Fiery Millennials http://www.fierymillennials.com Financial Independence from a millennial's point of view. Mon, 27 Feb 2017 17:01:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.2 https://i1.wp.com/www.fierymillennials.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/cropped-Black-Icon.jpg?fit=32%2C32 Fiery Millennials http://www.fierymillennials.com 32 32 103552657 Interview with Our Financial Path http://www.fierymillennials.com/interview-with-our-financial-path/ http://www.fierymillennials.com/interview-with-our-financial-path/#comments Mon, 27 Feb 2017 17:01:08 +0000 http://www.fierymillennials.com/?p=1269 Read more...]]> I’m busy slacking off recovering from a stressful two weeks at work, so today’s post is an interview with Mr. and Mrs. XYZ of Our Financial Path. They very graciously agreed to trade interviews with me! You can find my interview on their site. It’s full of fascinating information and fun tidbits you might not know about me. Happy reading!

Who are you and what do you do? What is your story? Where did you start, where in the journey are you, and where do you ultimately want to end up?

I am Xyz, one-half of Our Financial Path. I write with my wife about our journey towards early retirement, travels, and life experiences through this all this. We are Canadians that inspire to live a fulfilling, plentiful, and happy, life all while saving for early retirement. We have currently saved about one-fifth of our FI goal and are aiming to retire before 35.

How did you get started on the path to financial independence?

I started my journey at 23 when I started investing a large part of my income simply because I wanted to buy stocks. I saw the appeal of owning companies I liked such as Apple, Tesla, Facebook but I did not have any long-term plan or vision. After a while, we started shopping for a house so we saved aggressively for a down payment and after that, we simply continued saving without a precise goal in mind. We then found Mr. Money Mustache’s blog and were hooked! We read a bunch of FI blogs and really started saving towards retiring early.

What does FI really mean to you?

For us, financial freedom is the opportunity to choose. We don’t know if we will have kids by then but retiring early is definitively a great opportunity to spend time with your kids. We may work part-time or just do side-gigs we really enjoy. The great thing about FI is that it gives you those options.

In terms of traveling the world, we are not waiting until retirement to enjoy this passion. We travel multiple times a year and really enjoy discovering new cultures. You can read about our latest trip here.

What is your criteria for saying you are FI?

Being FI means freedom. Once we have enough to pay our bills with a decent leeway, then we will be ready to hang the towel. We plan to follow the 4% rule into retirement even if some prefer the safer 3.5% or 3%. We are very flexible and have no issue going back to work part-time if things get really tight.

Would you say you are more inclined to the not-working-anymore part of FI or the freedom part of FI?

Work is not our passion, we are not workaholics. For us, not working is definitively the motivation to have the freedom to do whatever we want. We always had side-hustles and always plan to continue working on those (apps, blog, sharing economy) even once FI.

What is your preferred way to invest? Do you have a preferred asset class in particular or asset allocation?

We follow a fairly simple 3 fund portfolio as our base holdings. We invest through Vanguard mainly into the US Total Market (VTI), All Cap Canadian Index (VCN), and International Indexes (VWO)(VEA). You can see our exact holdings and asset allocation in our Open Book series.

Do you invest automatically on every paycheck?

Yes. This is one of the keys to expanding wealth. Saving mindlessly every single week and not looking at your balances too often is the best advice I could give you.

What are your favorite financial tools?

The tools we always use are Mint and FIREcalc. We track all of our spending through Mint since it works great with all our Canadian banks and credit cards and use FIREcalc to test out different scenarios. It backtracks investment scenarios and allows us to test asset allocations, spending scenarios, and different timelines.

What are your thoughts on house ownership vs. renting?

We own a house in the suburbs. We went through all of the calculations and scenarios and it simply made sense for us. Depending on your location and cost of living, renting can be better than owning. One can really get ahead if he (or she) invests instead of spending considerably on a home but it all depends on your personal situation.

What is the worst financial decision you have ever made?

Our biggest mistake was to buy stocks without knowing anything about them and try to day trade. The very first year I started investing, I blindly bought stocks on hopes of good earnings announcements but, honestly, I didn’t even know what the companies were selling. After a few months, I had one bad day where I lost $2000 in a single day. After that, I stopped trading without research and stopped day trading for good. We now invest in index funds and if you would like to learn all about those; we highly recommend JL Collins’ stock series.

What is the best financial decision you have ever made?

To follow-up on our previous answer, our best financial decision was to start investing in low-fee index funds. This diversified our portfolio and keeps the fees to the bare minimum. Another great decision I made was to marry my wife. Having a great partner who follows common goals and strategy is a great way to build wealth.

What are your plans once you retire?

For now, we want to slow-travel. Go to countries for 3 or 4 months at a time and take the time to learn their cultures. If we have kids, we definitively want to be there for them.

What is the best advice you can give a millennial starting out?

If you are starting out, the best advice we can give you is; start now. Compounding returns are magic and are the best tool to build great fortunes on average salaries.

It’s always fun to get to know other FIRE bloggers! Any other burning questions for Our Financial Path?

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Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is http://www.fierymillennials.com/money-where-your-mouth-is/ http://www.fierymillennials.com/money-where-your-mouth-is/#comments Fri, 17 Feb 2017 14:35:19 +0000 http://www.fierymillennials.com/?p=1248 Read more...]]> I’m up to my eyeballs in paperwork for the house, inspections on the house, making calls about the house, and doing 12 hour work days this week. Mrs. Picky Pincher has graciously agreed to do a guest post to help me out! She is the blogger and resident klutz at www.pickypinchers.com. She writes about her journey paying off $225,000 of debt while living like a queen. Read her great post and then click on over to see all the great frugal living, debt paying, super saving information on her site.

Take it away, Mrs. Picky Pincher! (PS Can you ever have too much Pokemon paraphernalia?)

There I was, nibbling on a fried chicken strip, feeling smug.

What Mrs. Picky Pincher looked like. Minus the stache.

Our homemade dinner of peanut butter Rotel chicken didn’t work out (what a surprise), so Mr. Picky Pincher and I grabbed fried chicken as a last resort. As I bit into the crispy, greasy goodness, I couldn’t help but judge the people around me in the fast food restaurant.

“Ha!” I thought, “Look at these suckas! They don’t realize their money is going down the drain eating here. Hell, I bet they eat out every night. Ugh. Non-frugal people really grind my gears.”

Knowing nothing about these people, I hypocritically nibbled more on my tender victuals.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a big proponent of homemade meals. They’re the reason I was able to slash our $1,000/mo grocery bill to under $500/mo. Naturally homemade meals didn’t always work out, though, especially when we first got married. And that meant quite a few “emergency” restaurant stops.

So why was I judging people for eating at the same damn place where I was eating?

Because I wasn’t taking my own advice.

How to take your own advice

I’m a very proud person, which means every now and then I need to be knocked down a peg. It’s so, so easy to judge other people while putting yourself on a pedestal. “Oh, I only grabbed Dairy Queen out of necessity! But surely these people eat here every night. Ugh!”

