What Flying Airplanes Taught Me About FIRE

I’m on the road, so Ask the Readers returns next week. Today, I have something much better for you.

Have you checked out Primal Prosperity yet? There are some great posts over there like this one.

When the writer over at Primal Prosperity offered a guest post, I immediately said yes. And then my reply went directly to her Spam bin. Luckily, we got a hold of each other which resulted in this guest post.


I used to fly both small, single-engine airplanes and gliders (aka sailplanes), which are engineless airplanes. While flying can be an expensive endeavor, I did learn some valuable lessons about personal finance and life, in general.

First lesson ~ financial: If it flies, floats or fucks, it’s cheaper to rent. Most people are surprised to find out that you can buy a small, older airplane for the cost of a car. However, airplanes, like many boats, are expensive to maintain, store and operate. Since these expenses can add up significantly, it is usually cheaper, and far less hassle, to just rent.

Note: You can ignore the last ‘F’ with the right partner, who is financially compatible and responsible. 🙂 Continue reading

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Friday Gratitude: Full Circle

I hate hate hate name dropping, but today, I must tell a story I’ve never told before; how I met Mr. Money Mustache. That isn’t the focus of the post though. That is even better.

We were in a bad place at the end of 2012. We had moved to Colorado, but hated our new town. Our neighbors were materialistic and shallow. Within two weeks of arrival, we were determined to move back to Wisconsin, our previous residence.

I love you Madison Wisconsin, but your winters are harsh

At the same time, incredible job stress had started me on road to financial independence. I launched 1500 Days on 1/1/2013 with this post.

In early 2013, we received an offer on our house. It was time to move back to Wisconsin. However, I realized that a part of me didn’t want to leave Colorado.


Close Encounters of the MMM Kind

We liked Boulder, but it was too expensive. I knew that MMM lived near Boulder and he seemed to like his town of Longmont. I threw a Hail Mary pass at Mrs. 1500:

You know that blogger I told you about, Mr. Money Mustache? Maybe life in his neighborhood would be better. I’m going to send him an email. He probably won’t respond, but what do we have to lose?

Continue reading

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Portfolio Update: Dinoriffic Investing Advice

This blog is supposed to be about money, but I haven’t shared my portfolio since the end of 2015. Today, I lay it all out for you.

Chart from Personal Capital. Perhaps you can tell where my bias lies?


Before we get to the juicy details, note the following:

  • My portfolio has lots of individual stocks. These are mostly a relic to my days as a stock picker. I’m mostly an index investor now.
  • This isn’t investment advice! You’d be crazy to follow the lead of some crazy dude on the Internet. If you dare consider following in my footsteps, remember that I play with toy dinosaurs:

That’s me riding on the back of Spinosaurus. And yes, I totally racked myself. I appreciate your concern. Hey wait, are you laughing? Go to hell!

Let’s get on with it.


Real Estate!

Continue reading

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How did you discover the FI Movement?

I don’t normally take selfies, but when I do, they include dinosaurs and my MFing shirt.

Confession: I’m not perfectly adjusted and lack creativity. My life could be drastically different right now. And it would be for the worse.

If not for a serendipitous turn, I might still be at my job. The thought of leaving work before 62 or 65 had never crossed my mind before October of 2012. It took a bad day at work and a couple Google searches to lead me to Mr. Money Mustache (MMM) and JD Roth. MMM showed me the numbers and gave me permission to leave my job. JD told a story about growing up in a household where money wasn’t managed well, but he eventually found the good path anyway. I’m not sure when (or if) I would have figured it out without MMM and JD.

Would there be dinosaurs in my life without FI? Probably, but it wouldn’t be the same.

The Frugalwoods PreFIstoric Journey

I was listening to Mrs. Frugalwoods on the excellent Choose FI podcast. My favorite part was when the Frugalwoods decided to reconfigure their lives and move to the woods of Vermont permanently instead of just spending weekends there:

My husband and I decided in March 2014 that we wanted to pursue something different in life.

We wanted a radically different lifestyle.

Once the decision was made, they didn’t waste a moment or a dollar: Continue reading

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Notes From the First Week of Freedom

I announced that I was done with formal work last Friday. I sent my laptop back on Monday of this week. I’m not at all sorry to see it go. It was a piece of crap that caused endless frustration. Good riddance!

I felt sorry for the technician who has to deal with this pile of junk, so I included some awesome dinosaur stickers:

But we have real business to get to. Since this blog is supposed to be about early retirement, I need to tell you how it’s going. I took notes all week. Here is what I found interesting.


