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Updates & Inspiration for Your Financial Independence Journey

Curated and written by ChooseFI Podcast host & co-founder Brad Barrett, the FI Weekly Newsletter is the weekly check-in you need if you’re pursuing FI.

Every Tuesday morning you’ll receive an email with:

  • Three key sections summarized to maximize your ability to take action
    • Recent examples include: Redeeming rewards points for NYC, finding Unclaimed Property, Gift Tax Exclusion rules, daily routines of high performers…and more.
  • Six ‘1% Wins’ from FI Weekly readers – what they did this week to make their lives better. The secret sauce of the newsletter is the motivation and inspiration you get reading these wins.

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Interested in past newsletters? View the full set of previous emails here!

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Explore the Archives

FI Weekly – February 13, 2024: Essential Episodes, Save on Streaming, What I’m Reading, Watching, Playing

Essential Podcast Episodes We’ve started 2024 out with a string of essential ChooseFI podcast episodes that I’m immensely proud of. If you haven’t caught up recently, it would be hard to beat Episodes 470 through 476 for impactful listening. Sean Mullaney blew me away on Ep 475 with completely new information I’d never heard before on how to access your money before 59.5. This knowledge will help the entire FI Community and it should be spread far and wide. Yesterday in Ep 476, Amy shared her incredibly personal story where the title says it all: “Love, Loss, and Money: The Shocking Financial Aftermath of a FI Spouse’s Death.” Everyone can benefit from that episode as it highlights how a few simple steps can prevent a significant amount of additional pain in the event of the death of a loved one. There isn’t enough space to go through all these episodes, but “The Cure for the Boring Middle” in Ep 472 is the best way I’ve found to prepare yourself for what FI will look like, and don’t forget that if you have Social Security questions from Ep 474, we’re going to do a part 2, so please hit reply and

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FI Weekly – February 6, 2024: Hard Choices, Easy Life, Cut Down on Email and Physical Clutter

Hard Choices, Easy Life. Easy Choices, Hard Life I saw a post on Instagram from @VisuallyNeeded that reminded me of one of my favorite quotes and it helped me rediscover this section I included in the newsletter 3 years ago: “I’ve often mentioned Jerzy Gregorek’s masterful “Hard choices, easy life. Easy choices, hard life” quote, as I think it is a framework for long-term success in FI and in life. Possibly even more profound is this from Jerzy: “Try to be around people who don’t do three things. They are not sarcastic. They don’t complain and they don’t blame.” If you sit back and listen, you’ll find these ‘three killers of happiness’ make up 80%+ of everyday conversation. I challenge you to personally stop this madness and also cut out the people in your life perpetuating this negativity. Instead, look for people who are interested in others, those who ask questions, those looking for solutions, those who understand there’s nuance and subtlety in the world, and that there’s so much to be positive about, even in tough times.” Cutting Down on Email Clutter For someone who reached FI, I have a lot of self-imposed, unnecessary stress in my life. This is something I’m working on fixing

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FI Weekly – January 30, 2024: Why Did Your Habit Not Stick?, Merit Aid for College, Lower Streaming Costs and Community Wins

Why Did Your Habit Not Stick? “It’s one year from now. The habit you were hoping to build during the year didn’t stick. What is the most likely reason it failed?” That is the question James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, recently asked on Twitter. I love this type of thinking where you view the problem from a completely different angle in order to get more clarity. “Invert, always invert” as Charlie Munger would quote. For me, habits often don’t stick when I don’t have enough motivation or clarity. Simply put, I sometimes pick habits because it sounds like something that would be good for someone, but ultimately not for me. Running is a perfect example. I loathe running, but almost invariably it’s on my ‘to do list’ of goals every year. No surprise when that habit doesn’t stick. What is the most likely reason YOUR habit failed? Merit Aid for College If you’re the parent of a ~6th through 11th grader and you haven’t listened to ChooseFI Episode 460 with Brian Eufinger, you need to drop everything and listen to that episode. This was the most eye-opening episode I’ve recorded in years, as I was completely unaware of “merit aid grids” based on

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FI Weekly – January 23, 2024: Investments to Keep Out of Taxable Accounts, Best Investment Writing, Travel Rewards Win

Investments to Keep Out of Your Taxable Accounts Have you ever considered which types of investments you should hold in your taxable brokerage accounts vs. retirement accounts like your 401k, Roth and Traditional IRAs, etc.? The key is if you’re going to have certain investments in your overall portfolio, you want to hold them in a way where income (dividends, etc.) and capital gains distributions won’t significantly raise your tax bill. Christine Benz wrote a great article for Morningstar called “Which Investments to Keep Out of Your Taxable Account” that is well worth diving into if you have any of the following investments which I pasted from Christine’s article: “Here are some of the key categories to keep out of your taxable accounts: Travel Rewards Win and Updates I just had a massive win with travel rewards points: My daughter and I are going to Texas in February to visit 3 amusement parks (she’s a massive roller coaster enthusiast!) and we really wanted to fly into Dallas on one particular Friday night direct flight. The flights were over $500 each, which was a non-starter. They were American Airlines flights but I had no AA miles. What I did have was a

