It’s not an understatement to say that a good teacher can change a child’s life. My older child had an exceptional teacher (Mrs. T) a couple of years ago. She’d come home from school every day beaming, eager to tell us about her day. She was a different person at the end of the school year.
If my children had a teacher like Mrs. T every year, both would be going to a fancy medical school on a full scholarship. Thank you Mrs. T. for all you did.
When Mindy and I give back, much of it is to local schools. It hurts to see how little some teachers make, so we’re not shy about helping out. (Note: If you wish to give to local schools, Donors Choose is a wonderful charity).
Why did you start your blog?
Well, there’s the mission-based reason and the selfish reason.
It seems appropriate to start with the selfish first! I was about two years into my financial independence journey and things were going so well. We were firmly in our accumulation phase. I felt like I’d run out of things to tweak or optimize.
Now, I just had to sit and wait. I don’t wait well. I wanted to stay engaged, so I started a blog to combat boredom.
Of course, the real reason is that I wanted to contribute. Specifically, I wanted to support educators on the path to financial independence. I love the work I do and see far too many educators who struggle with money and it affects their work.
Good teachers leave because they need to make more money. Others can’t focus because of financial stress. Some stay too long after burning out because they haven’t planned for retirement.
If I can help anyone enjoy the profession more, stay in education longer, or focus more on serving students then it’s worth it.
What has surprised you about blogging?
It’s the community and connection with other bloggers. I’m a natural introvert and tend toward being a loner. My move from teaching into administration only increased that. Admin aren’t naturally popular and sometimes have to make isolating decisions.
But from the moment I started blogging and entered the community (particularly on Twitter) I’ve found incredible people who connect, engage, and argue about financial (and other) topics. It’s highly supportive but also good for ideas and personal development. It was a huge unexpected benefit!
I’m definitely not bored anymore – if anything I wish I had more time to interact.
Do you rent or own? What are your thoughts on homeownership?
This is such a timely question! After a years-long debate, we finally made the decision to downsize our home. We knew it would be a big change and focused on the selling process. We intended to cash out the equity and use it to buy a smaller place and live mortgage-free.
To our surprise, when we started looking for our next home we decided on a rental. After 20 years of homeownership, we’re going to be renters! As a result of growing up in poverty, I instinctively feel more secure owning a home and not being at the whims of a landlord. But, I’m open and excited to see how this feels now that I’m more financially secure.
My guess is we’ll end up buying again eventually but will take our time finding exactly the right place.
How do you stay fit? (If you’re one of those crazy Crossfit people, please don’t tell me that I suck because I don’t do it. This has happened.)
I don’t? Okay, that’s not exactly true. I stay fit inconsistently.
My preferred way is road cycling. I take long rides. My favorite is metric centuries (60ish mile rides) and I do a few centuries (100+ miles) each year. Just turning my pedals over for hours helps me both physically and mentally. It’s pretty much the only time my brain can focus on a single thing.
If I’m really wrestling with something, I try to take on a brutal climb. Grinding up a hill for a few hours requires focusing on something else. I’ve reached clarity or solved many problems while dragging my weight up a hill on my bike.
If you want to understand how mentally deranged I am about this, you can read this piece that inspires me – Glory Through Suffering.
Sadly, I’m still not that fit during the school year. 60 – 80 hour weeks (and now a blog!) do that. I need to get better.
What do you do for a living?
I’m an educator! I use the general term because I’ve worked in multiple roles and never know what I’ll be doing in the next year. My wife and I are both educators and all our financial progress has come while working in public education.
I’ve been an elementary teacher, instructional coach, school principal, and district administrator. I’ve also taught college, supervised teacher and administrator candidates, and run school districts. Currently, I’m running programs that serve students who have been pushed out of traditional schools.
My true love is teaching directly in a classroom or serving as a school principal. After we reach FI, I will probably do one of those again until I’m ready to step away for good.
Even though it’s humbling at times, working directly with kids is amazing.
Is your goal financial independence? If so, where are you on the journey?
Absolutely, it’s a goal. Early retirement is an option, but for us FI is mostly about having choices and the ability to do the work we love without the pressure to earn a certain amount of money.
After a few decades of stumbling around, we’ve finally got a clear plan. We’ll be lean FI as soon as we finish downsizing our home. The number we’d consider actual FI is within sight – we’ll hit it comfortably in 3-5 years depending on how the market behaves in the short term.
Do you tell others of your FIRE plans or are you in the closet?
We tell personal friends and family – carefully. Like many, we probably got too excited and talked about it too much early on. I’m sure it was obnoxious or off-putting to some people. (The financial version of CrossFit, right?!)
Professionally, we don’t. In education, money topics are almost taboo and being “driven by money” is a sin. We try to talk about good money habits, and I include financial literacy in training when I can, but we don’t talk professionally about FIRE or our personal plans.
You rub a magic lamp and an evil genie pops out and says this: “You must pick one, specific investment to have all your money in for the next decade!” What do you pick?