Random Notes from the First Week of Freedom

Oh yes, there were celebratory drinks. Too many celebratory drinks…

My mind doesn’t grasp it: I keep saying things like this: Continue reading

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The Ultimate Investment Account for Entrepreneurs

I recently wrote a post for InvestmentZen that contains useful, actionable information (a rarity for me!) It’s about self-directed solo 401(k)s, an incredibly useful investing account. Read why I opened this account below or click over to InvestmentZen to get to the good parts.

I like diversification. However, until very recently, all of my money was in the stock market. And this didn’t make me happy.

What could possibly go wrong?

I’ve always liked real estate, but have been wildly unsuccessful in picking up any properties. There are two problems:

  • The local market is far too expensive. There is 4-plex near us that wasn’t in great condition. It was bringing in about $5,000 per month in rent. The owner listed it for $800,000, but a bidding war broke out and he received $960,000 for it. Those numbers are batshit crazy. No thanks.
  • I don’t have a lot of cash. To buy a property, I’d have to sell post-tax investments and get nailed for capital gains taxes. No thanks to that either.

I considered my options and eventually put $3,000 into Fundrise as an experiment, but that was a drop in the bucket. I wanted more.

Fundrise. So far, so good.

Mrs. 1500 and I have a friend who needed a loan to fund his own real estate deals. We liked the terms and the numbers; we’d be in first position on the lien, the loan to value ratio was healthy and we’d earn an easy return of 10%.

However, our small cash pile prevented us from helping him. Then, I found a solution.

Self-Directed Solo 401(k) to the Rescue

I’ve had a solo 401(k) ever since I started earning money as a small business at the start of 2015. It’s a fantastic savings tool. We’ve saved almost $150,000 in beautiful, pretax income in tax years 2015, 2016 and 2017 ($36,000 in personal contributions for Mrs. 1500 and I plus the match from the business).

Last fall, I learned about the self-directed (SD) solo 401(k). This is similar to a solo 401(k), but allows for more options including:

  • Real estate
  • Syndication
  • Private lending
  • Tax liens
  • Stocks and bonds (including the Vanguard funds you already know and love)

I immediately established a SD solo 401(k) and funded it with an old rollover IRA. Then we started doing deals:

  • Hard money loan #1: $95,000
  • Hard money loan #2: $100,000
  • Syndication deal: $50,000
  • Hard money loan #3: $60,000

All interest earned from these deals goes right back into the 401(k) account. It won’t be taxed until I start taking distributions, just like any other 401(k).

Over on InvestmentZen I devoted an entire article to these accounts including how to set one up. If you have income from a side-gig, I highly recommend you consider a SD solo 401(k).

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Ask the Readers: How Much Would You Bet?

The Buddha, the Godhead, resides quite as comfortably in the circuits of a digital computer or the gears of a cycle transmission as he does at the top of the mountain, or in the petals of a flower. –Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Last week, Mrs. 1500 and I mentioned that we’re considering buying an Acura NSX, a Japanese supercar:

I’ve been thinking about this the NSX all week (and really for the past 25 years). To help with the decision, I came up with a list of pros and cons:


  • A Fiero, not on fire.

    Pontiac Fiero doppelganger? I’ve read that people mistake the NSX for a Fiero. I’m not a showy person, so I don’t mind if people think I’m driving a product from GM’s dark days that was famous for catching fire.

  • Keeping up with the PoPs: I have no desire to keep up with the Joneses, but keeping up with the PoPs is entirely different. Mr. PoP just bought an NSX, so I’m feeling the pressure.
  • It’s a Honda: Acura and Honda are the same company. Acura only exists in North America because Americans enjoy paying more for perceived luxury (in many cases, Hondas and Acuras are the same basic car, but the latter has a fancy badge and fancy price). In any case, I’ll be able to sleep at night knowing the NSX is reliable.


  • Pontiac Fiero doppelganger? How could you think the beautiful NSX looks like a Fiero? Are you blind? It’s not even on fire!
  • Taco Bell drive-thru Troubles: As a sports car, the NSX already sits low to the ground. The one I’m looking at has been further lowered. If I go through a drive thru, the guy handing me the food will tower over me. I can see a debacle where my Extra Cheesy Chalupa Diarhitto and Mountain Dew wind up getting dumped all over me and the interior of the car.
  • Harassment from the Iowa State Patrol: If I buy this car, I have to drive back through Iowa where I was harassed by the cops. An NSX with a Colorado plate (“He must have marijuana!”) is a recipe for fun times with the local police force.