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FI Weekly – January 16, 2024: Don’t Pay Mutual Fund Fees, Apps to Replace Mint, Being Present

Don’t Pay Fees to Buy Vanguard Mutual Funds at Other Brokerages I see many people in our community get obsessed with only buying “VTSAX” (Vanguard’s Total Stock Market Index Fund) because they’ve heard so much about it in the FI Community. This is a wonderful fund if you’re investing through Vanguard because Vanguard charges you $0 in fees to purchase VTSAX. If you are investing through another brokerage like Fidelity or Schwab, you WILL get charged a significant ‘transaction fee’ (could be up to $75 each time!) to purchase a Vanguard mutual fund through Fidelity or Schwab. To pay $0 in fees: Vanguard, Schwab and Fidelity all charge $0 in fees and commissions on ETF (Exchange-Traded Funds) and stock trades. Vanguard’s VTI is the ETF version of VTSAX. It is essentially identical to VTSAX. If you feel you must own a Vanguard product, and you invest through Fidelity or Schwab, you can buy VTI for $0 in fees and commissions. And realistically, the Total Stock Market Funds/ETFs from Fidelity and Schwab themselves are basically identical to VTSAX/VTI, so it’s hard to go wrong with their products as well. Please don’t pay transaction fees or commissions when you simply don’t have to! Deep Wisdom on

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FI Weekly – January 9, 2024: How States Tax Retirees, Mini-Retirement Coaching, Health Challenge

How Each State Taxes Retirees This article from Kiplinger, “Taxes in Retirement: How All 50 States Tax Retirees,” is a quick way to determine how your state (or future retirement destination) taxes income for retirees, including: ·         Income Tax on Taxable Income ·         Social Security ·         Pensions ·         401(k) and IRA Distributions (Note: This article has more ads than any I have ever seen, but the information is incredibly useful) Mini Retirements: Jillian’s Group Coaching I know how deeply Episode 451 of the podcast on ‘Mini-Retirements to Accelerate Your Path to FI’ with Jillian Johnsrud resonated with you, because I got swamped by emails in response to that particular episode. Jillian is starting a Career Break/Mini-Retirements Coaching group this month and if you are serious about a mini-retirement, but feel stuck, this could be the perfect opportunity to take action. The 12-week program includes a detailed workbook, 20+ sessions including coaching, Q&As and mastermind groups and a 1-on-1 with Jillian. This type of in-depth, small group coaching program obviously can’t be free but if you’re serious about a mini-retirement, this could be what you’re

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FI Weekly – January 2, 2024: Net Worth Calc, Emergency Binder, 12 Financial Challenges plus Community Wins

Net Worth Calculation for 2023 I think it’s important to track your net worth on at least a yearly basis (I track mine quarterly) and there’s no better time to start than right now at the start of the new year (Happy New Year!). Really simply: You can use a free app like Empower (formerly Personal Capital), but I like a spreadsheet where I list out all my assets (every account separately plus major assets like my home and investment properties) and liabilities (mortgages, student loans, credit cards, other debt, etc.) individually. Add up all the assets and subtract out the liabilities to get your 2023 net worth. This takes all of 10 minutes and it’s really valuable to see the state of your finances at a glance like this. FI Essential: Emergency Binder On the topic of taking action at the beginning of the new year: Here’s a friendly reminder that you will die someday. And if you don’t have your essential documents, financial accounts, etc. listed out for your family, they are going to struggle during an already stressful time. Chelsea Brennan came on the podcast in Episode 125 to talk about her Family Emergency Binder, which makes

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FI Weekly – December 26, 2023: Year End Wins (Part 2)

Year End Wins (Part 2) I received so many incredible ‘year end wins’ emails that I felt compelled to feature as many as possible these last two newsletters of the year. For some more year end inspiration, check out ChooseFI podcast Episode 468 ‘Year End Wins 2023’ that came out last week with 10+voicemails (and another Jonathan guest appearance), plus here’s a link to last week’s Part 1 newsletter in case you missed it. Enjoy these wins from the community: “1) I started 2023 with a net worth of $23,300. My net worth will be around $80,000 by the end of the year. 2) I’ve turned my side hustle into a small business earning over $40,000!! (Youtube, blogging, financial coaching) 3) I maxed out my 2023 Roth IRA by June and now I already have the $7K saved up to max out my 2024 Roth IRA on the first of January. 4) I’ve made over $3,300 from credit card cash back/bonuses and checking/savings account bonuses! 5) I got promoted at my Salesforce job(which I just started in 2022) and that came with a 12% pay increase. (Brad Note: The Talent Stacker Salesforce Career Development Program, which we’ve long partnered with, has proven

