September 2017 Atypical Life Financial Update

Sorry, we are a bit late (actually a lot late…) on this financial update for September. Lots of travel has kept me away. Anyways, here it is finally. Enjoy.

Welcome to our monthly income and expense report from the Atypical Life family. If you have been following along, I have traditionally incorporated the Blogging Update into this post. September is the first month that has its own Blogging Update. We are pleased to share this with all of you, so that you may have the inspiration to achieve financial independence and freedom from the man sooner. As an atypical family, this income and expense report will look very different to most family budgets, however, it is 100% real and is achievable under the right circumstances.

I share my finances to inspire others to reach for freedom earlier. I hope to demonstrate:

  • Income can be generated in multiple ways. The regular 9-5 job is not the only way to make money and is also the best way to be a slave to the man.
  • Lowering expenses is really the path towards financial freedom. The lower your expenses, the more you can save. Also, with lower expenses, it takes fewer savings to live on.
  • There are 6 simple steps to financial independence and we are following them.
  • Side Income can allow you to be free from the man sooner than just saving.
  • It is possible to have low expenses.
  • Becoming an expat is a great way to financial freedom
  • To keep me accountable.

Tracking Your Money

Keeping track of your money is the number one way to reach financial independence. We track all of our income and expenses and then analyze it all at the end of the month for you.

Using Personal Capital is the best way to aggregate all of your accounts into one nice easy view. With your accounts spread across so many different platforms, it is hard to get a whole picture of your finances. Personal Capital gives you a view of where you are, if you spent too much, saved too little, or went into debt. Keeping track of your Net Worth on Personal Capital is super easy.

The best part of Personal Capital’s service is that it is free! It fits in perfectly with our frugal sense and allows us to track and reach financial independence faster. Check out their retirement planner to estimate how far away you are from retirement. It is one of the best I have seen for those of us pursuing FIRE.

If you haven’t started tracking your finances, it is not too late to start. Give Personal Capital a try and you will soon be on your way to being a personal finance guru.


Company Match$582
Expat Income$1,397
Interest Income$3
Investment Income$750
Salary (Mr. Atypical)$5,321

I got a job title promotion in July to Senior Engineer which came with an 8% raise! I am still enjoying the new money for no additional stress. In the corporate world, they use pay grades to scale salary brackets. Apparently, there is no standard on how much each pay grade gets paid between companies. Nonetheless, I got a bump from pay grade 14 to 15.

September saw a lowering of my salary because I took a week of unpaid leave to travel to Italy as my 4th week of vacation in 2017. I used to be able to buy a week of vacation before the company I work for got spun off which is the same as taking unpaid leave. I always bought vacation because I value the time off much more than time at work.

If all you do is work and make money, you have no chance to enjoy it.

My company has a fairly generous 401k match of 9%, as long as we contribute 6% to the 401k. This goal is very easy for us to achieve, as we contribute 50% of our income to the 401k. There is one caveat to my 401k contributions, though. They are only calculated on salary, expat income is not included, so 50% of $6,984 goes to the 401k each month to prepare us for financial independence. The 401k matching contribution is free money and we make nearly $6,000 per year from it.

September was a slim month for Atypical household because of the unpaid leave and travel expenses. We had our regular salary and our wonderful, but regular expat income. This expat income is a 20% location premium or hazard pay in expat vernacular. It is additional income for us that is grossed up by the company, so we do not have to pay taxes on it. We are continuing to add money to the after-tax 401k since we maxed out the Traditional in May.

My one investment in VBTLX, the Vanguard Total Bond Market Fund continues to pay out its ~$50 each month, but September saw Q3 dividends paid out for an additional $700 of investment income. I am seriously considering getting rid of the bond fund and just going 100% in on VTSAX instead. I only have about 10% in bonds and it really doesn’t seem to do much good or bad. It is just mediocre. Since I don’t plan on taking out money from my investments in the short term, we don’t need to have a “safe” investment that doesn’t grow much. We shall see. Will continue to contemplate this for another month.

I made my first $50 blogging this month! Not a show-stopper in value, but a step in the right direction. I got paid for one sponsored post that went up this month.


Medical Expenses$0

September 2017 saw lots of spending, all of which I saw coming, but it still makes me cringe. Let’s see how I did.


In September, I ran over the shopping budget because of the purchase of a new to me Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 with a keyboard. Total cost on this new tablet/toy was ~$235. I bought it because I wanted to have a super-lightweight computer for traveling that runs on Android so I can use those stupid phone apps that are not available for desktop-like What’s App among others. It will allow me to continue testing setups for long-term travel. I would like to have one pinned down before we finish up work here in China in 16 months.

Since we were meeting up with my in-laws in Italy, I ordered some spare parts for the tandem and a bunch of cycling water bottles for them to bring over for me. So much of the cycling gear that I need is not available or is super expensive here in China despite actually being manufactured here. It’s hard to understand the economics behind this, but there isn’t much I can do about that.


September saw Mrs. Atypical spend the entire month outside of China, primarily in Italy where she worked on a horse farm in Tuscany with the Workaway program. That program sets up rules that basically say you will work part-time (4-hours per day 5 days per week) in exchange for free housing and food while you are there. In Italy, that works out to be ~$100 worth of benefits since housing is so expensive and the food is also pretty high.