Yeah, right.

I blog about personal finance, but there I was, wasting my money along with everyone else. I just made up stupid excuses to give myself a Get Out Of Jail Free Card. I wasn’t special, different, or better than anyone else.

Here’s how I’m learning to take my own advice.

Practice mindfulness

Disclaimer: not Mrs. Picky Pincher

I’m guilty of chugging coffee and mindlessly powering through my day, my only end goal being sleep and sweatpants. When I go through the motions I don’t like to dwell on things like “thinking” or “reflection.” These are the days when I’m bound to judge someone for buying a coffee at Starbucks, wearing new $200 shoes, or eating out for lunch.

It’s so, so hard, but I’m learning to practice mindfulness. I’m a Type-A person with anxiety, so staying calm and minding my own business is a tall order, but I’m making it work. I meditate, exercise, and try to live in the present. I focus inwardly on myself, and not on others.

It’s a calmer, more fluid approach to life. Mindfulness makes it easier for me to take my own advice instead of forcing my advice on other unwitting people.

Evaluate your weaknesses

It’s hard not to feel good about myself when I’m in the middle of a juicy Sonic cheeseburger or trying on a new pair of jeans. But that’s the prime moment to reflect on what I can do to improve my spending habits.

If I focus on my weaknesses in a positive, constructive way, I’m finally taking my own advice. I know it’s bad to buy more Pokemon paraphernalia when I have rooms bursting full of it—and that means it’s time to stop spending, purge a little, sell a few things, and apply the surplus to debt.

By focusing on my weaknesses (oh hey there, chocolate bars), I’m less likely to judge the weaknesses of others. I’ve got my own shiz to worry about, after all.

Practice what you preach

If only it were that easy, right?

Just do what you think is right for your budget, and do it all the time. So easy!

Except it’s not that easy. I know eating out is bad for my budget, I know new shoes are bad for my budget, and I know a fancy Brazilian steakhouse is bad for my budget. I still do all of these things anyway, all while preaching about smart money moves.

Ugh!

I need to put my money where my budget is. It’s easier to tell people what they should do instead of leading by example. I’ve been able to improve a lot over the last two years, but admittedly I still have my spendy days. With a combination of practicing mindfulness and evaluating my weaknesses, I’m getting better at living my principles.

The Bottom Line

It’s a breeze to tell other people how to spend their money. But why not tell yourself how to spend your money? I’m learning to take my own advice and run my own race—without worrying about other peoples’ choices.

We want to know: Do you ever fall off the frugal wagon? Do you judge strangers?

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My Investments http://www.fierymillennials.com/my-investments/ http://www.fierymillennials.com/my-investments/#comments Thu, 09 Feb 2017 17:06:34 +0000 http://www.fierymillennials.com/?p=1227 Read more...]]> Before we dive deep into the world of investments, I want to make clear I am not a financial adviser. What I write should not be taken for advice. I don’t even know if I’m doing this thing right!

That being said, I’ve received a few emails asking me what I invest in, what my investments look like, and what Bartholomew likes to eat for breakfast.

Rather than reply individually, I’ve promised a post that delves into the nitty-gritty details. But first… a bit of background.

I was exposed to the stock market fairly early in life. My 5th grade teacher did a project where we “got” $100k to invest in whatever stocks we chose. We checked the stock prices each day in the newspaper for a month. I think the winner won a candy bar. I didn’t come anywhere near winning, but it was a great first lesson on the market.

Several years later, I remember my mom and stepdad being furious when their K-Mart shares became worthless in the blink of an eye (Sears bought them out). That was an excellent teachable moment and they answered all the questions I had about the process. We also never shopped at K-Mart or Sears again!

Then, of course, came my senior year of high school, better known as 2008 and the start of the Great Recession. I was mostly unaffected as I had only cash to my name. I did have a small inheritance from my grandma, but it stayed flat. Grab a pencil and draw as straight a line as you can imagine. That’s what my account balance looked like. I have no idea what it was invested in but I didn’t lose any money. I also didn’t see any gains in the recovery. That account became the basis for my taxable investment account several years later.

I transferred that money over to a taxable investment account started by my stepdad’s broker after I discovered MMM in college and started getting serious about my money. I also started a Roth IRA with the second payment of my military sign on bonus around that time.

A short time after that, I started my internship and opened my 401(k). I didn’t get to put much in it, since I was “just” an intern. I am grateful, though, that not only were we allowed to open a 401(k), but we also got the match from MegaCorp. When I started with them full-time, I added an HSA.

That is the full breadth of accounts I have: 401(k), Roth IRA, Taxable Investment Account, and an HSA.

As for what that $110,893.83 is invested in…..

I follow the JL Collins’ method of investing: KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid. If you haven’t read The Simple Path to Wealth or his Stock Series, you need to do that ASAP. It doesn’t have to be done all in one sitting. Take your time, really read what he’s saying, and absorb it.

I invest in the best option possible for the account. My 401(k) is with Fidelity, so I invest in their S&P 500 Index Fund, ER .01%. One of the best benefits of working for a very large company is super low fees! At the very beginning, I also bought some bonds but quickly stopped doing that. It’s like, 99% Index Funds now. My HSA is through Wells Fargo, I think, and required a minimum of $3k to invest. I get charged $7.99 per trade, so I convert the cash into shares of VTSAX twice yearly. Not ideal, but it’s triple taxed advantaged so I deal with it.

My Roth IRA and taxable investment account are with my broker at Baird. I have been meaning to move this account to Fidelity but haven’t gotten around to it yet. One day.

Why Fidelity over Vanguard? It’s where my 401k and HSA are, so it’s more for the ease of my use than any other reason. Fidelity and Vanguard have very comparable fees nowadays.

I use Personal Capital for the sole reason of tracking my investments. Mint isn’t very great at that, in my opinion. PC can’t track my 401k either, but at least it creates less of a stink about it than Mint does. Plus, PC does this really cool thing where it tells you what your asset allocation is.

Obviously, I’m a weeeee bit heavily weighted towards US Stocks. Not very surprising when I invest the vast majority in VTSAX and my Fidelity S&P 500 Index Fund.

Currently, my investments make up the vast majority of my net worth. I would like to think I’m prepared to weather a recession, but I won’t know that until I actually go through one. Since I’m so heavily weighted towards the US Market, I’d be particularly susceptible to any downturn.

Hence, the reason I am diversifying my investments and turning towards real estate! Having at least one property in my portfolio will help out a ton, so just imagine what 3-4 properties will do for me! If I weren’t in a place to buy a property, I would invest in a REIT. However, great deals are everywhere around me and should only increase in a downturn.

Currently, my investments are mostly in my 401(k). I will continue to max it out each year since I’d be a fool to pass up that tax advantaged space.

“Uhhh, Gwen…. aren’t you doing just that by not having a traditional IRA?”

Kinda. Shh. I’ll get there in a minute.

For now, enjoy a graph of what my overall investments look like:

Now that my attempt to distract you with pretty pictures has failed, let’s revisit that whole Roth vs. Traditional discussion.

