Ecuador Part 3: Passion Reignited


Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. –Helen Keller


I previously wrote about my Ecuador trip:

Today, I finally get around to part 3. First though, there are two thoughts that have been on my mind lately:

  • You should structure your finances so that you can leave work at the earliest possibility.
  • Work is the key to happiness. A life without work is hell.

On the surface. those thoughts are contradictory. I’ll get back to them in a bit…


Life is Good

I’m fortunate in many ways. It’s no understatement to say that I’m thankful every day for my fairy-tale life. Near the top of the list is finding something I enjoy doing that pays me (the old-school term for this is work). It wasn’t easy for me to figure out.

At the age of 23, much to the dismay of my family and a girlfriend, and despite being an honors student, I quit pharmacy school. I loved the organic chemistry and pharmacokinetics, but knew that working at Walgreens would be vastly different.

My decision to quit happened very quickly. I had wanted to drop out for a while, but needed a catalyst. This came in the form of a conversation I had with a computer programmer roommate in 1998. It went something like this:

  • Me: I don’t like pharmacy, but I don’t know what else to do with my life.
  • Roommate: There are loads of computer jobs with Y2K coming up.
  • Me: I’m not excited about going back to school for 3 or 4 years. I only have 2 more years of pharmacy school to go.
  • Roommate: You don’t have to. DePaul offers a 30 week class in mainframe coding. It’s a great program and if you get through it, you’re almost guaranteed a job.

I made the decision on the spot to quit pharmacy school. It felt completely right and I never questioned it.

After 20 weeks in the computer program, I had gone on 10 interviews and received 8 job offers. I took one of them and coded into the sunset.

However, I haven’t been doing much coding in my current job; more systems administration and support duties. In Ecuador, of all places, I rediscovered how much I enjoyed coding. Continue reading

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Ask the Readers: Is Fear Keeping You from Your Best Life?

A couple weeks ago, I asked you about fear. The wife and I had volunteered to give a talk to college students about financial independence. Like most, I don’t enjoy public speaking. (side-note: Mrs. 1500 fears nothing and was completely unfazed.) The big day was last week. Here we are:

Me and Mrs. 1500 (she likes to talk with her hands)

My mind was calm up until the night before the presentation. I had a little anxiety that evening, so I slept like crap. The next day, I had a hard time focusing as I let fear creep in. Continue reading

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Real Estate Investing from a Distance

Today’s post was written for us by Rich from Rich on Money. Like Dr. Hartman who grew up to be a cardiologist, Rich was appropriately named at birth, possibly even unconsciously directed toward the path to wealth.

Today, Rich shares his thoughts on passive income generation through long distance real estate investing. If real estate interests you, this post gives some really stellar tips for success.

My name is Rich.

I love real estate.

I grew up in Southern California.  I remember thinking about buying real estate as a kid.  I was twelve years old.  I thought if I could buy a house then, I would be able to sell it when I was eighteen and have enough money for a car!  I was always fascinated by how fast real estate appreciated in certain places, especially near the beach.

Real estate is tricky for me.  I’m in the military, which means I move every two to three years.  Ten of the last sixteen years I’ve been overseas, including currently.

What kind of real estate investor moves every two to three years? 

That will never work!

I’ve found a way to make it work for me.  Over the past three years, I’ve purchased several buy-and-hold rental properties with cash.  The income they provide has made me financially independent.  Most of these purchases have been made from overseas.

Maybe some of my methods could be useful to you.  I’ll summarize my advice in three main points: Continue reading

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Why I Write from the Throne

Ask the Readers takes a break today. Last week, I asked you about conquering fear. I wanted to know how to get over an old fear of public speaking because the Mrs. and I are giving a talk this week. Since the presentation doesn’t take place until Wednesday, I’ll wait until next week to tell you if I was able to conquer my fear.

Last week, I hit Day 1500. Today, I tell you about the future of the blog.

TMI alert: I may have composed some of this post from the throne. Yes, that throne. More on that later in the post.

This blog started out as a passion project. I didn’t have many expectations, but I did remember having the following thoughts when I started:

  • I’ll be accountable: I’ll show the world my goals and finances. This will help keep me on the right path.
  • I’ll be transparent: Money-talk is taboo in America. I want to react against that, so I’ll share my finances. I ended up sharing much more including embarrassing pictures.
  • I’ll include dinosaurs!: OK, I’m totally lying. I had no thought of including dinosaurs when I started the blog. Frugalsaurus (the green one) is a leftover from my childhood that somehow survived one of my mother’s toy purges. He’s at least 35 years old. On a whim (and I readily confess that alcohol may have been involved), I took a picture of him and he appeared on the blog.

The blog took a long time to gain momentum because I did everything wrong, but it’s successful today (at least by my loose definition) and gets about 100,000 pageviews per month. We’ve been on major sites like CNN Money, Farnoosh Torabi and the front page of Yahoo!: Continue reading

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10 Questions with Lazy Man and Money

I first met Brian from Lazy Man and Money way back in 2013. I had just arrived at my first FinCon (blogger conference) and was hanging out in a gathering. Brian and his wife were at the same table and we struck up a conversation. I thought that it would be poetic to end 10 Questions with one of the first people I ever met in the blogging world.

