Introducing One Life To Live: A Quarterly Update on How We Fuel Our Happiness

One Life to Live is our new quarterly update on how financial independence plays an integral part in fueling our true happiness. We all have one life to live, but the question is, are we making the best of it? Are we living in the richest way possible? We hope that our lifestyle answers those questions as we continue to optimize for happiness. Carpe Diem!

Welcome readers.

We’re thrilled to introduce this quarterly section in which we drop a few lines and provide some important FIRE updates.

One Life to Live will include a high-level update on our passive income and essential expenses for our “numbers lover” readers.

We’ll look at how our income would have covered those expenses if we were already retired by focusing on these two categories. This way of thinking will pave the way for us to continue discussing how we’ll pay our bills with passive income after we retire early.

We’ll provide updates on what we’ve been up to for the last quarter, including challenges, goals, fun stuff, and life adventures, for “lifestyle” readers who want to follow our journey beyond just numbers.

Life, especially now that we’ve reached FI, is about optimizing for happiness rather than just making more money.

Simple family activities bring happiness

Would we rather peel peas as a fun family activity or sit in a cubicle and read emails?

Tatiana’s labor of peeling peas at her godmother’s summer house outside of Minsk, Belarus, is shown in the photo below in 2016.

Peeling peas brings her back wonderful childhood memories for her.

She’d visit her grandmother in Minsk every summer when school was out. She’d spend countless hours at her grandmother’s summer cottage working the land.

She would help care for the growing fruits and vegetables, de-weed the plots of land, and collect the delectable fruits of her labor there.

She’d spend her time there talking with her grandmother and other family members, singing old folk songs, and, on occasion, sneaking bites of the ripened harvest.

Tatiana peeling peas at her grandma’s summer cottage.

So, when the opportunity to peel peas from their pods with her family on her first trip back in 18 years arose, she eagerly accepted and was instantly transported back in time.

During those hours, she felt genuine happiness while doing some manual labor.

When used correctly, money can bring happiness. Having financial freedom allows us to enjoy our time on our own terms.

We’ve reached a point in our lives when we want to maximize our happiness, which includes devoting time to the things that truly matter.

We hope you find this section as entertaining as we do. The first quarter of the year is in the books, and here are some highlights of our happiness optimization awesomeness.


Virginia road trip

We finally got to enjoy our first vacation of the year. It was a well-received vacation after a difficult February on the personal front.

We spent 9 days at the end of last month exploring the state of Virginia.

It was fascinating to learn more about the state’s history.

We walked around pretending to be college students at the University of Virginia. The Rotunda is pictured above.

Road to retirement

We decided last year to divide our FIRE goal into individual goals rather than focusing on a single large number.

Our first financial goal was to accumulate a certain amount of income-producing assets that would generate enough income to cover $30-$35k in annual retirement spending.

That target was met in January.

Our second goal is to save enough money to purchase a home.

From the beginning, our FIRE strategy has been to first achieve FI by investing only in income-producing assets, and then save for a house if desired. We will leave our jobs once we reach this goal.

Passive income and expenses

Essential expenses

Eseential expenses, are exactly that, essential! We want to focus on these types of expenses on a quarterly basis because once we retire, these are the expenses that we won’t be able to easily cut out of our budget if we need to cut back. It’s all about being adaptable in retirement.

Even though our expenses will change in retirement, we want to know our exact figure. That is the amount we will require to meet our basic needs.

After we retire, we intend to withdraw no more than 3.5 percent of our portfolio balance on a quarterly basis.

If the market is down for an extended period of time and we don’t want to sell at a loss, it’s nice to know that we can cut costs to do so.

The good news is that we are doing this as a precaution because we are confident that withdrawing 3.5 percent will give us a 90 percent chance of our portfolio lasting a lifetime.

We can easily reduce our discretionary spending while still living an amazing life.

In these quarterly updates, we will not report on discretionary spending. We do keep track of all of our expenses, and we will continue to publish our annual total spending.

Streamlined reporting

We’re streamlining these reports as much as possible to produce them in as little time as possible, giving us more time to live our lives.

It fits with our theme of having only one life to live and making the most of it. I enjoy blogging, but I also enjoy other aspects of life, and I want to maintain a healthy balance between blogging and other pursuits.

What information will be included in our reports?

