Ecuador, Part 1: Pictures, Pilsener and more Pilsener

I’m writing a three part series on my experiences in Ecuador:

  • Part 1: Pictures, Pilsener and more Pilsener
  • Part 2: What I Learned (12/14)
  • Part 3 : My Epiphany (12/20)

Today, I give you Part 1.

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A couple weeks ago, I met up with old and new friends in Ecuador at the annual chautauqua that Jim Collins puts together. What is a chautauqua you ask? I consulted Google, but didn’t like any of the definitions, so I made up my own:

Chautauqua: A gathering where the purpose is to learn through presentations and engagement with like minded folks.

The week consisted of:

Left to right: One on one's with Jim Collins and MMM, dinner candles, conversation

Left to right: One on ones with Jim Collins and MMM, dinner candles, conversation

 

11/2 (Wednesday, three days before leaving)

I admit to having buyer’s regret. The trip wasn’t a frugal endeavor (> $2,000). I could have taken the family on a nice vacation for less money.

Also, Pete, Jim Collins and Brandon are my friends. While the other attendees would be meeting them for the first time, I’ve already know Brandon and Jim since 2013 and Pete since 2012. What was I going to get out of this event? Surely it would be fun, but I had no idea beyond that.

Another thought that terrified me was that I had signed up to hang out with a group of people for a week. I’m introverted and interacting with fellow humans ranks high on the list of things that terrify me. Here are some others:

  • Mrs. 1500’s wrath: She is mellow, but hell hath no fury like a woman who “falls” into the toilet after I forget to put the toilet seat down.
  • When one of my children utters something like this: “Hey dad, look what came out of my nose!!!”

Anyway, events with the FI crowd are a little easier because the people tend to be more like me than not. I don’t remember any conversations about TV shows or professional sports the whole time I was there.

 

11/5: Saturday, departure!

Pete and I live near each other, so we took his Leaf to the airport. I’m obsessed with electric cars, so riding in the Leaf was a treat. If I ever have to buy another car, it will be electric:

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We had a stopover in Houston where I got to go to one of those fancy-pants airport lounges thanks to my new Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Woot, free beer!

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We arrived in Quito at about 11pm, way past my bedtime. I retired to my room and went to bed.

 

11/6: Sunday; Sheep, Equator and the Andes

We had breakfast and then headed over to the equator. Ever since spying pictures of middle-earth as a kid, I’ve wanted to see it in person:

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Cross that one off the bucket list

We then headed up into the Andes for sheep viewing, lunch and a visit to an archeological site:

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On one of the bus rides, I talked to David Cain of Raptitude fame. I quizzed him about his daily routine, workouts and meditation. Hopefully, I wasn’t too annoying.

At night we drank Pilsener which seemed to be the official beer of Ecuador:

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11/7: Monday; Happiness and Stocks

Cheryl was the first speaker and she gave a talk on happiness. Cheryl’s presentation was encouraging because if you’ve been reading my writing lately, you know that I need to work on my own happiness. I learned from Cheryl that I’m not doomed to unhappiness. I have to work a little harder than most, but through mindfulness, training my mind to react to situations differently and improving my filters, I can be a happier person.

In the afternoon, we went into town to stock up on supplies (beer). It was at this time that I wished I had put more effort into learning Spanish:

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I also spent some time wandering around the beautiful 17th century hacienda that we were staying at:

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Photo credit: Mad Fientist

Some walls of the hacienda were painted with nightmarish murals:

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This won’t end well.

This won't end well either.

And neither will this.

Jim Collins also presented today. Jim’s presentation was about investing and he made a compelling case for long term, index investing. For more on investing, Jim’s Stock Series and/or book are both fantastic resources.

At night, there was more beer. One of my favorite evening activities was “borrowing” unattended phones and discretely taking pictures of Frugalsaurus and Spendosaurus. I successfully photobombed at least half of the attendees’ phones over the course of the week:

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11/8: Tuesday; Lake Cuicocha Walk and Mad Fience Talk

I slept until 8:30 today. That hasn’t happened in years. And it felt good.