I like Roth’s for the ease of getting into the money. After 5 years, I can withdraw the contributions (not the earnings!). This is super useful for somebody retiring early (i.e. me). Roth IRA’s also have the added benefit of no RMD’s when you hit 70 and aren’t taxed extra upon taking the money out, since it was after tax money added in the first place.

I also think* my income will be lower in retirement than it is right now. That lends itself to the Traditional IRA (plus my taxes would be lower with the deduction), since I have a fairly high income now. I’m just not sure I’m under the threshold for the deduction after my raise.

It would also thoroughly complicate things in the future if I can get access to a mega backdoor Roth before Congress revokes that loophole. Plausible, but probably not going to happen.

Finally, I don’t want to switch over because I’ve got a good setup right now and don’t want to change it. I’d have to open a new account with Fidelity and recharacterize my contributions for 2016 and 2017.

So now that you’ve seen how my investments are laid out, please let me know what you think in the comments!

*: That’s what the projections say anyways. Who knows what could happen!

Is there anything glaring that pops up? Any optimizations you would make? What do your investments look like?

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Monthly Status Report: January 2017 http://www.fierymillennials.com/msr-jan-2017/ http://www.fierymillennials.com/msr-jan-2017/#comments Mon, 06 Feb 2017 12:00:23 +0000 http://www.fierymillennials.com/?p=1207 Read more...]]> Why do I do a monthly status report?

I find it best to do a monthly status report for a few reasons.

  • It helps me evaluate how I did the previous month. Did I hit a target reduction in spending or did I go way over budget for a par­tic­u­lar category? Did I earn more? What was my overall savings rate?
  • It helps keep me accountable. How can I make an extra purchase knowing I’ll have to explain myself to all of you? Talk about awkward when the blogger can’t walk the walk and talk the talk.
  • I want to prove this crazy thing called financial independence works!
  • It provides an example of real world budgeting and expenses. Some of the people I talk to haven’t ever seen a proper budget or seen one put into action, and part of the purpose of this blog is to lead by example!

I use Mint to help me track my spending and keep an eye on my accounts. I also use a really awesome and super in-depth spreadsheet. So many formulas….. Some people use Personal Capital and others use You Need a Budget (YNAB). Whatever tool (or combination thereof) works best for you and your needs is the best one for you, since everyone and their budgets are different.

Spending

January simultaneously crawled along and flew by at the same time. I had an absolute BLAST hanging out at Camp Mustache SE with new and old friends. I took the time to hang out with friends at home as well. I had a few fun board game nights and went out to a couple of happy hour events.

I also participated in the Uber Frugal Month as challenged by Mrs. Frugalwoods. I am proud to announce a successful month! I’ll go into more details after the breakdown of my expenses.

To explain the chart below a bit better, the third blue column contains the amount I actually spent. You can compare that to the second column, which lists the budget for that category. The same goes for discretionary expenses, although I don’t really have a budget for them. I just try to not go crazy.

Without further ado, I present my January 2017 expenses (for better or for worse):

Rent Second month of the new rent. Still amazing.
Utilities No utilities! It’s all included in the rent.
Food Check out me coming in way below budget. I’m so proud!
Phone So low. I love Project FI!
Auto Gas, with one $56 parking charge at Midway. Ugh.
Internet No internet charges for awhile 😀 also included in the rent.
Insurance Health insurance is paid directly from my paycheck, and the others are an average from my 6 month payment.
Pet More food at litter for the floof.
Support I support my sister with her missions!
Misc Spending cash for my trip and the fee for my consultation with Keith @ CMSE
Travel $500 down payment for the Chautauqua in Ecuador!!!! I can’t WAIT to go back!
Fees Fees are dumb. Can we agree on that?
Gifts Retirement gift and a belated Christmas gift for my sister
Hobbies Fabric for a new baby quilt for a friend!

All told, my spending totaled $1,618.26 for January! If you read last month’s status report, you’ll know I only wanted to spend $1,200 for the month. I know $1,618.26 is more than $1200, but I’m considering the month a success anyways. If not for my down payment to the Chautauqua in Ecuador this October (!!!!!!!!!), I would’ve made it. However, I considered the down payment a non-negotiable. If I hadn’t signed up right away, I would’ve missed out on going altogether and that’s just not cool. I’m particularly proud of my spending (or lack thereof) on food. I cleaned out my freezer and made do with substitutes instead of running out to the store all the time. I won’t be continuing this in February but I also didn’t go out and spend a crazy amount on the 1st just so I could say I didn’t spend it in January. Thanks to Mrs. Frugalwoods for the excellent challenge!

Income

Gross: $6,999.98

Adjusted: $3,701.70 (after taxes, deductions and other withholdings are taken out)

Taxes: $1,456.76

You have no idea how tempted I was to add $.02 to the gross income to make it an even $7k. But truth in numbers and all that jazz.

This month I earned slightly more than normal thanks to getting my deposit back on my last apartment. It would’ve been higher, but they dinged me for cat damage. Why did I get a cat that likes to chew on expensive washer gaskets!?! It’s a good thing he’s incredibly adorable.

Savings

401k: $2,275.20

Roth IRA: $450

HSA: $970.82

Cash: $1,499.50

Total savings: $3,696.02

A few things to note about the savings. My 410k is set slightly higher than it was last year. I found out my employer will deposit the match through the year no matter when I max it out. If I wasn’t saving for the house, I would try to max it out way early but I am saving for the house so I left it as is.

January is also the month I get my HSA match. They deposit $750 straight into the account which technically helps offset the higher costs of using my health insurance. Realistically it means more money for me to turn into even more money thanks to my BFF Compound Interest.

The cash amount saved (again, so wanted to add $.50 to that number) is simply the amount left over after my expenses. If I were still in my old apartment, I probably would’ve only been able to save maybe $100? I’m so happy I moved!

Having drastically lowered expenses meant my savings rate for January was a whopping 74.30%!! I would be thrilled if this became my new normal. Not sure how that will go with the expenses from the house though. Stay tuned for more details on the money side of that life change!

According to the Lab over on Mad Fientist’s site, my FI date is now 8 years and 1 month away, which means I’m now at February 2025 instead of August 2025! This means I dropped an entire YEAR off my FI date in 2 months! I expected my lowered expenses to have an impact, but I didn’t know it’d be that huge! This is the best ever!

Side Hustle

This month: $0

Total: $1525

Income: $0

No more expenses for the near future as my shop has moved to the unfinished part of my new digs!

Thanks for reading! What did your month look like? Did you stick to your budget?

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House Hunt: Round 2 http://www.fierymillennials.com/house-hunt-round-2/ http://www.fierymillennials.com/house-hunt-round-2/#comments Fri, 03 Feb 2017 15:24:02 +0000 http://www.fierymillennials.com/?p=1213 Read more...]]> A lot has changed in the last year! Many of you are new readers since then (super happy you’re here!), so you might not know I attempted to buy a multi-family rental property about this time last year. Fortunately, I documented the entire saga so you can quick go back and refresh what happened to me last time I tried to buy.

