There are approximately 476,492,292,928 personal finance blogs last time I checked. Why should we read yours?
My Dad retired at age 56 in 2002. Around that year, I set a goal to retire at age 55, one year earlier than he did. That’s where my blog name comes from.
I set the goal in hopes of traveling extensively again in retirement.
I try to make my blog stand out by writing unusual content alongside helpful information. The RBD tagline is Build income streams. Explore the unusual. It’s a nod to my investing strategy and a throwback to my days as a backpacker.
My blog posts often start with a unique experience from my past, then I tie that into a money lesson. When you start a post from a unique experience, nobody else can write that same post. Any writer can do this, but many in the personal finance space do not.
What is one post that you’ve written that you wish would have gone viral?
The Nude Selfie of Personal Finance. This post took almost a year to write. I had a similar but more inappropriate idea for a post in my head that I couldn’t muster the courage to publish.
Then one day at the gym, this beefcake dude was taking nude selfies in front of the mirror when this was clearly a violation of locker room rules. A blog post was born. It gained some traction on Rockstar Finance but fizzled out after that.
My terrible photo-editing skills didn’t help.
Why did you start your blog?
I was inspired by a childhood friend who started a health-related blog around his specialty. It was his passion and he went all, built an online presence, and turned his blog and YouTube channel into a business.
Around the same time, I was looking for a side business when my wife stopped working to stay home with our kids. Blogging struck me as a great business model. Low start-up costs… work from home on your own time… write about your passion.
So I started my blog to make money. There, I said it.
Most money bloggers don’t admit to this. It’s always about “holding myself accountable” or “helping others”. Deep down, almost all personal finance bloggers want to earn from their blog one way or another. But it takes time and lots of effort.
The best blogs make the most money. The prospect of earning money motivates the blogger to write better content. Better content leads to bigger audiences and more money. It’s hard to spend 10-20 hours a week blogging if there is not an incentive.
That said, it took me 6 months to earn my first $1.00. It took another 18 months to earn my first $100 in a month.
What has surprised you about blogging?
That I liked it enough to stick with it for more than a few months. My blog is now five years old.
What is part of your blog that you wish you could do better?
Write more guest posts. I’ve been meaning to write this guest post on 1500 Days for more than five years!
Seriously, check out this email exchange:
Where do you live? Do you love it, hate it or just meh.
I live in the northern VA suburbs of Washington D.C., not far from the new Amazon HQ2. The nation’s capital is an extraordinary area to live in.
George Washington recruited soldiers for the Revolutionary War outside a bar down the street from my rental property (legend has it). Presidential motorcades cause traffic headaches.
The museums are some of the best in the world and they are free. The economy is strong thanks to the government. All the industries have a strong lobbying presence here too. And the embassy staffs from just about every country in the world are here fueling the economy. On top of a vibrant tech and startup community.
This all has made Washington D.C. expensive, but nowhere near as bad as New York or San Francisco.
Do you rent or own? What are your thoughts on home ownership?
Our family owns our home. I’m all for home ownership if you are absolutely damn sure you’re ready to buy a home
If you’re only 99% sure you’re ready to become a homeowner, don’t become a homeowner.
It’s too big a transaction to make that mistake. Don’t buy a big home. Keep it reasonable.
What do you do for a living?
I work for a mid-to-large IT consulting company. My specialty is helping customers transition from 1960’s computer technology to 1990’s computer technology.
After losing my job of 14 years in 2017, I’m grateful to be working for a top-notch employer today.
Benefits are ridiculously good (10% retirement match!), the work is challenging and rewarding, and my coworkers are engaged and dedicated to their craft.
For years, I was unhappy with my employment situation. It’s part of the reason I started blogging about retiring early. I wanted it to happen sooner. That was unhealthy (NSFW). Blogging helped me realize this.
Today, I’m enjoying the scenery more on the way to financial independence.
How old are you and do you have a family?
I’m 43-years-old. Yes, I’m married with three kids ages 7, 5, and 3. Boy, girl, girl.
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 pay $45 total for two separate gym memberships. One is a chain very near my house with a pool for laps. The other is in my office complex and greatly subsidized.
Swimming at our summer outdoor community pool is my favorite exercise.
Is your goal financial independence? If so, where are you on the journey?
Yes. I expect to hit my FI number sometime before age 50. Then continue to work until 55 to build up a sizable and sustainable nest egg.
Coincidentally, I’m also an advocate for colon health. When I realized my dietary goals aligned with my financial goals, I giggled like a 3rd grader.
Are you leanFIRE or fatFIRE or fartFIRE?
According to this unofficial scale of FIRE graphic, you left out traditionalFIRE which is between leanFIRE and fatFIRE, for those who are sticklers for details.
So technically, Mr. 1500, your questions is flawed. Get with the program!
My target is at the high end of traditionaFIRE. Which is somewhere around $2 million. But I calculate my FI number slightly differently than most. Here’s how I measure progress toward financial independence.