We went for a walk at Lake Cuicocha, a 2 mile wide crater lake:

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Photo credit: Mad Fientist

Brandon, the Mad Fientist gave an inspiring talk. It had nothing to do with money and everything to do with living. The presentation ended with an M. Night Shyamalan style twist that no one saw coming. Brandon’s new adventure is his to share, so I won’t divulge. There is more to the Mad Fientist than Fience…

There was also more Pilsener that evening:

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11/9: Wednesday; Otaval0 and Alan

This day was surreal:

  • We were all surprised by the results of the election.
  • I learned that my older child had possibly fractured her ankle at the school’s annual Fun Run. Not so fun.
  • I also learned that a childhood friend had died of a drug overdose.

I had a lot going through my mind, but tried to enjoy myself.

Today, we went to a town called Otavalo famous for its market. We mostly skipped the vendors and instead explored the town:

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Photo credit: Mad Fientist

That evening, one of the attendees, Alan Donegan (PopUp Business School) gave a presentation about how to start a business. Alan was wonderful to chat with and gave a stellar presentation (also listen to Alan’s interview on Mad Fientist):

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That night, there was more Pilsener.

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11/10: Thursday; MMM

On this day, MMM gave his presentation. Much of it focused on happiness. I realized that I have a way to go, but now I feel like my path is clear:

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We also had a big group talk where folks were free to give a presentation or ask questions:

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That night, there was more Pilsener:

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And dinosaur photo-bombing:

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11/11: Friday; Birds and BBQ

Today was the final day of the chautauqua. I took a trip to a bird refuge that features Andean condors. It was raining and condors don’t like to get wet, so they stayed inside and out of sight. However, we saw some other nifty birds:

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It started raining, but a little precipitation is of no concern to the well prepared. Here, Jim Collins sports his rain hat:

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The night finished with a stellar BBQ dinner. And more beer:

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11/12: Saturday; Quito, Statues and yes, Beer

Today was the final day of the trip. We headed back to Quito where we visited El Panecillo:

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We had dinner in Old Town Quito at an excellent microbrewery:

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Quite possibly the best tacos I’ve ever had.

 

The Verdict

Some wise person once said this:

You’re The Average Of The Five People You Spend The Most Time With

And I couldn’t agree more. Surround yourself with smart, thoughtful people and you’ll go places. There were many great things about chautauqua including the food, scenery, and the presentations by the four main speakers, but engaging the other attendees was what made it special. I enjoyed the company so much, I already have plans to meet up with several of the attendees on upcoming trips to Chicago, Nevada and Arizona.

More than anything though, the trip made me realize that part my life has been in a rut. You’ll have to wait until part 3 of this series to learn more about that.

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Ask the Readers: Breaking the Bank for a Haircut?!?

Last week, I asked you about happiness. Before I get to your responses, I have a story to tell.

When I was in my 20s, sometimes I did stupid things. (Didn’t we all?) One fine summer day, a friend and I went for a bike ride. It was hot, so I wore nothing but shorts and shoes. Shirt? Nope. Helmet? Didn’t even own one.

There was a huge hill near me and per my speed demon style, I flew down it with reckless abandon. At the bottom, going somewhere between 20 and 30 miles per hour, I hit a bump. And that is when the accident happened.

One moment, I was on the bike. The next, I found myself tumbling on the asphalt for what seemed like forever. When I finally stopped, I was in pain and blood was oozing from every part of my body but my head. I didn’t know what was going on, but knew it wasn’t good. Here is what had happened:

The quick release on the front tire was loose. When I hit the bump at the bottom of the hill, the front tire liberated itself. The fork planted itself in the asphalt and sent me over the bars. My friend, who was riding behind me, told me that I somersaulted in the air before coming back to earth.

By some miracle, I rolled out of the accident without serious injury. My body hurt, there was blood everywhere, and the bike was a goner, but by some miracle, I hadn’t hit my head. I also had no broken bones. I was incredibly lucky.

I relate this story because of this comment from Liz, the Chief Mom Officer:

Four and a half years ago my husband almost died of septic shock (he was on a ventilator, in the ICU for a week, and away from home for a month). Since then he’s had multiple very complex surgeries to try and repair the damage done.

