Fiery Millennials Financial Independence from a millennial's point of view. Fri, 16 Jun 2017 12:44:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Fiery Millennials 32 32 103552657 Confessions of a Bad Mustachian Fri, 16 Jun 2017 12:44:39 +0000 Read more...]]> A brief introduction before we begin: Mr. Money Mustache is arguably one of the biggest names in the FIRE sphere. He retired at the age of 33 and has been writing his blog for the last 6 years. You can find him at

Mr. Money Mustache, or as I and many others know him, Pete, is in the top 5 of most influential people in my life. Right up there with my favorite teachers, Girl Scout leaders and camp counselors, and former managers.

I first found Pete's blog sometime around my junior year of college (2011-2012 ish). To say it immediately blew my mind is a very mild understatement.

He literally changed the course of my entire life for the better.

If I hadn't found his site, chances are I wouldn't have stumbled across this financial independence world until much later. Who knows how many dumb mistakes I would've made before that!

Funny neither of us have changed much in 2 years!

I met Pete in the very-tanned-flesh for the first time at my first Chautauqua. You can read the linked post above for a quick over view of why the trip was so amazing, and get a small inkling of the reasons I'm eagerly awaiting this year's Chautauqua!

He was a big part of why I enjoyed the trip so much. Everyone who goes on the trip gets a one-on-one with one of the “Big Bloggers/Speakers”. Mine was with Pete. We went over all my financials, talked about future plans and what I should do in a few different scenarios, and then spent the rest of the time gossiping like little old ladies about various things in life.

I was a little over 2 years into my FI life at that point. Having someone, let alone Mr. Money Mustache himself, review my finances and help me plan for the future was HUGE. It was all the validation I needed and more to keep going with this crazy financial independence idea.

He has impacted so many different aspects of my life that I'm not sure I can list them all [but of course I'm going to give it a shot anyways]. Note that these all fall under the blanket of things I'm doing to work towards early retirement.


I was heavily influenced to live close to work to lessen the costs of gas, maintenance, and wear and tear on the car. I have picked out housing for 4 different locations now, and none of them were further than 3 miles away from the office, with the exception of my current place but we'll cover that later. Why would I live so close to work? So I can bike there!


I have a beautiful Cannondale Quick bicycle. Her name is Jacqueline, or Jack for short since you know, Jack be nimble, Jack be Quick! Hah puns are the best. I rode my bike to the gym, to work, and even over to the nearby state park to run instead of driving over there. I probably wouldn't have done so without his guidance and examples that it can actually be done.

Bodyweight Fitness

That whole “ride my bike to the state park” thing was another way I was influenced. Why pay for a gym membership to run on a treadmill when I have a thickly wooded, rolling 208 acre tract of land to run around for free? Now that I no longer live there, I instead bike up to the nearby outdoor fitness set at the park and work out there.


Seeing his posts on all the work he's done to his house, other people's houses, and his backyard studio inspires me to do my own handiwork. With my house being old, there's a lot of work to be done on it! Unfortunately it's not in the best shape, so I'm paying other people to get it back into good shape and then I will maintain it from there. This one might actually be more of a wash at this point.


My practical self bought my 2005 Pontiac Vibe even before I knew it was listed on Pete's Top 10 Cars List. It goes to show you, though, how Pete's philosophy on life enhances my view on life. If I hadn't found his site chances are high I would've bought a new car 1 or 2 years after graduation, instead of keeping my trusty car for as long as is practical. I've also done a lot of DIY maintenance on the car whereas before I would've just left it at a shop and paid someone else to do it. YouTube is a wonderful thing!

I think that about concludes the list of things I've changed in my life because of his influence.

Pete's unique take on FI is known as Mustachianism. It goes from people who use it in some areas, like me, to people who live and breathe everything he says. Those on the latter end of the scale can be more than a bit fanatical. (Some people- including Pete- joke he's created a cult). The vast majority of Mustachians I've met in real life have been very cool, very interesting, and very laid back.

Not so much in the comments of his articles.

Good thing I was ready for it!

It became readily apparent after reading his latest article Houston Attorney Thrives on Doing the Impossible – Daily that there are still some things I disagree on.


I am a huge fan of AC. Stepping inside a cool NOT COLD house is the best feeling on a day that is 98 degrees with 90 percent humidity for a heat index well into the hundreds. Fun random fact, the dew point in the Midwest gets pushed up several degrees by all the corn drying out later in the summer. I learned that a few years ago and it totally made sense.

Anyways, my point is, it's gets gross around here. I literally cannot sleep sometimes without AC. I'm not a Stoic by any means. I appreciate being able to continue my life in cool comfort during the apex of the summer.

Same goes for AC in the car, minus the sleeping thing. Having your window down on the interstate at 70+ mph is a sure way to go deaf.

Speaking of…….


“Wait wasn't this further up?” Yep.

Funny how you can agree and disagree on a point. One of Pete's catch phrases is “clown cars”. He does not like it when people drive.

The floor enjoys AC too.

My response? Too damn bad.

I live approximately 12 miles from work. I can get there in roughly 20 minutes driving my air conditioned car. The route to bike to work is roughly 14 miles long, covers nearly 300 feet of elevation drops AND gains, and would take well over an hour.

Part of the bike route is on a bike path….. but that's if it's not flooded or closed due to a major road construction project happening over it.

My job is also something that prevents me from biking. I go where my users are, and that means if they're doing something offsite, chances are I am too. Which means traveling from one location to another. Not something they're willing to let me take so much time for, and not something I want to do attired in professional clothing in weather that could range from -10 plus windchill to 100+ degrees.

Mr. Money Mustache lives in a temperate area of Colorado. It's usually very dry, sunny, and doesn't get too cold in the winter despite having a mountain range in his figurative backyard. If they do get snow, it's gone a few short days later.