Continue reading

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It’s official. I’m done with formal work*. So long and good-night job. It was very nice to know you, but I’m happy that our paths now diverge.


1/10/2017 (Tuesday)

I started writing this post on January 10th. I was at the library where I enjoy doing creative work. I went to my regular spot and this was sitting on a table:


I figured The Universe was sending me a message.

But we need to back up a little further. This story actually began on a Tuesday last December. I couldn’t share it in real time because I had no idea who was watching. Please step into the Wayback machine with me…


What Happened on 12/6/2016 (Tuesday)

I normally work from home, but today I was at my old work office in Chicago. I was there for a team gathering. Early in the afternoon, I rebooted my computer to install updates. When Windows came back online, my computer was barely usable. Nothing worked. I called the help desk and the technician said that I’d have to send it in to have the operating system reinstalled. No worries, I was about to be on vacation and wasn’t scheduled to be back at work until 12/27. It was not to be.

Due to holiday schedules, my computer didn’t come back until 1/3. And when it arrived, it still didn’t work. The encryption software designed to keep data safe also prevented me from logging in. Between calls to the help desk, I started enjoying life.

My day would start with having breakfast with the the girls and seeing them off to school. I’d come home and answer blog comments and email. I’d usually spend at least an hour before lunch exercising. In the afternoon, I’d write code for a personal project, write words for this blog and read at the local library. I quickly fell into a nice routine.

My calls to the help desk persisted with no resolution. No one knew what the issue was and my support ticket kept getting passed around.


1/10/2017 (Tuesday)

My computer came close to getting fixed and I was sad. I knew that as soon as Windows started cooperating, my free days were gone.

I picked up the girls and went to the library where I spotted that book. I realized one thing. I felt it deep down and was 100% sure of it. It was this: Continue reading

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Living Right with Montana Money Adventures

If you think money is the goal of us FI bloggers, you’d be wrong. Well, I concede that there may be some of us who have a shallow goal, like accumulating a certain amount of money in a certain amount of days.

***looks in mirror, shakes head, sighs***

On the surface, money is the goal. But deep down, living right is really what we’re trying to accomplish.

And Ms. Montana is someone who knows how to live, so I asked her to guest post. She did and included all kinds of wonderful one-liners like this:

We are people who’s life is bigger than their 9-5 job.

Or how about this:

I think that low expenses is the jet fuel to custom design your life.

I like these two as well:

Low expenses give you a lot of options

We are in our 30’s and while not really “early retirees” we are Work Optional

Time to turn the show over to Ms. Montana!

Living Right with Montana Money Adventures

Last year my husband and I took a year off of work. Even though it was our 4th time taking a work gap to pursue big dreams and goals, we got a lot of questions. (Well, really 2 questions, over and over again!)

1. Who does that??!!


2. How can you afford to do that?

Life is More than Work

Maybe it freaked people out because we have 5 little kids? Maybe it’s the fact we have never been high income earners? Maybe it’s because we own a 4 bedroom home and minivan and just seem so… normal? But the answer is rather straightforward: We are people who’s life is bigger than their 9-5 job. Those of us with awesome families. Passions. Goals and dreams. We want things on our highlight reel that can’t fit into an occasional 4 day weekend. We want epic road trips with friends. We want to travel overseas. We want to build or renovate a home. We want to launch a new business. And life is short. So we took a year off. We did all sorts of things we just wouldn’t have been able to do any other way. Continue reading

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Ask the Readers: Are We Hypocrites?

Hi there, Mrs. 1500 today.

The Mister and I are looking at a car. Used, of course because that’s how the FI community rolls. And we would pay cash because 0% financing isn’t available. (Our last automobile purchase happened during the economic downturn and 0% was available. We put as little down as possible and did not pay a dime ahead. Free money doesn’t come around very often.)

But we’re not looking at a sensible older-model Accord or Camry. We’re not picking up a used pickup truck to help us haul stuff around or to tow a camper so we can enjoy frugal weekend activities.

Future 1500 mobile? To drive or not to drive…

In fact, we don’t need this car at all. We have two cars already. Mr. 1500 does all of his work from home, so he doesn’t really need one very often. I work from home 3 days a week, so I don’t really need one, either. We need about half a car, but this purchase would bring us up to three vehicles.

So, what are we considering? This: Continue reading

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