Pre-Vacation Update

I’m going on vacation TOMORROW, y’all.

Six days at Walt Disney World, six days in Portland, Oregon to celebrate my grandfather’s 90th birthday, and three days of post-travel recovery (resting, restocking groceries, getting over any crud I might catch along the way) at home.

I gave myself the three extra days first because I subscribe to Kelly Conaboy’s It Should Be Vacation + One Or Two Days theory — “after you return from vacation you should have a mandatory one- or two-day period to readjust before you go back to normal life” — and second because I told myself that the one thing I was going to do in 2019 was take two consecutive weeks off.*

(I have not done this in forever. My last vacation was four days long.)

I will not be posting on vacation, so here are some updates before I leave:

  • I went through and blocked out the rest of NEXT BOOK’s plot using the technique I showed you last week, which means I know where I’m going with the draft and all I have to do is use Jami Attenberg’s 1000 Words of Summer (write 1000 words every day between June 17 and July 1) as motivation to finish it up.
  • I also gave NEXT BOOK a title: A COINCIDENCE OF DOORS. I am fighting very hard against the impulse to make the cover look like a door that you open to read the book, because that is not the Trend For Covers These Days and I know I need to put a Dreaming Woman on the front. (I wonder how much it would cost to do one of those covers where it looks like a door with a cutout keyhole that you can see through and then when you open the door you can see the full-color illustration of what’s behind the keyhole. This is also not On Trend, but it would be super-cool.)
  • I’m also fighting very hard against the whole “what if I was able to get this book self-published this year” thing. I want this book to be THE BEST IT CAN BE, not THE FASTEST IT CAN BE. (I’m also thinking about how much money I’m willing to put towards “the best,” but that’s a discussion for another day.)
  • I’ll owe you a financial update while I’m on vacation, so here’s the gist: May was my highest-earning month EVER. I brought in $13,311 in freelancing income and $14.51 in publishing revenue. I also got a $1,337.74 tax refund I wasn’t expecting because it turns out I did my taxes wrong (long story, can tell you when I get back if you want, good to know the IRS keeps an eye out for your mistakes). Current net worth is $116,293.34.
  • However, this vacation is going to cost me roughly $4,500 in unearned freelance income (which is to say that if I weren’t going on vacation and were able to complete my usual schedule of work, I’d earn $4,500 over the next two weeks). This is in addition to the $2,200 budgeted for the Disney trip and the $1,100 budgeted for the family trip. Soooooooooo…. actually, I’m fine with this. Paid time off is great, but I’d rather be a freelancer any day of the week. (Including the vacation days.)

See you all in June! ❤️

*Yes, I did realize that Thursday to Thursday to Thursday is actually two weeks and one day. Bonus!

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May Financial Update

First of May, first of May, financial updating starts today…

(Or continues, really. I’ve been doing this for years.)

My current net worth is $107,801.44, which is $5,054.69 higher than my April net worth of $102,746.75.

This is nearly entirely due to investment growth—I got a 4.3% return this month—which, even though I knew this kind of thing would start to happen once my net worth passed the six-figure mark, still feels really weird.

I received $9,300 in freelance checks last month plus $43.20 in publishing royalties, and I anticipate breaking $10K in freelance checks in May. June, however, will probably be a low earnings month, since I am taking a two-week vacation (five days at Walt Disney World, five days at a family event, a couple days at the end to rest from all the travel) and won’t be writing or earning money during that time.

This also feels a little weird—it’ll be the longest chunk of time I’ve taken off work ever, I think. I’ve done a week away from work in the past, but I don’t think I’ve taken two weeks off, even back in my employee days.

But I did set myself the goal of taking a two-week vacation in 2019, and now I get to see what happens.

In terms of spending: like many people who discovered their tax burden was lower than anticipated, I took that extra money and let it blow a hole straight through my pocket. I bought $63.13 worth of plants. I got myself a $15.99 gym bag that I didn’t even need (my old one was still functional, I just wanted one that had a pouch for a water bottle). I spent an unbelievable $126.62 on dining out—and before you start laughing, remember that I typically spend $25 per month on restaurants and snacks, and okay, you can laugh now.

