things a little more realistic. This has led to a drastic reduction in the time left to FI, which is now only a little over two years away!

Due to all of the overtime we’ve been working on this contract, I was able to negotiate a bonus with our travel company for each hour of overtime worked that will be back paid once we sign a contract for our next assignment. Whitney and I were extremely happy about this because it will likely be an extra $2,000 or so for each of us. Overtime pay for travelers is usually not very lucrative because it is only time and a half of our taxable wages with no additional stipends. This makes the hourly rate of overtime work only about half of our normal hourly wages due to the tax free stipends! Getting the extra $15/hour bonus I was able to secure has made the overtime work a lot more tolerable.

July will likely involve a lot of expenses. We are planning to get our camper worked on at the end of this month as well as our truck since it, again, isn’t starting. We’re hoping that the overtime pay will offset these costs, but we haven’t gotten quotes on either of them yet so we will see. We have been looking for our next contracts which we hope to start 30 days from now, but so far have been unsuccessful in Illinois. We’re hopeful that we will be able to find something there. But, if not, taking a week or two off wouldn’t be the end of the world considering how much we’ve worked during this contract. I could definitely use a vacation.

Speaking of vacations, my little brother graduated from high school in June, and I surprised him with a trip to Aruba that I have planned for December, with the majority of the cost paid for with credit card rewards. I’m hoping it will be an awesome trip and allow us some time to spend together since I haven’t seen him much while traveling over the past two years.

Overall June was very eventful. Let’s see what July brings!

Progress to Financial Independence- May 2017

Another month in the books. Whitney and I have been working and traveling a lot lately, so time really flew by this month. Since starting our new jobs I’ve averaged eight hours of overtime per week through the first eight weeks. This would really be awesome if overtime pay was truly 1.5x our normal hourly travel pay, but unfortunately that is not the case. I’m planning to write a blog post regarding overtime pay as a traveler soon, but we effectively earn only half of our normal pay when we work overtime due to how our pay is structured. Even though it isn’t as much as our normal pay, I still am fine with making the extra money, although it is draining to stay at work until 7-8 PM or later most nights. One day this past week I actually had 13.25 hours on the clock which is definitely a record for me. As far as weekend trips go, we traveled to: Charleston, SC, Philadelphia, PA, Atlantic City, NJ, and Shenandoah National Park in Virginia all in the month of May. We spent every weekend out of town this month which meant a lot of packing and unpacking. Our trip to Shenandoah National Park was to hike Old Rag Mountain with Chris and Kim who write for the blog “Eat the Financial Elephant.” It was awesome to meet up and talk with them after Chris recently wrote an amazing guest post for us that ended up being the most popular post on this site to this point.

Due to all the trips out of town and late nights at work (leading to eating dinner at restaurants way more than we should) my expenses were up quite a bit this month, but luckily this has been more than outweighed by the overtime. The extra hours have led to me being a little more liberal with my spending, which has actually been a bit of a relief since I’m usually so adamant on spending as little as possible. The market continuing to rally, combined with these higher paying jobs and the addition of overtime pay has led to a drastic improvement in my net worth this month. I decided to make some adjustments to my Excel spreadsheet that my charts are based on due to consistently overshooting my savings goals each month. I added an additional $200/month to my “savings per month” category, which should make the projections a little more realistic. The increased net worth from this month and the extra $200/month projected into the future has moved my projected financial independence date up by two months! It’s likely that I will also make some adjustments in the future on my projected spending per month. I purposely made this number higher than it needs to be when I first started my spreadsheet in order to account for increased expenses in the future but, after reconsidering, I think I estimated a little higher than I needed to. If that amount is adjusted to a more realistic number, then that will put me even closer to my FI date.

Even with my future expenses likely exaggerated a little, I am still on pace to reach financial independence in April, 2020 based on my projections. The surprising part about that to me is it means that I am nearly halfway through my full time working career and I have been working for only two years. I am continuing to stockpile liquid assets right now in anticipation of purchasing my first rental property in the near future. The rental property should be an awesome way to put my money to use while diversifying and hedging against my stock market and personal loan investments.