I don’t consider the last time as a failure though. It taught me a lot of great lessons: how to act around the seller’s agent whilst viewing the property, what level of service to expect from a realtor, how to fill out all the paperwork, what to include in the paperwork, what the process of submitting an offer looks like, how to settle on a price, and what to expect from getting inspections sorted out and more.

Now that I have been in my new town for two months and have settled into my new job nicely, I decided it was time to start looking for property in this area. Starting the process was as easy as asking people who they used as a realtor and finding one who understood the investor side of buying property. I was moved at MegaCorp’s behest, so they’re paying for basically everything. They gave me a ton of money to move here, and will also be covering my closing costs. I cannot state how awesome that is since that’s about another $8k I’ll get to keep in my pocket.

My goal this time around is to find a 3-4 unit multi-family property that meets the 1% rule. I will also be following the guidelines listed in Step One of my first post on starting the house hunt, with a few small changes:

I will purchase one property with a purchase price of $155,000-$225,ooo not to exceed $100,000 once every 24 months. I will finance the property using a VA Loan with a 5% 10% down-payment. Depending on total purchase price, I will budget for up to 2% in closing costs and no more than 3% in repairs maximum. The maximum all-in cost including down payment, closing costs, and repairs should be no more than $15,000. [With closing costs reimbursed after close].

Funny how much hasn’t changed in a year. Same goal, new location.

So I went on the hunt. This search is incredibly different from the last one. There are TONS of properties on the market. Not only are there tons of properties, but 93.4% of them meet the 1% rule, and 40% of them almost meet the 2% rule. [Note: %’s are entirely made up. Just know if I wasn’t afraid of breaking a window, I’d throw a rock and hit a property that at least met the 1% rule.]

My awesome new realtor set me up with an automatic search that pushed new listings straight to my email. I could check the new properties out while sitting on the toilet at the lunch table. One property caught my eye so I emailed my realtor and asked to set up a showing. They can require anywhere from 24-48 hours prior notice if they have existing tenants, so then I had to wait. Later that day, another property a few blocks away popped up so I asked if we could see that as well.

The first property is a duplex. The list price is $119,000 and rent is $1465/month. I wasn’t particularly enamored with the property for several reasons. The first, it was only a duplex and I want one with at least 3 units. Secondly, both units were occupied and due to getting VA financing, I need a property with an open unit to move into. Third, the lower unit tenants had lived there for 7 years and didn’t wish to move, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with them and their at least 5 cats. I couldn’t keep track of them all during the showing. The upper unit wasn’t anything spectacular.

I was a huge fan, however, of the original carriage house in the backyard. Not a huge fan of the cat that fell out of the loft and scared the living beejeebus out of us though! Good thing it has 9 lives because I’m pretty sure it used up a few. It would’ve been really awesome to renovate the carriage house into a little apartment or even super sick workshop space, but it would’ve cost $$$$$ with very little return. Not about that life right now.

The second property is a triplex (win), has a list price of $79,900 (double win), and rents out for $1485 a month (TRIPLE WIN). 2100 sq ft of history in a beautiful house. There are two good tenants in it right now paying $1100, which leaves a studio apartment empty (WIN X5). The house is in fantastic shape considering it was built right after the turn of the century. The last one, not the most recent one. A newer roof that includes new sheathing, high efficiency furnace, new plumbing, and new electrical. [Should I count that as one big win, or lots of little wins?!].

The seller’s agent let us know there had been a showing right before us, with another scheduled the next day. The potential buyer had previously been interested, so the agent let us know they would be submitting an offer. If I wanted a shot at this house, I had to move fast.

Which is why…… I submitted an offer yesterday afternoon! Even better, the seller accepted my offer last night!

So...... that means........... I'M BUYING A HOUSE. AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If it seems sudden, that’s because it is. The whole process, from contacting the realtor to getting my offer, took a week. That’s it. 7 days.

Like I said, it could not have been a more different experience than last time.

I am THRILLED TO DEATH GUYS. But also scaredhappyexcitedpetrifiedanxious.

It’s fine. I’m fine. I can do this. deep breaths

Let me introduce you to my property to be!

Yes, this beautiful Neo-Georgian Revival house only cost me $85,000. I love living in the Midwest! Coastal peeps – what do you think this property would go for in your neck of the woods? Shoot me a comment!

If you’re saying, wait, I thought the list price was $79,900 you’re right. I offered over list due to the competition I was facing. Apparently, the seller had 3 properties to sell, not just one, a fact I discovered as I was heading into the office to sign my offer. Everyone else put in a bid for a package deal for all 3 properties. I was the only one that wanted just one, and I offered over list.

Did I over pay a little, considering there was no counter offer? Probably. But the numbers still work out.

The seller liked a number of things about my offer.

  • I loved the house for being a well-preserved, beautiful piece of local history.
  • I wanted to live in the house.
  • It was my very first property. Everyone else was an investor.

I didn’t even have to write a super cheesy letter to the seller! The seller’s agent liked what I had to say and passed those feelings on to the seller.

Being a good person still helps, even in 2017.

So now that I’ve waxed poetic about my crazy last week…….. what’s next?

Paperwork. Lots and lots of paperwork.

Since everything moved so fast, I have a lot to do. I need to schedule inspections to take place within the next 14 days (don’t forget the 48 hours of notice to the tenants), scout around for the best deal I can find in regards to financing, get homeowners insurance, and get ready to move my stuff into a studio apartment. All of this has to be done in the next 7 weeks, because I close March 24th!

Thank you to everyone that followed along the my rental journeys! I truly could not have done it without your support, guidance, advice, and encouragement. It really does take a village.

Stay tuned as I go through the process!

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Motivated Laziness http://www.fierymillennials.com/motivated-laziness/ http://www.fierymillennials.com/motivated-laziness/#comments Tue, 31 Jan 2017 14:00:41 +0000 http://www.fierymillennials.com/?p=1197 Read more...]]>
Mew will teach napping lessons

It’s 5 o’clock on a Saturday, and I’ve just finished up a jam-packed day… of relaxing.

I woke up late (for me) at 8 am.
I made a smoothie for breakfast at 9.
Then I spent a good chunk of the morning replying to comments and answering emails.
After that, I took a nap. The sun was shining, the cat was purring, I felt tired; so I slept. Until 230 pm.
I made some tea with lunch and then read part of a book until 4.
My housemate came home, so I went upstairs, washed my dishes from lunch, and chatted a bit with him before grabbing a soda and coming back downstairs to my basement.
After I finish writing this post, I might start another. Or, I might grab some cheese, crackers, and veggies for dinner before making some popcorn and watching a movie.

It’s been a good day. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed hanging out by myself, catching up on some stuff around the basement, and just generally recovering from a long week at work.

Had I done this at my parent’s house, though, I would’ve been called lazy.

I was called lazy all the time growing up. Two of my greatest pleasures involved lying horizontal on my bed for hours and not moving: Playing video games on a revolving door of handheld gaming systems and reading a stack of books.

