Recommended Resources

Recommended Resources

Money Tracking

FI Laboratory

Track your progress to financial independence in the Mad Fientist's FI Laboratory!

FI Laboratory
Personal Capital

A powerful (and free!) web application for monitoring your portfolio.

Personal Capital

FIRE Spreadsheets

FI Spreadsheet

Download the spreadsheet I used on my own journey to financial independence!

FI Spreadsheet
Post-FI Spreadsheet

This is the spreadsheet I use now because it's less time-consuming to update.

Post-FI Spreadsheet

Travel Hacking

Travel Cards

The credit-card search tool I created to help travel hackers find the best card signup bonuses!

Travel Cards
Card Email Series

Email series that shares the strategy I used to accumulate over one million frequent flyer points!

Card Email Series

Online Business


The web-hosting company that has been serving up the Mad Fientist since the very beginning!


The application that powers all of the Mad Fientist's signup forms, email automations, etc.



The Simple Path to Wealth

This book will teach you everything you need to know to become a successful investor!

The Simple Path to Wealth
Your Money or Your Life

The classic book on financial independence and early retirement!

Your Money or Your Life
Early Retirement Extreme

An academic investigation into the strategies and systems behind early retirement.

Early Retirement Extreme
The Psychology of Money

Important lessons about money and psychology, told through nineteen short stories.

The Psychology of Money
Atomic Habits

This book helped me more than any other with building my ideal post-FI life!

Atomic Habits
Deep Work

Another book that's helped me pursue my goals, especially since leaving my job.

Deep Work

Affiliate Disclosure: Mad Fientist may receive compensation (at no cost to you) when you utilize some of the links above.  Thank you for your support!

93 comments for “Recommended Resources

  1. Patrick
    February 27, 2014 at 6:40 am

    Love your blog. How would you go about starting a traditional Ira? Can I do that Vanguard? Would like to start investing like him Collins says in his stock series? Keep up the great blog

    Thank you,

    • The Mad Fientist
      February 28, 2014 at 8:48 pm

      Hey Patrick,

      Yes, you can open a Traditional IRA at Vanguard (that’s where I have mine). Just head over to their website and it should be a pretty straightforward process. Give them a call if you get stuck with anything but I can’t imagine you will.

      Glad you’ve been enjoying the blog!

      • Autumn
        July 28, 2014 at 10:20 pm

        I opened a Roth IRA with Prudential through my financial advisor a couple of years ago. Now my husband is going to open his Roth IRA, but I am not sure if I want to go through the financial advisor for that or not, or whether I want to stick with Prudential for his IRA or not (I’m basically opening the fund for him). Are there significant pros/cons to opening my own IRA through Vanguards website, for instance, and just opening another IRA through my financial advisor? I am pretty new to this stuff.

        • The Mad Fientist
          August 1, 2014 at 9:39 am

          Hi Autumn,

          I imagine the costs would be higher going through a financial advisor so if it were me, I’d just go directly through Vanguard. It is really easy to set up a new account but if you run into problems, you can give them a call and they’ll help you through the process.

          Good luck!

          • Autumn
            September 1, 2014 at 1:39 pm

            Thanks for your advice. What if I am in the same situation (opening a fund with Financial Advisor vs. opening an account on my own), but with money that I want to be fairly liquid? That is, I most likely won’t be accessing this savings for about 5-7 years, and I expect to be adding about $10,000 to it each year. I have a mutual fund that I opened through my financial advisor, and she does offer advice and try to educate me on my accounts. However there is a 5% administrative fee on the amount that I deposit, and after 7 years that will add up to quite a lot of money, in my opinion. I can’t decide if that fee is worth having her guidance there. So I am thinking about not adding any more money to the account through her, and opening a new one on my own.

            Essentially I just want to open a fund starting with $10,000, and keep adding 10,000 each year while getting some sort of return, or at the very least keeping up with inflation. Do you think it would be simple to open a mutual fund (or another fund) through the Vanguard website as well?

          • The Mad Fientist
            September 4, 2014 at 4:13 pm

            A 5% admin fee?!? That is insane so yes, I’d suggest you go out on your own!

            It is very simple to open an ordinary taxable investment account through Vanguard so just give them a call, tell them what you’re hoping to accomplish, and I’m sure they’ll guide you through the process.

            Good luck and let me know how it goes!

  2. Roger
    March 1, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    So when you say you built travelerplastic, does that mean you own it and get the commissions for it? I’m planning on getting a few new credit cards next month and figure I might as well give someone a commission for it, just trying to figure out who that someone should be.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 2, 2014 at 10:21 am

      Hey Roger, that’s very kind of you.

      Yes, I do own Traveler Plastic but sadly, the credit card affiliate programs are notoriously difficult to get into so only a few cards on that site actually pay me anything.

      If you send me an email before you apply though, I can send you my link, which should kick me back something if you apply through their links.

      When you email me, let me know what cards you are thinking about getting. I’m actually planning my next round of applications so I’m interested to hear what you’re going for this time.

