There are 4 variables that determine how fast you can retire:

  1. Income
  2. Expenses
  3. Investment return
  4. Current saving

Since there is nothing you can do about your current saving, you can ignore 4.
Investment is also less important. Buy an index fund and you are set. Trying to beat the market is not the best way to spend your time, especially when you have little saving. That means you should just focus on income and expenses. My current situation as of May 2018 is as follows:

Basic Information

Age: 28
Status: single
Residence: Tokyo, Japan
Occupation: software engineer

Income

My monthly income(pre-tax) is $5000. Subtract pension and insurance from it, and it will be roughly $4000 after-tax.

My current contract ends in June. I’m going to negotiate my rate and see how it goes.

Expenses

I have not tracked my spending rigorously, so these are just estimates.

category amount
Housing $1,530
Food $150
Utilities $100
Internet & cell phone $63
Transportation $10
Investment loan $100
Dentist $216
Books $30
Hair cut $10
Luxury (clothing, restaurants, etc...) $50
Household Supplies $30
Total $2289

The obvious one to change is housing. I wrote about it in the last post. I also want to spend less on groceries. I’m going to write about food in a future post.

Investment loan

I bought an apartment as an investment last October. I bought it from a fully-managed service, meaning I did not pick the property myself and the ongoing property management is all taken care of. You absolutely don’t have to do anything.

The problem is, the monthly cash flow is negative until a 35 year-loan is paid off. Oops. It’s not a terrible investment if you want to retire at 65, but it’s pointless if you want to retire at 35. When I bought it, I had zero knowledge of investment. I was surprised and a little bit excited that someone with little cash can be a real estate owner.

That experience got me into investment. If I had not bought the property, I probably would not have found the world of financial independence/early retirement. Even though it’s a bad investment, I try to see it as a learning cost.

Dentist

I’m healthy overall, but I do have problems with my teeth. I go to a dentist twice a week. I’m going to reduce it to once a month because it’s just too expensive. I don’t want to have to go there at all, but neglecting my own health could have a serious consequence in the future. That’s a real risk.

Saving rate

Given my current income and expenses, my saving rate is 43%. After moving to a new apartment and cutting some expenses, it should be more than 70%. I would like it to be 75% or even 80%, but it’s a good start.