Recent events in my personal life, along with several broader trends in the world have made me increase my target number. I prefer to remain in the workforce longer to increase long-term financial security rather than declare financial independence sooner.
Do you tell others of your FIRE plans or are you in the closet?
I was an anonymous blogger for three years. I was terrified my employer would find out. So as I was telling the world about my escape plans, only a few close family members and a group of other blogging peers knew who I was.
I have told a few friends, but most aren’t that interested in my financial plans. It’s something I get to discuss with blogger friends, and that’s a nice byproduct of having a blog… making internet friends and meeting them in person.
My new employer knows about my blog, but nobody pays attention.
What is your investing strategy? Stocks? Index funds?? Real estate??? Crypto????
My primary strategy is to maximize contributions to tax-advantaged accounts. Max out company retirement plan, spousal IRA, Roth IRA for me, and VA 529 for the kids. I invest in both index funds and individual stocks.
Over the years, I’ve put most of that money into mutual funds and forgotten about it. Index funds when possible, but evil genies were taking 12b-1 fees from the managed mutual funds in my old 401(k) for many years. It took me five years to convince my employer to change plans.
Outside of retirement accounts, I aim to build multiple income streams for security and wealth. These streams come from my rental property, dividend stocks, real estate crowdfunding, a high-yield money market account.
I’m very interested in how technology is changing the banking and investing world. So I’m eager to experiment with alternative investments and other passive income ideas powered by innovative startups.
What is your favorite money management tool? (Yes, you can include your affiliate link.)
Microsoft Excel is the best. I took a financial modeling course in college and I’ve been addicted ever since.
My favorite online broker for beginner to intermediate investors is M1 Finance. It’s a commission-free online broker that’s built for long-term investors instead of traders.
Another cool new app is called Bumped. You can earn stock rewards for shopping you already do. Buy Starbucks coffee, earn Starbucks stock. No fees, just free stock when you shop at participating stores. There’s still a waiting list but it’s worth the wait.
What is the best thing you ever bought? The worst?
The best thing I ever bought was a $1,300 flight to Asia and back. That kicked off 14 months of traveling when I was 26-years-old. That was the best personal experience of my life.
The worst. Tough call. I bought the Lost (TV Show) collectors addition blue-ray box set when it first hit the shelves and right before streaming really took off. It cost something like $240 and we’ve never touched it.
Do you track your spending? If so, how?
Yes! I track my spending two different ways.
I use Mint for budgeting. When I stopped using Mint for a year, our spending went out of control. So I’m back.
Second, I track annual spending with an Excel spreadsheet and some pivot tables. I do this for the sole purpose of knowing my annual expenses so I can estimate my FI number.
Here’s a detailed post about how to track spending with Excel (there’s a free spreadsheet to download).
What is your worst money mistake?
The worst mistake I ever made was leaving a $750/month room in an awesome group home and buying a 1BR condo with a $2,334 monthly payment.
I made this move after the real estate bubble burst in 2006, so I thought I was perfectly timing the market. But this was before the real financial crisis.
The huge payment crippled my life. I knew the day I moved in it was a massive mistake.
I spent the next two years paying off the $43,5000 second mortgage so I could breathe again.
Then I refinanced twice and eventually invited my girlfriend/soon-to-be-fiancé to move in. Living together allowed us to save enough for a down payment on a home in the suburbs and it enabled us to live on one income when Mrs. RBD became a Mom.
Today, the condo is a rental property and earns us money every month. It’s just three miles from the new Amazon headquarters. We only owe about 50% of its value, but we’re considering selling and moving the money to more profitable investments.
Here’s the whole story of my worst financial mistake.
Coach Carson profiled my rental property on his site. Check out the pics!
What is your splurge? Don’t be shy. Mine set me back $45,000.
We’re going on a Disney cruise later this year.
The amount we’re spending on the cruise would have sustained me as a backpacker for an entire year back in the day.
That said, I have no hesitations about it. We are celebrating that we’re finally “out of the fog”. Our youngest is almost four-year-old and our lives are finally getting easier.
What is one unique thing you’re doing to raise your kids to be financially smart?
My son won $25 in a Superbowl pool at my neighbor’s house this year. The host asked him what he was going to do with the money, and he said he was saving it to go to Australia.
His statement surprised me because he would normally use it to buy a stuffed animal. But I’ve been hammering this notion into our kid’s heads that when we spend money on stuff, less money is left over to do fun things. Like, go to Disney world or Australia.
Australia has been my son’s go to bucket destination since he got a stuffed kangaroo and learned that Australia has trains.
I created a savings account segment (in a spreadsheet) that he can now “deposit” money into. I pay him interest every month, and there’s a pie chart for him to watch his progress. When he hits his goal, I said we can start planning our trip to Australia. I’m hopeful this will coincide with sabbatical eligibility or financial independence.
I don’t know what the goal should be. I chose $2,500 because I knew it would take a very long time to reach it.
What did your parents do to raise you to be financially smart?