  3. Star*Bucks
    March 5, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    Hey I love your site! I use most of the things on this list except for personal capital. I prefer Mint just personal preference. btw i just joined early retirement extreme forums and I places a post showing my financials. I wanted to send you an email just to see if you could critique what I’m doing but I couldn’t find a link to your “contact us” page? Anyways love the contact keep it up my friend

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 6, 2014 at 3:57 pm

      Hey Star*Bucks, just go to the About page and you’ll find my contact information there.

      I look forward to hearing from you!

  4. Jeff
    March 6, 2014 at 9:32 pm

    Hi Brandon,
    Does Vanguard have the equivalent of the Fidelity cash management account that also reimburses ATM fees, offers checking and online bill pay, etc?


    • The Mad Fientist
      March 7, 2014 at 11:54 am

      Hey Jeff, sadly they don’t. There is the Vanguard Advantage account, which is similar to the Fidelity account but not as good (the Vanguard account has ATM fees for non-PNC Bank ATMS, checkbook fees, etc.)

  5. Beth
    March 18, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    I knew I was going to love this blog when you mentioned you had read How to Live Free in an Unfree World, and ERE. They both were life changing, spend changing for me.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 18, 2014 at 10:46 pm

      Absolutely, Beth. An incredible book and an incredible blog!

  6. PK
    March 31, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    Have you seen a web-based or software tool that estimates future dividend income giving your current portfolio composition? If you haven’t achieved FI (yet!) and are still working, a historical view of portfolio dividend income earned is less important than understanding how much annual dividend (and interest) income my current portfolio would earn in the future, including the contributions I just made.

    • The Mad Fientist
      April 1, 2014 at 3:58 pm

      Hey PK, I don’t personally use anything that does what you described. Has anyone else out there come across something like that?

  7. Johnny
    August 2, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    Do you know, concerning the Barclay Arrival Card, if I don’t plan on spending my miles within the first year, can I downgrade to the no fee card and still hold on to my points for using later? Thanks.

    • The Mad Fientist
      August 10, 2014 at 9:44 pm

      Hi Johnny, you should be able to do that so just give Barclay a call when your annual fee is close to being due.

  8. Jshro
    August 25, 2014 at 10:17 pm

    Is there more of an advantage collecting miles/travel perks vs. cash back cards. Wouldn’t you prefer to receive cash rewards and use those for travel?

    • The Mad Fientist
      August 26, 2014 at 11:31 am

      I actually keep track of how much value I get out of each program so that I can see if I’d be better off getting cash rewards instead. Since I spend just as much time figuring out how to best use my miles/points as I do figuring out how to get them, I currently get much more value out of my miles/points than I could get out of a 2% cash-back card but if that changes for some reason, I’ll just switch to the Barclaycard I mentioned above to get ~2% cash-back everywhere.

  9. eric
    December 24, 2014 at 11:28 pm

    Been looking for a service/ software to use without having to connect mine and my wifes investment and banking passwords and just found your fi lab. Just set up an account and plan on putting it to use this january. Thank you so much for this free software that includes the graph. Just wanted to let you know that it is very much appreciated and looking forward to using it for many years to come. Thanks Mad Fientist and merry christmas to you.

    • The Mad Fientist
      April 17, 2015 at 11:29 am

      My pleasure, Eric! Thanks a lot for the comment.

      Has the FI Lab been useful to you so far?

  10. Saff
    February 22, 2015 at 12:31 pm

    Hi Brandon,

    I love the site. Thanks for all the effort you pour into it. I’m pretty new around here but have pretty much consumed each of the blog posts and podcasts available. I have now come to the point of attempting to make use of one of the tools but am having trouble doing so.

    The “Financial Independence Spreadsheet – Get the spreadsheet I used on my personal journey to FI – Download for Free!” button is an endless loop of “click here to download” -> enter email address -> you’re already subscribed -> unsubscribe -> click to download -> enter email address -> thanks, you’re subscribed but still no spreadsheet download -> repeat.

    How can I obtain a copy of the spreadsheet?

    • The Mad Fientist
      April 17, 2015 at 11:30 am

      Hi Saff,

      You should have received an email within an hour of signing up to the email list that includes links to all of the free tools. Did you not get it?

  11. Saff
    February 22, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    Please disregard my previous comment about how to obtain the FI spreadsheet. I found the link in the welcome email. Thanks!

    • The Mad Fientist
      April 17, 2015 at 11:31 am

      Haha, I just now saw your follow-up comment so please ignore my reply :)

  12. Peter
    March 4, 2015 at 11:15 am

    Uber, however, requires a smart phone of certain types (won’t work with a Windows phone but Android, iPhone absolutely) which means a 2-year financial commitment into a plan, with monthly fees OR buying the phone outright (front load the cost) then shopping for a provider.

    Wouldn’t the cost of a locked in 2 year commitment be greater than the occasional taxi/towncar trip? I prefer the freedom of pay-you-go but that just works for me and my mobile work situation, instead of paying a huge penalty breaking local phone contracts constantly.

    • Nate
      April 14, 2015 at 5:12 pm

      There are a lot of smart phone companies out there now that have pretty cheap phones and plans. I use Republic Wireless. They have a phone for $100 and you can get a plan with unlimited minutes and texts for $10 a month. No contract. I now there are others out there too, but that’s what I use.

