I’m Not a Doctor

I want to put out there that I’m not a professional, and so this is part disclosure and part reassurance of my motives.

I’ve recently lost 25 lbs. Not a ton of weight by any stretch, and I’m taller than average so I guess I “carried it well”. But still, I felt kind of gross and so I read about losing weight, chose a strategy to do it, and followed through. Basically the strategy was the calories I ate had to be less than the ones I burned (this is called CICO – calories in, calories out). It wasn’t sexy or gimmicky, but it was free and very effective. The thing is, I didn’t take any advice from those naturally thin people who seem to eat candy bars for breakfast, or overweight people who hadn’t found a solution. But I also didn’t pay attention to the ads trying to sell me an expensive diet plan or weight loss program. I wanted advice from experts (doctors) or my fellow “losers” – the ones who had been there, figured it out, and lost weight.

Being financially fit is a lot like being physically fit. I don’t want to hear advice from a trust fund kid or a filthy rich lawyer or something. I especially don’t want to hear advice from someone who is broke! When I was looking for money advice, I wanted to hear a rags to riches story, someone who had made mistakes and turned it around. Dave Ramsey’s story resonated with me when he talked about declaring bankruptcy with two small children, being scared and vulnerable and having to figure out how to build his life back up.

And that’s kind of where I was, drowning in debt with no direction. Here’s the irony – I majored in Business in college, took lots of finance and economics courses, and then got my first “real” job as a Financial Advisor at Morgan Stanley! I passed my Series 7 license exam, as well as Series 66 and 31. (These are required licences for registered representatives who are selling stocks and things at an investment firm.) The Series 7 is a six-hour exam, so I had to study my ass off and it was no joke – you were fired if you didn’t pass after six months.

But the hysterical part of this is that I was 21 years old, with lots of student loan debt and an overpriced BMW payment. I had zero savings and a really great downtown loft with garage parking. I soon upgraded to a mortgage and some expensive home repairs on credit. My partner got a car payment as well, and I assumed that soon we’d be spending on a nice wedding.

So while I do have some financial management and investment experience, I also have the “drowning in debt and brought it back from the brink” experience. I’ve done the things I talk about and I know they work. So while your mileage may vary, and personal finance is personal, these principles work. But I’m not your doctor, just someone who lost the weight and wants to help you do it, too.

Click here if you are interested in a free one-on-one financial coaching session.

Musings on Death – ie Shit Just Got Real

We’ve just returned from another funeral. #cancersucks

I held it together pretty well until they started talking about our departed friend’s biggest regret. Just shy of 60, he had not gotten to retire and travel and spend time with his wife and family.

I realized at the funeral that many, many people will reach the end and regret working too much and not spending more time with their loved ones. Very, very few will regret not working enough. A recent study put “working too much” as second of the top regrets of the dying*.

And that is what this is about, the whole FIRE movement. To me, it is the freedom to spend my time with the people I love the most, the ones who make me feel happy and like I belong. The ones who are my top priority, the relationships that make our life meaningful. People who care about me and appreciate me. Being financially independent gives you the opportunity to spend more cherished moments building relationship, and less sitting in a gray cubicle browsing the internet.

The whole point of FIRE is not to stockpile a hoard of cash and tell your boss to shove it. (That’s just the how, lol) The Big Why is to choose to spend your time doing the things you love, spending time with the people you love, and maybe doing the people you love (hah). Obviously humor is my coping mechanism, sorry.

But seriously, remember when I mentioned that working too much was second the list of the top regrets of the dying? You want to know what number one is? The most common regret was “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me”. This regret also can be absolutely avoided by taking the road less traveled, quitting your meaningless corporate job and taking to the beach (or the farm, or the mountains). Be brave. Your life is waiting for you out there.

It’s too important not to try.

What about you? What will you regret?


*This information was taken from the 2011 book by Bronnie Ware called the Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

You Only Live Once (and other bullshit cliches)

Hello Dear Frugal Readers!

Does it annoy you when a friend, family member, or passing acquaintance hears about your frugality and says one of the following trite cliches?

  • You can’t take it with you!
  • You only live once!
  • What if you get hit by a bus tomorrow?
  • You’ve got to enjoy it today, tomorrow isn’t guaranteed!
  • Spend it while you got it!

Now, I am not a financial professional, but I play one on the internet. And so, I would like to help you combat these ridiculous statements that are usually made in good-faith by well-meaning idiots.

But first, some background: Why should you listen to me? My husband and I are debt-free including the house, and are currently on track to retire in our 30’s (about five years from now). We do not make giant incomes – together less than six figures. We’ve done a fair bit of research, saving, investing, and just general butt-kicking to get where we are. Huge fans of Mr. Money Mustache, Dave Ramsey, Frugalwoods, The Mad Fientist, Budgets are Sexy, etc. I like to think we are part of a silent minority of “frugal weirdos” that are quietly following these money gurus, but that the general population never hear from.

So let’s first debunk these statements that all follow the general spirit of #YOLO. As in, Life is short, buy the shoes! These statements seem to justify spending every last penny (and some of the bank’s pennies) in order to enjoy your life in the present. A short-term viewpoint, it rests on many assumptions:

  1. You must spend ALL THE MONEY in order to enjoy your life.
  2. If you do not spend all the money, you are depriving yourself, living like a desperate hermit.
  3. Saving money is boring and does not provide happiness.
  4. You will probably die young.
  5. You will (somehow) regret not spending all your money when you die young.
  6. There is no one to whom you would want to leave excess money when you die young.

As you may have guessed, I disagree with all of those statements. We are proof (as are many, many of you) that saving money is actually really fun, and breeds security and contentment. I can enjoy my life just as well on $50k as on $500k – and there’s science to prove it. Let alone the freedom money will buy when we can quit our jobs!

On the deprivation mentality – we are coming from this place of crazy abundance and gratitude. We live lives of amazing luxury and you may only be able to fully appreciate that if you step back for a second and look around (the world). We’re not depriving ourselves of anything. If we won the lottery the only thing that would change is our early retirement date – we wouldn’t buy a mansion or something. And for those of us already early retired, like Mr. Money Mustache – if he did something so stupid as play the lottery, and won a substantial sum, I am betting all the hypothetical lottery money it would change his life 0%.

And actually – no – you probably won’t die young. And even if you do – you will be dead. No regrets possible. And even if you die young with enough notice to harbor regrets – not spending all your money will not be on your list, I promise. Not spending more time with your loved ones – yes, perhaps. And lastly, I can think of many family members and non-profit organizations that would greatly benefit from an endowment of my Frugal Fund, when I do kick the bucket.

So the rub – how to respond to broke-ass Joe Schmo when he hears of your crazy debt-free lifestyle and plan to retire in five years, and tells you that “you can’t take it with you”? (Because that was obviously my plan, Joe. I want to be buried in my 2005 Honda Civic with a 10 lb bag of lentils in one hand and all my Vanguards in the other.)

I have begun to patiently espouse the following line: The funny thing is – I feel like “you can’t take it with you” is an excellent argument to only work for someone else as LITTLE as you possibly can, and to enjoy your time on your own terms before you do eventually die, instead of working 50 hours a week toward filling your life with meaningless plastic stuff. “You only live once” is literally my reason to pursue this FIRE lifestyle in the first place!

You may be met with a blank stare, but at least you will feel good that you did not perform a frugal flip out, while still sticking to your guns.

And lastly, fellow frugal weirdos, I leave you with one of the truisms of life:

Always you have to contend with the stupidity of men. Henry David Thoreau