Every time I did one of these things my parents would pause by the door, look in, see me seemingly do nothing, and then proceed to try to make me do other things.

“Why are you _______ when you need to do _____ chore?”
“Why are you _______ when it’s such a nice day outside?”

Needing the time to relax was never a good answer.

But now I’m realizing taking the time to relax – caring for myself – is actually a legitimate answer.

Not having time to relax was a major reason I got out of the military. My service only required one weekend a month, and two weeks a year. But, that one weekend spent working meant I had a 12 day work week. By the time day 10, 11, and 12 came around, I was short-tempered and easily angered. Which, if you know me, seems out of character for my open, friendly, easy-going personality. I saw the same shift occur with my roommate, as he was also in the same unit with me.

Cleaning out petrified soda for a recycling project

A common trope of the Millennial generation is that we’re lazy. I had a fantastic discussion about it with Joshua Sheats of Radical Personal Finance when we recorded our podcast episode during Camp Mustache. He asked why I was going for FI. I told him it was because I didn’t want to work. When pressed as to why I didn’t want to work, I said it was because I was lazy.

This led to a tangential discussion on if I was actually lazy. I said I was because I like to take naps, not cook meals, and do things like read a book for hours at a time.

Joshua then pointed out that I wasn’t actually lazy. He cited things like being active in at least one sport pretty much all the time since I was 10, being active in the Girl Scouts (and getting my Gold Award), putting in the work to get good grades that led to my full-ride scholarship to college and then keeping said scholarship for all 4 years, joining the military (where I won several awards for being an outstanding Airman), working my butt off at my internship to get into the company with a full-time offer before I graduated college, and all the work associated with going for Financial Independence (figuring out finances, blogging, starting the process for buying a rental, etc).

Clearly I’m not afraid of hard work and long hours. So why do I think I’m lazy?

Because my parents said I was for the better part of 20 years. They didn’t like I was doing things for myself and not doing stuff around the house for them. (This became such a heated issue that they kicked me out of the house at age 18, 42 days before I left for college.)

It’s so ingrained in me, though, that I didn’t even realize it was my parents’ voices in my head until that conversation.

Self-care is a critical part of being human. We weren’t meant to go, and go, and go with no down time.

I think it’s even more important now with the shifting political environment we in the United States are facing. If I tried to be a good employee, sister, daughter, friend, and blogger AND care about everything else going on in the world with no break, I’d explode. For real.

So I turn off my computer, only play games on my phone, and studiously ignore the outside world to give my brain a chance to process everything.

Self-care is so important to me I made it a point to add it to my goals for 2017. It’s even in the title: A Year of Caring. So far, I’ve yet to schedule a massage or chiropractic appointment, but with the news from Washington this last week, I will need both.

But I’m not just caring only about me. I’m caring more about others as well. I urge you to do the same – not just for your inner circle of family and friends. Do something nice for a complete stranger. Stand up for the marginalized (and often maligned) groups in your world. Reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while.

We’re going to need to care for each other more than ever, and we can’t do that as effectively if we’re tired, stressed out, and burnt out.

How do you relax? Do you worry about being lazy?

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Career and Life Update Jan 2017 http://www.fierymillennials.com/career-and-life-update-jan-17/ http://www.fierymillennials.com/career-and-life-update-jan-17/#comments Fri, 27 Jan 2017 14:36:21 +0000 http://www.fierymillennials.com/?p=1189 Read more...]]> I had a revelation. A new outlook on life, as it may be. I’m going to do that sneaky thing though and make you wait to find out what it is until you get to the end. Fortunately for you, it’s a quick update on how my career and life are going overall.

It’s been almost 2 months since I started my new job!

After an initial bout of craziness, things settled down quite nicely. My new town welcomed me on my second day with 10 inches of snow! Fortunately, it all melted before the movers came – only to snow 6 more inches the day after. I only spent 7 days sleeping on the floor waiting for the vast majority of my stuff to be moved in, which in the grand scheme of things is no big deal.

It did take me a long time to unpack the boxes and arrange them better. Since I will be moving again soon (into my very own multi-family rental property!!), I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to unpack. A lot of my stuff didn’t actually need to be unpacked as I moved into the basement of a fully furnished house. I also wasn’t going to be using a lot of it – things like my quilting supplies, most of my other crafting supplies, and other stuff that I should probably get rid of but still want to keep.

Then my sister came to stay with me for a bit over my Christmas break and swept through the place like a tornado with a vendetta against stacks of boxes. If not for her, I would still be tripping over boxes all over the place. But now, it looks great! Empty boxes got flattened, boxes with miscellaneous things in them got organized and packed better, and things were neatly stored away. Seriously a miracle worker.

My housemate and I have settled into a comfortable rhythm. I mostly stay downstairs doing my own thing, but occasionally come up and hang out if I’d like some human interaction. We’ve even been able to carpool to work a few times when my schedule lines up with his. A win for the environment and my pocket book! It’s nice for both of us to have someone else around to do stuff while the other is gone. He fed my cat when I was at Camp Mustache, and I looked after the house and kept an eye out for his online orders while he was in Florida.

Speaking of work…..

I am in love with my new position!! At risk of sounding like someone with Stockholm Syndrome, I am seriously thrilled to have this job. If I have to be working, this is the job for me. I’m up moving around, visiting different floors, talking to all kinds of people, and doing a variety of different activities. Every day is different, and I never know what is going to happen until I get there. I have a very reactionary support position, so sometimes I sit around doing nothing waiting for something to go wrong.

But I’m busy. Because I’m waiting.

The hours are rarely predictable. Usually I’m at work by 7, but sometimes I have to come in at 6, 545, 530, or even once at 345! The great news about getting in super early means I get to leave early as well. Plenty of time to nap do stuff after work. I like to get in early (maybe not as early at 345) as I am definitely a morning person. The variable schedule doesn’t really bother me either since I don’t have anyone else depending on me after I get off work.

I mean, the cat does, but all he needs is pets and food unlike kids who need picked up from daycare by a certain time everyday.

Plus: RAISE!? Need I say more?

My team is great as well. They are very patient and supportive while I learn the ropes. Our team dynamic is awesome and very balanced. We each have strengths and weaknesses that play nicely off each other. I can only hope this remains after we add a new team member and manager to the mix in a few weeks.

Perhaps the best part of the new job is my actual office. No more cube farm for me! It’s just myself and my immediate team. Nobody peering over my shoulder and no one can sneak up on me since I face the only door way. One wall is entirely made out of windows which is amazing. Natural light every day, the view is amazing, I can keep an eye on the weather, and it gets warm on sunny afternoons.

a snowy sunrise

All that being said, it’s not all roses and puppies. I’ve discovered I’ve formed some bad habits in the last 3 years. I need to work at being more proactive. I’m more than happy to do things when asked, but I need to work at spotting things to work on and then doing them before someone asks me.

I also need to work on speaking up when I don’t understand something. The whole fake it til you make thing doesn’t really work here. You either know it, or you don’t. Not much room for a grey area.

