FI Data Viz #3

Today I tried recreating a data viz that I found really helpful when I was paying off my student loans.  Back then, I would chart how many months of debt I saved myself each month by overpaying on my loans.  I would do this by tracking 2 metrics:

  1. How many months I saved with each payment.  Ex: This month I doubled my minimum payment thereby saving myself 2 months of debt.
  2. How many months total I saved myself.  Ex: In total, I have saved myself 14 months of debt.

Translating the progress of debt to time helped keep me motivated and encouraged me to keep making extra payments.  I thought I’d try recreating a modified version of this for my FI/RE progress.

While I’m quite a ways away from actual FI/RE and can’t really know for sure when I would reach either, I can try to translate the progress I’ve already made into how many months of freedom I’m buying myself each month.  I abandoned the 4% rule for this viz because otherwise the outcomes would not be very interesting.

Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 9.07.48 PM

In the graph above, the blue line is a running measure of how many added months of expenses my portfolio got every month (contributions + growth/decline) while the grey bars are the running total of how many months worth of expenses I’ve already put aside.  So for example, in February of 2017 the market and I contributed roughly 2.2 months worth of savings to the pot bringing the total number of months of freedom bought to 21 months.

Viz Verdict

Meh.  This is an interesting way to look at the information, but there are so many caveats that I’m not sure this chart is worth it:

  • The lack of 4% rule cardinality…
  • The ambiguity of what the market will do in the future and the fact that I will “lose” months at some point…
  • Not knowing how many months of eventual retirement I will have…

All of these make this a harder sell for a useful chart.

Oh well, worth a shot :).



FI Data Viz #2

Today I thought I’d build a new viz tracking my FI as a function of which of my expenses* my investments can cover over time (as per the 4% rule).

*Since this is a work-in-progress towards FI and, eventually RE, I did not include in the expenses budget lines I cannot easily estimate the costs of when retired (i.e. taxes and health insurance) or budget lines that I would most likely not be making when retired (i.e. contributions to retirement and investment account).  Realistically, all of my expenses will be different in the future so this is really just an exercise to give me short term goals on the way to full retirement.

For starter’s, here is a list of my monthly expenses

Line Item Cost Running Sum
Laundry $10 $10
Tech (gdrive, netflix) $20 $30
Cell phone bill $35 $65
Internet bill $45 $110
Misc spending $85 $195
Transportation $170 $360
Food $200 $560
Rent $1,200 $1,760

/sigh … That rent line bums me out every time I see it :/.

Moving on, here is a running tally of my investments over the last few years.


On the opposite axis, I added the running 4% tally and exaggerated the axes a little bit to make it easier to see the line.


Right off the bat, I see a visual problem with this chart.  The axes are not showing the relationship between the two datasets appropriately.  Which is to say that while the red line appears to show ~13% of the “goal” of $1760, the blue line is not showing the same.  Scaling the axes up or down to the full goal of FI also wouldn’t work because then you wouldn’t be able to see the nuances (see chart below).  I could change the type of chart for one of the lines, but I’m lazy :).


Soooo I’ll just move forward with the lopsided chart for now and add in my expenses.


Visible in teeny tiny font is where along the way I’ve been able to meet my running expenses.  I can now say that my investments can sustainably cover my laundry, tech, cell phone, internet, and miscellaneous expenses.  Now if only I can give up shelter, food, and transportation, I’d be free!

Line Item Cost Running Sum
Laundry $10 $10
Tech (gdrive, netflix) $20 $30
Cell phone bill $35 $65
Internet bill $45 $110
Misc spending $85 $195
Transportation $170 $360
Food $200 $560
Rent $1,200 $1,760

On this planet, I’m projecting I’ll be able to meet my basic expenses by 2024 assuming no drastic changes from status quo.

Viz Verdict

I really like this visual.  It suffers from a few technical problems around scalability and visual innumeracy, but I like the impact of being able to quickly see where I’m able to knock out each additional expense, and how much further I have to go.

FI Data Viz #1

If you know me, you know I’m a weirdo for data visualization.  It’s not a habit driven out of my enjoyment of creating beautiful data visualizations, but rather out of my loathing of bad data visualizations.  What’s sad is that most of what I churn out falls FIRMLY in the latter camp of visualizations deserving of a one-way ticket home to jesus.

That all being said, I love the power of data visualizations!  When I was paying off my student loans, I made all sorts of charts to help me read and connect with the information.  Seeing the line slowly creep towards that horizontal axis value of $0 was my literal finish line.  As such, I thought I’d start doing some data viz for this blog.  So without further ado, let’s get to the nerding 🤓.

I have a document that I use to track the progress of my investment accounts on a monthly basis, as well as to track my contributions to those accounts.  With that information, I calculate and look at 3 variables:

  1. The total change in my portfolio since previous month (blue)
  2. How much of that change was caused by the market (orange)
  3. How much of that change was caused by my contributions (black)

I plotted the three variables below.

Viz Verdict

While my contributions over the past two years have been pretty consistent and increasing, the market has been doing what markets do.  A take away from the visualization could be that I need to make sure that the black line (my contribution) is always spiking when the market is on sale and the orange line dips.

At this point, this chart isn’t telling me anything I don’t know, but hey I already disclosed that I’m bad at this.  Hopefully with time, I can keep churning these out until I develop charts that are useful and motivational.

Small victory to claim this week

I am very fortunate to have a job that offers a 401k.  I’m even more fortunate that my job offers that 401k through Vanguard.  Recently, the powers that be did some swaps on the investment options and got us some ridiculously cheap deals.  We now have access to an institutional version of VFINX for a whopping expense ratio of 0.013% (0.127% below market) and an institutional version of VTSAX for 0.0175% (0.0225% below market).

I took a page out of their book and decided to move some stuff around in preparation for the upcoming changes.

Here is what I was spending before the changes:

Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 5.22.42 PM

According to Personal Capital, I was losing ~4% of my earnings to fees.  This was very dumb of me.  I call this dumb because I spent about 10 minutes moving some things around within the existing investment options and was able to cut down my costs significantly:

Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 5.22.34 PM

I saved myself 3% and thousands of dollars of earnings in the long term! See? Dumb.

The new investment options haven’t even kicked in yet, but I imagine they will bring that number down even more.  I’m currently looking into whether I can move my IRAs into the 401k account to take advantage of these amazing fees.  If so, I imagine I can get my average expense ratio under 0.02%.

**UPDATE 1 of 2? 3?**

The fee keeps going down! This effect came from moving 2 (out of 4 total) IRAs into my 401K.

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 7.12.42 PM

I’ll do another update when the 401K investments get moved to the cheaper index funds… and maybe one more once I move my other 2 IRAs into this 401K.


**UPDATE 2 of 2**

Alas Personal Capital does not import the expense ratios of institutional funds, but they do allow you to set an estimate of what those funds cost.  Unfortunately, that slider allows you to pick expense ratios in 0.1% increments.  My new sexy index funds are one whole decimal point away from those increments in the 0.01%-0.02% ballpark, so it does not work for me. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