Tuesday, December 04, 2018


I just read what was a controversial blogpost at Financial Samurai:"Why $5 Million Is Barely Enough To Retire Early With A Family". The post analyses the income and expenditure of a family living in west Los Angeles. A lot of commenters are critical of the assumptions and spending behavior of this family and some people provide some alternative numbers. That got me thinking about the numbers for our family in a bit more detail than I had thought about previously. In the following, I assume we retire where we currently live in Canberra, Australia.

Our net worth is only a bit over half that in Ken's blogpost: AUD 4 million (USD 3 million). We spend about AUD 10k (USD 7k per month) including mortgage interest (but not taxes) compared to their USD 14k per month. If we retired, most of our spending would be unchanged. We don't wear fancy clothes to work and we don't commute long distances. Assuming we continue daycare for 3 days a week (a very good idea in my opinion) we would lose the government subsidy, increasing our spending by AUD8k per year. Anyway, we would progress to private pre-school and likely private school after that going forward so we will have schooling expenses of a similar level. Unlike the American case studies, our health insurance would be unchanged at AUD 6k per year. In fact, it would make sense in my opinion to drop the private health cover and rely on the government system as we will no longer need to pay the Medicare Levy Surcharge if we don't have private insurance. Moominmama will probably want to keep the coverage, though, because she thinks private everything is better (see schools above). Also, unlike the US, we don't need to worry about saving for college tuition because almost all Australian universities are public and students borrow the tuition costs from the government and pay it back as their post-graduation income allows.

Another thing that would be more expensive for us is international travel. This year we traveled as a family for a month to three Northern European countries and Japan. As I went to three international conferences, my fare was paid my employer. I also deducted two weeks accommodation for two conferences which were in the same city and half my wife's airfare from our taxes. She also attended one of the conferences. If we had to pay for everything ourselves, it would have cost us about AUD 5k more.

On the income side, if we stop working, our tax will fall to effectively zero. We will put as much as possible into superannuation and two tax-free thresholds and franking credits should mean no tax on the earnings of the "taxable" part of the portfolio. If I get back into trading successfully, we probably will have to pay tax again, but then our income will be higher too.

So AUD 130k or so per year is about 3.25% of the net worth, which is close to ERN's recommended withdrawal rate. So, in theory we could retire now. As, I'm in my mid-50s, this would still qualify as early retirement. However, I am a bit worried about rising expenditure and a looming economic downturn. Also, at the moment I am happy with my job and so it doesn't make sense to sacrifice the salary. So, at least for the next year we won't implement the RE part of FIRE.

1 comment:

Financial Independence said...

You quite right to be worried about the economical downturn and any potential expenses (either health issue, educational, damage to the house and so on).

I think $5 Mln is O.K. as soon as the kids are out of the house and the mortgage is paid. At current S&P500 2% a year this is only $100 K, which will go down at inflation rate of 3-7% (actual inflation is way higher that official portraited).