I’m not a huge fan of the pressure either. The job itself is pretty easy, but the simple nature of the job is deceiving since there is a lot riding on the meetings we start and the equipment we support. This also means I’m on call 24/7 but I’ve only gotten a handful of calls “after hours” so that isn’t really a problem. It just means I get to cart my work stuff with me wherever I go in case someone decides to work and has problems. That would be why you see me carrying around 2 cell phones. At least the work phone is Verizon so I have coverage no matter where I’m at!

What’s next

After talking with a ton of different people in the FIRE community, both in person and online, I had a revelation. I would be selling myself short to retire at 35. Everyone I’ve talked to has been much more confident than me about my path to financial independence. Maybe because they’re further along on the journey than I am.

Anyways, my revelation is this: My new target date to quit working is 2019! I have some projects I want to see to completion and then I will step away from Corporate America forever (hopefully). That gives me 2 years to start growing various sources of passive income since I won’t hit my target number by then.

I am in the midst of starting the process to buy my first multi-family rental property that will be the backbone to my new plan. I will have more details about that in an upcoming post, so stay tuned!

Despite some recent interest from various guys, I have decided to stay with my current plan of not dating until at least the rental purchase goes through and I move. This is not a hard and fast rule. If someone special comes along in the middle of the process, I will make it work since that doesn’t happen often (see also: very, very rarely). I really want to focus on getting a good property and setting a firm foundation (hah pun) for the rest of my non-work filled life.

Big things are just around the corner for me! Thanks for following along on my journey!

Any big news or updates from you? Sound off in the comments!!

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How I saved $130k in 3 years….. and you can too! http://www.fierymillennials.com/how-i-saved-130k-in-3-yrs/ http://www.fierymillennials.com/how-i-saved-130k-in-3-yrs/#comments Tue, 24 Jan 2017 12:20:44 +0000 http://www.fierymillennials.com/?p=1179 Read more...]]> Before we get to the super juicy stuff, Julie from Millennial Boss has graciously featured my guest post Working is Expensive. I encourage you to go check it out!


The news is full of articles about the Obstacles to Millennials Saving for Retirement. Millennials aren’t saving enough for retirement. Half of Millennial women aren’t saving for retirement. It’s a pretty gloomy picture.

But I’m here to tell you that not only is saving for retirement not only possible, but actually incredibly simple. I’m 26 and I’ve already saved $130,000 towards my retirement.

The Numbers

I started saving at the age of 23 as a new college graduate with $10k to my name.

It took me approximately 1,000 days to save $120,000. That works out to just over $100 a day. It took me:

  • 4 months to save $15k
  • 10 months to go from $25k to $50k
  • 9 months to get to $75k
  • 8 months to get to $100k
  • 6 months to get to $125k

Looking back at my statements showed me most of my net worth is from direct contributions I’ve made. Only a little fraction is from market gains. Even with minimal help from the market, the compounding interest is starting to add up as seen in the shrinking gap between $25k milestones.

How I Did It

I saved up so much so quickly due to 5 factors: no debt, tracking my spending, shared housing, not upgrading my car, and automating the saving process.

I graduated from an average state school with no debt thanks to a full-ride scholarship, a stint in the Air National Guard, and other part-time jobs.

Now, I realize many of you reading this have already graduated with some student loan debt. Don’t despair! All hope is not lost. Your first priority will be to focus all your efforts on paying down the debt you have. Start a side hustle. Get an extra job. Minimize as many expenses as you possibly can. Throw every single dollar at your loans. There are so many things you can do without a cloud of debt hanging over your head.

Quite possibly the thing that helped me the most was tracking my spending. I use Mint.com so it’s automatic. I check in a couple of times a month to see how I’m doing according to my budget.

Before I started to really crack down on my spending, it was far too easy to just pull out my card and spend whatever I wanted. Then I started track everything and realized I was wasting money on stuff I didn’t even care about or didn’t need. Only after you start to track your spending will you find out where your problem areas are and work on whittling them down. I had a huge problem with overspending at Target, so now I just don’t go.

My first rental

It seems like such a small thing to get worked up over, but it’s the small changes that really start to add up over time.

The thing that was most surprising to me was seeing how quickly housing added up. My first rental cost me $900 a month. Not too bad…. Until I realized that was over $10k a year. A full 16% of my spending went towards housing! I could’ve used that money for fully maxing out my HSA!

Having a roommate can sometimes be troublesome, but the positive impact on my wallet outweighed the bad. I got a roommate and cut my housing expense to $450 a month. That one small change immediately added an extra $5k back into my pocket for the year. That’s huge.

I also furnished my house through a combination of hand me downs from family and friends, Craigslist deals, and estate sales. I got perfectly great stuff for cheap and saved it from going to the landfill. That was a win for both my wallet and the environment!

Another small change was actually what I didn’t do. I did not go out and buy a new car right after starting my new big girl job. I had to buy a car in college when I hit a deer, so my car wasn’t that ‘old’ to me, even though it’s from the 2005 model year. There was, and still isn’t, anything wrong with the car. Sure, it has 155,000 miles on it. It’s not the newest car in the parking lot at work, and it doesn’t have fancy bells and whistles like heated seats or a bluetooth connection.

My trusty vehicle covered in ice

However, it is entirely paid off. Not having a car payment has saved me at least $12,000 since that’s the level of car I would’ve bought. In addition, since it’s older, my costs are lower when it comes to registration and insurance.

All those little things add up to $20,000 more in my pocket. Since I mostly invested that money, it’s now working for me and earning me even more money.

Speaking of investing, the key to my success was automating the entire process. I made saving a priority and based my budget off that. I have automatic contributions set up for my 401(k), so I don’t even see that money hit my bank account. I can’t spend it if I don’t see it come in. I also have direct contributions taken from my paycheck for my HSA. I am lucky to be young and in good health, so my health costs are relatively low. Finally, I have an automatic withdrawal set up for my Roth IRA from my bank account.

Since I am so young and have plenty of time to recover from a down market, I invest solely in index funds like VTSAX and an S&P 500 index fund with super low fees. Low fees means I get to keep more of my gains, which just like at the gym, I’ve worked hard for and would like to keep as much as possible.

With just a few simple changes, I’ve set myself up for a very cushy traditional retirement and made early retirement a possibility. The smarter you are with your money early in life, the easier it is to get ahead of the pack later.

What was your smartest money move?

 

This article first appeared on Fiery Millennials. 

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Recap: Camp Mustache SE 2017 http://www.fierymillennials.com/recap-camp-mustache-se-2017/ http://www.fierymillennials.com/recap-camp-mustache-se-2017/#comments Thu, 19 Jan 2017 16:02:43 +0000 http://www.fierymillennials.com/?p=1162 Read more...]]> I’m not sure how many times I can say I’ve just come back from the Best. Weekend. Ever, but…… once again…..

I JUST HAD THE BEST WEEKEND EVER.

