1. Jonathan Davis

    Is this along the lines of how you’ve advocated quitting your jobs in order to use money from your 457 plan? What if you get attached to a city or school district? Are you screwing yourself over for not quitting your job?

    • Jonathan,
      That’s correct. Quitting allows us to do two things: First, we can access our 457 money from our “old” 457 accounts. Boom, instant cash flow. Second, quitting lets us move our money to a better investment platform. We take our money to Vanguard, but there other low-cost investment firms out there (namely, Fidelity, Schwab, and TD Ameritrade).

      Falling in love with a place could be problematic because 1.) the 403b and 457 savings would be “trapped” in a variable annuity platform, and 2.) the funds would be stuck in a fixed account losing to inflation. In our case, we did love Echols County, but we had take care of our finances first. (We also needed a break from work.) Are we screwing ourselves? I don’t think so. As long as you don’t burn your bridges on the way out the door, you can always go back to your “sweet spots.” Stay tuned…

      • Jonathan Davis

        Thanks so much Ed for the reply. I certainly foresee myself being here for at least 5 years. After that who knows what will come and where I’ll go.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and strategies for the path towards FI — it’s awesome to find these resources. My wife and I keep a solid budget and save as much as possible towards retirement accounts, but I can’t figure out how you could live off of $30k/year like you describe in your posts on taking new jobs in South Georgia to max your savings. Can you post an example monthly budget of how you were able to live off $30k/year? That would be helpful to understand how that is possible.
    Even excluding the moderate mortgage and childcare costs for two kids under 4, we are still quite a bit over that yearly amount, and we don’t spend much for buying stuff or eating out. But somehow it adds up. I’d love to see how you manage that month to month.
    And thanks again for sharing the FIRE knowledge!

    • SN,
      I won’t run from the fact that I’m not big on budgeting. Instead, I try to focus on big wins like maxing out my retirement accounts as soon as possible. Then I focus on living on whatever amount of money we have left. Our success in small-town Georgia was primarily due to our reasonable rents of $500 to $750. We also had no car payments or big medical expenses during that time. No cable TV, only Republic Wireless phones, and very little driving (so low gas costs). Few meals out and most meals in. You get the picture.

      I’ve been planning on writing a post about the cost of living in various parts of Mexico. I can also look a my spreadsheets on Douglas, Georgia to give people an idea of what our budget looks like. Let me see what I can come up with. It might make a good FAQ post. Thanks for you question. Ed

      • Thanks Ed, that all makes sense and is helpful info. It would be interesting hearing how costs of living compare in Mexico and also how the family is adjusting to a new country in general. Enjoy the adventure!

  3. Jeff

    Great article. Fees do matter! Now that TD Ameritrade is doing away with free Vanguard ETF trading what do you plan on investing in with your HSA? I heed your advice and I need advice!! Thanks!

    • Hey Jeff,
      Thanks for the heads-up. I didn’t receive any info about the change…then again I’m in Mexico. As soon as I know I’ll let you know of my plans. Ed

  4. Holy crap! That’s a big difference between 2.25% and .06%. I could practically live on $24K a year. And for the life of me, I don’t know why this is happening. Why are teachers and their unions putting up with this nonsense? Is there some law that says 403(b)s and 457s have to be managed by firms that love annuities and loathe low-cost index funds?

    • Hello Mr. Groovy,
      I don’t remember the ins and outs of why 403b and 457 plans generally use variable annuities. It doesn’t matter. These plans will never be reformed. Teachers need to realize just how bad and how expensive such plans are. The 403b cannot be reformed. Ed

      • Jonathan Davis

        Would there be more benefit in contributing more to a Vanguard Target Date Fund based on the S & P 500 instead of investing in a bad 403/457 plan or am I off base in this wild thought?

      • I would encourage all to take a careful look at your 403b and 457 choices. My TIAA 403b has excellent choices, ERs for index funds as low as 0.05%. My 457 has OK choices, ERs (after accounting for fees) of about 0.26%. Of course they also have horrible choices, and if you pick the defaults…. Maybe I am just lucky. Caveat emptor.

  5. Miriam

    I logged in to personal capital fees also and it’s telling me I’ve lost 10% of earnings lost to fees. How do I avoid this? What am I supposed to do? I’m on a traditional IRA and a 403b thru my employer with franklin templeton.
    Please help

    Retirement Fee Analyzer

    All Accounts


    Your Annual


    Benchmark Tip

    1 YEAR

    of retirement lost to fees

    Of Earnings
    Lost to Fees


    AGE 41 AGE 50

    Contributions $93,766 Earnings $51,258 Total Fees $5,412

    Date of Birth

    Retirement Age


    Your Company Size Tip
    Select Your Company Size 1-499 Employees 500-999 Employees 1000-4999 Employees 5000-9999 Employees More than 10,000 Employees

    Risk Tolerance
    Select a Risk Tolerance Very Aggressive Aggressive Moderate Conservative Very Conservative
    My spouse also contributes to a 401k Tip

    Edit Assumptions

    Annual Contributions Tip

    Annual Employer Match

    Annual Growth

    Additional Investment Fees Tip





    Expense Ratio


    American Funds The Growth Fund of America® Class A Fund $4,333 0.66% $28

    Franklin Income Series Class C Fund $7,156 1.11% $79

    Franklin Growth Opportunities Fund Class C Fund $7,743 1.79% $138

    • Miriam,
      It’s a little difficult to determine the annual cost of your fees from the info above. Is your annual fee .57%? If so, not great but not the worst I’ve seen. I hope the “total fees” figure of $5,412 is over a multi-year period because that’s a ton of money in fees. The bottom line is that the fees you pay are a result of your investments’ underlying expense ratios. You could switch your IRA money to a lower-cost investment at Vanguard or Schwab. (That assumes there is not penalty from F.Temp. to move your money.) For your 403b investments, do you have any other investment options?

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