I joined her in Italy towards the end of the month where we started in Rome and then moved on to Faicchio to visit family. We spent 3 days with her extended family there getting fat from spectacular Italian feasts before we moved on to the Amalfi Coast and then to Tuscany. Look out for a post in the coming weeks about the financials of the whole trip. Needless to say, Italy is one of the most expensive places you can go on vacation because it is such a popular tourist destination. We spent ~$75 per day on housing when we were not staying with the family. That is in all shared housing that we split with the in-laws too! We were able to minimize our food cost somewhat by staying in AirBnB’s and cooking our own food.

For a taste of what we saw, here are a few pics from Italy…

Beautiful Cusano. Rode up to this mountain town on our tandem.
Colloseum, Rome
No trip to Italy is complete without a trip to see the colloseum in Rome.

Everything Else

Outside of travel to Italy and shopping, our expenses were lower than normal. I bought only $25 worth of food in September since Mrs. Atypical was not here. All food costs while on vacation, I count as travel expenses, though I could subtract the $300-400 from travel for food expenses that we would have incurred anyway. When we begin perpetual travel, food will not count as travel expenses since all expenses will be travel.

Our insurance for the month is on an accrual basis because we paid for the year entirely in December. We dropped our company-sponsored health insurance that cost us $250 per month and the company $750 per month in favor of a local insurance company that was ~5300 RMB or $890. This covers us for all medical expenses in Greater China and also qualifies us to use the supercharged investment vehicle, the HSA.

The HSA Experiment

Our HSA, currently residing at HSA Bank, incurs a fee of $2.50 per month for a balance under $5,000. We will incur this fee and an additional $3 per month on that account, so we can keep all of our HSA money invested at TD Ameritrade and buy VTI, the best possible investment vehicle. VTI is the ETF equivalent of my favorite mutual fund VTSAX, Vanguard Total US Stock Market Admiral Shares.

The investments made into the HSA will save us a good amount of tax for 2017. At the 25% tax bracket, if assumed the HSA contributions are taken off the top, it is $1,688 in tax savings. I will be in the 15% tax bracket after all of our savings so, even there our tax savings are $1,013. These savings help to accelerate our path to financial independence.


Everybody hates taxes. They eat away at our income and we never even get a chance to see it. Taxes were 33% of our expenses but only 13.5% of total income for September totaling $1,082.

There are 2 certainties in life, death and taxes. ~Benjamin Franklin

After doing a review of my tax situation in 2016, I approached my tax preparation company about reducing my estimated taxes for 2017 and the future. I showed what I would save into pre-tax investment vehicles:

  • $18,000 to the 401k
  • $5,500 Mr. Atypical Traditional IRA
  • $5,500 Mrs. Atypical Traditional IRA
  • $6,750 to the family HSA
  • Total Value of $35,750

This is able to reduce my taxable income significantly, and when combined with personal and standard deductions on Form 1040, it brings our taxable income very low. The purpose of reducing our tax withholding is because we know best how to take care of our money. The government obviously does not know what is best for me. We can put our money to work as soon as possible by investing in VTSAX and VTI, without waiting for a tax refund at the end of the year. This can gain us upwards of 12 months of compounding growth (or decline…). It also allows us to raise our contributions throughout the year to achieve a healthy total portfolio to pursue freedom sooner.

I would never use a tax preparation company right now if it was not provided by the company. Taxes are not nearly as complicated as they are made out to be. Due to the tax equalization policy that my company implements for us, we have to have a professional tax preparation firm handle our taxes.

Buying Assets

September saw the purchase of an asset which I do not consider as an expense. Hold your breath…

I bought an Ethereum mining rig! You know the cryptocurrency you see all over the financial news these days? I bought a computer that works to confirm transactions on the blockchain network for Ethereum and for its services, I get paid Ethereum currency.


The whole rig cost ~$1,600, but I consider it a transfer to an asset rather than an expense. With it running stable, I should be able to make the $1,600 back in ~6-8 months, with all time after that as pure profit. There will be a few posts coming explaining more about what it is and how it works, but for now, let’s leave it as a new investment into emerging technology.


In total, we made $3,287 in September ($1,687 if you subtract the mining rig) that recharged our bank accounts instead of heading over to the usual investments. The rest was spent galavanting around Italy and enjoying ourselves away from work for a change.

It was another successful month financially (positive dollars towards financial independence), but that doesn’t matter if we did not enjoy ourselves. We should not kill ourselves to reach financial independence. There may be a point where you are being too frugal in the pursuit of financial independence. You should enjoy life, knowing in the future it can be even better.

“Love the life you have, while you create the life of your dreams. Don’t think you have to choose one over the other.” ~Hal Elrod

Soon we hope to have decent side income from our blogs to add to our monthly income report among other side sources in the works. Keep an eye out next month for more on my planned money-making ventures. 16 months from now, the plan is to transition from side-income to only income and be free.

How was your September? Are you heading towards financial independence as well? I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

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