When I started blogging on January 1st of 2013, I had a full-time job and Mrs. 1500 was a stay at home mother. Our plan to financial independence was supposed to look like this:
- We’d downsize our home and save like mad.
- If we made our goal ($1,000,000 with no debt in 1500 days), I’d quit.
- We’d ride off into the Colorado sunset.
And then, it didn’t quite work out like that.
It’s been 2078 days since I’ve started the blog and much has changed. In many ways, I’m a poor example for the FIRE community. However, if you look at my story in a different light, I may have something to teach you.
What You Cannot Learn From Me
I started this blog out of a passion for writing. During the first three years of blogging, I made about $100. It didn’t matter. I was writing for an audience of one because it was something I enjoyed. I’d much rather be in front of a keyboard than a TV.
But then, the blog started making more money. Today, I earn somewhere around $2,000/month. While this isn’t substantial for a typical worker bee, it’s a huge amount of money when you factor it into a safe withdrawal rate of $40,000 year. The 4% Rule becomes 1.6%.
And then something else happened. Mrs. 1500 had been writing posts for a real estate investing site called BiggerPockets. She wasn’t getting paid, but she loved real estate investing and enjoyed writing, so she’d contribute an article when she had downtime. Around the time our youngest daughter was set to go back to school full-time, BiggerPockets announced they were hiring. Mrs. 1500 applied and was hired. As I was leaving my job, Mrs. 1500 was back at work and was now @MindyatBP. Cha cha cha changes.
Here is what life looks like on a typical workday after the girls are off to school:
- 8:30 am-10 am: Exercise! This is weights every other day and cardio or rest in between.
- 10 am-12 pm: Writing, emails, social media.
- 12 pm: First meal of the day.
- 12:15pm-3 pm: Random time! One or more of the following: building, cleaning, fixing or reading.
Mindy writes articles or works on the BiggerPockets Money podcast.
So, there we are. Life post-work is much different than I thought it would be. I never thought this blog would be successful and didn’t expect Mindy to go back to work.
Mrs 1500 Note: I love my job. Every morning, I get up excited to go to work. In fact, some days I feel guilty leaving for work when Mr. 1500 is dealing with crabby or fighting kids. “Sorry, I have to go have fun at work.”
I really love my job. I would **almost** do it for free. At some point in the future, I will probably leave. Eventually, the girls will be out of school, and I’ll want to do more traveling than my vacation time allows. But I will always be a part of BiggerPockets, probably still doing most of what I do now, just not getting paid for it in a formal setting.
But every week, I receive a letter from someone, thanking me and BiggerPockets for what we do. “You changed my life.” is one of the most common sentences we hear. So not only do I love my job, but people are benefitting from my work every day. That’s a powerful feeling.
And my girls are in school 35 hours per week, 40 weeks per year. I work 40 hours per week, 48 weeks per year. The majority of the time that I am working, they’re in school. I’m not missing anything. My work is flexible enough to allow me to leave to attend the older girl’s cross country meets, volunteer in the classroom as needed, and even go on field trips.
I guess I can label these “Mindy Notes” now, right?
Here is what you’re not going to learn from me
- Living on the 4% Rule. We don’t have to – at least not yet. And when we do, we’ll be doing it with more money and later in life when there is less risk.
- How to transition from saving to spending: This is difficult for many and we don’t have to do it yet. We’re fortunate enough to still have excess money, so we’re still in saving mode.
- Health insurance. We’re very fortunate to have great health insurance through Mindy’s job. When Mindy leaves, we’ll go on Liberty HealthShare which will cost about $500 per month.
Our path is similar to lots of other FIRE bloggers. MMM himself barely monetizes his blog, but because of immense traffic, he earns more from blogging that he did as a software developer. There is a lot of money to be made in writing about not spending money.
So I’m not the real-time FIRE experiment that I had hoped to be, but there are still lessons you can learn from my example.
What You Can Learn From Me
-$60,000 to $2,160,000: Compounding Is Where It’s At
My story was in the New York Times and FIRE stories are always polarizing. One comment I read was this:
This guy had a 6-figure income. Whatever.
It’s true. However, it was at the end of my career when most typically have the highest earnings. When I started working almost 20 years ago at my first real job, I made $36,000/year (about $54,000/year in today’s money). I also had $60,000 in college and credit card debt. I worked very hard for years to build my career.
While I’m very thankful for the above average income at the start of my career and the exceptional income at the end, I’m even more thankful that I was born in a place that allowed me to make something of myself. I put in a lot of 80-hour weeks over the course of my career and I was fortunate to work for managers who recognized me.
Perhaps the main lesson in what I’ve done has to do with one of the most basic of personal finance lessons, compounding. As of today, my net worth sits at $2,160,000. Mindy and I haven’t made anywhere near that amount of money. Go compounding go!
Passion Play Pay
I hate the word retirement because it means ceasing to do something. FIRE may be about quitting your job, but it’s not about quitting work. A job is work plus all of the stuff around it like a boss, a schedule and a shitty vacation policy.
The point of leaving your job isn’t to cease doing work, but rather to leave so you can do your best work. And work is best when it’s optimized for happiness, not money. For me, it’s writing and building stuff around the house. Here is what a typical work day looks like for me now:
Your ideal work may be volunteering, welding, coding or painting. It isn’t watching TV. If you’re leaving your job to do that, don’t. You’re better off at work.
When you optimize work for happiness instead of money, peculiar things can happen. My happy work started making money. And it did the same thing for my wife. The reason for this is simple:
When you do work optimized for happiness, you do your best work. You do the work you were meant to do deep down. This is the work that makes your soul sing and leaves you satisfied at the end of the day.
And when you’re doing your best work, people take notice. In my case:
- Blogging: My writing resonated with some crazy people who started following me.
- Building: This week, I was out farting around in the garage when a stranger stopped by and asked who did the work on my home. When I told her that I had done it, she asked me if I could remodel her home. This happens frequently. I put a lot of time into my home and get compliments almost weekly.
What is your best work?
Maybe you like woodworking and your neighbors start paying you for custom cabinetry.
Maybe you can play an instrument and parents at your children’s school start knocking down the door for lessons.
Maybe you can weld and folks start paying you to make metal animals like my neighbor:
I’m embarrassed to admit this but screw it. Sometimes when I write and come up with something that I think is really good, I tear up out of happiness. I enjoyed my work as a software developer, but I was never overcome with emotion by manipulating ones and zeroes. Writing is so great.
So, if there is something you can take away from Mindy and me, it is this:
FIRE may open doors that you never even knew existed. Do your best work and don’t be surprised when it takes you to unexpected places.
The early retirement police may call you out for making money, but if you’re doing what you love, who cares what anyone else thinks.
Life isn’t what I thought it would be in retirement; it’s much better. I’m so thankful.
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