Us sorry schmucks that live in the Midwest often have snow linger around the entire winter. We can go an entire week without seeing the sun due to snow/rain/general gloom.

“Gwen why don't you just move closer to work so you can ride your bike?”

I live and work in two different states. One of the states is a financial mess with high taxes. I save more by living in the other state and driving in every day than I could if I lived close and biked in.

“So….. where does this leave you now?”

It leaves me unashamedly driving to work everyday.

When I finish up this chapter of my life, I will be sure to move to a walkable area with better weather.

Until then, I'll continue to be a “complainy-pants, ‘soggy' Millennial”!

To those of you who reached out after seeing the comment section of MMM's article, I really appreciate the words of support! It's nice to know I'm not alone in this arena! 🙂

Are you a bad Mustachian? Let me know in the comments!

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Planning for the Future Tue, 13 Jun 2017 15:10:12 +0000 Read more...]]> Planning for the hazy “someday” of the future is tough. It's like peering into the mists of a foggy morning. Shapes are indistinct and intimidating until you get close enough to recognize the giant shadow is an oak tree.

I'm peering into the foggy future, but I can't make out what those looming shapes are.

People keep asking me what my next few years are going to look like, and I honestly have no idea.

So many things could change. There are just too many variables to have a plan and actually stick with it. And it's not just one facet of my life….. it's every part of it possible.


As many of you know, I'm single. Now that I don't have a definite end date to this job, I'd like to find a partner. It gets pretty tricky, though. I'm living such a drastically different lifestyle from my male peers that finding a compatible partner is not going to be easy. Fortunately, I'm willing to wait for the right guy instead of settling for whoever shows interest first.

I met a guy through a networking event for young professionals. We hit it off and exchanged numbers. I thought I had hit the jackpot. He was attractive, had a great job, funny, owned his own house with a roommate to cut the costs, drove the same car as me until it died and was replaced with a newer hatchback, great cook with food from Aldi and more.

After getting some rather confusing and conflicting signals from him, we had a talk one night (at 1 am aided by a lot of alcohol). He said he liked me, got along well with me, and could see us working out.

BUT. (there's always a but).

He firmly believes I'm going to fail at this early retirement thing. I'll admit, it stung a little, but it's also something a lot of older and wiser people have told me. Because of that conviction (which he refused to get my input on at all), we were dead in the water.

The thing that bothered me the most was him judging my past and extrapolating it into the future. I do things differently as a single lady than I do as someone who's in a relationship. I sleep with my baby blanket and a big pillow when I'm single. Do I do that in a relationship? Nope. I'm making plans AS A SINGLE LADY to try my best to get an expat assignment for work. Would I still go after that with a partner's career to keep in mind? Probably not, unless said partner wants to go with me and can make it work with their career.

What this guy doesn't understand is that my plans now as a single 26 year old can and probably will change. The actions I'm taking now- maxing out my retirement accounts, buying rental properties- will give us flexibility in the future. Quit my job and try to make a living as an artist? Sure, we have savings. Have a kid and want me to stay home with them? Done, we're living off one income anyways.

I wish I could change my plans to accommodate possible future changes, but since I can't predict the future I'm sticking to the plans I'm making now. I'm working off the information I have available to me right now. For the next guy, I will have to emphasize my plans are my own and I'm open to ideas.


Another guy I went on a date with could not fathom me wanting to travel. He was more than happy with his house, patch of land, and his great career. I knew we weren't going to be compatible when I mentioned I went to Ecuador by myself and his face paled at the idea. We didn't talk much after that which didn't bother me nearly as much as the first guy. Sadly, around this area (and probably much of the US) his idea of normal is much more normalized than mine.

Speaking of normal……. it's normal for people to have careers, and to discuss with their manager where they want their career to go in the future.


The older I get the more relevant Dilbert is

Of course I can hardly do things the normal way. That's just not me!

Unlike about every other FIRE blogger I know, my immediate manager knows of my FI plans.

Now, I didn't just trumpet my plans to my manager the moment I started. Nope. My current manager started out as my friend and coworker. We're still friends (we do play on the same softball team, after all)- we just have the added complication that he got promoted to team lead…. after I told him about my plans.

While not necessarily the outcome I would've chosen originally, I think it will actually work out well.

It helps my manager is younger than many of the managers around here, and thus more open to the message I'm getting across. He told me he and his wife have tentative plans to retire in their 50's, but hearing my plan for 30's blew his mind!

I've made it very clear to him how much I enjoy this job, that I don't have any plans on leaving any time soon, and that he will know what my next move is before I make it. I'm actually not upset at all, as he's already been helpful brainstorming some ideas for the future with me.

That leads to the problem though…. what is my plan for the future?

In a typical one-on-one, I'd get help crafting my internal resume to look attractive to assist me getting my next position, or a job that will help boost me to the next level.

I have an idea what I want my next position to be, and where I want it to be. I could probably even make it happen seeing as I know the whole chain of command all the way up to the top.

Even better, they all know my name!

I really, really, really want an expat assignment. Somewhere like Thailand, Singapore, New Zealand or anywhere in Europe. One perk of working for a global organization.

However, expat assignments are hard to come by these days. They're incredibly expensive for the company, what with the level of paperwork that goes into it, the classes to get the employee prepped for their new home, and then the logistics of getting all their stuff over to the new place. As well as a few more I don't know.

But…. I still want to go. It'd be a great way to travel around a region from a home base without having to use up tons of vacation or suffer through 18 hour+ flights. IN ECONOMY. THE HORROR.

The beauty of being on this path to FI is I have options. I'm willing to use up every bit of social capital and power of FU money I have to make it happen. If I lost my position in the company because I pushed too hard, I'll land on my feet.

I'm just going to wait until that's possible!

Thanks for reading! How do you think I should broach my FIRE plans on dates?

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What’s A Lot? Fri, 09 Jun 2017 12:00:45 +0000 Read more...]]> I love disc golf.