Yes, I live a very frugal life, and yes, I’m steadily increasing my monthly freelance earnings, and yes, I’m investing a lot of those earnings—and so this is what my finances are starting to look like.

It’s weird.

I’m very happy with it, but I’m not used to it yet. ❤️

April Financial Update

It’s time for another financial update, so let’s check in with my YNAB account:

My current net worth is $102,746.75. That’s up $5,463.23 from my March net worth of $97,283.52. Total freelance earnings for March (including self-publishing royalties) were $7,388.57, so that was part of it, but my investments also did pretty well; according to Vanguard, I gained $1,896.37 in investment returns in the past month.

I spent $2,676.47 in March on personal expenses and $212 on business expenses. The personal expenses number is higher this month because I started making purchases towards both a personal vacation and a family trip, both of which I’ll take in June; February’s $1,212.15 represents a more typical personal expenses month. (Yes, that includes rent-bills-food-fun-everything.)

According to the financial independence calculators, I should hit FI in April 2030, eleven years from now.

I’m still going to try to beat that goal. ❤️

March Financial Update

It’s a new month, which means it’s time to check in with my finances.

Here’s a YNAB chart illustrating my net worth, which is $97,283.52 as of this morning:

Currently, my investment balances total $85,296.36, divided as follows:

  • Vanguard brokerage account: $6,401.14
  • Vanguard traditional IRA: $12,078.77
  • Vanguard rollover IRA: $45,534.32
  • Vanguard SEP IRA: $6,484.87
  • Vanguard Roth IRA: $6,685.68
  • TIAA annuity: $5,348.99*
  • Health savings account: $2,744.59

The big gamechanger this month was the money I put in my brand-new SEP IRA: $500 for 2019, and $6,000 for 2018. The latter investment came from money that was part of The Billfold LLC account, which is much better off invested in a SEP IRA than taxed (though it will be taxed eventually).

In case you’re curious, it has cost The Billfold LLC $1,399 to shut itself down so far. This money includes CPA and legal fees, and there is at least one more payment coming as I file the final paperwork. That money also came out of The Billfold LLC account.

I received $5,135 in freelance checks in February, and earned $12.24 in publishing royalties from Amazon. I spent $1,212.15 on personal expenses (rent, bills, food, fun, donations, etc.) and $187.33 on freelance business expenses, not including money put into investments or set aside for taxes.

According to my financial independence forecaster, I should hit FI in 12 years and one month. However, now that I am no longer giving the majority of my time to The Billfold, I’ve been able to take on several higher-paying long-term assignments, which means I’ll probably be able to save and invest additional earnings (especially in my SEP IRA, which can absorb up to 25% of my freelance earnings as tax-deductible contributions).

So I’m very interested to see whether that forecasting number changes by the end of March.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because I’ve been transparently sharing my finances online since 2012, when I was making $500 a week as a brand-new freelancer.

Because I want to present a realistic picture of what a mid-career freelancer (and author, and teacher) can earn.

Because I know that the type of freelancing work I’m doing won’t last forever — the internet might fundamentally change, robots might start grabbing all of the good copywriting jobs, companies might want to work with younger freelancers who know all the dank memes — and so I’m investing in my future by trying to save as much money and grow my net worth as quickly as possible. Even if I don’t hit financial independence, being able to set money aside while I have the privilege to do so will give me more choices in the future. 

So that’s my March financial summary.

We’ll check back again in April.

*When I worked as an executive assistant for a non-profit, I invested in a TIAA 403(b). I was able to roll everything over into a Vanguard rollover IRA except for this one non-rollable TIAA annuity that TIAA told me I’d have to keep until I retire, I guess. If anyone has any suggestions on how to get that money out of TIAA and into Vanguard, let me know.