No matter what stage of life you are in, it is important to know your financial health. This is not something you do just around income tax time but throughout the year. It’s good to check in at least monthly or, as we do, daily. The same as any successful business must know their income and liabilities, so should you.
Today there are plenty of free online tools which can help you, but we are old school and prefer to be able to check and edit our data anywhere in the world and at any time, regardless of an internet connection. We have done this since we retired in 1991. Back then we used a paper notebook and pen, but today we created a spreadsheet using an Excel program that is on most computers sold today.
How It Works
Throughout the day as we spend money we keep a mental note of the cost. Then, usually in the evening while winding down, we enter the data into our spreadsheet. We created categories such as housing, food, dining, transportation, donations, healthcare, and so on. Each of those entries then gets automatically added giving us a total for the day. That number is added to all of the previous entries and then divided by the day number in the year, 1 through 365, giving us a daily average.
Utilizing this system we can adjust the entries using local currencies, therefore knowing what we are spending in Mexican Pesos, Thai Baht, Vietnamese Dong, Guatemalan Quetzales or the money of any place where we are traveling. While this figure can easily be converted to dollars if we want, we prefer to think of our costs in the currency of our host country. This keeps our spending at the perspective of the natives instead of distorting it by thinking in Dollars.
This Information is Important
Once you know how much you are spending per day, you can utilize this information to adjust spending accordingly if necessary. You are in control of your outflow at this point, and you can make changes in real time.
Net Worth; What Is It?
Another important tool for understanding your financial health is calculating your net worth. This number is derived by adding up all of your assets minus your liabilities. Do you own a house or rentals? Figure out what they are worth then subtract out what you owe and this equates to the equity you have. It is important to use realistic numbers, knowing that if you sold today, there would be fees and expenses involved, as well as taxes to be paid. Do you have cars? Even though they are a depreciating asset, meaning they lose money over time, you still have some value there. How about retirement accounts? IRA’s, 401K’s and regular banking and brokerage accounts, credit card and student loan debt, all need to be factored into the equation.
Another Powerful Retirement Tool
Now that you know your net worth and what you are spending per day, you can take further control of your future by figuring out what percentage of your net worth you are spending. This is calculated by multiplying your daily expenses (the number you obtained above) by 365 and dividing this figure by your net worth. The general rule (called a Safe Withdrawal Rate) is that if your percentage is 4% or below you should be able to sustain your retirement well into the future and, in fact, increase your net worth above inflation. This is assuming that you cashed out all of your assets and invested the proceeds into a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds. This is basically what we did.
Many financial planners, brokers and online tools like to complicate this calculation by muddying the waters with fancy colorful charts, graphs and financial-speak. While some might be attracted to this approach, we find all this rigmarole unnecessary as we prefer to use the KISS system: Keep It Simple Stupid. We have been keeping things simple and have been managing our finances successfully for almost three decades of financial independence. (Not sure what financial independence is? This story is a must read!)
If we can do it, so can you!
About the Authors
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.