There's just something super peaceful about wandering around a park playing frisbee: sport edition.

Low start up cost, endless enjoyment (unless you chuck your disc in a stagnant creek full of goose poop), no fee to practice or play, a variety of different courses to play…… talk about a great first date activity. You get to wander and talk, and if you don't like the date all you have to do is quit after 9 holes. If you like the date, you can continue on to the back nine. If they don't like wandering around a park for free with a pretty lady, they're not worth dating.

Like I said, great date activity.

However, there's one thing about disc golf I don't like.

It's inherently unfair.

Whenever I play against guys, I invariably lose. Not because guys are just better at disc golf. Not the case. However they are stronger than me. Unless I throw the disc way better than them, which is possible, 9 times out of 10 their disc is going to go a lot further than mine. An ex boyfriend of mine and I played all the time and I lost every single time. We still had fun, but it got frustrating after a while.

“So Gwen,” you say, “that's cool and all….. but how does this relate to money?”

I'm so glad you asked.

Life is kind of like a disc golf course. Everyone gets the exact same course to play, but some might be limited from the get go and some might be better. To further the analogy, you could equate my lack of strength with a lack of parental support for things like cars and college. Someone who is strong and throws the disc far down the course is equivalent to someone who had everything paid for in life and got to leverage their parent's network for an entry level job.

What are you to do if you're not the strongest at playing frisbee golf?

You learn to play smarter.

Parents can't pay for college? Get scholarships, take classes that transfer in high school, and leverage the local community college during the summer where it's cheaper. Drive around a cheaper car and put the money you've saved on insurance and loan payments into a Roth IRA. Put as much as you can into your 401(k) from work to minimize taxes paid. Buy a house and rent out the other rooms to cover your mortgage.

These ‘hacks' will help you get ahead in a world that seems to keep wanting to push you down. I've found people take a very strong stance on things money related early in life.

“Of course she can do ___________, she has a good job/no debt/no kids/inheritance from her grandma.”

One of those strong stances I've discovered relates to what people consider to be a lot of money.


I'm not talking about this alot.

I signed up for Camp Mustache SE 2018 (weekend two) and once again, people complained about the cost. [sidenote: If you're going to either weekend, let me know in the comments!] It costs $300 plus travel to the camp. For me, coming from the Midwest, travel will run me a bit more than someone who lives in Florida and can drive to Gainesville.

Related: Read my recap from Camp Mustache Northwest 2016 and Southeast 2017 to find out why I keep going to these events!

I consider $300 a small amount to cover an entire weekend's worth of lodging, food, and activities at a beautiful camp. Just getting a hotel room in most places would cost you $300! Obviously this can be lessened by using credit card reward points for hotels, but we're going to disregard that angle for now.

I asked several people I knew both in real life and through the FIRE community. Every person, after asking what all that covered, said it was reasonable.

That being said, there were several people who just couldn't imagine anyone wasting Three Hundred Whole dollars on one weekend trip. If they went to this event, they wouldn't be able to go on any other trips.

Not only am I going to Camp Mustache SE in January 2018, I'm traveling to both FinCon and Ecuador for the Chautauqua this year.

As someone who both earns a decent salary and prioritizes travel, I have a hard time grasping spending $300 for one weekend could be considered a lot of money. I recognize that I am very blessed to be in such a fortunate position.

So it made me think….. what is a lot of money to me?

$5 was a lot of money to me when I was a little kid getting a $2 allowance each week.

$20 was a lot of money to me after I started to earn money here and there for odd jobs.

$100 was a lot of money to me when I started babysitting and working during the summers.

$2,000 was a lot of money to me when I was in the military and earning a low wage as an enlisted pog.

$6,500 is a ton of money to me now that I'm working at my full-time W2 career.

Why did my perception of “a lot” jump so much in just a few short years?


I started earning more.

5, 10, 20, 50, 100 bucks doesn't seem much when you're routinely getting ten times that every other week.

However, I'm weird that I recognize I'm getting paid a lot, AND don't waste it. So many people see their income increase and inflate their lifestyle accordingly.

Fighting lifestyle inflation is the number one step to achieving financial independence. I know how hard it can be to see those direct deposits go up and not spend them.

I think it's also worth mentioning my perception of “a lot” changes depending on whether or not it was an expected expense. $500 for new tires that you've known you needed for awhile and have some money said aside for? A lot, but not unbearable. $500 for new tires that came out of the blue? A LOT, and STRESSFUL. Spending $6500 on my house exterior project doesn't make me happy by any means, but it's an easier pill to swallow since I knew it would need to be done from the get go. Also helpful is not paying it all at once. I coughed up $2275 to start and will pay the rest upon successful completion of the project.

Even though my definition of a lot of money keeps changing, I'll never forget what it was like to not be earning money. Much like those I've encountered recently, my stances on money were also ingrained in me early in life. I was lucky to have good money role models to give me solid stances in life!

So tell me friends, what's a lot of money to you?


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Monthly Status Report: May 2017 Mon, 05 Jun 2017 12:00:35 +0000 Read more...]]> Disclaimer: some links may be affiliate links. They help offset the cost of keeping this blog running!

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.



It is absolutely crazy to me. Seems like I just blinked and May melted away. That being said, it was still a pretty fun month! Softball started up so I get some “free” (already paid for) entertainment and socializing. My team is currently undefeated after 4 games and we're in second place overall in the league. I love being on a team that's so competitive!

Summer made a come back with a roar towards the end of the month. I'm trying to stay away from getting some form of AC, but I don't think I'll make it much longer. Thank goodness my friend has a pool! With the nice weather, I'm getting out more to do fun activities like the farmer's market on Saturday mornings and playing frisbee golf in the park after work. Once I figure out where my bike chain, lock, and helmet went I can even ride my bike around! I'm all about these low cost activities with the house now 🙂

Speaking of money….. here's how I did spending wise in May!