Brian is a smart dude who has been blogging forever. By “forever,” I mean 2006. In a world where most blogs crap out before 6 months, Brian has been at it for over 10 years. Impressive.

This is the very last 10 Questions. If you liked the series, don’t despair. I have something new in the works that I can’t wait to share with you. Once again, I’ll be working with other bloggers, but in a completely new format.

Tell me how you’re going to change the world with your blog (dream big or don’t dream at all!).

I feel like I already have. Many bloggers have come up to me and told me that I inspired them back in 2006 or 2007.

Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income has credited Lazy Man and Money for getting his blog off the ground. Pat is now a household name among bloggers having launched thousands of businesses.

Philip Taylor, who created, is now more famously known for creating FinCon (where I met Mr. 1500). FinCon inspires hundreds of personal finance bloggers. He said that my blog was one of his early influences. Martin of Studenomics fame has said the same. Jacob Fisker started a whole Early Retirement Extreme blog talked about my blog as inspiring him (around the 14 minute mark of the podcast).

Those 4 people have inspired hundreds or thousands of blogs and tens of millions of readers. That might have happened without Lazy Man and Money. In that case, I hope that my 10 million page views have helped readers directly.

For years, I worked to educate people about MLM Scams… those annoying people trying to recruit you into their business on Facebook. I was writing about them years before Bill Ackman made it the cool thing to do with his crusade against Herbalife… and long before John Oliver did it. These scams unleashed a pile of lawsuits against me with the attempt to silence me. They’ve yet to sue John Oliver or Bill Ackman even though they’ve made far more outrageous claims than I ever have.

Lately, I’ve been focusing on FIRE… which was really what Lazy Man and Money was about all along. I’ve got a new design coming out soon and I’ll be rewriting and reorganizing my 10+ years of content to show that focus.

(This was a tough answer, because self-promotion like this doesn’t come natural for me. I’ve never written anything like this before. I’ve always thought that if you help others it will come back to you. It’s nice to step out of character for once in awhile.)

What post are you most proud of and why?

I’m going to cheat and go with 2 posts. Continue reading

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Day 1500

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. – Lau Tzu


Day 1500 is here:

Well that flew by

The Journey: Days 1 – 1500

Day 1 (January 2013)

When I started this blog, I was running away from a stressful situation (work). Not only did I not know where I was going, I didn’t even realize how important it was to have a destination. I only knew that I was running to a pile of money that would allow me to be free from the shackles and worries of work. I had never considered what came after that. How foolish I was.

I also had no expectations for the blog. I wanted to keep myself publicly accountable, but at the core, I started 1500 Days because I always enjoyed writing.

Somewhere around Day 1000

And then it hit me:

You can’t quit your job just for the sake of quitting. You’ll be bored if you have nothing to retire to.

“Oh shit!”, I thought. What was I going to do now? I can’t quit my job. What do I do with this blog? The internet police will tear me a new one when I tell them I’m going to continue working because I fear boredom. I was lost and felt ridiculous.

Day 1000 to the Present

After much deliberate thought, the answers started to materialize.

I noticed that on rare days off when the children were in school and I didn’t have to work:

  • I’d spend 2 hours at the gym instead of 40 minutes.
  • I’d spend hours at the library, reading magazines, newspapers and random books.
  • I’d write for hours, often working on five posts at once.
  • I’d spend more time with the children. After school, I’d take my time helping them with their homework and then we’d going for a walk or play games.

On these days off, I’d reflect before bed. I noticed that I was a happier person. I even fell asleep easier (one of my constant struggles).

More than anything, I noticed that I never had enough time. Even when my work schedule went to three days per week, my Mondays and Fridays flew by.


Day 1500+

Not my circus, not my monkeys. -Polish proverb

And, I’ve realized that the life that many of us accept as normal isn’t for me. Working until 62 sounds like torture. The world is wide and I want to experience it. There won’t be enough time in the years that I have left, but I’ll do what I can with what I have.

And I don’t think I’m so different from you. Most of us don’t take the time to consider a life of freedom because the concept is so foreign. I never once thought about financial independence before discovering Mr. Money Mustache. However, I think that deep down, most of us have passions that we’d start following tomorrow if a mysterious uncle left us $10,000,000.

To follow my own passions, I have to leave parts of my life behind.

I can’t be who I want to be;
I can’t do what I want to do;
I can’t live how I want to live;
without letting go.

It’s slightly scary, but mostly amazing.

I’m so thankful for it all.


Epilogue: I owe you so much more. My journey isn’t yet complete. One of the underlying themes of this blog is quitting work and I still have a job. At a minimum, I owe you an explanation of where 1500 Days is going. More on Monday.

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Performance Update 49/50: Samoan Invasion

My main goal is to build an investment and cash portfolio of $1,120,000* in 1500 days**, starting from 1/1/2013 and ending in February of 2017. I made my goal last year, but believe that it’s a worthwhile exercise to continue with my financial updates until the end of 1500 Days, so I continue.