That event was a turning point in my life-so much so that I usually refer to events occurring “before” or “after” he got sick. Before that I might be upset about a project at work, frustrated that the trash wasn’t taken out, or other little things.

Like Liz, I should be thankful for every single day after my accident. I could have been dead or paralyzed. Instead, a couple weeks later, I was back to normal.

 

Chris O from Goals and Marks had this to say and I like it:

My genetic component has set up a Bad Wolf Sanctuary, where naughty canines get spa treatments, mani/pedis, and daily pep talks from high-paid (de-)motivational speakers. I won’t pretend that it’s not a real problem for me, especially when some external situation that knocks me around a bit.

My best tool is structure. I know my physical, mental and emotional triggers and avoid them. I know the things that help me (like a regular sleeping schedule that works with my circadian rhythms, taking vitamin D, positive self-talk, etc.). I curate the information I take in.

I focus on ways that the things I CAN control prepare me to weather the things I can’t. That’s less than explanatory, so an example would be: I can’t control stock market volatility, but I can control how often I look at the stock report.

 

Reader Jacq mentioned this wisdom from her refrigerator magnet:

Worry is like a rocking chair, it will give you something to do but it won’t get you anywhere.

This was great too:

I use logic and gratitude to help the ‘good wolf’ win.

 

Biglaw Investor:

First, I take responsibility for my happiness. It’s not up to some outside force to make me happy (or unhappy). And since I can’t control external factors, I practice trying to let them go. I remember the phrase “In the absence of my judgment, things would be neither good nor bad, they’d just be.”

Biglaw’s comment reminded me of a book I’m reading right now:

While I haven’t yet The Art of Happiness, I’ve learned loads from it already. Some of my favorite pieces of advice so far: Continue reading

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10 Questions with Be Smart Rich

This is the 71st 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!” at the end of 2016. If you’ve already sent me your answers or told me that you’re going to be doing so, don’t worry; I’m still going to publish you.

Today we hear from Be Smart Rich, a Korean-Canadian accountant blogger looking for a better life and hoping to retire by 43. He believes nothing is impossible, and his happy attitude comes shining through his writing.

Be Smart Rich

Tell us about you
Hi everyone, I run a personal finance blog ‘BeSmartRich’. I was born in Seoul, South Korea and moved to Canada alone about 9 years ago with my life saving when I was in the early 20’s. I was a high school graduate, had zero English skills and just got out of South Korean military.

Armored Personnel Carrier

I used to live in that APC (Armored Personal Carrier) for 2 years.

Similar to other immigrants, I worked anywhere as long as it paid me something. I made less than minimum wages ($7/hour) for a while but I was glad to save up money to get a proper education. I have been always good with numbers so I decided to major in accounting and studied my ass off just to survive through university. Luckily, I got a job offer from an accounting firms that changed my life. I earned CPA in 2013. This is my 6th year of my career in Canada. Continue reading

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How to Save Money on Black Friday

Stay home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ha ha, you didn’t really think that I was going to write a post on shopping tips, did you?

Staying home is boring though. If you’re near Rocky Mountain National Park, come out for a hike to Estes Cone: http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/meetups-and-social-events/hike-at-rocky-mountain-national-park-on-friday-(1125)/

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Ask the Readers: Which Wolf do You Feed?

This post could have also been called:

Are you happy?

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Spendosaurus is always happy. Here he is showing off his new $110 scarf. Maybe money does buy happiness?

But that title is boring. Instead, let’s go with a famous parable:

One evening, an elderly Cherokee brave told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

One is evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other wolf is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.’

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked, ‘Grandpa, which wolf wins?’

The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one that you feed.’

I’ll have more to say about this in a moment, but first, let’s get to last week’s comments where I stated that I was delaying my retirement because of the demise of the ACA:

First, some folks sent me nasty messages claiming that I was bashing Trump. A couple of you vowed never to read this blog again. I strongly disagree with your assessment of my writing. I passed no opinions; only writing that Trump is going to dismantle the ACA. This isn’t passing judgement or bashing, it’s just stating what he vowed to do.