I started off the weekend early with a night in Chicago before I flew out Friday morning. Miss Mazuma graciously offered to let me crash on her couch for the night. It was a night full of playing old school Pole Position, varying levels of sobriety, laughs, and recording podcasts. You can listen here to the first one! Shout out to Millennial Money and Distilled Dollar for having me!

Friday was mostly uneventful. I spent a good chunk of it at the airport waiting for my friends to fly in so we could carpool up to the retreat center. Getting to catch up on the way up was even more valuable to me than the money we all saved.

Everything after getting to the retreat center was kind of a blur of saying hi to old friends, meeting people who quickly turned into friends, laughter, and learning! However, I can give a high level overview for those dying to know 🙂

The People

Where do I even start? Everyone was really great. At Camp Mustache, you have to be aware of how you spend your incredibly limited time. There were 40 people there and I wanted to have a deep chat with everyone. Unfortunately, we had to sleep and do other activities so that wasn’t possible, but I gave it my best shotten. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the many entrepreneurs, medical professionals, software engineers, and more (to include a former federal prosecutor – how cool is that!?). To see how someone’s profession influences the way they look at life is fascinating to me. I’m so incredibly glad I got to expand my FI network even more! Look at me putting my 2017 goals into action already!

many great chats were had on this porch

In addition to the attendees, we had several renowned bloggers come to Camp Mustache to present. J.D. Roth talked about crafting a mission statement and why it’s vital to living well. I am in the process of drafting my mission statement and it’s easier and harder than I thought it would be! You can check out his article on the subject here: http://moneyboss.com/finding-purpose.

Ignore Mr. Money Mustache creepin in the background

We had a guest appearance from a local guy who is in the process of starting a co-housing development in Gainesville. The whole concept really intrigued me, as I haven’t heard much more on them other than the fact they existed. Totally a neat idea and one that I’m filing away for the future as a possibility!

Joshua Sheats recorded a LIVE podcast for his presentation on “Why bother to wait until you’re FI to live like you’re FI?” and the Q&A that followed. He is way more on top of things than I am and already released the episode! Give it a listen and you’ll start to get a feel for what these kind of events entail.

Speaking of his Radical Personal Finance podcast, Joshua and I sat down on Saturday and recorded an episode. This is now the 5th podcast I’ve been on and I’m so glad I said yes to it. We had a really great talk that just so happened to be recorded. I’m happy I will have the recording to reference as it was a conversation that challenged beliefs I’ve held about myself for years! Look also for a related post where I delve deeper into some of the things we discussed.

We also were treated to what I thought was an amusing presentation by Keith, the Wealthy Accountant. There’s only so much humor you can inject into a talk about accounting and taxes but he did an excellent job. I got some great tips and ideas on things I can implement in my life to make my life easier.

“father/daughter” dress up day

In addition to his presentation, I donated $100 to charity for an hour of his time in a private session. This is far lower than his normal hourly fee, so I jumped at the chance to schedule a chat despite participating in the Uber Frugal Challenge month. As a tax professional, former landlord, and current blogger, I had way more questions to ask him than our hour permitted. We did our best to cram it all in but with two people who like to talk as much as both of us do, we didn’t quite manage it. Fortunately, he lives “close” to me so I can always go visit when he’s not in the depths of tax season. Keith, since I know you’ll read this, thanks for all the help and guidance you’ve given me. I appreciate it more than you’ll ever know! You can read his thoughts on the weekend here: http://wealthyaccountant.com/2017/01/18/recap-of-camp-mustache-se/

We had a quick break and then Emma Lincoln and Zeona McIntyre did a presentation on leveraging real estate to early retirement. I stayed for the first part but started to feel overwhelmed, so I took the opportunity to go down to the lake and soak up some peace, quiet, and Vitamin D.

It was an absolutely beautiful day. The sky was full of puffy little white clouds, a very small breeze, and it was almost perfectly quiet. Amid the hustle and bustle of Camp Mustache I needed just a little bit of recharge time. These events take a lot of social energy. I listened to the plop of frogs hopping off lily pads into the water, the wind rustling past my ears, and the tweets of unseen birds behind me.

The last official speaker was Brad Barrrett of Travel Miles 101 fame. He spoke on Travel Hacking 101. A lot of people found his chat to be full of useful information and I can see how it would be super useful to those starting out. I am a member of his Facebook group and also frequent /r/churning (not about making butter), so I got less out of it than I could have. But! I still had a great time at the presentation regardless of how many notes I took.

Before I move on to another part of the weekend, I want to give a special shout out to my internet twin. We ‘met’ on the Mustachians on FB group earlier in 2016 and quickly realized we had a TON in common. To the point where we started keeping track of the differences because we couldn’t keep track of everything that was the same. I think after the weekend we discovered a dozen differences. It was SO AMAZING to get to meet her in person and get to hang out with each other! It got to the point where the other attendees started to get a little creeped out, especially when we were in the same conversation and making a slightly different version of the same joke at the exact same time.

The Venue

We stayed at a Lutheran Church Camp and Retreat Center on 400 acres in Gainesville, Florida. Coming from the cold, dreary, dark, icy reaches of the Midwest, I was in heaven. I got to run around in shorts and a t-shirt and I wasn’t cold! In January!! The grounds were absolutely gorgeous as well. They had a whole network of clearly defined and well maintained ‘hiking paths’ (which were really walking paths since there wasn’t any change in elevation because, Florida).

As stated above, I really enjoyed getting to be by the lake. We had access to a whole floatilla of watercraft and so I went canoeing. As a former camp counselor/lifeguard, I taught little girls how to canoe and I miss it something fierce. Getting to paddle around the still lake as the sun set behind the trees was almost magical. I also really appreciated getting to chat with Pete as we very delicately paddled in a wobbly canoe.

In addition to lakeside activities, we did the teams course, played kickball, worked out, did some archery, and had a bonfire. If I could live there year round, I’d be one very happy lady.

All in all, it was well worth the money I spent on the travel. Warm weather, gorgeous surroundings, and in the company of very intelligent and friendly people. What wouldn’t be to love?

What’s next?

Compared to 2016, this year is pretty tame travel wise.

In February/March time frame I will be going skiing in Wisconsin. While I’m there, I’ll try to hit up as many blogger friends as possible. I have 1.5 days left of vacation to use until mid-May. Then my vacation resets and I get a whole whopping 13 days off. Woo. However, I have the option to “buy” 5 more days, which I did last year, and will probably do again this year.

I will also be headed up to Minnesota at some point to do a Rockstar Finance Forum meetup with those that live around there, but due to Apathy Ends having a baby, plans are a little undefined at this point.

In late summer time frame I’ll be headed back to Chicago to enjoy a Cubs/Cards game with some friends I met at the 2015 Chautauqua in Ecuador! A little friendly rivalry while we get to catch up and hang out is my idea of a pretty great time.

I’m sad to announce I won’t be going back to Camp Mustache in Seattle over Memorial Day because I didn’t get a ‘ticket’ through their lottery. I’m honestly not super bummed out because I made plans to attend the first session of the Chautauqua in Ecuador! That will be the second week of October, and I’m very much looking forward to going back. I’ll be there for my birthday and I get to explore a new part of Ecuador since we’ll be up high in the Andes Mountains.

