Updates and plans

My last post was made January 22, in Thoughts on how to move forward I talked about a long of things. Personal, health, work, about shifting the focus of my financial planning from just getting my shit together to planning for a different future. I thought I had written here after but… figments of the imagination can be pretty realistic I suppose. 🙂 So here’s an update!

Early retirement is on my mind a lot. I suppose this has always been the goal, it has always been what got me started on this path, what got me to fix my mess, get out of debt and save, it is what makes me live like no one else now so that my tomorrow can be different.

I’ve made quite a lot of progress recently. Healthwise I feel amazing, after enlisting the assistance of a naturopathic doctor and finding more like minded people. Through getting back into my workouts and finally, seriously addressing my diet I simply feel amazing. I have not felt this full of life in a very very long time. I’m no longer afraid, I’ve also developed a healthy dose of scepticism toward the medical doctor I have dealt with this past year, but that is perhaps a post for another day. 🙂

Financially I am doing well, I am doing better than I ever expected. I achieved a $100k networth on October 1, 2017. And now, only 6 months later can celebrate;

Which is pretty darn incredible. I guess the snowballing thing just continues once you pay off debt! My goal for 2018 is to achieve a $175,000 networth. My RRSP contribution room for 2018 is $16,528.  So i’ll be using that to reduce my taxable income. There’s been some updates too in the job department, but I’ll leave that for another post.

To get from $135k to $175 is kind of a leap, I mean 40k in one year? I was even considering trying for $185k but lets not set unattainable goals ;). I don’t have a gargantuan income but living simply does allow me to save a lot. This year I will also earn more than last year, which is fantastic, I intend to save it all.

$250k is the magic number for me, its my freedom number, it’s the number at which I will be barista-FI. Financially independent enough to be able to survive on any basic part-time job and live according to my needs and wants.  (assuming, as a single person, not as a couple). I suppose it’s still quite a bit away, it’s a big enough number. So here she goes, a $40k addition to my NW by the end of 2018. Can I beat it?

Thoughts on how to move forward.

There are quite a few thoughts running through my head these days. I’ll be starting to gather things soon to do my tax return for 2017 and with that I’ll tally up all my income and expenses and, as I have been doing for many years, make an estimate of what I will earn and owe for taxes in the coming year.

I’ve been thinking of what I want to achieve in 2018 and honestly I’m at a bit of a loss on what to do this year, I need to and want to change a few things.

2017 was a year of many highs and lows for me.

I scored a full-time job after a long time of looking.

I made huge financial progress.

I also got a brick wall in the face when after an abnormal pap in March I got sent for follow-ups in May and ended up having a procedure/surgery at the end of June on my cervix to remove pre-cancerous cells as I had high grade dysplasia. (A LEEP). Think of it as slicing off a bad mole, except in this case on your cervix, with a very sharp wire. One of these days I’ll do a write up on that whole adventure; I was the first woman at my local hospital to have (I had to battle off four nurses) this procedure fully conscious as I refused general anaesthetic (supported by my doc who thinks its a waste of resources and not necessary) (I also had to refuse IV and a pregnancy test, a wheelchair and a bed, I had a great time that day :p) As of today I’m okay, I don’t have cancer, its unlikely I will get cancer, I’m scheduled for a second followup this month and after that will be monitored fairly closely.

LEEP’s have a near 90% cure rate and so here’s hoping I stay in the 90% for the rest of my life. Then again there is also upward of 37%, depending on what you read, recurrence. It’s unlikely I’ll get cancer… but it’s also possible I’m the 10% and I’ll have to have another procedure if the infection persists and I develop further precancerous changes or cancer… which can affect fertility… and I think I want kids, but they also don’t appeal to me very much, but I might run out of time? How do I reconcile those feelings? During my follow up pap it did look like there was another area for investigating and I’m waiting for results now.

The whole ordeal has been incredibly stressful, it still is, I’ve bawled my eyes out about it quite a few times. I had to deal with all these appointments and phone calls while starting a new, stressful job where I never quite felt like I belonged. I had side effects (pain) half the months, every month after the procedure until mid-December until I finally healed. I felt exhausted and I felt like I was drowning, my coping mechanisms of eating well/being active failed and I gained somewhere around 15 pounds. I didn’t have time to focus on myself because my time was spent working Monday to Friday and any time not spent working was spent on my relationship, eating, and sleeping AND managing my other side hustles. I worked 50-55 hours per week while trying to fix my body and high stress levels, mostly caused bu the 50-55 hours spent working per week.While I was able to get away for two long weekends, most of the rest of my weekends from May till October were spent 50% recovering from the week and the other half a mixture of catching up on other responsibilities and pleasure. Without dropping a ball, any ball, it was hard to focus simply on healing myself.

All of this has led me to evaluate what is and what is not important to me and how I possibly want to direct my future, and 2018.