      • The Mad Fientist
        April 17, 2015 at 11:34 am

        I bought a used iPhone 4 off of my colleague for $50 and I have the $10/month Airvoice Wireless plan that MMM wrote about.

        Nate’s suggestion is a great one as well.

        • Peter
          April 17, 2015 at 11:46 am

          Unfortunately, I am Canadian so a lot of these great US plans are absent here.

          • The Mad Fientist
            April 17, 2015 at 11:51 am

            Do you have an iPod Touch or something you could use on wifi? If not, just use taxis because it doesn’t sound like it would be worth the hassle and additional expense.

  13. Jeff
    March 17, 2015 at 8:56 pm

    When using the firecalc and and cfiresim, does home equity count when you enter your “portfolio” or “how much you have?” I’ve read a bit of the fine print and can’t determine if it counts. I don’t think MMM counts it, but my memory might be wrong on that.

    • The Mad Fientist
      April 17, 2015 at 11:43 am

      It depends on your plans after you quit your job. Will you sell your house and rent or will you keep living in that house? If you sell your house and rent, your net worth will be higher but so will your expenses but if you stay in your house, the opposite.

      I counted my home equity in my net worth because I knew I’d be selling it before I quit my job but I also forecasted higher monthly expenses in retirement to account for future rent expenses.

  14. David
    April 19, 2015 at 8:44 am

    I seem to be having trouble gaining access to the lab. I’m already subscribed. When i click on it, i get the subscribe screen again. There doesn’t seem to be a login. So I type in my email that I subscribed with and get an error that I’m already subscribed. Still can’t get into the lab or download the spread sheet.

    • The Mad Fientist
      April 22, 2015 at 11:56 am


      Did you get an email with the subject “Welcome!” from me? If so, that email contains the links to both the spreadsheet and the FI lab.

      Send me an email if you’re still having issues.

    • Kristi
      September 28, 2015 at 10:03 pm

      This! The endless login loop of death! I had the same experience tonight and received several “Update your profile” emails that sent me nowhere, before I gave up.

      • The Mad Fientist
        September 29, 2015 at 9:01 am

        Hi Kristi, I just sent you the welcome email so sorry you had issues!

  15. Alex Pedersen
    June 23, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    What do you think about the Schwab Investor checking account? Similiar to Fidelity. Trying to decide between the two.

  16. Michael
    August 19, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    I am interested to see if anyone has a good model or predictor for using an HSA vs a low-deductible plan. I went with the HSA this year, along with a high dedcutible plan, and then ended up having a lot of medical expenses and meeting my deductible. Which I feel like is a “bad thing”, and I feel kinda burned. I think I should have had a lower-deductible plan. I am planning on changing back to the low deductible plan next year, but I want to make sure it will be the right move.
    I don’t really need the HSA yet for an “extra place to put money” (i.e., I haven’t managed to max out my 401k and Roth IRA in the same year yet and I am in my 2nd year of work). Once I am doing that, I feel like I should go to adding the HSA.
    On my own I am planning on looking at all the claims I had, and trying to calculate what I would have spend and gotten paid by my insurance company if I was under the other plan. Then forecast into next year the same thing, but this sounds like a very tedious and manual process. Any thing you use to help in that decision?

    • Mark
      September 9, 2016 at 8:27 am

      It’s not terrible. At the point where I am it benefits me to have a high-deductible plan.
      I usually figure out how much I absolutely need to set aside for the HSA (Average of all medical expenses over the last 3+ years (+/-)). Then I find out what my yearly cost is for the HDHP – I’m biweekly, so I have to multiply the paycheck premium by 26.
      Once I get that whole number – Required HSA Contribution + Premium, the whole thing gets the tax savings added back to it (HSA Contribution + Premium + (HSA + Premium ) * Your effective Tax Rate [I use last years’ because my income doesn’t change very much year over year])
      I do the same thing for a PPO every year, however, I use the PPO plan co-pays instead of the expenses. Some things, like prescriptions need to be estimated. Some pharmacies will give you a quote with your insurance information, but they generally get cranky about doing it. It’s a little bit of work to figure out, but if you keep good records – like you should for an HSA, it’s not as big of an undertaking.

      You can compare the out of pocket costs, including premium and get a ballpark of what the best path forward is for you.

      Also remember, if you use your HSA as an additional vehicle for investing (HealthEquity is really great for this), it currently behaves like an IRA at retirement age.

      • Mark
        September 9, 2016 at 8:38 am

        Correction – Tax savings is subtracted from the (HSA Contribution + Premium) not added back, and remember, you cannot calculate tax savings on co-pays unless it falls within the IRS guidelines (Publication 502

  17. Subrata Purkayastha
    August 25, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    Hello, could you direct me to any posts on how to choose correct savings plan for your kids? I have an infant son and thinking of setting aside a fund for him. Please advise. I’m hesitant to set aside money in a college fund given the way education is transforming. Thank you.