I can recall two or three money-related conversations at a very young age that framed how I think about money.
The first, my Dad once told me that when you deposit money at a bank, the bank pays you. This BLEW MY MIND. Because I immediately realized that the money they paid me could stay there and earn more.
The second, my Dad told me that he paid off his credit card every month. No matter what. He said it was a bad idea to carry a balance. At that point, I didn’t even know you could carry a balance.
I always had a money stash that I saved from birthday and holiday presents from my Aunts. When my Mom needed cash, she’d sometimes borrow $20 when she didn’t feel like going to the bank. Then my Dad told me to start charging her interest.
So I’d ask for $21 when she paid me back. This was a good gig for an eight-year-old.
If your 18-year-old child told you this: “Parents, I want to go to a $250,000 school and study doorknob design,” what would you tell him or her?
When they’re old enough, we’ll be talking about return on investment when it comes to college.
My parents offered to pay for my college, wherever I wanted to go. I chose an out-of-state school which cost them a lot more money (which they had to borrow) for the same education I could have received in-state. This was a mistake.
We’re committed to paying for three in-state undergraduate degrees. I’ll be stressing in-state schools until their ears bleed.
Do you pay your kids an allowance? Why or why not?
Yes. I pay our kids $1 per week for each year they’ve been alive. This is one instance when I follow Dave Ramsey’s lead. He always says “work get paid, don’t work, don’t get paid”.
Our current expectations for payment are to clean rooms Sunday night, help collect the garbage, and sweep underneath the dinner table.
My middle daughter drops so much food on the floor. You’d think to have to sweep the floor every night would discourage her from being sloppy. It doesn’t.
Ideal vacation: road trip, beach, mountains, forest or city?
I love overland travel. After college and some travel in Europe, I read a book called Danziger’s Travels by Nick Danziger. It’s out of print now, but this dude traveled from London to China via the Silk Road, through all kinds of crazy terrain and war zones.
Influenced by that book, most of the travel I’ve done has been over land rather than flying place to place. Beijing to Singapore. Quito to Buenos Aires. Panama City to Tijuana. Around Europe in 60 days.
So my ideal vacation has beaches, mountains, cities, deserts, ferry rides between land masses, and train routes.
What is the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen?
I took an overnight trip from the Island of Corfu to Athens in Greece. Somewhere along the ferry ride to Patras, I witnessed the most extraordinary sunset. The entire sky was orange as if we were in a cloud tunnel.
Four of us stood at the back of the boat watching it and couldn’t believe our eyes.
Here’s are some other beautiful destinations that come to mind:
- Merzouga, Morocco
- Halong Bay, Vietnam
- Yangshuo, China
- Railay Beach, Thailand
- Semuc Champey in Guatemala
- The Swiss Alps
- Bagan, Myanmar
- Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA
What travel destination is highest on your bucket list?
South Africa, Austria (to ski), India, Australia (see above), and the trans-Canada railroad.
If you have a magical power that allowed you to change one set of beliefs in others, what would you choose?
Hate. The hate in this country and the world is disgusting.
I’m not picky. But I prefer lighter beers that don’t taste like syrup.
Yuengling is my go-to.
You can drink a better beer, and you can drink a cheaper beer. But you can’t drink a better cheaper beer. – The security badge guy at my old job
One thing about beer and alcohol… even at the most frugal times in my life when I was traveling on $10 per day, I never skipped an opportunity to grab a beer with new friends.
Favorite pizza place? (this is a throwback to the original series)
YES. This was my favorite question from the original series.
I love pizza too. I prefer a mediocre frozen pizza over most home-cooked meals. Here are four favorites:
- Monte Cello’s – Pittsburgh, PA
- Lost Dog Cafe – Northern VA
- Grotto Pizza – Rehoboth Beach, DE
- Pizza Mart – Adam’s Morgan, Washington D.C. (the “Giant Slice”); it’s the experience, not the taste. #FinCon19
What album(s) can you listen to straight through? Best album of all time?
Oh, man. There is no such thing as THE best album ever. Too many good ones.
So here’s a list of some of my favorites in no particular order. This is going to date me. Some of these I first heard working in a used CD store while suffering through an unpaid summer internship.
- Urban Hymns – The Verve
- Going Blank Again – Ride
- Loveless – My Bloody Valentine
- If You’re Feeling Sinister – Belle & Sebastian
- Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night – Stereolab
- Beirut – Gulag Orkestar
- Days for Days – The Loud Family
- Ferment – Catherine Wheel
- God Fodder – Ned’s Atomic Dustbin
- Ok Computer – Radiohead
- Cold Water Flat – Revolver
- Copper Blue – Sugar
- Louder than Bombs – The Smiths
- The Stone Roses
Who is your favorite leader in business today?
What is the best movie you’ve seen recently?
I can’t stay awake for movies anymore.
Mr. RBD, thanks for the fine answers today. And just so you know, I get to DC early for FinCon this year and we will
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