Even though it’s only a fraction of our overall portfolio I’d probably choose real estate in the form of rental housing.
- A part of me likes the tangible aspect of owning something physical. No matter what happens, you own the house and land.
- Our area is growing and will continue to grow. So, I expect demand for housing to remain strong for the rest of my life.
- I see less volatility than in paper assets for the next ten years.
Evil genies aside, what is your investing strategy? Stocks? Index funds?? Real estate??? Crypto????
I may have just convinced myself that I need to buy another rental. The numbers don’t really work in our area though because of housing prices.
We have about ⅓ of our assets in real estate: a rental house and a shared vacation home that we short-term rent.
The rest is index funds (primarily VTSAX with a foreign fund as well) balanced with a bond fund of about 10% of invested assets. It’s about 80/20 in retirement accounts now but that will be shifting in the last few years of accumulation.
Crypto I avoid because I don’t fully understand it and it currently appears to be crazy harmful for the environment. I try not to buy things that help destroy our planet. Maybe someday if I understand it and they figure a way to blockchain that doesn’t draw massive electricity.
What is your worst money mistake?
I think my worst money mistake is also one I don’t actually regret. Does that even make sense?
Anyway, after high school, I chose to serve in the United States Marine Corps. I did it entirely because I believe in service and have a deep patriotic streak.
Being young and idealistic, I intentionally chose not to take any of the college benefits. Most of my college was covered through merit scholarships anyway. I felt like getting a benefit from serving would water down my choice to serve.
Looking back – it wasn’t a great choice. That money would have helped me a lot in my early 20s. Knowing what I know now and how investing even the small amount would mean huge things today, I’d probably take the money. But I don’t really regret leaving it on the table. I’m proud of my service and the choice made by over-idealistic young me.
What is your splurge? Don’t be shy. Mine set me back $45,000.
This one is easy! Remember that I like long bike rides?
Well, toward the end of our lifestyle inflation phase, before we started pushing back I bought a beautiful bike. Custom titanium, handcrafted wheels, DI2….woah, barely caught myself before slipping into full bike nerd rambling.
Anyway, it’s beautiful and wasn’t cheap. It cost more than the used cars the FIRE community loves. I don’t regret it even a tiny bit.
I’d put almost 30k miles on my previous bike and thought it was great. The first time I rode this thing I knew how wrong I was. As someone who almost always feels buyer’s remorse on everything, I knew I’d made a good choice. It feels right.
Even with my newfound financial discipline, I’d buy it again.
What did your parents do to raise you to be financially smart?
Honestly, they didn’t. Money smart wasn’t a thing in my childhood. My dad made (and continues to make) horrible financial choices.
I did learn a lot being raised by a bad-ass single mom though. Most importantly that education matters, work hard and don’t waste much time complaining, and that you never want to be caught with no choices in a financial emergency
Ideal vacation: road trip, beach, mountains, forest or city?
All of the above? We recently did a road trip that hit all of those things. It was epic, beautiful, and maybe our favorite vacation ever.
If I had to choose one – I’d go with the beach. The ocean is powerful, peaceful, and totally humbling in a way that nothing else on the planet is. It never fails to trigger personal reflection.
What travel destination is highest on your bucket list?
This year we celebrate our 20th anniversary. Since before we were married my wife has talked about staying on one of the over-the-water huts in Bora Bora. I’ve always wanted to take her there.
We’re currently planning that trip for December 2019.
So, I guess it will be off the bucket list soon. I’ll probably also have a new answer to the splurge question…
How is the world going to be better because you lived?
I can’t tell you how much I love this question. I left a much more lucrative career field to enter education because I was asking this of myself.
I’ve helped literally thousands of kids get a better education. They’ll make a massive difference and change the world for the better.
Contrary to what you read in the media, I’ve got nothing but respect and optimism for the young people today. They won’t be constrained by the patterns and limits of their elders.
If you have a magical power that allowed you to change one set of beliefs in others, what would you choose?
I think we’d all be better off if we realized our experiences and perspectives don’t automatically apply to others. “It’s true for me so it must be true for you” is such a harmful thing and creates misunderstanding and division.
We benefit from stories and hearing other people’s views especially when they’re different from our own.
Difference is powerful and a benefit, not something to be ignored or crushed.
Elon Musk: Crazy megalomaniac or a brilliant guy who is changing the world?
I think we need bold thinkers who are willing to push the idea of what’s possible. That takes confidence and a certain level of crazy.
But true change requires taking everyone with you along for the ride. It’s where the hero model fails. Heroes die and their work fades. Can we push for the future and lift everyone? That’s the true challenge.
If you were a dinosaur, what kind would you be and why?
Definitely a pteranodon. Or maybe a pterodactyl. Really, any of the flying dinosaurs. I’ve always had an (un)healthy obsession with flying. If my eyesight hadn’t excluded me, I totally would have entered the Air Force test pilot program instead of the Marine Corps. Glad I didn’t though – Sempre Fi.
I still want to fly though.
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