Mortgage Not including principle, which is accounted elsewhere on my spreadsheet. Actual payment is $705.43 a month!
Utilities I have a feeling it's only going to get higher, too.
Food I consider that respectable. This includes dinners out with my new softball team and all alcohol.
Phone So low. I love Project FI!
Auto All gas, as far as I know.
Internet Totally not worth what I'm paying for it. So slow!
Insurance Health insurance is paid directly from my paycheck.
Pet The cat likes to have food everyday and clean litter. What a weirdo.
Support I support my sister with her missions!
Blog Monthly fees for support and email.
Entertainment Went to watch Guardians of the Galaxy 2! SO GOOD!
Fees Transferred over my taxable investment acct to Fidelity.
Shopping New socks for work!
Travel Camp Mustache SE 2018 payment and other travel expenses.
House Advance payment on the house exterior project.

All told, my spending for May totaled $2,867.39 without the house project payment, and $5,142.39 all told! THe fees pushed up my spending which I'm not thrilled about, but the bulk of them are for switching over my taxable investment account to Fidelity. I'm hoping by having it more accessible I will put more money in every month which will put me ahead in the long run.


Paychecks: $3,194.07
Rental income: $1,100
Misc: $518.88

Total: $4,812.95

May changed things up again income wise. I finished paying off the vacation days I bought so my paycheck went up a whole $75! I also got random payments in for things like the entertainment stand I sold, interest on savings accounts, and people paying me back in cash for things we split.


401k: $2,171.24
Roth IRA: $450
HSA: $220.82
Cash: $0

Total savings: $2,842.36

Savings rate this month was 60% excluding the house spending. With the house spending, my savings rate dropped to 28%. I basically threw all the extra in my budget into the advance payment on the exterior house project. It hurts, but it will be worth it.

Net Worth

According to the Lab over on Mad Fientist’s site, my FI date is now 7 years and 3 months away, which means I’m at August 2024! It's always a good month for me when I see more than one month drop from my target date. If nothing else changes, I will be 33 when I hit that date.

My total net worth went up 3.27% to $156,284 this month! It looks like my investments are starting to pick up steam on their own, since this month isn't anything special savings wise or spending wise. I'm obviously thrilled this is the case!

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

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House Update: 3 Mos Thu, 25 May 2017 15:46:02 +0000 Read more...]]> Seems like time flies when you're having fun, and also when you're NOT having fun. It's hard to believe I've been a homeowner for 3 months already!

Actually, based off all the mildly-horrifying-but-yet-also-entertaining stories from the neighbors, my teeth grinding issue making a reappearance, the number of new grey hairs I've discovered, and tight muscles I've experienced…. the only thing I'm having issues believing is that it's ONLY been 3 months.

One of the biggest stressors is adjusting to the neighborhood. All is not as it seems. The streets are lined with beautiful mature trees that almost meet in the middle to form a green tunnel in front of beautiful historic homes from the turn of the century. I'm close to down town and can walk to the grocery store(s), laundromat, and a number of interesting restaurants (Hawaiian BBQ anyone?).

On the other hand, I'm not entirely sure I feel comfortable walking or riding my bike to those areas. Everyone warned me against living west of {Major Road} so I picked a place to the east. However, no one warned me about living south of {Other Major Road}. I live two blocks south which is apparently enough to make all the difference.

I'm pretty sure I'm one of the few to have a college degree on my street. Most of the beautiful historic homes aren't in the best of condition and have been hacked into multifamily units. The cops have established a regular presence in the neighborhood. It's not an uncommon sight to see someone riding their lawnmower down the street or pushing a full shopping cart home from the store (only to abandon it later). Popping noises that sound more like gunshots than fireworks happen enough to not be surprised.

The house catty corner from me on street A houses a known car parts thief. The police are trying to catch him but apparently he's a smart thief and wipes the car down after stealing the battery/anything else that's easy to remove. The house across street B from me is rumored to be a front for the local gang. It's currently up for rent and seems quiet, but I know that could easily change. The house catty corner from me on street B used to be Section 8. Out of the 5 total bedrooms in the house, there used to be 17 children PLUS their associated adults living in the house. Fights broke out often, people regularly congregated in the street and obstructed traffic, smashed liquor bottles in the streets and neighboring yards, drug use happened in broad daylight, and guns were fired off. My neighbor 2 doors down from me told me she called the police every day on them for 9 months straight until they were finally able to kick everyone out. The owner had to sell after getting a number of violations slapped against the property. I hardly ever see the current residents now so things are much better.

“The Hole”

I worry about my house becoming “that” house. I had to call the police for the first time this weekend. I woke up at 530 am on Saturday to what seemed like an entire herd of people in the common space of the house. Talking, shouting, yelling, fighting people. I heard “don't fight don't fight you don't want to go back to jail!”.  Things started to calm down after a whole car full of people poured out of the house, but I still had to call the cops as the guy that started it all got locked out and started to try to force his way in the house. By the time I got transferred to the correct dispatch and played 20 questions, the guy was gone. The police poked around for a bit and then left.

Later, I found a hole in the drywall of my stair case. Since the instigator of the trouble was my tenant's brother, my handyman tenant gets to fix the wall on his dime. He also got a warning against letting people stay in his place without him being there. I'm not running that kind of real estate game! My tenants (and everyone else I know) might call me a slumlord, but I want to do better than that.

Speaking of making things better, I've been fielding quotes from contractors with an eye towards fixing up the exterior of my house. The gutters are original steel gutters that are rusted beyond any shred of usability, some of the wooden shakes and fascia boards are rotten (because the gutters aren't working), and the whole thing needs new paint.
 The picture to the left is my front porch. It has the potential to be such an amazing space. It used to have a patio furniture and an unwanted entertainment center on it before I got rid of them. Even just having those gone makes a huge difference.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here. I ended up getting four bids on the project.