But there was some political back and forth in the comments about the ACA. Continue reading

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10 Questions with Make Smarter Decisions

This is the 70th 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!” at the end of 2016. If you’ve already sent me your answers or told me that you’re going to be doing so, don’t worry; I’m still going to publish you.

This week is something a little different. Still money-ish but today’s featured blog is about the science behind making smarter decisions, how to analyze a problem to come up with the best solution. Making smarter decisions isn’t just learning from your mistakes – it’s creating a better decision making process to avoid some of those mistakes.

MSD also offers Decision Coaching for those large life decisions that can really change your life.

Without further ado, here is MSD!

Make Smarter Decisions

What post are you most proud of and why?
The post that has been shared more than any other on my site is about coffee! It was really fun to write and it was the first time I focused on entertainment and adding in some “education” and not the reverse.

My most commented on post is a reflection on some of my teenage decisions that helped shape my life.

Many of my other posts are pretty educational and focused on specific decision-making topics including real estate, rental properties, careers, employment, and education.

Do you enjoy writing?
I took a long time off of writing almost anything after my dissertation. It’s basically paying tuition to write a book that you then have to defend to others. I love being able to write in a more conversational tone and through stories on the blog though! And that’s what I enjoy about reading other PF blogs like yours too. Finally, no APA formatting… Continue reading

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Performance Update 46/50: The Epiphany

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

It’s time to take a look back at October. But first, I must talk about kicks to the groin. Oof!

Kick me in the Nuts (and The Epiphany)

So, I just returned from Ecuador where I attended the annual party put on by Jimmy Collins and friends. I am working on an epic, three part writeup about the experience, but today I’ll be talking about the equator.

The first day of the trip, we visited the middle of the earth:

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Frugalsaurus and Spendosaurus pose at the equator

I first spied pictures of the equator sometime in elementary school. I thought it was awesome. Visiting the equator was on my bucket list before bucket lists were even a thing. As I sat there at the middle of the earth, two thoughts occurred to me: Continue reading

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Ask the Readers: Have Your Early Retirement Plans Changed?

No one saw that one coming. Suddenly, the next four years present increased uncertainty for those of us in the ‘States and to a lesser extent, the rest of the world.

Fact: I don’t like financial uncertainty.

ACA?

When I first stumbled on the concept of early retirement, one of the issues that I was uncertain about was health care. While far from perfect, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was a solution. My wife and I were even ACA participants for a year before she went back to work. At ~$700/month for a high deductible plan, the cost was high, but it was better than nothing. We also knew that the cost would go down when our income decreased in retirement and we’d become eligible for subsidies.

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News headline just yesterday.

Donald Trump has vowed to dismantle the ACA. Perhaps he’ll replace it with something better. Perhaps health care costs will double or triple. Perhaps he’s full of shit and won’t do anything at all. I have no idea. And I don’t like it. I can’t account for the cost of health care, so how can I possibly know how much money I’ll need in retirement? Retiring now is suddenly more risky.

Without children, the story would be different. If costs went through the roof, my wife and I could pull up stakes and move to another country. However, I want to raise my children in the United States and the youngest is 7, so we have a way to go. Continue reading

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10 Questions with Dr. Wise Money

This is the 69th 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!” near the end of 2016. If you’ve already sent me your answers or told me that you’re going to be doing so, don’t worry; I’m still going to publish you.

This week we hear from Dr. Wise Money, a radiologist who you may have known as Debt Free Doctor.

She set very high goals for herself, and is absolutely killing it. She owns two homes, is paying off her student loans at an accelerated rate, and will be able to retire by age 38 – although early retirement isn’t in the cards for her.

Dr. Wise Money, take it away.

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Tell me about your blog and why it’s great.
My blog drwisemoney.com is pretty awesome because it’s intended to help ordinary people like you and myself achieve financial independence efficiently.

I came from a family that’s the antithesis of traditional Chinese family. While my heritage prides itself in 2 main capabilities, cleaning and saving money, my parents, though otherwise really great parents, were subpar in both money management and household tidiness.