After Ecuador, I’ll have one week at home before I fly to Dallas for FinCon 2017!!! I cannot wait for all the good times we’ll have there. I’m also hoping to develop firmer relationships with some of the vendors that have reached out to me.

After that, I’m going to go collapse and recharge my social batteries until the next event comes along in 2018!

If you haven’t attended an FI gathering/meetup of any sort (local, national, or international), I highly encourage you to go! The relationships you form there will last you a lifetime and pay back anything you spent on them 10 fold. Guaranteed!

 

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Saving and Giving http://www.fierymillennials.com/saving-and-gving/ http://www.fierymillennials.com/saving-and-gving/#comments Thu, 12 Jan 2017 14:53:37 +0000 http://www.fierymillennials.com/?p=1056 Read more...]]> Saving for early retirement increasingly feels like a juggling act. There are so many ways to utilize the money coming into my pockets. Way more ways, actually, than the amount of money coming in. I could buy burritos every day, sock as much as I can into every tax efficient account possible, and even give it away!

I’ve got a pretty good handle on the first two options, and I think now is the time I decide how I’m handling giving some of my money back to the community as part of my Year of Caring.

The Story So Far

I haven’t been much one for charity in the past, even though I can well afford to give most of the time. I used to work retail and was forced to ask every single person who came through my line if they wanted to give to ________ charity. I would much rather give my time than the money, as I feel as though my time can be mismanaged less easily. I’m also suspicious of a lot of “charitable organizations” out there, as most seem to exist solely to provide people with paychecks, not to give money to the people who actually need it.

My charitable efforts have been limited to immediate family for the last few years. I give money to my eldest sister every month in support of her efforts as a missionary. I started that in 2014 when she lived in Australia and needed help dealing with an increase in rent. $150 a month to me was no big deal, but for her it was a major problem. She would’ve had to find a new place to live, and finding reasonably priced rental options in Western Australia is an almost insurmountable task. So, I started to give her money each month and continue to do so. I know she puts it to good use and I’ve been able to piggyback off some of her locations (staying with her for 3 weeks in Australia saved me about $3.5k, and staying with her in England for 10 days saved me roughly $2k).

I’ve been content to leave it at that until just recently. I initially wasn’t going to share the story behind a contribution I made and just leave it as a line item in my November 2016 Monthly Status Report, but I changed my mind after talking with several different bloggers. They encouraged me to share the story behind it, so I am. I want to be clear that I’m not bragging about my donation. This was a deeply personal donation that I felt called to give. I am also sharing this story with you because it dovetails nicely with an effort I’m more than happy to promote!

There I was, bored out of my mind at work, mindlessly browsing Reddit. I clicked on an AskReddit thread that asked what formerly homeless people wanted others to know about being homeless. As someone with a very brief exposure to being homeless after my parent’s kicked me out the summer after my high school graduation, I was intrigued. The general gist of the thread was treat the homeless like people. Have a conversation with them. Don’t pretend like they don’t exist. See if they need anything and help them do that. Maybe give them meaningful work in exchange for things like a safe place to shower, shave, change clothes, or a solid meal.

Of course, not everyone in the thread was formerly homeless. Some chiming in are currently homeless and that’s how I ran across “Mike” (name changed to protect his identity). Mike had a series of unfortunate events happen one right after the other. The loss of a parent and their housing. A bad car accident that put him in the hospital for a while and caused him to lose his job. Taking the car to a shady mechanic who charged way too much and didn’t actually fix the problem.

All of these events, when spread out far away enough from each other, wouldn’t have been such a big problem. But strung up together, one right after the other, caused him to lose his housing. He is now living illegally in a storage locker because he doesn’t have anywhere else to go and has debt hanging over his head.

$2,300, in fact.

That’s it. A debt of $2,300 caused this man to live in a storage locker with no electricity, no running water, and definitely no sanitation facilities. He’s in the Northern half of the US, and it’s cold.

So, after chatting back and forth with him a bit to verify his story, I sent him $2,500 via PayPal. It’s a lot, I know. I just couldn’t stand the thought of someone in the US sleeping in a storage locker because of $2,300 in debt to a title loan company. He said the high interest was killing any gains he makes on the debt.

$2,300 is roughly the amount of money I spend AND pay off each month. It’s not nothing to me, but it isn’t an overwhelming problem to me either. Here I am, well-fed, happy, and with a great job that is gave me even more money in the form of a bonus and moving allowances. I didn’t really need that money, but he did. So I gave it to him.

And then I saw that tweet from the lovely Melanie. Her blog is on how to conquer your debt. See, she used to be in debt as well. Big debt. So she knows how it feels and writes some really great stuff. Once she paid off her own debt (Go Melanie!!), she reserved money in her budget each month to give away to those in need. People kept emailing her out of desperation and needed help. She likes to do what I do: helping out one person at a time in a big way!

As it turns out, J. Money saw what she was doing and wanted to help.

Thus, Debt Drop was born! They’ve been helping out people here and there for a while now. J liked it so much, he (with a few other people) started an even bigger project: the Rockstar Community Fund! The RCF focuses on 3 main projects: Debt Drop, the #GivingCards project, and Just-in-time Giving. The #GivingCards project issues a challenge each month and supplies a $20 pre-paid gift card to help carry out the mission (first come first serve).

Here is something that dovetails exactly with what I’m doing. In addition to helping out Mike with my big gift last year, I also signed up for one of the $20 gift cards in December and gave it away. Someone on my Facebook feed had their car- full of Christmas presents and other belongings – stolen from them while at work. I know $20 doesn’t go far when trying to replace a car and Christmas gifts for their two little kiddos, but I hope they read the note and had some faith in humanity restored.

The Just-in-time Giving is dedicated to those in our community who could use a boost to deal with an unexpected expense. So far, they’ve given $100 to a member of the financial blogger community recently diagnosed with cancer. (Who still needs help if you feel so inclined!)

Going Forward

As detailed in my 2017 Goals post, I want to turn this year into a year of caring. What better way to start than to get involved with the Rockstar Community Fund!? This year, in addition to supporting my sister, I am donating $20 a month ($240/yr) to the Rockstar Community Fund. I will also start keeping my eyes peeled for those that need help around me and do what I can to help them out.

Oh, and Mike? I got an update from him:

“Hey! Thanks again for your help. I had to pay some other bills first so I was only able to allocate 2000 to the loan sharks. It will be a few weeks before I can actually pay them completely. Just wanted you to know progress was made. As for the future. Once I get the title back, I can sell the car. Once I sell the car, I can pay off the rest of my debts. Once that happens, I can sign up for college full-time for CS and I won’t need the car. There isn’t much work near my family but there is a decent college there, so free living and school is in the near future. That’s the plan at this point. I’ll be moved out of this place by the end of the month, which is good, because 2 days ago I very, very nearly got caught. :\ “

So, readers, ready to go out and do some good in the world!? 

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