Bid #1: Professional painter. He paints beautiful old houses and does a fantastic job. Voted number one painter in the area. Very expensive. He wanted $17k for just paint and labor as gutters and the wood repair would be extra.

Bid #2: My handyman neighbor. Not licensed, insured, or bonded. Doesn't want to see me get ripped off by any contractors. Would take a lot of time as he would be working by himself. $5k, I buy supplies.

Bid #3: Bad ass lady contractor. Normally does bigger projects but wants to stay busy until her next job. Has a passion for old houses and loves the details on the house. Has a crew and will take approximately a month. Currently running a special deal where any paint job gets you $1/sq ft deal on refinishing any wood floors up to a year later. $6500 all in.

Bid #4: Recommended contractor from my local real estate group. Super nice guy, pointed out a lot of details about the house, and insisted on calling me little lady or young lady. I think we crossed paths on what I wanted, because his bid came in at $61k. No, that's not a typo. I don't know exactly what materials he was going to use, but that's 75% of my mortgage. Let's pause a second and reflect on the ridiculousness of me sinking that kinda dough into JUST the exterior of my house.

Considering I didn't want to take out a second mortgage on the house or go into any kind of debt for the project, I went with the bad ass lady contractor. She never once patronized me and is genuinely excited to bring the house back to looking beautiful. The front porch wood will be replaced where needed, the whole thing is getting stripped, the front door is getting stripped, and then everything will be stained to match the original mahogany wood ceiling. The railings and steps will be stripped of their ugly brown paint and become white (or in case of the steps, painted and sealed with concrete paint). The rest of the exterior will be replaced as needed and painted. The gutters will be taken down and new seamless ones WITH gutter helmets will be installed. I'm pretty pleased about the gutter helmets, to be honest. I have huge silver maple trees in my yard and they shed A LOT of leaves and helicopters. The less I have to borrow a super tall ladder to clean out gutters, the better.

I wrote her a huge check this week ($2,275!) for the deposit on the work, and will pay her the rest of the amount when she's done with the project. She's going to start May 31st and be done in a month! She's very responsive and easy to work with, so I have strong hopes this will go well and I'll end up with a house that lives up to its potential! Depending on how things go, I plan on inviting her back to take advantage of the floor refinishing deal. I look at the house and get overwhelmed. She looks at the house and gets excited at the work to be done. Between the two of us we'll have this house whipped into shape in no time!

So, all in all, my real estate experience has been mostly positive so far. It's been stressful, but then, what huge change in life isn't stressful? I have no doubt I'll look back on this start and laugh at how stressed I got over the whole thing…… but that probably won't be any time soon.

Any tips for the noob real estate investor? Think I should get a CC and a gun? Got any work on your properties at the moment? Sound off in the comments and let me know!

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Never Say Never Thu, 18 May 2017 13:16:17 +0000 Read more...]]> Never is such a polarizing word.

Why do we say we'll never do something?

“I'll never wear short socks.”
“I'll never wear looser fitting clothing.”
“I'll never eat eggplant.”

I've said each of those things in the past. The funny thing is, I've done each of those things and actually enjoy them more than the alternatives. Ok, maybe not about the eggplant but at least I tried it.

Never is such a divisive word.

What most people mean to say when they say never is “I don't like ____/I find ____ offensive”. When I said I'll never wear short socks, what I meant was I don't currently like short socks and I don't see the point of them. Time and experience has a funny way of changing people's outlooks and opinions. In the case of the Great Sock Debate, I discovered I didn't like how calf-high socks kept losing their elasticity so quickly and never stayed up. Having to pull them up all the time and dealing with saggy socks made me irritated. I tried short socks and found out all of those problems disappeared. Sure, occasionally my shoe rubbed my ankle, but I fixed that by finding a different brand that came up a bit higher.

Never is a very close minded way of looking at things.

You're saying, I know everything there is to know about the subject, I am SO RIGHT I will always know best, nothing you can say to me will change my mind and anyone who thinks different is WRONG.

I've found that people who use the word never are correct. Their use of never becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“I'll never be able to afford college/a house/have kids.”
“I'll never pay off this debt.”
“I'll never be able to retire.”

A better way to think about things is to only say never for things you don't want to happen, and phrase your nevers in a different way.

“I never want to be on food stamps again.”
“I never want to have consumer debt again.”
“Housing in my area is really expensive. I need to cut expenses/save rigorously/move cities if I want to buy a house.”
“I have $40k in student loans. If I get a second job, I can pay them off in 30 months!”
“Retirement is a long way away, but I'm going to start saving $100 a month and gradually increase that over the years.”

I've long been a fan of the book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne. I first heard about it early in college from a friend of mine in my Guard unit. At first….. I totally thought he was full of crap. But I promised him I would read it, so I did and found my view shifting. I'm not saying it's why I've been so successful at all the things I've tried for in life, but it's full of good exercises to do to change the way you think about things in life. I was reminded of it recently when I found the video below on Facebook. I recommend watching it! The clip from Jim Carrey is especially good.

In my (probably too long) search for the exact video I watched on FB, I ran across one with LMFAO where they described how they made such a splash in the music industry with Shots. Apparently, they're also big fans of The Secret. It sounds ridiculous, but it's a way of thinking I've integrated into my life now.


I've been working towards financial independence for going on 4 years now. There are still people who tell me I'll never be able to retire early, and to them… they're right. But only because they say it's never going to happen.

Yes, some people will genuinely struggle to retire early due to a low income. Make some sacrifices, take some risks, and they could work their way up the income ladder too. Yes it might require a lot of hard work (going to school after work, not having much of a social life for a while, moving across the country for a better job) but the beauty of this time is anyone can change their fortune. Now that kind of thing takes a lot of courage. I am not sure I have that kind of courage. I don't necessarily need that kind of courage right now, since I am comfortable in my job, location, and life in general.