June should be an interesting month because, although I will be receiving five paychecks, I have some big expenses coming up that will likely negate the extra paycheck. Nonetheless, I am optimistic that I will reach, or hopefully surpass, my savings goal for the month and continue to push my FI date closer and closer.

Progress to Financial Independence- April 2017

We’re now a little over three weeks into our new contracts in Berryville, VA. Currently we are living at a campground in Harpers Ferry, WV. The trip to get here from our last assignment in eastern North Carolina was less than pleasant. We stopped for a night in Roanoke, VA to see our families on the way, but not before having to go down a steep incline at a gas station and destroying on of the stabilizer jacks on the back of the fifth wheel. When we arrived at the campground, our living room slide out got partially stuck on one side which resulted in the slide not being able to fully extend or retract. Luckily we were able to get it most of the way out and enough that rain doesn’t get in. We plan to have it repaired once we leave this campground on the way to the next assignment.

The stock market has continued to stay near all time highs which means that my investments did well this month. Both of my personal loans continue to go according to plan. In addition, I surpassed my savings goal by a healthy margin again this month. Our new contracts are the highest paying that we have taken so far which is helpful, and I have also worked 25 hours overtime in the first three weeks of being here which helped my net worth. I plan to continue to work as much overtime as possible, and that, in conjunction with the higher pay, should lead to a significant increase in my savings rate over the next couple of months.

I am now a little less than 40% of the way to my total goal for financial independence, which is not bad for less than two years since graduation. June 2020 is still the estimated FI date, based on my current projections, but with a little luck I’ll be closing in on May 2020 within the next couple of months. At some point I’ll probably need to update my net worth goal based on my current spending rate, which is significantly less than my original estimates when I started tracking my progress last year. I’m torn between keeping the goal the same to be safe versus making the goal more realistic to hit my FI target sooner. Ultimately it doesn’t make a difference, but the quicker I can proclaim that I’m financially independent, the less stressed I’ll be. If all of this overtime continues and the market stays around current levels, May should be a very good month for me as well.

Progress to Financial Independence- March 2017

March was the most lucrative month that I’ve had financially to this point. A combination of five paychecks this month and receiving my tax refund, equal to an additional paycheck, resulted in a significant improvement in my net worth. I also received $400 in bank account sign up bonuses this month to add some icing on the cake. The stock market had a rare down month, but that was no match for my astronomical savings rate due to lots of money coming in and minimal spending.

Whitney and I have accepted our next travel assignments which will take us back to Virginia, but this time in the northwest part near West Virginia. We both agreed to change up settings for this contract and will therefore be working in a skilled nursing facility that requires home health visits as well. We believe that this will be a good change of pace for us as well as allow us to get some experience in home health which is something that I plan to do in the future. Another perk of our new jobs is an additional ~$300/month of income which will further help to boost my savings rate. At this point we will be making about $600/month more than what we made during our very first contracts as new grads. Since my savings rate and monthly savings goals were made based on that lower income, it is likely that I will continue to surpass my expectations.

March was an interesting month for my investments. As I have written about previously, I do not wish to put new money in the stock market at current valuations as I feel the risk is not worth the expected return over the next 10 years. Instead of putting additional cash in the stock market, I decided to make two personal loans, one to family, and one to fund a friend’s business. As a result of the loan to my friend, I am now a 5% owner in his gym Tri-Star Fitness and Performance which is located in my hometown, Roanoke, VA. He is doing good work for the community, and I believe that this will prove to be a good investment.

My current projection for FI is in the month of June 2020, which will be exactly five years after I first began working full time. I am optimistic that with additional money from credit card and bank account sign up bonuses, as well as good investments, I will be able to push this date up even further over the next couple of years. Only time will tell but I hope that you guys continue to stick around for the journey.