    • Ruth
      March 17, 2016 at 8:53 am is a good resource

  18. Marc
    October 6, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    Thank you for a wealth of information!
    I wander how your hypothesis and analysis of retiring young would change with kids and especially if you had a child with special needs. We have 2 children and one of them needs a specialized school setting. He has attended for 3 years now and the tuition has gone from a horrid $53,000 per year to $65,000 per year. I can not even imagine what my son will need in the years ahead. How does one take this into account – both the uncertainty and the major expense on a frugal budget. Additionally, I have not yet found how you factor in health care expenses (both insurance) and unplanned expenses into your FI calculation. Thank you for your thoughts on both.

  19. GV
    October 26, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    Hi there! I’m new and hooked… can you recommend any “current financial writers”?

  20. Ruth
    March 17, 2016 at 8:52 am

    Need advice! I’m going solar :) Here are the particulars-

    * I am considered “low income” on taxes because child support does not count as income and because of my low income status, I can do the MA solar loan (3.25% for 10 years) and they will pay 30% of my loan! You are allowed to pay as much as you want within the first 18 months and then you can refinance the loan. Loan will probably begin in May 2016. I think I can pay it off in 2 years. Total for loan is $42,000.
    * I am getting approx $13,000 tax credit from federal and $1000 from state. I normally don’t owe much tax so to take advantage of this I thought it would be a good idea to rollover some of my IRA to a ROTH IRA? If this makes sense, WHEN should I do the rollover?
    Thanks for any input/advice!! :)

  21. JP
    March 19, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    Question about the “Time to FI” calculator – is it possible that there is something amiss? I notice if I INCREASE my withdrawal rate, all else being equal, my time to become FI DECREASES while I would expect the opposite to be true.

    • The Mad Fientist
      March 21, 2016 at 4:49 am

      Lowering your withdrawal rate means you’ll have to build up a bigger balance to pay your bills so that will increase your time to FI.

      For example, if you have $30,000 worth of annual expenses and you plan to withdraw 4% from you portfolio to fund those expenses, you’d need to save up $750,000 ($750,000 * 4% = $30,000). If you instead decided to only withdraw 3% from your portfolio each year to fund those $30,000 worth of annual expenses, you’d have to wait until you had $1,000,000 before you could retire ($1,000,000 * 3% = $30,000).

      Your portfolio will have a greater likelihood of lasting longer with a lower withdrawal rate but it will take you longer to build up enough to retire.

  22. JJ
    May 4, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    I just joined, and tried the “Time to FI calculator”:

    Could someone explain to me why, when I enter a larger value in the “Withdrawal Rate” field, my “Time to FI” actually goes down? I’m clearly misunderstanding the purpose of this field. When I enter “100”, it says I am financially independent. When I enter 0 (will not withdraw during retirement), it says I can never retire.

    What is the value for this field actually supposed to represent? “The rate at which you will withdraw from your accounts during early retirement”. I thought I understood what that means clearly enough, but the calculator’s math obviously reflects something else. Could someone clarify please?

    • JJ
      May 4, 2016 at 3:37 pm

      Nevermind, I just read the previous answer, sorry about that. Your answer strikes me as reflecting a bizarre set of assumptions; no one would ever determine a withdrawal rate independently of the amount they need to live on each month. Just me, probably, but I guess I take some comfort in knowing I am not the only one confused. Cheers.

  23. FD
    August 28, 2016 at 9:51 am

    Hi Mad Fientist!
    Thank you very much for unique and eye-opening posts, resources, and podcasts!
    I am wondering if you’ve ever thought about/encountered the following situation related to unused vacation:
    I found an article from 2009 saying that the government allowed rolling unused vacations to employee’s 401k (or other retirement account). I am planning to quit being an employee (and hopefully go as a consultant/contractor for my current employer). If something like rolling money for unused vacations to 401k exists, I would love to take advantage of that instead of getting cash (and bumping my tax bracket). If you know anything about it, I would love to hear your take on this. I also wonder about any related regulations/rules that I should consider.
    Thanks again!

  24. Caleb
    October 5, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    @madflentist found you off a FI/RE movement article and I love what you listed here. A small note, Mint is fairly ineffective these days (personal experience). Ever since they switched from Yodalee to Intuit it’s just not as good since a lot of institutions end up blocked on their tracker. The scales tip towards Personal Capital which is what I use nowadays.

    Great stuff!

  25. Suzanne
    October 23, 2016 at 10:14 pm

    Hello MAD FI. I’ve recently discovered your site,much to my delight!. I’m well on my way to FI and am looking for a tool that allows complex variables for FI planning. Specifically, I’m looking for something that will allow me to submit multiple different cash flow needs for a period of time to calculate total assets required for the entire retirement. For example…Cash flow of 110K for 10yrs and 55K for 30yrs requires X amount of assets (savings/investments). The standard 4% rule just doesn’t cut it…or at least I can’t figure out how to make it. :)

    I appreciate any assistance.

  26. Ruth B
    January 7, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    For some reason, a lot of the links are not working today. FI Laboratory, FI spreadsheet. Nothing happens when I click on them….