That being said, I am A LOT closer to financial independence than I was 3 or 4 years ago due to all the hard work I've put into it. If you told 18-year-old me I'd be doing so well at age 26, I would've laughed in your face. To me at that point in my life, it was never going to happen. (Then again the thought of me eating AND liking asparagus was also a completely foreign idea soooo….)

But I opened my mind, changed the way I think, focused on what I wanted, and worked hard to direct my life into something I wanted. Now I am financially secure, and well on my way to being financially independent. So just like Henry Ford said way back when, “Whether you think you can or you can't, you're right”. Preach it, Henry!

What do you want from the world? Have you noticed anything different about your life after changing your thinking? Do you say you'll never be able to do something? Sound off in the comments!


*also this post contains affiliate links which helps me offset the costs of running this blog at no cost to you!

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Financially Free? Tue, 09 May 2017 12:12:56 +0000 Read more...]]> This FIRE community rocks, y'all. There are amazingly smart bloggers who write some really deep articles that really make you stop, think, scratch your head, think some more, write a comment at 5 am, and then enjoy some more thinking.

Ms. Our Next Life is no exception to this. She recently posted an article on Why “Financial Freedom” Means Something Different to Me. I absolutely love it! I love that FIRE means something different to every person in the community. Some want the extra stability in their lives to take risks with their corporate jobs, some want the choice to quit their W2 job to work a lower paying but more fulfilling career, some want to quit and have more time with their families, and still others want to quit and travel the world forever.

I commented this on the ONL article: “I’ll be sticking with financial freedom. It implies a certain sense of wonder, lightness, and awe to those not on the same path. Also, right now I’m not financially free. I’m in handcuffs, chained to my job. The handcuffs might be invisible, and comfortable, but they’re still there and chafing at me. Yes we have it tons better than people in say, North Korea. There will always be people in the world I have it better than. There will also always be people who have it better than me! I wish everyone were equal but alas, our world isn’t set up that way :(”

Her reply: “I love the wonder part of your definition, but I do want to press you: Are you REALLY “handcuffed” to your job? You have tons of skills, and could easily find another. ‘Handcuffed' means you literally have no choice, which clearly doesn’t apply to you. And you just bought a multifamily home at a young age as a single person — that sure sounds like financial freedom to me. You made that choice — an audacious one, at that! — all on your own, and made it happen through your own ingenuity and grit. I can’t think of any better word for that than ‘financial freedom.' ;-)”

Consider this my long-winded response to her comment!

Not this bad of a situation, though.

I absolutely do NOT consider myself to be financially free right now. I am in a great situation, absolutely. But I have obligations to meet and bills to pay. I have $150,000 squirreled away in various accounts. I also need to eat, put gas in my car, and pay my cell phone bill.

Right now I am still wholly dependent on my day job. Since I took relocation benefits to move 5 months ago, I have at least 7 more months to go before I could quit my job and take another position elsewhere. Yes, I could potentially get the new company to pay that for me. But what if I talked about the wrong thing to the wrong person and got fired? I'd be on the hook to pay that back before I could potentially get hired at a new company.

I also bought my house. This means I have a mortgage to pay. Yes, my tenants pay me rent which more than covers the mortgage. But that won't always be the case as tenants come and go and I have to account for vacancies. I can't depend on that money coming in, so I need to be sure I have a way to come up with the money on my own. I can't do that without a decent paying job right now.

I used a VA loan to buy the house. I have to live in this house for at least 12 months before I can move anywhere. Technically I could move and just not tell anyone but that's unethical. I will wait out the year to move…… but that means if I were to get fired, I couldn't move to a new location. Chances are high I wouldn't be able to come up with a comparable position in this town. Maybe I'm not doing the other businesses in this town justice, but it is a very small town ruled by my MegaCorp. I would almost certainly have to take a pay cut to stay in the area.

I'm not even sure I could thrive and excel in a new job. I have the technical skills on paper to get hired into just about any relevant job I want. I get recruited on LinkedIn often enough to tell me this is the case. Add in the fact that I'm a woman in IT, and my chances get every better. I hate to have to use the diversity hire card, but if it helps open doors I'm not going to turn it down. However……… my actual technical skills leave a lot to be desired. While it looks like I have the technical skills, I really don't. I am definitely better at IT stuff than your average bear (or Baby Boomer), but I lack the logical way of thinking to really dig in deep and understand where the problem is or how to improve something. I'm much better at the user support side of things.

This is gibberish to me.

Unfortunately for me, support positions like mine are rare. Normally these positions are contract positions and paid very low to people just starting out in IT. Think your friendly helpdesk before it got shipped off to India. The only reason my job isn't contract is due to the highly sensitive and confidential nature of my day to day tasks. It's so sensitive we can't even fill an open spot on the team to an outside employee. Finding an equitable position in another company would take a lot of time and effort… that I might not have in the first place.

Fortunately, I love my job and have no plans to leave, and definitely no plans to get fired anytime soon. All of this goes to show though, that while the tide is turning for me, I'm nowhere near financial freedom yet.

I definitely have the cushion needed to take some risks (which I did when I bought the house) but I'm not financially free yet. To me, financial freedom is the same as financial independence. I can take baby risks right now, but big risks like quitting my job and moving to a different location will have to wait until I have more money squirreled away.

So if $150k isn't enough for me to take big risks, what number is big enough?

Honestly, I have no idea. I know I've set $587,500 as my FI number but I'm thinking as long as I have a steady income stream I won't have to get quite that high before I can quit and do what I want. I'll be almost half way there by the beginning of 2018! The higher my number and passive income goes, the more comfortable I'll feel taking bigger risks.

Until then, I continue to stay the course! Onwards and upwards!

What's your definition of financial freedom? Do you think I'm being too cautious?