Progress to Financial Independence- February 2017

February was a relatively uneventful month compared to all the problems in January. Work went well, and Whitney and I began applying for our Illinois PT licenses where we hope to work in the next couple of months if everything goes well. We were hoping to extend our contracts to stay at the beach for the spring and beginning of summer, but it looks like the company we’re working for may be hiring a couple of full time PTs and will no longer need us here. We’ve gotten to explore the area more over the past month and have been impressed with most things around here. At this point eastern NC is definitely a top consideration for where we will live after we finish traveling.

Financially, it was another awesome month. I easily surpassed my savings goal for the month, and the US stock market continues to surge higher which boosted my net worth this month. At this point the CAPE ratio (29.52) for the US market is the third highest it has been in history and above the level it was before the crash in 2008. This is not good news for future US stock market returns that are estimated to be somewhere around 1% annualized over the next 10 years based on current valuations. No one can say for sure what the future holds, but it looks very unlikely that the market will return anywhere near it’s historical average over the next 10 year period. This is the reason that I have continued to stockpile cash instead of pouring money into the market over the past year. With that being said, I do have about half of my net worth invested in the market currently to take advantage of the gains in case the market continues to climb higher.

Based on my current calculations, I’m still going to reach financial independence in July 2020 but getting closer to June due to a higher savings rate in North Carolina and the previously mentioned market returns. In addition, I could now live for a little over 12 years on my current savings assuming an average return of 6% which is exciting to think about. Hopefully we won’t have to take any time off after our current contracts end and I can continue with my recent savings rate, but so far we don’t have any good prospective jobs. Our contracts end at the beginning of April so hopefully by next month at this time we will have a better idea of what will be in store for the next three months.


Progress to Financial Independence- January 2017

January started off awesome with a fun long weekend in Savannah, GA staying at a beautiful hotel for free. One week later we moved from Fayetteville to start our new jobs on the NC coast. Starting on the day we left Fayetteville, things went downhill quickly. On the morning we woke up to move, it was the coldest day of the winter in Fayetteville by far with a early morning temperature of about 18 degrees and temperatures in the 20s throughout the day. The water was frozen, the sewer hose was frozen, our tanks wouldn’t close because they were frozen, and the entire roof of the camper had a solid layer of ice on it. After we finally got everything unhooked and made it to our new campground on the coast, I went inside the camper to find that the ice on top of the slide had melted during the drive and soaked the carpet and floor in our living room/kitchen. When we went back outside to level the camper, the truck wouldn’t start. Keep in mind that the fifth wheel is still attached…

After about two hours of trying to clean up all the water inside, we went back out and tried to start the truck a few more times and it finally started. We leveled the camper and took the truck to get fuel hoping that the failure to start was just a fluke. It turned out that it wasn’t a fluke. The truck wouldn’t start at the gas station so we had to call a tow truck and wait for almost three hours for it to arrive. Since we had only been in town since that afternoon, we had no idea about repair shops in the area and it was a Sunday evening so everything was closed. The tow truck driver recommended a Ford dealership nearby and we agreed to have it towed there, we later found out that this was a mistake. When we got home the water at our campground site was also frozen so we had to go take showers in the bath house.

We started work the next morning but luckily our first day was orientation at the same location so we were able to get away with only driving one car. The dealership called us and said that the truck needed two new batteries and a fuel pump which would cost $900. We were a little upset about the cost but we didn’t have much choice so we agreed. Finally our water was restored when we got home from work that night which made things a little better.

Fast forward a couple of days and the dealership calls us and says that the truck is ready to be picked up. We went and got it, drove it about 15 minutes, turned it off, and then it wouldn’t start again. Doing the exact same things as before. It finally started again about two hours later and we took it straight back to the dealership. This time they told us that it would be $3,000 for a high pressure oil pump and a fuel injector. Luckily, with our jobs we were able to get advice on local mechanics from patients and decided to get a second opinion at a recommended locally owned shop. The mechanic told us that it only needed a new fuel injector and that it would cost $850. He fixed it and the truck has been running fine ever since.