As a child growing up in Taiwan, I was intimidated by debt collectors threatening and yelling at our apartment screen door. Having watched too much Chinese mafia movie, I worried for my dad when he left to negotiate with the creditors, thinking that he might lose a pinky for being late on his debt payment.

We came to America when I was 16 to start a new life. After attending university of California Berkeley, after an epic burnout from working seven jobs while double- majoring as a college junior, I drop off the pre-med dean’s honor’s list wagon. Instead, I decided to have a child when I was 22.

screen-shot-2016-11-03-at-5-56-53-amAs a single mother, I struggled through medical school financially. I worked two jobs, took care of my toddler 75% time on my own with childcare assistance from family members 25% of the time, while attending medical school full time.

Through this all, I paid off my student loans a couple months after graduating from medical school while my peers owed 300-400k of student loans snowballing at 7% interest rate.

I’m now on my way to financial independence by 2023. If I can accomplish my financial goals in strides, and surprise myself with reaching each milestones faster than I anticipated, you can too.

The mission of my blog is to empower ordinary people like myself with financial literacy to achieve their financial goals faster than have ever dreamed. Continue reading

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The Best Real Estate Strategies For Early Retirement

Good morning everyone! I’m on an international adventure right now, so Ask the Readers will return next week. Today, my friend Chad Carson steps in.

Chad is an accomplished fellow and someone you should pay attention too. He was a division 1 football player and Rhodes Scholar finalist. Chad decided to skip medical school and focus on entrepreneurial pursuits. Today, he owns 90 properties with his business partner.

Real estate is a diverse investment strategy with many different methods to make money. Some strategies may be good for you, some may not. Chad’s goal in this post is to explain the best strategies and help you figure out which may work for you. I hope you enjoy Chad’s article today!

Right now Mr. 1500 is probably roaming around in an Ecuadorian cloud forest at the 2016 Chautauqua with Jlcollinsnhthe Mad Fientist, and Mr. Money Mustache.  While he and other early retirement luminaries solve the world’s problems from a mountain top, he has trusted me with the keys to his site for a week.  Lucky me!

Recently I had the pleasure of hanging out with Mr. and Mrs. 1500 while drinking craft beer at Stone Brewery in San Diego.  Frugalsaurus and Spend0saurus even made a surprise appearance. I quickly took a picture for proof before Spendosaurus scurried off to buy overpriced t-shirts at a tourist trap nearby.

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When fellow early retirement bloggers get together, the conversations are always fun and lively (especially while drinking beer). Of course, we talked about our families, outdoors, travel, personal finance, and philosophies on life.  But inevitably we came back to a passion we share – real estate investing.

Different Strategies, Same Goal of Early Retirement

Real estate investing has helped each of us build wealth and move towards early retirement.  I wrote another guest post about the specific benefits of using real estate to retire early.

The interesting thing about Mr. and Mrs. 1500’s story and mine is that we’ve used real estate in different ways.

Over the last 14 years, a business partner and I bought and sold (aka flipped) properties to pay the bills and to build cash savings.  Along the way we bought rental properties to grow our wealth, and we’ve used those rentals to replace our need to actively earn income.  Today we own 90 rental units in a small college town in South Carolina.

Mr. and Mrs. 1500 worked jobs outside of real estate, but on the side, they flipped their residence every two years and took advantage of the most lucrative section of the U.S. tax code.  In the process, they built massive wealth tax-free.  They currently invest most of that wealth in the stock market.

It turns out there are many different strategies to retire early using real estate investing. Our stories are only two specific examples.  Real estate early retirees vary from people like me with many rental units to extremely part time investors with one or two properties.

The common theme with all of the real estate strategies is the wealth and income produced. These real estate investments free you from the need to “make a dying” at a job.  And although real estate investing has the reputation for being less passive than alternatives, I can assure you from personal experience that with a little preparation and a few systems you can be as free and flexible as you like.

In the rest of this article, I’d like to give you a list of my favorite strategies for using real estate to retire early. And if you’re so inclined, I’d like to help you pick the best strategy for yourself.

But before we dig into the real estate investing details, let’s first look at the fundamentals of building wealth.

What’s Your Wealth Stage?

Continue reading

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