Performance Update (Day 1703): Rich Ducks and Bloated Guts

My main goal was 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 and my 1500 Days are over, but in the interest of openness, I’ll continue to share my numbers.

When I quit my formal job in April, my net worth was about $1,750,000. Not even six months later, it’s now over $1,900,000. Most of this is due to market appreciation, but not all of it. I owe you an explanation…

 

Planned Passions, Unplanned Money

I’ve always enjoyed writing, but didn’t pursue it at university. Science and computers offered better career options. I eventually became a computer programmer and banged away at a keyboard for almost 20 years. However, I never forgot about my love for writing.

After I discovered JD Roth and Mr. Money Mustache (the blog that launched 10,000 blogs), I launched my own blog on January 1st of 2013. You’re reading it. It was nothing more than a passion project to document my journey to financial independence and hold myself publicly accountable. Then, interesting things started happening.

Mrs. 1500 Nails the Landing

Mrs. 1500 had been a stay-at-home mom until a serendipitous turn of events landed her a dream job:

  1. At the end of 2013, I dragged Mrs. 1500 to FinCon, a financial media conference.
  2. She went to a breakout session and sat in the front row.
  3. When the session started, she realized that she was at the wrong place. However, she felt bad about leaving, so stayed.
  4. The topic of the session was coping with the technical side of site growth. This didn’t interest her, but the company did. When it was over, she talked to the presenters, one of whom was the founder.
  5. Mrs. 1500 wrote some blog posts for the company. She didn’t get paid anything, but was passionate about the subject matter.
  6. At the next FinCon in 2014, Mrs. 1500 chatted with the founder again.
  7. In 2015, the company announced that they were hiring for a certain position. It was Mrs. 1500’s ideal job. While our youngest was not yet in school, she’d be starting in 3 months, so the timing was good. Mrs. 1500 applied for and got the job.

And something else was going on too. I put ads on the blog to help pay for hosting, equipment (Apples grow on trees, but Apple Macbooks do not) and the FinCon conference. The results were unspectacular. In the first 3 years of blogging, I earned less than $1,000. Queue the sad trombone. And the sad daughter:

But in year 4, the blog started gaining traction and spitting out more substantial income. It has continued to increase ever since. It doesn’t make a lot, but when you live a frugal life, even small amounts have a fun way of moving the needle.

Fast forward to today. Mrs. 1500 works at her job and I work on the blog. And it is work, but never in the typical sense. Our work reflects our passions. We’re both thankful that we get paid for what we used to do for free.

I don’t make the same money as I used to. The blog, freelancing and Mrs. 1500’s income combined is still less than what I made as a computer programmer. However, it’s enough for us to get by on and still max out two 401(k)s.

So, we don’t have to dip into our savings and our net worth continues to increase. I’m a big fan of the 4% Rule, but it’s nice not to live it yet.

So, am I really retired? Probably not. But why would I stop doing what I love just because it happens to earn some money? Continue reading

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About the Time One of My Heroes Calls Me a Loser

If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably a saver. And I’d bet you’d cringe a little if someone called you a spender. Frugality is nerdy. And by nerdy, I mean cool. So, I laughed a little when someone forwarded me an article written by Robert Kiyosaki (author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad) where he called me a loser:

 

And then it got worse. Robert called us out by name:

I was amused, but a little sad too. I read Robert Kiyosaki’s book when I was in my 20s and it was inspiring. He encourages entrepreneurship and thinking outside the box. His lessons are worthwhile and I respect him. But I digress…

 

100% Hate for the 4% Rule (Why I Won’t Run Out of Money)

Robert isn’t a fan of the 4% Rule or our retirement plans:

Perhaps this makes sense for them now in their 40s while they are relatively young. But what will happen when they get older and require more medical attention? Or what if their property taxes go up significantly over the next twenty years? Or what if inflation continues to grow over the next forty to fifty years at 2% a year? Or what if they get tired of living so frugally after all?

Without significant income, they won’t be able to stay afloat. They may enjoy life at $30,000 a year right now, but it will not be sustainable for their entire retirement.

You could come up with a million reasons for why the 4% Rule won’t work: Continue reading

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Ask the Readers: Tell Me about Your Summer Adventures

All of my recent Ask the Readers have been deep and serious! I’ve been asking about focus, sleep issues and even death. No fun! Besides, why should y’all have to figure out my problems? I should just hire a therapist!