Before I started my term job last year in May, I formally resigned from the family cleaning company that I ran/helped run/then owned for quite some time. Out of my family I am the only one remaining to keep the company going as it is, I no longer officially work there and no longer perform duties, people have been hired to replace the shifts I used to work. I do still take care of the paperwork here and there and ensure the back end runs smoothly: There is no one available to take over the bits and bobs I still take care of, like managing the bank account.

Furthermore one of my side-hustles in the summer has been commissioned sales on seasonal rentals, I rent out properties for a fee. I’m going into my fifth year doing it and it has been a nice source of a few thousand dollars every season. I’ve also for the past four years cleaned cottages on weekends. Side hustle X (which I’ve never discussed here)(not this blog)(no its not camming) earns me some money on the internet. In summary, I currently have not one but five potential different income streams in addition to the small bits of interest I now earn on my savings and various investments. In 2017 all these came together to earn me much more than ever before. It also took a lot of work.

As most of my jobs and hustles are mostly from spring through October, right now I am until about the end of April, formally unemployed, allowing me time to think about how to proceed. I was told to likely anticipate being offered the term job I had last year again.

Tom is debt-free, as am I. Tom owns his home outright. He has more savings than I do and some passive income to sustain himself, which pays the few bills there are, along with any money earned doing some side-hustles.

Before we left for our around the world trip he quit his job, permanently, finito. I also have recently given up my apartment and no longer have rent to pay. This puts me (well, both of us) in the extraordinary position of having incredibly low living expenses for the foreseeable future. I didn’t particularly enjoy my term job and mostly took it for the money. I need to consider whether I want to return there, and collectively my family and I need to decide whether we completely wind up the family cleaning company at the end of the year. (Which means loss of back-up job security for me, but also potential loss of jobs for several employees, how do you make that decision?) I have many sources of income and they have certainly been helpful this year in getting ahead, but I also can’t do it all and it certainly hasn’t made me any happier or healthier trying to do it all.

Early retirement has been something on my mind much more lately. Financial independence has been my goal, it has been the entire goal of my financial journey to date. I always envisioned myself however, earning much more than I have and doing things very differently, five years ago I would have imagined having a much nicer house. These days, I’m not so sure I want to own any house at all. I also always envisioned reaching this huge amount of money to sustain myself. But perhaps that isn’t necessary at all, either.

Having even this short amount of time off work has made me realize I very much value having the flexibility to arrange my work as I please. It feels much more natural, I feel more useful to my family and friends, I feel like I actually have time to do things and volunteer somewhere and make a difference. I’ve learned that with the whole vagina thing, having time to breathe and just spend reading and biking, being outside, is valuable to me. Having to show up to work, day after day, while still in pain from having my cervix sliced, sucked balls. (Can I get props for balls and vagina in a sentence and non-porn related?). Being able to say hey, today I don’t want to do that because I need to take care of myself? It’s a freedom I will only have if I continue on the path of doing my own thing.

I don’t enjoy dragging myself out of bed for an alarm clock to a job I don’t particularly enjoy and where I am not particularly valued for my strengths AND weaknesses.

But how do you let go of the need to supply, the need to save, the desire for financial independence?

I need an aggressive savings rate to be able to reach financial independence because I am not there yet. But am I willing to do what it takes to get there if I have to repeat 2017 for quite a few more years? Is it worth it? Can my health handle this? What is going to happen with my darn lady bits this year… am I going to heal or is this going to progress? Or is it enough now, is it enough to supply my needs and continue to save but much less aggressively, to focus on living now without needing big income to supply my needs, trusting that God will continue to bring opportunities to supply my needs.

I suppose the only reason I cannot yet let go is that I’m afraid it’s all not enough, that there will be no job, that I’ll lose all my savings, that I’ll be back to square one.

The reality and much more probable is that I’ll be fine, I can say no to the job and yes to my body and my health.

And somehow I need to reconcile these feelings to make sense and to find peace.

The booking of a ROUND THE WORLD TRIP – we did it!

On Sunday October 15th we managed to book our now wrapped up mini-RTW.  (Posts are on a delay because I did not want to advertise the whole “hey, we aren’t home for over a month, come rob us!). Our scheduled departure date was November 7th and we returned on December 13th! December 14th. We paid 160,000 aeroplan points each and about $550 each in taxes for 16 flights, of which 13 were business class flights and 3 economy. We traveled from the east coast of Canada to Europe, to Asia, to Australia, to the west coast of the USA and back again to the east coast of Canada, literally traveling around the world, in 38 days. (Our scheduled Itinerary was for 37 days but a lucky change allowed an extra day layover in Los Angeles resulting in a trip of 5 weeks and 3 days total.)

I wrote a little bit about it in my previous post on the planning of the whole thing and I’ll elaborate a little bit a lot more here.