January was a month of struggles in the 1500 household. I’ve been trying to spend less money, drink less alcohol, eat less food, weigh less and P90x more. I had mixed results. With respect to the eating less goal, the forces of the universe conspired against me. This happened a couple of weeks ago:

Mrs. 1500 is the Girl Scout Cookie Manager and it’s her job to store all of these at our house. It’s my job to try not to store them in my stomach. I love all Girl Scout cookies, but I love Samoas more than almost anything else on earth. I’d sell my soul for one and our house had over 1,000 of them for a couple of days.

I’ve been trying to stay strong, but it isn’t easy. The Samoas call my name. Every. Waking. Hour. They invade my thoughts and infiltrate my dreams. I see them everywhere:

The situation is slowing driving me insane. Just kidding! Maybe… Continue reading

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Ask the Readers: Conquering Fear

Today, I tell you about why I beat the crap out of some kid in the 4th grade. First though, I have a question:

Just kidding. I promise to stop with the Airplane quotes after this post. Maybe…

While I’m sure at least one of you knows how to fly a plane, the real business we must get to is last week’s question when I asked you about your net worth. I didn’t expect anyone to answer. Boy, was I wrong. The post had more responses than any other I’ve ever written (over 100 just from readers!). Here are my favorites:

Joe from The Well-Examined Life:

At the time of this writing our investments hover around 225k without our (nearly paid off) primary residence.

In some ways I’m proud of this number. I’m a high school teacher and my wife is a commercial photographer. Our earning potential from our careers is capped. We own a rental property with a healthy cash flow, have less than a year on our primary, and stuff money into investments.

Still, while we seem to be on much more solid footing than even our high-earning peers IRL, I feel behind in the FI community. We’re in our early 30s and have been thinking aggressively for fewer than five years (I spent most of my 20s in unhappy careers, bouncing between low-paying jobs).

We’re making up ground fast, but damn I’m jealous of some of you out there.

I think Joe is doing wonderful. The average family has under $100,000 saved, so Joe will be just fine.

Congratulations Reader Cash Collector on closing in on the Double Comma Club. The first million is always the hardest:

Closing in on the first million. As of January 1st, net worth was $966,532. Zero debt of any kind.

Gentleman of Leisure:

I am more concerned with the amount of passive income my savings and investments are able to generate. Depending on the type of investment, a $500,000 net worth could generate massively different levels of passive income.

This is a great comment that was echoed by several others! If your passive income generates enough money to pay the bills, net worth doesn’t matter. I have a big nest egg because my investments don’t generate income.

Mr. Tako has a big one: Continue reading

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10 Questions with Design Independence

This is the 79th edition of our guest post series called 10 Questions. It also will be one of the last. Everything must come to an end and 10 Questions will say ‘”Good bye!” soon (one more to go!).

Today’s answers from Matt Miner over at Design Independence. 10 Questions is almost over, so I’m going to shut my mouth and turn it right over to the guest. Take it away Matt!

Tell me about your blog and why it’s great.

I know from personal experience that many high earners (doctors, lawyers, and fancy-pants MBAs) have always focused on growing their incomes, and not their net worth.  Also, many of the mainstream financial pundits are focused on serving the broad middle, and that advice often doesn’t resonate with this crowd, even when they could benefit from it.  High income earners feel like advice directed to folks earning middle incomes is not for people like them.

These big earners have two huge risks to their finances.  First, they may earn an absolute fortune throughout their lives while saving and investing very little of it.  Second and more subtly, they tie themselves to very competitive, stressful work for way too long, and they don’t create a path to exit, when, from the FI community’s perspective, they easily could.  For any of these high-income paths, you lock in at a very young age without knowing how you’ll feel about your vocation in your thirties, forties, or fifties.

On the other hand, if high-earners can catch the vision, they can break free and do a ton of good in the world with their wealth.

Design Independence is totally focused on addressing these challenges.  My early posts begin at the beginning, trying to help people as they’re considering school, while they’re in school, and immediately after school.  I write a bunch about business school because that’s my particular experience, but the topics are highly generalize-able.  I write about other personal finance, business, and life topics too.

What post are you most proud of and why? Continue reading

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I Love Owning a Home

Loads of folks hate home ownership lately. I’m not one of them. Under certain circumstances, a home can be both a place to live and an investment. And I should know; I built the core of my nest egg with live-in flips.

My houses

I buy houses that only a remodeler could love. I think the following are awesome:

  • blue toilets
  • brown appliances
  • peeling yellow vinyl floors
  • nasty smells

I like this ugly bathroom:

Note the damaged drawer.

And I like these ugly cabinets:

Why are the handles on an angle?

I even bought this ugly house:

I like ugly ducks because I can make them beautiful:

And when you make them beautiful, you make lots of money.

Rehabbing ugly spaces isn’t the only way to make money though. If you have the mindset of a dividend investor, house hacking is for you.

Read about my home ownership strategies over at  InvestmentZen.

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