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The asset I most value, aside from health, is interesting, diverse, and long-standing friends. –Warren Buffett
Late last year, I cryptically alluded to an event that I had been invited to:
I checked my email and an amazing message was waiting. It was from a friend in the FI community who I had known for a while. He was asking me if I’d like to participate in a special event with him.
It’s time to let the cat out of the bag. The event is one of Jim Collins’s Chautauquas. At Chautauqua, folks come together to discuss money, investing, mindfulness, happiness, dinosaurs, and meaning over good food and drink in a fun part of the world. I attended one in Ecuador and it was incredible. It was so good that I felt the need to write 3 posts about it:
For the 2018 edition of Chautauqua, I’ve been invited to attend as a speaker along with Jim Collins, Alan Donegan, Brad and Jonathan from Choose FI and FIRECracker from Millennial Revolution. This one takes place at a seaside resort (Cavo Olympo) in Greece.
Side note: Look at these pictures. In my mind’s eye, I’m imaging a conversation about investing philosophy with a drink in hand while gazing at the ocean. This is going to be good.
Before I make the case for attending, I’ll tell you about my experience at Ecuador Chautauqua.
What I Got Out Of Chautauqua
I attended the 2016 edition of the Ecuador Chautauqua and I’m a better person for it. Before I attended, I had doubts about going:
I already know about money and financial independence.
I’ve already met most of the speakers (Jim Collins, MMM and the Mad Fientist).
What am I going to get out of this?
Everyone I know who had attended Chautauqua raved about the experience, so I signed up. I knew that I’d enjoy it, but it turned into something much more. It’s not an exaggeration to say that this week was an inflection point in my life.
Alan Donegan: I’m deeply thankful to have met Alan Donegan (one of the speakers in Greece). Alan made me a better person. Much more important, Alan made me want to become a better person.
Like many, I am terrified of public speaking. Alan, a masterful speaker, taught me that I had been doing it all wrong and gave me the confidence to give it another try. After a 20 year dry spell, I volunteered to speak at Colorado State University. Then I spoke at Camp FI earlier this year. This year, I have three more speaking engagements. I’m more confident and have grown as a person. All because I met Alan.
I connected with my tribe: How many times do you say this to someone you met at a conference or party:
Hey, let’s meet again soon!
And then you never see that person again.
Chautauqua is different. I’ve seen at least half of the attendees since the event, some multiple times. We don’t live near each other, but when our paths cross during our travels, we make it a point to meet. I’ll be visiting with two Chautauqua friends next month in Oregon (Hi H and J!).
I figured out what was missing in my life: Money is just a math problem and a simple one at that. Finding meaning and fulfillment in daily life, especially in retirement; isn’t so easy. Chautauqua woke me up. Chautauqua convinced me not only of this:
You need to leave your job.
You must leave your job.
A short time later I did just that. I’ve never looked back.
I got to go to friggin’ Ecuador!: I love to travel but had never been anywhere near Ecuador, so this was a great opportunity to see a new place. Chautauquas aren’t just about sitting around talking about financial independence (although I could do that and be happy). There are also excursions including a trip to Mount Olympus.
Chautauqua means something different to everyone. I figured myself out and I am a better person for attending. I’m thankful for my time in Ecuador.
Why Should You Attend?
I’ve always felt like a little bit of an outcast:
I love to talk about money.
I love figuring out how to hack my life in unconventional ways.
I love to travel. The world is big and I want to explore it.
And then there is this:
The life that most lead…
Working until 65…
Clawing your way into middle managment while spending thousands of hours commuting…
Taking 3 weeks off every year for rushed vacations…
Upgrading your house and car as your income increases…
Finally leaving work with only a couple decades left when your body is in rapid decline…
That stuff is the American Dream for some. For me, it’s a nightmare. No thanks. I want more out of life and I’m not going to be able to do it if I have to spend 80,000 hours (4 decades of work) in a cube.
In my day-to-day existence, I don’t often come across people who share the same thoughts. It’s hard to relate. Sometimes, I end up as that dude standing in the corner looking down at my beer.
At Chautauqua, the world was turned upside down. I was surrounded by people who wanted to talk about all of this crazy sh*t with great enthusiasm. Money. Entrepreneurship. Fears and our dreams. I was surrounded by my people. This was my tribe.
Why Should You Want To Talk To Me?
Right now, you’re probably thinking something like this:
Why do I want to meet Mr. 1500?
- Good looks
- Sophisticated sense of humor
- Above-average intelligence
- The dinosaurs (Frugalsaurus and Spendosaurus)
That’s 4 reasons. I gave you a bonus one!
But really, who am I trying to kid? The other day I spent like 15 minutes trying to take a good selfie of myself and this was the best I could muster:
Stop laughing. Seriously, it hurts. I’m crying over here. Not really. Let’s move on.
Now I have to be serious and sell myself. Here is why you should want to meet me.
Meet Mrs. 1500
One of the best reasons to meet me has nothing to do with me. Mrs. 1500 is coming with me! She’s better looking, has a better sense of humor and is smarter than me. And, she also has a semi-secret alter-ego which you may find interesting. Read on…
Meet Us To Discuss Investing
Mrs. 1500 and I are truly different here because of the breadth of our experience.
- Stocks! Index funds!! ETFs!!! Oh, MY!!!! I didn’t discover index funds until fairly recently. Before that, I was a stock investor. I’m also one of the few who has done fairly well with it. My biggest success was buying Google in 2004. 20 bagger! Despite my market-beating success, I’m a big believer in index investing and almost all of my money goes to Vanguard now. This in itself is a great topic for discussion.
- Advanced Strategies: Do you know anyone who has a self-directed solo 401(k)? This is a fancy account that lets you deploy money to real estate (and other stuff) all from a tax-deferred account. I like talking about advanced strategies for saving money, investing and saving on taxes.
- Real Estate (Mrs. 1500’s alter-ego): Did you know that Mrs. 1500 is also Mindy from BiggerPockets? Part of the reason she works at BiggerPockets is because of her experience in real estate. We’ve done it all:
- Live-in flips: Flipping homes can be a great way to make tax-free money with minimal risk.
- Landlording: We’ve been landlords. While there is no shortage of landlord horror stories, our experiences were positive because we did our research.
- Private loans and syndication: There are areas of real estate that I didn’t even know existed a couple years ago, but have since become very profitable for us.
Meet Us To Discuss Life Before and After Financial Independence
While I love talking about money, investing, compound interest, ETFs, Warren Buffett, Charlie Munger and Jack Bogle, money is the simple part of the equation:
If you want to quit your job, save up enough to live off of 4% of your income the first year. Simple.
The parts that are much more interesting are the emotions around financial independence. Those little voices in the back of your head are powerful:
- What will I do after I leave my job? What if I’m bored?
- Many of my good friends are co-workers. Will I lose my social life when I quit?
- How do I find meaning after work?
I’ve struggled with the why and the when. I’ve made mistakes. However, I can say this with absolute certainty:
The decision to pursue financial independence was one of the best of my life.
Financial independence is different for everyone. It isn’t necessarily about leaving work. While you may choose to leave, it’s silly to consider quitting your job to be the goal.
The real goal is something much, much more…
Money is just the enabler of greater adventures…
I’m incredibly thankful for this opportunity and I hope to meet some of you on the other side of the world. If you’re thinking about going, Chautauquas always sell out, so reserve soon. And if we don’t meet in Greece, I hope that our paths cross someday.
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