At the end of the day, people need food, shelter, mobility, and the ability to pay bills and manage debt (that is no longer my case).

So these are the expenses that we will focus on.

Keeping our basic expenses low was an important step toward financial independence. We were able to buy financial independence, enjoy life’s experiences, and help others by freeing up money spent in these categories.

All roads eventually lead to greater happiness in our daily lives.

Basic spending for Q1-2017

This is how we spent money on necessities during the first quarter.

Everyone should at the very least track their spending on necessities in order to determine the bare minimum required to cover them in the event of an income loss.

 Main Category

 Quarter Amount 

2017 Monthly Average


*Net Rent -$873-$291For the quarter, our rental property generated $4,323 in net income. We apply these payments to our rent and end up with a profit for the quarter.
Bills & Utilities$519$173 
Debt Payments$0$0 
Groceries$2,009$669.66We prepaid $507 for a fruits and veggies co-op for summer and fall.
Auto & Transportation $986$328.66We spent $550 to replace all 4 rotors. 🙁 Sad to spend but happy to keep our car well-maintained.
Home Supplies$297 $99 




That’s all! It’s a high-level, streamlined quarterly report on our basic needs.

We’ve gotten so good at money management that the rest of our spending only needs to be scrutinized if our financial situation changes or our spending becomes out of control.

You can view our most recent annual spending report by clicking here.

*Due to late payments from tenants, our rental property generated extra income. We’ll be making some repairs this quarter, so we’ll have less income to show next quarter.

This property turned out to be an excellent investment. While it is satisfying to see our real estate investment perform well, it makes the decision to sell the property prior to retirement much more difficult for us.

It certainly makes us think about continuing to invest in real estate after we retire.

Dividend Income for Q1-2017

For the first quarter, we received $3,650.23 in dividend income. In retirement, portfolio income will be our primary source of passive income.

We had a $712 “surplus” for the quarter with $3,650 in dividend income and $2,938 in basic spending (after taking into consideration rent income).

We could use that money to travel, eat out, or any other discretionary expense if we were retired, but we’re still working, so it’s all reinvested. 🙂

Our dividends increased by a large percentage because we invested a nice amount of cash in our brokerage account that we had set aside to buy a property abroad.

Speaking of eating, let’s move on to our next section to see what we’ve been cooking lately.

From the chef’s kitchen

Cooking your own meals is an excellent way to eat healthily while also saving money.

One significant advantage is that you can cook with better ingredients and know exactly what is in your food. Here are some of the dishes we prepared during the last quarter.

Vegan lasagna

It’s been a while since I made a vegan lasagna, so wifey was happy to have it again.

Apple Pie

Homemade apple pie is our new obsession.

Light Apple Cider

We boiled the organic apple peels with cinnamon, added raw honey and made a warm apple cider out of it. Nothing goes to waste here.

Trying new things

Miracle morning

This month, we’re resuming our Miracle Morning routine, which is based on Hal Elrod’s book, The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8 AM).

The book’s main point is that by getting up earlier to do the things you enjoy first thing in the morning, rather than going straight to work, you wake up energized and happier because you start your day with what’s most important to you.

Getting up to do what you enjoy makes getting up in the morning easier.

In essence, we wake up an hour earlier and perform the following tasks in 10-minute increments:

  1. Meditate – 10 min
  2. Do affirmations – 10 min
  3. Visualize our goals and successes – 10 min
  4. Read – 10 min
  5. Write – 10 min
  6. Exercise – 10 min

My goal is to get up two hours earlier in order to add an hour to my routine. During that two-hour period, I’d like to take piano and salsa lessons.

What’s next?

We have a weekend trip to Maryland in May for a fun concert and are looking forward to another vacation to the Dominican Republic.

We haven’t been to Macao Beach in over a year, and we can’t wait to return to eat the best-fried fish we’ve ever had.

Rice, beans, and tostones, please!  Yummy!

 That’s all for now, folks.

What steps are you taking to improve your happiness?


After dedicating 13 years of his career to Vanguard, José retired from the corporate world at the young age of 44. During his tenure at Vanguard, he expertly coordinated the production of both electronic and print educational materials for 401(k) participants. Now, he relishes in his early retirement, cherishing time spent with his family, indulging in his favorite hobbies, seeking out new experiences, and savoring meals in the comfort of his own backyard.

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