  27. Mike
    January 16, 2017 at 10:25 am

    Love this resource! Just one question, how can I set up the spread sheet so that I can factor in the value of a defined benefit pension plan into the formulae? Trying to decide if it is beneficial to see what the current transfer value would be and what the unreduced value would be at the end of the pension term

  28. Mia
    February 13, 2017 at 8:58 am

    Hi Mad Fientist,

    I am a Danish university student, currently on exchange in Edinburgh.
    I was wondering if you have knowledge of any FI’ers outside of the US – most of the advice you and your co-bloggers give is specific to the US system – although a lot of the advice is still relevant across borders, some things are not applicable. I am researching and translating a lot at the moment to seek out which oportunities I have as a Dane as we speak.

    I listened to your podcast on millenials, and that inspired me a lot – do you also have any good places to seek out information on FI for students?

    Since I’ll be in Edinburgh until May, please let me know if I can take you up on you and Jill’s offer on going out for a beer when in town.

    All the best,
    – a newbie Danish FI’er

  29. Steve
    March 19, 2017 at 6:51 am


    UK reader new to site and new to all things FI! Really interested in making a start on my own path but virtually all the sites for tracking and investing seem to be US based.
    – Is there a UK version of Mint or Personal Capital that you would recommend?
    – Can I still invest with companies such as Vanguard & Betterment from the UK?
    – If I do will I incur any additional charges (currency conversion etc.)?
    – Are there any UK equivalents that you would recommend?
    Any help and guidance appreciated.
    Great site and great podcast by the way….keep up the excellent work.

  30. Emilie
    April 21, 2017 at 10:30 am


    I love your podcasts, why don’t you talk about YNAB in the ressources section ? this is a fantastic tool to track your budget but mainly to be intentionnal about your spending. It is more based on “where your money WILL go” rather than ” where DID the money go”

  31. Dean
    May 6, 2017 at 11:05 am

    I am a qualified public safety employee, if i retire before age 50 when does the 10% penalty for early withdrawal expire?
    Does it expire at age 50 or does it now extend to 59 1/2?

    Great information and well presented, thanks in advance.

  32. Fay
    August 4, 2017 at 5:29 pm


    First time visitor to your website and it is absolutely amazing, You are truly living the dream! I read through some of the blog posts and they are so well written.
    I noticed that many of the resources and tips given to achieve FI are geared towards individuals in the United States which is totally understandable. Since I live in Canada many of the tax avoidance tips given are not applicable so my question is- would you happen to have any investment or supplemental income (besides creating a website) ideas for someone living in Canada using strictly Canadian investments or supplemental income ideas or know anyone in Canada who has followed a similar journey as yours but have used various Canadian instruments to gain FI, and if so if there is any way I can get in contact with them to pick there brain a bit?

    Thank you,

  33. Mighty Investor
    December 2, 2017 at 11:26 am

    Hey Mad Fientist:

    Thanks for the recommendation to read “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World.” Great book with some very practical insights. I’m using a lot of Browne’s thinking day in and day out. Good one!

  34. RPW
    December 24, 2017 at 9:36 am

    Just found this, I love your information. I am getting ready to retire, I wanted to know which calculator to use. We are a two pension household, with a little over 800,000. In retirement accounts. All of the calculators I have tried to use up to this point haven’t been helpful, they don’t account for the pensions. Any suggestions?

    Thanks again for all of your information.

  35. Mike Knowlton
    January 14, 2018 at 10:59 am

    Is there a comments page regarding CC for travel discusion?

    I want to do it, just leery of having CC I don’t need.

    If I get a card with a Fee ($95) and get my points, do I cancel it at the end of a year?
    Are there any gotchas if you cancel after one year?
    If I get a card in my wifes name can I use those points for me to fly?
    In my short search it seems like a point is worth about $1 is that about right?
    It may be difficult for me to spend the amounts required for some cards, any hints
    on how to to put money on a card you would not normally spend?

    • Phillip
      March 5, 2018 at 9:04 am

      What I do to avoid the fee is rotate between me and my wife. I got the card first, and then a year later my wife gets the card and I DOWNGRADE mine to a no fee version. Every two years you will be eligible for the sign-up bonus. So in the second year, call up the bank and ask them if you qualify for the sign-up bonus and if you do, UPGRADE back to the original card and DOWNGRADE your wife’s card. Rinse and repeat for both you and your wife.

      You are able to combine points within household so you and your wife will share the same points. The airlines don’t care whose name is on the CC, but the points will have to come from the same account. So if you and your wife each have an airline loyalty account, then only transfer your combined points into one account.

      What we do when it’s time to fullfill the sign-up bonus required spend is put literally everything we can on the card. This can be a slight pain when it comes to changing auto-payments, but the sign-up bonus definitely outweighs the inconvenience for me. If you don’t normally spend enough to make the sign-up requirement, some options you can look at: buy gift cards to stores or gas stations you are going to shop at for future use, have friends/family pay you cash to buy their stuff, pay your taxes (has a fee included, but may be worth it if you are close). Whatever options you decide the most important thing is to make sure that whatever amounts you put on the credit card you can pay IN FULL when the balance is due. No sign-up bonus can overcome the interest that must be paid on cc balances.

