Today’s 10 Questions comes from The Crusher, a reader who wishes to stay anonymous…
There are approximately 476,492,292,928 personal finance blogs last time I checked. Why should we read yours?
There does seem to be an ungodly number of personal finance blogs anymore. That is likely the main reason we have not started our own even though we believe we have some valuable information to share about our journey. It has become almost trendy to have a blog. Not a big fan of trendy, regardless of the trend. While we do not have a blog, we do try to share helpful comments on other blogs that we enjoy and read regularly. It is fun to be a part of the FIRE community in that way.
Where do you live? Do you love it, hate it or just meh.
We live in Northern New Jersey about 25 miles from NYC but a world apart from that urban environment. Our town is a sleepy little hamlet with a ton of trees, parks and open space. We do not particularly love NJ. It is crowded, way too
Do you rent or own? What are your thoughts on home ownership?
We own a home. Well, the bank technically owns it but they are nice enough to let us live here as long as our check payment clears every month. We will likely have it paid off in less than 5 years. We think home ownership is greatly underrated both financially and psychologically.
What do you do for a living?
I have an engineering background. About 23 years ago I shifted into a role in luxury goods which is almost nothing like true engineering work (Quality Assurance). The jewelry industry is, BTW, a completely dysfunctional one from an engineer’s perspective.
My dear wife has a degree in economics but has had the toughest job in the world for the last 24 years – raising 3 boys and keeping her husband out of trouble. In addition, she still works part-time at her high school job at a chocolate shop. That is 38 freakin’ years!!! The benefits of having her work there are literally sweet!!!
How old are you and do you have a family?
My dear wife and I are about 53 years old. Technically, I am a few months younger than my dear wife which I happily remind her of every chance that I get. ☺
We have three sons age 24, 22 and 16. The two oldest are in various stages of getting settled into something that looks at least a little bit like adulthood. The
Transportation (how do you get around): car, train, bus, bike or VTOL.
We are car people. Mass transportation is a poor option based on where we live. I would love for a bike to be an option but when you live in the mountains and your work commute is 20 miles away on highways, it is not an option. Someday I think we would fit in really well in a golf cart community in Florida. The HOA fees would probably keep us away but the concept sounds wicked cool with us whipping around in a stylishly decorated golf cart!
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.)
We actually do highly value physical fitness. We hit the gym or get outside to exercise almost every day. I am one of those sick people who like running. My wife is less of a fan but likes walking very much. We absolutely see fitness as a part of our post-FIRE lifestyle.
Is your goal financial independence? If so, where are you on the journey?
Well, our goal is certainly financial independence even though we are admittedly on a slower moving, more conservative FIRE path than many. We are staring down a current FIRE window of 2 ¾ to 4 ¾ years before we pull the trigger to make the big move. Getting close…
What is your FI number? How close are you?
We probably are close enough to our number that we could pull the trigger. However, we are pretty conservative and want to make sure that our three sons are more comfortably set before we FIRE. I suspect we will be at
Are you leanFIRE or fatFIRE or fartFIRE?
We are likely a hybrid of lean/fatFIRE. We have taken a fairly cautious path that is based upon some frugality but we certainly do enjoy spending on travel and other experiences. In that way we do not neatly fit completely in either camp. We would say we are 65% Fat and 35% Lean. While we likely spend way too much on travel and experiences these are the dress socks that I proudly wore to work today so I guess we are an odd blend of lean and fat (shhh, don’t tell my wife about the socks!):
Honestly we almost feel like we are barely FIRE. We are more like “oldFIRE” since we will likely pull the trigger somewhere around the age range of 55 ½ to 57 ½. This is way later than we see many people screaming about on the internet. That makes us dinosaurs in the FIRE world, kind of like fossils. For example this is me getting a well-deserved nap (there are just not enough naps taken in the world):
Do you tell others of your FIRE plans or are you in the closet?
We absolutely have shared our FIRE plans with the world. We hold discussions with friends, family and have even discussed with my immediate boss. We do so for a number of reasons:
- It keeps us accountable and on track in terms of execution.
- It allows us to shares ideas and gather ideas from others. Why would we make this journey more difficult by trying to solve every challenge by ourselves?
- We are likely a few steps to at least 10 miles ahead of many of our friends and family on our FIRE journey and we would like to help them get started on their path. So we share pretty openly.
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?
Hmmm, only one investment. Given the current financial landscape and the fact that 10 years is a reasonably long time horizon, I would have to say that logic would dictate that I invest in an index stock fund focused upon the US stock market. Something along the lines of VTSAX. If I had to pick an individual stock I think I would pick Apple but I would rather not go down that undiversified path.
Evil genies aside, what is your investing strategy? Stocks? Index funds?? Real estate??? Crypto????
We have our entire portfolio in the US equities on one way or another other than any cash assets (currently about 85% US equity). We own a mixed portfolio of individual US stocks, actively managed mutual funds and index mutual funds. We also own our future home mortgage-free in Florida which we rent and lastly, we are working on aggressively paying off our current home in NJ. These are the extent of our real estate investments. We are bond-less and plan to remain so until these normalize over the next many years. Nothing exotic in terms of investments, almost boring. In investing, boring is not so bad.