2 key points;

  • I could not have done this without Tom. Impossible, never gonna happen. Tom has been a computer programmer slash full-on nerd for a good 18 years, he doesn’t like it when I call him a nerd… he also doesn’t know this blog exists (well, he likely does, but since it’s kind of a secret I get creative liberties to say whatever I want HA). His brain and my help enabled us to execute this crazy adventure.
  • We accumulated Aeroplan points rapidly through credit card signups and promotions. I’ve thrown some estimates out there and it’s most accurate to say that it took less than  a year to accumulate the points needed for my flight, without spending beyond my regular budgeted expenses.  Creativity is a wonderful thing. Aeroplan had a transfer promotion earlier this year and through the purchase of two Marriott travel packages (which will be used in spring 2018) and the subsequent points transfer from Marriott into Aeroplan and the award of bonus Aeroplan for transferring in we earned the miles needed to push us over 160,000 Aeroplan each. Take a breath now 🙂

For those not familiar with how Aeroplan works a great primer to get started can be found here.  The Flyertalk forum is a wonderful resource for total newbies as well as seasoned traveler. I’ve been creeping there for a very long time!

We were already brainstorming on how to use the points and 160,000 was the goal and we wanted to try this whole flying in business-class thing. We knew that we needed 160,000 points to travel in business class to Australia and everything started from there. If you’re going to attempt something like this you definitely need to be tenacious because this took many weeks of planning.

Our next steps and I’ve attempted to be brief;

  • Determine Aeroplans MPM of departure-destination to determine the leeway in our travel (your first hit on google will be this link, which credits FLy1234 on Flyertalk, Fly1234= Tom. I feel oddly proud of this, hehe 🙂 )
  • Sorted out which destinations worked within that mpm using Great Circle Mapper
  • Gathered data on flights to/from through Aeroplan (subpoint; we initially started simply searching on Aeroplan and working with a spreadsheet which turned out to not be sufficient for our plans, Tom created a database with the information and searchtool through which we were able to sort what we wanted… (i’m going to bold this; there are lots of people with lots of points but very few itineraries we’ve seen that have done, well, the extent of what we did, if you want more information about the technical aspect of how, send me an email, we are not unique in having booked with Aeroplan, you can do this on your own but if you don’t have the time or don’t know how.. there’s people crazy people like usthat can help with that!)
  • Picked which specific flights and planes we wanted since we wanted to include a flight on an a380 and we wanted to avoid certain companies to avoid high taxes. Avoiding high taxes is worth a post of its own! As flight availability changes daily, once we ironed out our ideal itinerary we;
  • Called in to aeroplan and talked to a supervisor (you need a knowledgeable agent, you can start talking to a regular agent and the odds are you’ll end up transferred to someone with more experience) we spent a few HOURS on the phone on a quiet Sunday and booked, but not confirmed, we had to wait for a call back the next day to confirm and after that another call as the charges went wrong on our cards. (double charge, double refund… yea!

We ended up choosing Perth as our destination, simply because we wanted to go to Australia and had no idea which place to pick IN Australia and Perth gave us the highest MPM to work with. After picking Perth our other destinations were partly determined by flight routes… we knew we wanted to fly across the Atlantic ocean as I wanted to go home to the Netherlands. This meant we needed to fly from Montreal into Zurich for the lowest taxes/fees. We had lots of other places that sounds interesting… Tokyo, Seoul, Singapore, Bangkok etc. We worked out what we wanted.

And so the start of our adventure was born, just for fun, the day we actually got this booked we went online and sorted out how much it would have cost us to book this outright on that day;

It would have cost $27,524.88. ^ This is what we actually booked with Aeroplan.

We flew from Charlottetown to Montreal and, after a quick breakfast in the Montreal at the lounge (Business class includes lounge access!) spent the day walking around downtown Montreal, shopping for the currencies needed for the rest of the trip. We flew overnight from Montreal to Zurich, spent the day in Zurich, flew to Amsterdam where we had a ten day stop Amsterdam was our first stopover. While we were in the Netherlands we hopped on the train for a weekend in London and after visiting all my family flew to Istanbul, where we spent a very fun 7 hours in the very large IST lounge. From Istanbul we flew to Beijing where we stayed the night and explored the Forbidden City the next morning. In the afternoon we flew to TaiPei where we met up with Tom’s nephew and went up Taipei 101, we spent the night in Taipei and spent the next day exploring Singapore… so humid! After Singapore we hit our destination; Perth.

It took a little while to get our bearings in Australia but once we did we LOVED it. After our time in Australia we flew back to Singapore for a day where we went for a short hike in the MacRitchie nature reserve, and on to Bangkok, Thailand, our second stopover. We spent 6 days in Thailand, loved it also! Then began making our way back home with a day in Shanghai, a day in Tokyo (totally bizarre), a night in Seoul, two nights in Los Angeles and home through Montreal. Due to winter weather in Canada we were able to move our flight and called in to stay an extra day in LAX. We spent the extra and last afternoon of our trip biking Ocean Drive.

The final cost of our trip was about $1,850CAD, including the Aeroplan taxes, car rentals, insurances, accommodations, food and everything not mentioned. We used points and credits from various programs to pay for things. You would think we’re all out of points now? They just keep coming… I’m almost up to 100,000 aeroplan again!

And that is how we booked and went on a round the world trip, for pretty cheap, with Aeroplan. 🙂 (And yes, we are working on the next big adventure!)