The kids are back in school. There is new snow in the mountains. It’s still dark at 6am. Summer is quickly fading.

Summer Adventures

We were traveling fools this summer, spending 41 days away from our house. Our first trip included visits to Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Beering around with Physician on FIRE

 

Our second trip took us to Maine, Vermont, New York City, Edinburgh and London.

I want to know what you did over the summer. Before we get to that, we must get to last week’s question where I asked you what you wanted to do before you die. Continue reading

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What do You Want to do Before You Die?

Sometimes, I have to wander around for hours to come with a post idea. Other times, they just pop up out of nowhere and smack me in the face.

The latter happened last week when I was hiking around Boulder with friends. First, we hiked up Mt. Sanitas:

Then we stopped off for dessert breakfast:

Afterwards, we stumbled upon this:

Deep thoughts, especially after inhaling that crepe. And if I would have expired after eating breakfast, I would have died happy. And stuffed.

I’m getting ahead of myself. First, I need to talk about last week’s question when I asked you about focus.

 

Focus?

I’m having a difficult time organizing my life and focusing. Here is what you had to say:

I like this from Mrs. Kiwi:

It took me a while to realize that I don’t need to say yes to every invite, and I still struggle with it, as I see my fall filling up fast! And even local events are draining. So, I’m instituting the 24 hour ban. Don’t say yes to a commitment without thinking about it first!

Justin at Atypical Life:

So what do I focus on? I focus on having a good time. Whether it is traveling a ton or hanging out at home and enjoying the easy life, so long as I am enjoying myself, what does it matter?

Gotta love Rocky Mountain National Park. Now the challenge! Wake up at 4am again and ride your bike into the park and to the top of Trail Ridge Rd. It is quite the climb and will be a beautiful fun descent back down.

Reader Phil:

“Don’t trade time for money”. Money can be defined too broadly in this statement. You need to trade time for happiness – and if some of that happiness generates money, so be it. For many people, that happiness is work – but now you get to define that work. The stress comes from having too many options and that lack of clarity on what is validating. If you figure out the validation, then you have found your meaning of life.

Matt from Spills Spot:

I LOVE ping pong, and that set up looks awesome!

Matt, next time you’re in Colorado, prepare for some dirty, hardcore ping-pong action! Continue reading

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Guest Post: The Get Rich Slow Mindset

Today’s guest post comes from Andrew Syrios over at AndrewSyrios.com. Today, Andrew reminds us of the importance of delayed gratification.

No matter what you’ve heard from get-rich-quick gurus, infomercials or game show hosts, becoming wealthy is not a quick and easy affair.

Yes it occasionally happens. People win the lottery sometimes (although they usually lose all that money). I even considered buying Bitcoin when it was less than $10 a coin!

But alas, it was not to be. That shouldn’t matter though, because the only way to properly approach becoming wealthy is the get-rich-slow method.

To master the get-rich-slow method of gaining wealth, one must learn to defer gratification. I believe it is the single most important skill one can possess. You must live below your means now in order to live above society’s mean (i.e. average) later.

In other words, you must save and invest wisely. Continue reading

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My Death March to Financial Independence

My journey to financial independence hit rock-bottom in 2008:

  • My wife was busy taking care of our 1-year-old baby.
  • I was busy with a job that consumed more than 40 hours per week.
  • We were flipping a home and I was doing much of the work myself. I spent at least 40 hours per week swinging a hammer, hanging doors, installing cabinets, fixing plumbing, installing trim and setting tile.

I was always tired. I wasn’t spending time with the baby. I argued with my wife frequently. And then it got worse, much worse.

We had hired carpenters to frame out a second story on the home and they were careless. After removing the existing roof, they put tarps up to keep the house dry, but had not properly secured them. One evening, the wind blew all of the tarps off the house. A couple of hours later, bucketloads of rain started coming down. I tried to get the tarps back on, but it was futile. The rain started infiltrating the house any and every way it could: mostly by way of light fixtures and ceiling fans. I ran around the house, strategically placing buckets and salad bowls to catch the water. When we ran out of those, we used mops and towels to soak up the deluge before it damaged the hardwood floors. Only the baby slept that night.

But the wet house was really just a symptom of other problems and bad decisions. While I’m financially independent today, I didn’t go about it the right way. My journey was more of a death march. I’m telling you my story so you can learn from my mistakes.