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Monthly Status Report: April 2017 Tue, 02 May 2017 12:13:29 +0000 Read more...]]> Happy May, friends! With the addition of my monthly rental line items, I am changing the monthly report format. Please note I also have some affiliate links in the posts now, as they help offset the costs to keep this blog running. Let me know how you like the changes in the comments!

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.


April was a much calmer month all around than March. No new major expenses or surprises popped up on the house or in life, although I didn't appreciate the inconvenience of two of my tires giving out in the same week. Fortunately I have a healthy cash cushion even after buying the house so I was able to absorb that cost without too much angst.

The theme of the month was Meetups! I absolutely love going to different group meetings and making connections with a new group of people. I met up with the local real estate investors club, a planning meeting for a new Makerspace (hopefully coming soon. I need space to work on projects!!), practice for my new softball team, and last but certainly not least, an FI meetup in Minneapolis!

I especially love going to FI meetups. This is what, my 5th or 6th group meetup? I can tell you, they never get old. Chatter flew across the group as topics like investing talk, birth stories, travel tips, and favorite concerts/bands got discussed. Even though I'd just met everyone in the group that day, they already felt like old friends. (Amanda from Centsibly Rich doesn't count because we carpooled, shared a hotel room, and she used to be my neighbor.) The group included Wealth Well Done, Physician on FIRE, Bible Money Matters, the Grounded Engineer, Gecko Vision, Apathy Ends and the No Nonsense Landlord. It seemed like we had just about every facet of finance covered that night. It also seemed like we hit every brewery in town but I was assured there were plenty more to explore for the next meetup.

Without further ado, I present my April 2017 expenses.

Rent First payment isn't due until May!
Utilities First bill in May. It's going to be a bit higher than my last place
Food Below budget!!!! Amazing!
Phone So low. I love Project FI!
Auto Gas and fixins on the car. 4 new tires and labor isn't cheap. But so, so worth it.
Internet Internet will start in May as well.
Insurance Health insurance is paid directly from my paycheck.
Pet Stocked up in March, no need for more in April.
Support I support my sister with her missions!
Blog Monthly fees for support and email.
Fees Fees are dumb.
Shopping Random necessities
Travel Last payment for Ecuador, hotel in Minneapolis, and a Lyft ride.
House Lawnmower, rake, gloves and other assorted house supplies.

All told, my spending totaled $3050.26 for March! Slightly higher than normal, but I'm still working on finding my new normal with the house. Forking over $500 on new tires really killed any hope I had at getting in at a ‘reasonable' number. Still, $3,050 isn't bad and I could have easily spent far more.


Paychecks: $3,118.58
Rental income: $1,100
Tax refund: $1,019
Misc: $101.68

Total: $5339.25

April was a fun month of income due to my tax refund and my VERY FIRST RENT CHECKS! They were especially welcome this month with the unexpected expenses.


401k: $2,171.24
Roth IRA: $450
HSA: $220.82
Cash: $1,891.44

Total savings: $4,733.50

What a great savings month! I love it when I don't actually spend all the cash that comes into my pocket. The 401k deposit jumped up a little with my raise last month, so now I will hit the max earlier in the year. Probably makes about 1 day total difference but hey, every day counts!

Net Worth

According to the Lab over on Mad Fientist’s site, my FI date is now 7 years and 7 months away, which means I’m at November 2024! I'm stoked to have gotten over the '25 hurdle that was stymieing the last few months.

My total net worth jumped to $151,331 this month thanks to a strong market, lower spending than last month, and including home equity. I broke the $150k barrier! I believe I am still on track to hit $200k net worth by the end of the year, but we shall see!


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

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Enough is Enough Mon, 24 Apr 2017 12:00:14 +0000 Read more...]]> I have a problem.

All my friends are awesome.

Now, on the list of problems to have, this one is so minor that it barely rates being listed as a problem. However, it bothers me, so I'm counting it as a problem. I'm blessed that I'm expending brain power on this, and not some other pressing issue like feeding myself or worrying about where I'm going to sleep tonight.

There's a saying out there that says you are the sum of your top 5 friends or some other inspirational bologna like that.

Oh look I found the inspirational quote in a cheesy picture:

Apparently it was the inspirational speaker Jim Rohn who said that quote originally. Now we've both learned something!

Anyways… back to the point.

My friends are awesomely amazing people. They're passionate, freakishly intelligent, driven, hard-working, hilarious people. They're starting businesses, staying in touch with our respective local legislators, raising families, producing amazing content, hustling to earn extra money, paying off debts like crazy, buying a new rental property…. the list goes on and on.

Usually I get inspired by my friends. But sometimes it's hard to not get jealous or feel like a bum. Even though I know our situations are different, it's hard not to compare myself to them.

I know this is ridiculous. Here I am killing it, and I still feel like it's not enough. But you know what? It is.

I am doing enough.

It's been one month since I closed on my first rental property. Not only did I buy my first property at age 26, I did it all by myself as a single lady. No one helped me. [unless you count the indirect help of getting a nice bonus at work, a moving allowance, and living cheaply in my friend's basement. But I count those more as savvy money moves than help. Call it what you want though.]

My mom pointed out that she's never had her name on a mortgage. She's done lots of other things in her life (like raising 3 great kids haha) but buying a house is not one of them.

I have other friends who can't even move out of their parent's house or rent a place without having a roommate due to crushing student loans. I have friends who struggle to come up with the money to go see a movie at the theater once a month.

So why don't I compare myself to them? Doing so would certainly make me feel a lot better about myself. I don't compare myself to them because I don't often see their struggles. No one brags on social media how they are worried their power is going to get cut off or that they're scrambling that month to come up with the rent check.

Unless you're Pitbull & NeYo, then you write a whole damn song about how you can't pay your rent and the associated poor choices that go along with that.