  36. sharie
    January 30, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    Hi MF! Thank you for all your genius work! I am poking around looking for info on backdoor Roth contributions. I have read about them before but I am still not clear on how to do this. You are so good at all this tax avoidance! I can’t wait to put some of your tactics into practice! And I am hoping you can explain this conversion to me so that I might be able to actually do it!

    Thank you!!

  37. Lena
    February 25, 2018 at 1:49 am

    Hello MF,
    I’ve been reading MF, jlcolllinsnh, and some of the other FIRE blogs for many months now. What I haven’t been able to see a clear picture of is how you transition from the building wealth stage to wealth preservation/retirement stage.

    Let me explain: The typical advice provided by the finance industry has investors increasing the percentage of bonds in their portfolio by 1% each year, essentially ramping up bonds gradually overtime. But since so many FIRE evangelizers eschew the rhetoric of the typical formulas of (bonds = age) or (bonds = age-10) or whatever the latest version is, I don’t fully understand how this change occurs.

    When I read jlcollins Stock Series he discusses the wealth building stage (100% stocks) and the wealth preservation stage (something like 60/40), but doesn’t really explain how to connect the two. I assume one doesn’t just wake on the first day of retirement and update their portfolio from 100% stocks to 60/40.

    Can you please advise? I’m 28 and have settled upon an 80/20 allocation for myself, but I just want to know how long I maintain that and how one transitions to a more conservative allocation.

    Kindest regards,

  38. Phillip
    March 5, 2018 at 8:49 am

    Hello MF,

    I am a huge fan of your podcast and take every chance I can to soak up some of the knowledge you give out to us about FIRE. I’m actually pretty close to making the jump myself. The only thing I’m unsure about is health insurance. From what I’ve read most early retirees have been happy with a catastrophic plan. My situation is slightly different in that I don’t think a catastrophic plan will work. I have a wife and kid. Right now everyone is covered under my plan offered by my employer. I have to go to a clinic every month for a treatment for a genetic disease. With my insurance, I currently only have to pay $135 per visit. Without insurance, it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,300 which is definitely not affordable. To buy the same coverage from the same provider directly is too expensive (I’d be better off just staying in the workforce). So how do I get an insurance that is comparable to what I have, yet still affordable on an early retirees income? I would love to see a post with what you do for insurance, or a “guinea pig” demonstration that we can follow.

  39. Travis
    March 15, 2018 at 9:21 pm

    Can you recommend any tax planning sites or apps? We’re about 5 years from FIRE, but haven’t decided yet where to live. I’ll be retiring on a mix of military pension and index funds and have no idea how to figure out what I might be paying in different states. I’ve never paid state taxes so I have no frame of reference for what numbers to use.

  40. Mike Knowlton
    April 11, 2018 at 10:19 am

    I’m having a tough time convincing myself that Roth Conversions are a good move for me.
    We are 63 and 59, and self employed. We max out SEPs and an HSA.
    The biggest hurdle I have is with all the deductions I have, this has put me in a position
    where my tax bill has been in the 100s of dollars, I expect 12% bracket in 2018, mostly likely
    paying more tax, because of losing the kid deductions and college tuition credits.

    If I start doing Roth conversions, Should I continue with our SEP’s?
    If I don’t, that raises my income $16k, If I do a Roth Conversion that raises my income even further.
    Say I Convert $15k, that would add $31k to my income.
    I realize if I stay in the 12% bracket during conversion and then in 7-1/2 years when RMDs start, I could be in a higher bracket, either because of IRS tax law changes or income increases with SS, dividends and IRA withdrawals.
    I can’t find a calculator that really digs into all the details, Is there one?
    Any discusion to push me one way or the other would be helpful.

  41. Tjay
    June 14, 2018 at 11:21 pm

    i still am unable to decide if Traditional IRA is good for me…due to income levels, i cannot contribute to Roth IRA and the Traditional IRA does not give me the benefit of deduction before tax….in such a situation, is it worthwhile to invest in a traditional IRA?

  42. Mike Cunningham
    June 30, 2018 at 8:12 am

    Hey there,

    New to the Mad Fientist world and am working through some FI calculations. Curious about how you approach net worth. Like many, a good chuck of my retirement nest egg is in a pre-tax 401K. For FI/Net Worth purposes, do you recommend using the gross value of that asset, or a net value, knowing that it’s going to be subject to a substantive tax when it is withdrawn? That can make a big difference. Thanks and appreciate what you are doing.

  43. Erin
    November 9, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    Huge fan of the blog; concise and so well written! Was just curious, do you have recommendations of CPAs and/or law firms for those of us who’d like to get started in real estate?

  44. Brad
    December 4, 2018 at 8:07 pm

    When I first stumbled on to your blog I must say I was very intrigued with your take on how to get around the 10 percent penalty that 401ks have . I had never heard of the technique you described about rolling over your 401k into an IRA and then rolling over to a ROTH before. I’ve got about 8 years before I turn 59 1/2 and I just want to get the five year rule on rollovers to a ROTH straight before I take the time to go to a CPA.
    I have enough cash to live off of for the next 8 years while waiting to turn 59 1/2 so my income will be 0. I understand that once I rollover an amount to my ROTH I will have to wait 5 years to tap it. But what about after I’m 59 1/2. For instance, if I roll over an IRA to a ROTH when I’m 58, will I have to wait till 63 to tap it or am I free to access it 59 1/2?