All in all, the repairs ended up costing us about $2,000 and a week and a half of Whitney riding to work in the morning with a coworker and me picking her up in the evening. After a pretty rough first two weeks dealing with all the problems as well as trying to get used to new facilities and a terrible documentation system, things finally started to get better. The remainder of the month was great as we got more comfortable with our jobs and the new area. Eastern North Carolina is a beautiful place and somewhere that we are considering living once we finish traveling.

Financially, the truck put me behind on my savings goal for the month, but due to the stock market still surging higher and higher as well as receiving my 401k match for 2016, I actually beat my projection for the month. I’m still on track for hitting financial independence around July, 2020 which will be exactly five years after I started my career and less than three and a half years from now. Since my projection is based on higher expenses than my current level (due to anticipating higher costs later in life with children) I will actually be at a level that is able to sustain my current expenses in about a year and a half from now. Very exciting!

Progress to Financial Independence- December 2016

I’m late on posting this but it’s been a busy month. We were out of town almost every weekend in December. We visited Asheboro, Raleigh, Chapel Hill, Savannah, and went home for Christmas. We had the day after Christmas off of work so we got to spend a long weekend at home which was very nice. We spent another three day weekend for New Year’s Eve in Savannah, and stayed at the awesome Hyatt Regency Savannah for free using credit card points. This was a beautiful hotel in a prime location in historic downtown Savannah right on River Street which was definitely worth the points.

Despite the trips, personal property taxes, and car repairs, I was still able to surpass my savings goal for this month. This is mostly due to there being five paychecks in the month of December. My net worth was boosted by another month of high market returns despite overvalued equities.

At this point I am on track to reach financial independence in July, 2020 which is only three and a half years away! Whitney and I are still on the fence about what exactly we will do or where we will settle down once I reach FI and we finish our travel PT journey. Since we are so used to changing locations every few months, we have discussed “slow traveling” Go Curry Cracker style and spending at least a few months living in southeast Asia. Speaking of changing locations, we finished up our contracts in Fayetteville, NC yesterday and will be moving to Morehead City, NC tomorrow to begin our new jobs Monday morning! We’re very excited about this move and can’t wait to spend a few months at the beach… even if it is during winter. Another advantage of the new contracts is a higher pay rate which will help me with my savings goal each month.

Progress to Financial Independence- November 2016

November seemed to fly by, but it was a moderately eventful month. Whitney and I spent some time working on our camper, sealing around the openings on the roof to prepare for winter.  We took a weekend trip to Asheville, NC to explore and also to see the Biltmore Estate. It was an amazing and beautiful place, but of course it pales in comparison to our luxurious camper layout ;). If you’ve never been, then I would definitely recommend checking it out. It is a bit expensive ($118 for two tickets to do a self guided tour) but it’s worth it to see once. Whitney also took a trip to see a couple of her friends from PT school on the coast of NC. Last, since we’re about a four hour drive from our hometown right now, we were able to see family for Thanksgiving.  We spent Thanksgiving day with some of Whitney’s extended family that lives in NC and waited until the weekend to make the trip home to see our immediate families.

Whitney and I are currently working on our next assignments which will start at the beginning of the year and will hopefully be on the North Carolina coast. We only have five weeks left on our current contracts in Fayetteville, and although we have enjoyed it, we are about ready to move on.

Financially this was a very good month due to meeting my savings goal but also because of a jump in the stock market following the election. I was able to make up some of the lost ground from taking the extra time off in September between contracts. I’m now on track to achieve financial independence around August, 2020. Also, at my current level of spending, I could take about 9.5 years off of work before I would be at risk of running out of money. That’s a pretty cool feeling.

December should be a good month, not only because of the holidays, but also because of getting an extra paycheck which should help me surpass my savings goal for the month.