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FI Weekly – December 19, 2023: Year End Wins 2023 (Part 1)

Year End Wins 2023 I was blown away by the quality and quantity of FI wins the community sent in this year, and to go along with ChooseFI podcast Episode 468 ‘Year End Wins 2023’ that dropped yesterday with nearly a dozen voicemails, I’m turning these last two newsletters of 2023 over to the community to feature your written wins: “Our 1% better for 2023 was dialing in exactly how much we need per month to live on (thanks YNAB!) and confidently adjusting workplace retirement contributions accordingly. We have several W2 employers between us (thanks to my multiple part-time jobs) and we can live off my husband’s alone. I’ve adjusted my net pay down to practically nothing. My paydays are pretty anticlimactic, but we know we’re getting a better deal by investing pretax AND we no longer have to rely on motivation alone to invest at an aggressive rate. This has also helped beef up the account balances that are in my name, which feels like an added level of safety and security to a lower-wage spouse.” – Shannon “My partner and I have been fortunate enough to see our incomes increase at a pretty high rate the last few

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FI Weekly – December 12, 2023: Pay in Full Discounts, Excel Shortcuts, Philosophical Razors and Community Wins

Pay in Full for a Discount Saw this great post from Cody Garrett in the Facebook group: “Are you paying for your auto insurance annually, semi-annually, or monthly? I just reviewed an auto policy that provides a 9% discount if paid annually rather than monthly. I’d take that guaranteed return!” It takes under 5 minutes to email or call your insurance agent to find out if this is possible for you and could lead to a nice discount! Are there other areas of your financial life where you are paying a “convenience fee” to spread payments out?  Might be worth investigating the potential savings! This a perfect example of a “1% win” we constantly talk about in the ChooseFI community. Excel Shortcuts to Save Hundreds of Hours Clint Murphy recently asked on Twitter: “1 Billion of you use Microsoft Excel, but can you navigate it without using a mouse?” If not, here are “50 Excel Shortcuts that’ll save you hundreds of hours of your life.” I thought this list was important enough to copy and paste directly into the newsletter, so the entire list appears below the “Community Taking Action” 1% wins at the end of this newsletter. It took

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FI Weekly – December 5, 2023: Tribute to Charlie Munger, Fundamentals of FI, What I’m Up To plus Community Wins

Tribute to Charlie Munger Charlie Munger is the person I’ve quoted the most in this newsletter over the years, as his wisdom can help you live a “richer” life in every way. Charlie passed away last week at the age of 99, and in tribute to Charlie, I’m planning to read his book Poor Charlie’s Almanack again this coming week. The book just rereleased today and it’s only $27 on Amazon as I type this (was previously $60+ for the prior version). I also wanted to highlight some of my favorite of Charlie’s quotes: Fundamentals of FI I’m going back to basics on the website with a series of “Fundamentals of FI” explanation videos. Here are the first five of these short (5-7 minutes each) videos I published: What I’m Reading, Watching and Playing I get a surprising number of emails asking what board games we’re playing as a family, or what books I’m reading, podcasts I’m listening to, etc. Though it feels weird to talk about myself this overtly, enough people have asked, so I’m going to make this a fairly regular feature in the newsletter. Here’s what I’m: Watching: Season 45 of Survivor on CBS.  This is our favorite family

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FI Weekly – November 28, 2023: Travel Rewards Sweet Spots, Websites for Readers, 2nd Gen FI and Community Wins

Travel Rewards Sweet Spot Examples Travel Rewards is one of our “Pillars of FI” as we think it is an easy way to take 1-2 nearly free vacations each year by using your smart credit card habits and opening targeted credit cards (here’s my Top 10 List that I keep constantly updated). Earning the points is the easy part for most people, but most do not feel confident they are redeeming them for the best value. I wanted to highlight some “sweet spot redemption” articles I found recently on two of my favorite rewards programs: Get Started: If you still haven’t gotten started with travel rewards, go back and listen to Episode 9 of ChooseFI, our original podcast episode on travel rewards.  I just listened to it and the episode is still amazingly relevant 6+ years later! (Important Note: Always check the current annual fee and bonus when you sign up for a credit card, especially when listening to/reading content from the past) Websites Every Reader Should Know About If you’ve been a member of the ChooseFI community for any length of time you know I’m a massive reader and we consider the library one of the best life hacks

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