    Thanks for your time.
    P.S. Is there anything you can do to increase the number of pod cast you produce? I really enjoy them. One that describes a typical execution of the 4 percent rule would be nice.

    Thanks again,

  45. Abigail
    January 3, 2019 at 1:15 pm

    I have the option of contributing to my firm’s 401K with after tax dollars. I intend to hit the 401K max ($19K) for 2019 and we’ll also max out our ROTH IRAs.

    In addition to this, are there obvious pros/cons to doing after tax 401K contributions? No in service withdrawals allowed at my firm (without cause) so back door ROTH isn’t an option and I’ll be employed here for another 10-15 years at least (fingers crossed).


  46. Jason
    February 5, 2019 at 1:01 pm

    Hi Mad Fientist. I love your site and podcast. I have a question about the Capital One Savor Cash Rewards card, that I haven’t been able to find an answer to online. Can I cancel the card after earning the $500 reward and before the first year ends without incurring any fees / penalties? Also, I’ve read somewhere that not all purchases count towards the $3,000 you must spend in the first three months. I have a homeowners insurance payment due in a couple months and was hoping to use the card for that. Would that count towards the $3k? Thanks.

  47. Tim
    February 24, 2019 at 9:38 pm

    Hi All,

    I am just getting started w/ trying to figure out my years to FI. There are 4 different planning tools, which one is the most basic? I have an old Mint account but I need to re-link everything so I plan to switch to Personal Capital so I can track investments. Which planning tool works best w/ Personal Capital.

    Thanks in Advance,

  48. Carl
    February 27, 2019 at 9:14 am

    I have an article request, I didn’t see an email to send it to. What financial steregies should I use to take advantage of a sabbatical. I have significant retirement and no retirement savings. Not enough to fire at the level I want to. We are planning on doing a sabatical, if it is cheaper than we think or the market does awesome it might turn into fire. While on sabbatical, should I keep putting money into a Roth and HSA? Should I sell appreciated stock up to the no capital gains tax limit and reinvest it? How else can I take advantage of having very low taxable income? What pitfalls, like wash sales, must I watch out for? Should I start and end the sabbatical partway through the year to spread the income over two tax years. I have lots of ideas, but I think this subject it ripe for the graphs you are so good at. Your blog is great. I just reread the Roth vs traditional article as I did my taxes to make sure I was doing it right.

  49. Kayla
    March 2, 2019 at 9:36 pm

    Don’t have any specific question, but I just wanted you to know that my fiance and I actively listen to your podcast and it’s really changed that way we look at our finances and how we live our lives. We both have advanced educations, giving us >$300,000 of debt and while we’re naturally frugal people, your podcast has helped in more advanced money saving/investing strategies and just general ways to live better lives. You seem genuine and down to earth and we really appreciate what you’re doing – thank you!

  50. Dennis
    April 1, 2019 at 9:17 pm

    Mega backdoor Roth IRA question

    I currently have a roll over IRA from a previous employer and a Roth IRA, both at C Schwab. My combined household income exceeds the limit to allow a contribution to my Roth IRA and my wife’s Roth IRA. I was informed that based on the value of my roll over IRA ($500,000), that a back door Roth was not allowed. A coworker shared that the mega back door Roth has different rules and because our employer allows in service distributions, I would be eligible to use this strategy. Is this true?

  51. John
    June 21, 2019 at 11:19 am

    Hiya MadFi,

    I work in London but benefit from an “overseas workday relief” (OSWDR) scheme which is great cause I pay less income taxes. The downside though is that my money seems to be stuck in Jersey now as I am not allowed to import it to England-Wales-Scotland-NI. Do you have any recommendations on how to invest wisely this money in the channel islands?

    Best regards,

  52. Giles
    August 1, 2019 at 5:38 pm

    Would you recommend doing a 0% balance transfer for an auto loan. We have $13.5k remaining with 34 months left (originally 63 month term) at 3.49%.
    Found some CC’s that have 21 month 0% terms with a 5% transfer fee of the balance. We can cover the payments easily but wanted your reco.

  53. Zanda
    November 28, 2019 at 10:17 am

    Dear Brandon,

    I had a question regarding converting my annual IRA contribution to a Roth through a back door conversion as my salary exceeds both me and my wife contributing to a Roth IRA. We are not claiming any deduction for the IRA contribution as I have a 401K in my office and also my salary exceeds significantly the contribution limits for a deduction.

    We have both regular IRA and Roth contributions over the years and are now not getting any deduction for my IRA. Can i do a back door Roth for just the $7000 contribution for 2019 and not pay any taxes ? Or, does the IRA look at the whole IRA pool for me and then I have to pay taxes on the portion that is sitting in the regular IRA accounts ? Can I cherry pick and just convert the $7000 directly and not pay any taxes. Please advise.