What is your favorite money management tool? (Yes, you can include your affiliate link.)
We have several that we use but I have also created my own Excel files in several instances so that we can customize our analysis to fit our personal journey. Personal finance is, after all, personal. Additionally:
- We use Personal Capital to be able to track all of our retirement investments in one place and also use the retirement planner tool as one of our retirement calculation tools. We have just started to use the expense tracking functionality. I find Personal Capital to be useful despite being constantly pecked to death to “call a Personal Capital Advisor”. If we wanted to call, we would have called already. www.personalcapital.com
- Big Ern at Early Retirement Now has developed a fantastic Google Sheets document that really allows a couple to analyze their fitness for early retirement in great detail. It is a part of his Safe Withdrawal Rate Series (awesome series) but the link to that now updated and enhanced sheet (version 2.0) is in this blog post: https://earlyretirementnow.com/2018/08/29/google-sheet-updates-swr-series-part-28/comment-page-1/#comment-9231
- A few other calculators that we like very much include firecalc: www.firecalc.com and cfiresim: www.cfiresim.com.
What is the best thing you ever bought? The worst?
I can honestly say without a doubt that the best thing we ever bought in our lives was the marriage license that joined us legally in marriage. I say this of my own free will and while under no duress (Dear Wife – you can put the knife down now). In all seriousness, if you read almost all of the ESI Millionaire Series almost all of the people are married one single time for a great many years and seem very happily so. It is a common thread stated again and again. Being partnered with the right person is hugely important on so many levels including finances.
We really have not made too many terrible purchases at least that I can remember. We have bought conservative new cars about every 10 years or so. We drive these until the wheels fall off which makes the purchase more palatable but we know fundamentally this is a likely a less savvy path than most frugal FIRE people would advocate.
Do you track your spending? If so, how?
Traditionally we have not tracked our spending very extensively. The past two years we have gathered our credit card expenses annually and analyzed the data more closely so that we can target some areas in which we are likely spending money less mindfully than we should be. That has allowed us to make some beneficial adjustments. We just started using Personal Capital to help us do so even more thoroughly. It is kind of a pain in the ass! However, we want to have a firmer view of our spending since we hope to FIRE in a few years.
What is your worst money mistake?
When I was very new to investing I dabbled in some penny stocks and even a few options trades. Complete foolishness which of course ended in a ball of flames. It was not a great deal of money but the lessons learned were invaluable.
What is your splurge? Don’t be shy. Mine set me back $45,000.
We splurge on travel way more than we ever thought we would. Love cruises and going to Walt Disney World. We just made
We probably could have FIREd already if we never fell in love with Mickey Mouse and all his friends. However, we would not trade any of these trips with family and friends just to be able to FIRE sooner.
Your best friend tells you that
I would tell him “Nope, you should re-think that plan.” I am not that shy about offering solid, helpful financial advice. I feel it is better to do so and then at least I have the peace of mind that I tried to help. Of course, you can only lead a horse to water. At some point, if he doesn’t take a drink, you have to let his head up out of the water. ☺
What is one unique thing you’re doing to raise your kids to be financially smart?
We speak about money with our kids at great lengths and have so
What did your parents do to raise you to be financially smart?
Our parents generally lived conservatively and well below their means long before it was fashionable to do so. They accomplished so much on what was truly a
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
We have been fortunate enough to be able to save enough to put all of our son’s through college (one to go but the money will be there). They will start their eventual careers debt-free which we feel is a great gift to share. If one of our
Do you pay your kids an allowance? Why or why not?
Never really have paid our kids an allowance although our kids also have never really wanted for very much. When they reached an age that they had more specific wants, we encouraged them to get a real paying job.
Ideal vacation: road trip, beach, mountains, forest or city?
Disney Cruise Line vacation or a trip to Walt Disney World. The longer the better. Hands down, no questions asked.
What is the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen?
There are so many places that are very beautiful in their own unique way. Bermuda is a gorgeous island. Portugal is a very charming country full of warm, friendly people. Vancouver, Canada is beautiful. In the US – the Grand Canyon is breathtaking, the Badlands (South Dakota) are amazing, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is God’s Country, Lake George NY in the Adirondacks is awesome and the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA is nearly perfect every August.
What travel destination is highest on your bucket list?
Funny since we each have lived in NJ since birth but plan to re-locate to Florida in a few years, we started a Northeast US Bucket List so that we would not leave with regrets. Last year we spent time in Sleepy Hollow during the Halloween season and visited Cape Cod for the 1st time to get those goals off the list. Still on the list are a vacation in Maine and an early February trip to Punxsutawney, PA to see Punxsutawney Phil delight the crowds on Ground Hog Day.
How is the world going to be better because you lived?