Flip #1: $100,000 Profit!

Flipping homes consumed our lives from the year 2000 until late 2016. And it all started by accident. I had called a plumber to fix a leaky faucet in my home. I was angry when he didn’t show up, so I figured out how to do it myself.

This gave me confidence. If fixing a faucet wasn’t hard, I knew that I could teach myself other skills. Soon, I was tiling, hanging cabinets and fixing electrical issues. I learned these skills while rehabbing my first home. And then something amazing happened when we sold it: Continue reading

Posted in Saving and Investing Money | Tagged , | 45 Comments

Ask the Readers: Focus, FI Life and an Agreeable Wife

FI Life and an Agreeable Wife

On Monday one week ago, I hiked Longs Peak. It was a last-minute decision. I looked at the weather on Sunday evening and it was going to be a great day, so I decided to forget about my list of stuff to do and go for a walk in the woods (and tundra). FI life and an agreeable wife let you get away with stuff like this.

I woke up at 4am and was on the trail before the Sun was ready to present herself:

Above 9,000 feet, it wasn’t even 40 degrees, but I started working up a sweat. I stopped to take some layers off and have a drink. I was still in the trees, but noticed that the sun was now up.

Soon, I was above the forest.

And I was treated to an amazing view of Longs Peak.

I hadn’t planned to summit, so I stopped at 12,800 feet, 1,400 feet shy of the top.

I’ll be back to complete the hike, maybe in late September.

 

I’m Overcompensating

As great as the hike was, I wasn’t in the moment like I should have been. I kept on thinking about tasks I had to complete. I took my phone out at least five times to take notes. At one point, I even considered cutting the hike short and heading home.

I wish I wasn’t like this. I started thinking about my life and came up with three reasons why I so often fail to appreciate the moment: Continue reading

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Thursday Rant: 6 Phrases that will Doom Your Finances

I’ve been happier lately, so I’ve laid off the ranting. This doesn’t mean that I can’t still get angry every once in a while…

How often do you hear nonsense disguised as wisdom that makes you want to run for the exit? Maybe on Thanksgiving, your Uncle Larry has three drinks too many and starts unloading his worldly “wisdom” on the family.

Been there, seen it.

Or domineering relatives think they know what’s best for you and aren’t afraid to regale you with their “knowledge.”

No comment.

And unwanted wisdom isn’t confined to politics or world events. I hear personal finance “wisdom” (is my sarcasm coming through?) almost every day that makes me cringe. Here are some of my favorites:

 

“It’s only $xxx per month!”

Car dealerships, mattress stores, and home builders all use this trickery:

The reason is simple: $289 is easier to swallow than the price of the car. How many folks can afford to buy a new car outright?

*crickets*

Don’t fall for the trap.

Do this instead: Always consider the total cost of an item. Also, think about the long-term potential of the money. Even if you can afford to unload $30,000 for a new car, you need to think about what that money would be worth 30 years later if you invested it insteadHint: Lots. Also note that the car will be worth $0 in 30 years.

 

“Treat yourself!” or “You deserve it!”

Why do you deserve anything? And if you do deserve it, why must you buy yourself <insert one: shoes, a purse, a car, sports tickets, gadgets,> because of it. You don’t need a shiny new object just because you accomplished something.

Do this instead: Take the money and invest it. Strive for financial freedom. Time is the ultimate reward and you do deserve it after you’ve worked hard and invested diligently. If you want a fancy toy (I’m raising my hand because I’m guilty), wait until you’re financially free to get it. My NSX is a lot of fun, but nothing feels as good as financial freedom.

 

“Let’s go shopping!”

Shopping is a horrible word. Roaming stores at a local mall isn’t a pastime or hobby. If you don’t know you need it, you don’t need it.

Do this instead: Make a list of what you need at the store and stick to it. And find other ways to have fun. Instead of looking for stuff to buy, go to the playground with your kids, swim at the beach or have a potluck with the neighbors.

 

“You only live once (YOLO)!”

People say this when they’re naughty and know it:

The purse is $800, but YOLO!

Do this instead: It’s true, you do only live once. I’m glad we agree on that. Now, let’s agree that since life is short and you should enjoy your limited time by living on your own terms. Find your Enough and step off the hedonic treadmill.

 

“I’ll buy it now and figure out how to pay for it later!”