  54. Zanda
    November 28, 2019 at 10:19 am

    Dear Brandon,

    We have taken on a rental and are paying a mortgage on it as renters pay us monthly rent. We have paid off the mortgage on our primary residence but do have about $8000 in annual property taxes. The property taxes on the rental is over $15,000 per year.

    Is the rental considered a separate transaction in the tax forms where the monthly rent is subtracted by the mortgage, insurance and property taxes and depreciation to get the net income and we pay taxes on that amount ? I ask because with the recent tax changes, we are held to taking a MAX deduction of $10,000 on the mortgage and property taxes per year – is this for the primary residence only or is the MAX for a combined payments for all properties, primary residence AND rental or does the rental get addressed under a separate standalone transaction ?

  55. Damon Combs
    December 21, 2019 at 11:23 am

    I have a general question that’s, I’m sure, loaded in many ways… Nonetheless, here it is:
    We have a nest egg of just over $500k with all the IRA’s, (both Roth and regular), 401k’s, 403b’s, a 457 and a joint investment account… (teacher and public service worker couple here).
    I know that you generally can’t “time the market”, but I can’t help but wonder if we can do some preparations for when the inevitable down-turn of the market arrives. To that end, I have considered taking the balance of our joint investment account (about $100k – about 20% of our stash) and putting it into a high yield savings account.
    When the market heads south, we could then buy into an indexed S&P 500 fund (probably Vanguard) and enjoy getting in at the rock bottom (hopefully!).
    My questions are:
    Are there tax implications of pulling the joint account? There are stocks and mutual funds, some will probably incur long term gains? I’m not quite sure…
    Is this just a crazy strategy in general?
    I am envisioning leaving the other 80% to ride the market out — were still ~15 years from retirement.
    Ideas? Opinions?

    • Andy Marr
      February 21, 2020 at 4:23 pm

      I keep wondering the same. Maybe try running your numbers against a previous scenario eg the drop at turn of the year, using VTSAX. When would you have really invested the $100k as price was dropping? How long will you have to wait with cash until that scenario happens? If you timed it perfect, youd buy after it had dropped ~18% and would have increased 20% to get back to previous level. So that’s $20k gain, right? But assuming you wont time it perfect, then maybe youd gain $10k? How’s that compare if youd just left the $100k growing until the drop? Not arguing against – just thinking out loud.

      • asundseth
        November 15, 2021 at 8:11 am

        So…did either of you stash some cash away and buy at the dip when Covid hit in early 2020? I think about this concept all the time. Big gains can be had if you have the cash to buy when things crash.

  56. Sean
    August 17, 2020 at 6:30 pm

    Hi, I am really enjoying your spreadsheet. Thank you. Quick question. On the Averages page, it uses “supplemental income” to calculate the discretionary and total coverage. What is supplemental income? I just have my paycheque. Does it mean money I will receive upon retirement?

  57. Phil
    October 21, 2020 at 2:21 am

    The FI takes use of your average spending over time. How many years of data might be good to keep as part of the averaging? Spending can fluctuate over time and there may be a few years with big expenses that will skew the average, but that spending may be a one off. Changing how much data is used has a huge impact on the Years to FI value. Just curious about a rule of thumb to keep the FI as realistic as possible.

  58. THE Nick Amato
    November 5, 2020 at 1:48 pm

    Hi Mad Fientist!

    Is there a way to calculate lost accrued interest?

    I am asking because I am debating taking X amount of money out of my 401k or remortgaging for the same amount. Wondering what option makes more financial sense.

    Thanks in advance,

    Nick Tomato

  59. Steve
    March 5, 2021 at 10:43 am

    Hi Mad Fientist,

    Really enjoying the podcast series (have been on a binge via Spotify for the last few weeks.)..

    Great interviews,topics and guests.

  60. Sarah
    June 2, 2021 at 11:14 pm

    Hello, you might want to double check your “time to FI” widget portion of the website – I believe the withdrawal rate portion is set up backwards. When I enter a 1% withdrawal rate, I am 11 years from FI; when I enter a 5% withdrawal rate, I am apparently financially independent already.

    • Jordan
      August 21, 2021 at 6:43 pm

      Wow, you’re right… how will I ever know my time to FI now?!

  61. FIRE burning bright
    October 19, 2021 at 3:24 pm

    Hi Mad Fientist,
    I really love all the great content! As a 6 year FIRE retired (and former finance professional) I think this is one of the best sites to synthesize and put into action a lot of great FIRE ideas.

    I do have one question/comment… All the content seems to be focused on optimizing for the outcome of spending and/or inheritance. A Roth IRA is the right vehicle for this and thus optimizing conversion to a Roth is the focus. However what I’d like to know is if you have a goal of $x for spending/inheritance and the balance for charitable contributions at some point you should stop converting to a Roth and keep money in a regular IRA (or maybe even a taxable account if charitable contributions are to be made annually). I’d love to see a future post address how to handle the transition of planning for spending/inheritance to charity. And please if it’s here and I just haven’t come accross it, please educate me on where to look.

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