Wow, this is a “BIG QUESTION”. We believe our most significant contributions to the world has been our willingness to volunteer our time for 25+ years in our community. I mean we have put in a lot of time – a lot, a lot, a lot of time coaching, fundraising and administering youth programs. We made the effort when so many other adults were just too busy with life to volunteer. We are still volunteering and our kids are nearly all grown. It has tremendously rewarding.
What is one thing you firmly believed 5 years ago that you no longer believe?
Probably the most significant belief that has changed in the past 5 years is that a traditional retirement of working diligently until age 65 is the only path. My dear wife has been slower to embrace the FIRE process but she is coming around to the dream with the help of my charming smile.
What is one thing you believe that most others do not?
Slow and steady is a damn fine pace to move forward and yet be highly successful. Slow, steady, relentless continuous improvement wins the day. 1% better every day. Most everybody else is in such a chaotic, mistake-filled hurry.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wish I could shut off my brain on demand like there was a switch on the side of my head. I get a hold of a topic that I am passionate about (FIRE, Disney, engineering, work, etc) and I am relentless. At times, too relentless and focused. That sounds like a good thing but it can really be a burden and makes it hard at times to live in the moment. It would nice to be able to shut down sometimes and truly say WTF.
What was the worst or best phase of your life?
My wife and I have really enjoyed all the phases of our life. Each phase has had its own charm. We both would agree that raising our three boys to adulthood has been by far the greatest, most rewarding adventure.
What do people misunderstand about you?
People tend to see me as a complete extremist and I do not mean that in a very flattering way. They associate extremism with a level of craziness. I am certainly an extremist when I get a hold of anything that I am focused on and I can certainly be a passionate, focused, driven individual. However, there is a method to my madness. If I want to get from point A to point B, I am 110% committed to getting there successfully.
If you have a magical power that allowed you to change one set of beliefs in others, what would you choose?
What is your greatest strength and/or weakness?
Probably my greatest strength is this: when I get a hold of anything that I am passionate about, I am relentless in the pursuit of that goal. I mean I become obnoxiously relentless.
What is something you read that changed your life?
We have found so many wonderful FIRE and personal finance blogs and podcasts on the web that have really helped change our life’s path in a hugely impactful way. There is so much good content out there. Here are a few that we (well I) just love:
- Mr. 1500 at www.1500days.com
- Big Ern at https://earlyretirementnow.com/
- Fritz at http://www.theretirementmanifesto.com/
- ESI at https://esimoney.com/ and www.rockstarfinance.com
- Steve at https://thinksaveretire.com/
- Brandon at https://www.madfientist.com/
- Jonathan and Brad at www.choosefi.com
If you were a dinosaur, what kind would you be and why?
I am sure this will not endear me to Mr. 1500 but I really do not know that much about dinosaurs. I will say that they sell some awesomely funny t-shirts at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park that show a cartoon T-Rex and say the following
Since I am a happy and fun guy, I will pick a T-Rex if I can be this little guy. I do not want to be the “devour you whole” T-Rex…
Name one living person that you look up to. Tell us why
My dear wife gets to answer this one! Enter my dear wife: I look up to Betty White. I think for her age as a female actress, she has accomplished so much. She is still working at 96 years young and has been working for almost 80 years. She has been true to herself while living and working through so many generations.
Elon Musk: Crazy megalomaniac or a brilliant guy who is changing the world?
Both. As far as I can tell the guy definitely has a few screws loose but he does appear to be an amazing visionary. I have said for years that nothing truly amazing was ever accomplished by a reasonable man
Favorite beer? Favorite pizza place? (this is a throwback to the original series)
Love beer so this is right up my alley. My dear wife much less so. I would choose an IPA for sure. There are so many wonderful craft beers around, some of which I do not even remember the name but loved them all the same. However the two
Hop Commander IPA from Captain Lawrence Brewing in Elmsford, NY
Space Dust IPA from Elysian Brewing in Seattle, Washington
Both of these are just killer, hoppy joys!!
Big fan of pizza. Pizza in surrounding NYC area is really quite good almost everywhere. Our Favorite is Luigi’s Pizza in Ringwood, NJ.
What album can you listen to straight through? Best album of all time?
Quite a few to choose from but when I read this question one immediate struck me so I will go with Meatloaf – Bat out of Hell. However, if I had one last song to listen to before I died there is little question that I would choose Freebird live.
Who is your favorite leader in business today?
Both Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger are just fascinating people to follow. I saw a blog post this past May from Mr. Tako Escapes where he noted an exchange where Warren Buffett was asked why more people do not copy his strategy. Warren’s reply… because nobody wants to get rich slowly. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.
What is the best movie you’ve seen recently?
We do not get to the movies too often but our last few delights have been The Martian which is just an amazing story (and full of problem-solving fun for nerdy engineers like me) and Coco which is just a beautiful story about the importance of family and following your dreams.
Thanks so much for your fine answers to day Crusher! Maybe our paths will cross some day in the Northeast or Florida? Do they sell Space Dust on Space Mountain?
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