No. No! NO!!! This is wrong, bad and borderline batsh*t crazy. Just don’t.

Do this instead: Save your money now so it’s there when you need it. Repeat after me:

I’ll save it now and figure out how to spend it later.

 

“Oooh, the Joneses have a new car!”

Shiny new things bring envy. However, I have something to tell you:

The Joneses are living check to check.

They’re 3 months away from bankruptcy should Mr. or Mrs. Jones lose his/her job.

Do this instead: Forget the Joneses. Don’t follow the herd. Know that no one ever did anything great by looking at someone’s butt. Be confident. March to your own voice and carve your own path.

 

GRRRRRR!!!

Oh wow! If you can’t tell, I’m all worked up. I’m getting off my bossy soapbox now before my head explodes or I go all T-rex on the next person who utters one of these phrases.

How about you? What ridiculous wisdom drives you nuts?

Posted in Rants | Tagged | 62 Comments

Interview with Da Coach

Hey everyone, Da Coach interviewed me for his investor/entrepreneur series! And by “Da Coach,” I’m referring to Coach Carson and not Mike Ditka. And I’m sorry for my Chicago slang.

I was born and raised in Chicagoland (more slang) and still talk like a native Chicagoan. I even dress like someone from the region:

I get asked this question frequently when I wear this cap in the Midwest:

Are you a farmer?

Nope. Unless you count my four pathetic tomato plants.

Anyway, I also enjoy the Bears, deep-dish pizza and Portillo’s. Regarding the last one, if you put ketchup on a hot-dog, you’ve committed a cardinal sin, punishable by death if you’re within Chicago city limits. Just don’t do it.

Pequod’s Pizza, the best thing you can put into your mouth

But I digress…

 

Da Coach

Da Coach (Ditka) and Coach Carson both played football, but that’s where their similarities end. I can’t see Coach Carson throwing a wad of gum at someone, but who knows? Maybe he’ll throw gum at me after reading this nonsense. Continue reading

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Ask the Readers: Why Can’t I Sleep?

Last week, I asked you about motivation related to physical fitness. I was really inspired by your answers, so I went a little off the deep end yesterday. Literally.

I paid $50 to get my body fat measured in the most accurate way possible. It’s called a hydrostatic immersion test. Here I am in the tub:

Stop laughing.

Ready for the big numbers? Here is where I stand:

  • Height: 5′ 11″
  • Weight: 163.4
  • Body fat: 22.1%
  • Lean mass: 127.3 pounds
  • Fat mass: 36.1 pounds

I was taken aback by the body fat percentage. I thought that I would be in the high teens. 22.1 percent was a nasty surprise.

I’m hoping to get close to 10%, but I have a long way to go. To lose half of my fat, I’d have to lose 18 pounds which would bring my weight down to 145 pounds.

However, I’m not interested in just burning fat. More than a couple readers pointed out that I should focus on building muscle and not cardio. Mr. Money Mustache, who has a hell of a physique, agrees with this too.

So from here on out, I’m going to focus on building muscle rather than losing weight. I’m still going to bike twice per week, but I’m going to back off on the running. I’m also going to increase my caloric intake.

And my bet still stands. If I’m not under 160 by the end of September or cannot do 10 pull-ups, one lucky reader still gets a $100 Amazon gift card.

Here is what I learned from you:

 

Motivation

I liked Done by Forty’s subtle psychological tricks:

My only reliable secret is to reduce activation energy for good behavior. So for working out, instead of telling myself I’m working out…I just tell myself I have to put on my running shoes. If I get them on, then I don’t have to go for a run, I just have to step outside and see how I feel (or that’s what I tell myself). I also sleep in clothes appropriate for working out, so it requires as little as possible to get that first step going.

Mr. SSC:

I’m not a gym person at all, so when I got into running a few years back, it was a nice way to stay more fit. But, it gets SO friggin’ boring at times that I found it hard to stay motivated and actually run. Then I discovered if I signed up for a race I had “a reason” to run/exercise.

My reason is my battle with Mr. WoW. He has a huge lead and is pulling away, but I’m not giving up:

It’s looking bleak. I’d have to lose 5 pounds just to pull even with Mr. WoW

 

Financial Freedom Sloth encouraged me to do something that I like: Continue reading

Posted in Ask the readers | Tagged , , | 75 Comments