But successes? They're everywhere. Someone added a sweet rental property to their portfolio. Someone got a bonus the size of your entire yearly pay and put it in their taxable investment account. Someone got a higher paying job. Someone just got done biking to work and posted a selfie of them afterwards glowing from the exercise with their all-organic healthy smoothie they blended before they rode to work. People love to celebrate the good (and they should!).

What I'm doing is enough, and I'm not going to let people make me feel bad.

I drive my car to work and back every day. I don't feel like waking up 3 hours early just to go completely out of my way to ride my bike. Not to mention my main route to work is not only unsuitable for riders on the best day, but mostly under construction and therefore completely unsafe now. It's enough I ride my bike to the grocery store and farmer's market on the weekend.

I work out sparingly. I have friends that spend hours at the gym every day and they're in amazing shape. Do I wish I could see my ab muscles? Yes. Am I willing to put forth the effort right now? No. It's enough I do body weight exercises at home and eat a healthy diet.

I post when I can. My main time for writing used to be at work when I had nothing to do. Now I have tons to do at work and am busy all day (like I should be). This means I've had to find other times to write and I haven't been the best at it. But I am doing enough to get posts out when I can and make sure they're the best quality they can be before I hit that publish button.

Am I saving enough? Am I being frugal enough? Are my investments optimized to the best options in the market? All three of those could be answered No. But you know what? It's enough that I max out my HSA, Roth IRA, and 401(k). It's enough I have those invested in VTSAX or some other low fee index fund. I could spend less on travel and food. But it's enough I travel hack and bring my food into work most days. Sure, I might not be eating crock pot oatmeal at $.10 a serving…….. but at least I'm bringing in packets of oatmeal from home and not getting breakfast and lunch downstairs from the cafeteria every day.

I might not have a whole portfolio of rental houses yet, but it's enough that I got started and bought the first one. That's more than most people can say. Sure, this property might need more TLC than I originally anticipated, which means I probably won't have a decent down payment saved up by the fall and won't be able to buy another rental property until at least next spring. But that's ok. Because one is enough for now.

I might not have the perfect family unit or even a boyfriend. But that's ok. Because I'm happy and taking care of myself now. I'm not so desperate that I take the first guy that shows interest in me and try to make it work. It's enough to wait (mostly patiently) for the right guy to come along.

So, my dear reader, take these lessons to heart. Do your best, and don't worry about what everyone else is doing. The fact you worry about this means you're already ahead of the pack.

You are enough.


**fun fact:  Semantic satiation (also semantic saturation) is a psychological phenomenon in which repetition causes a word or phrase to temporarily lose meaning for the listener, who then perceives the speech as repeated meaningless sounds. If you're anything like me, that's why “enough” looks weird right now.

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Early Retirement: Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but… Mon, 17 Apr 2017 12:00:07 +0000 Read more...]]> Today's guest post comes courtesy of the Early Retirement Dude. If you frequent the /r/financialindependence subreddit, you might recognize him as a cool mod known as ER10years_throwaway! He FI/ER'd in 2005 at the ripe old age of  36. He made a very insightful comment and I asked him to expand upon it in a guest post. Take it away, Early Retirement Dude!

“Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift no heavy-ass weights.” — Professional bodybuilder and eight-time Mr. Olympia winner Ronnie Coleman

Remember when you first heard about the idea of financial independence/early retirement (FI/ER)? What was your reaction?

I retired when I was thirty-six, eleven years ago, but in real life when I meet someone new I don’t bring it up. Early on I might’ve, but I got too many negative reactions: “No way”…“Oh, I hate you”…and the worst: “I could never do that.” I finally realized I was chilling what could otherwise be good relationships, so I stopped talking about FI/ER with anyone other than family and a few close friends.

But having considered those reactions for a long time, I’ve come to believe that the average American worker is ill-conditioned to conceive of FI/ER as even existing, let alone being achievable. People’s parents don’t tell them about it and schools for damn sure don’t teach it to students…so people default to the traditional middle-class mental roadmap: graduating, getting a job, forming a family, and planning to retire comparatively late in life. It’s what everybody does, right?

You gotta toss that roadmap, my friend. Set the bugger on fire and flush the ashes.

Hence my initial question: what was your reaction when you first heard of FI/ER? Was it “I could do that?” I’m guessing it wasn’t, or at least not initially.

So what kept you interested?

Maybe it was this: you recognized that you were on the cusp of a life-changing moment.


I want to share with you my most life-changing moment, at least in the pursuit of FI/ER. If it hadn’t been for one hour, a mere sixty minutes, I truly believe I’d still be corporate.

When I was twenty-six I worked in marketing in a public utility, and I applied and interviewed for a new and fun job that carried a pay raise from $ to $$. But the two hiring managers turned me down. So I called them and asked if we could meet for a feedback session. I wanted to know why they blackballed me; what they thought I could work and improve so as to make the cut during the next round of hiring.

An hour of straight talk ensued, a lot of it personal. And honestly, they were right: I’d screwed a lot of stuff up. I had the reputation of being a prima donna, a lousy team player, and a know-it-all. I rubbed people the wrong way by trying to be smarter than everybody else and twice as funny. (Probably still character issues, but set that aside for now.)

Their feedback was tough to hear and even tougher to accept. But I WANTED that job. Besides being new and fun, I’d become convinced it was my best shot at FI/ER.

So for the next six months I set about becoming their ideal candidate. On my own time I studied the knowledge and skills required by the job. I periodically discussed my progress with the hiring managers and networked to other influential people in the company. And I tried to rebuild my reputation.

I finally got hired. I worked in that group for a year before getting the chance to jump over to a new employer in the private sector. [FOOTNOTE BELOW] My salary went from $$ to $$$ and then to $$$$, eventually enabling me to become financially independent and retire.

Like I said, I’m convinced I'd still be working if I hadn't asked for that meeting with those two decision-makers. Holy shit, was that a life-changing moment. But was it solely my doing? Can I take full credit for lifting that heavy-ass weight?

Of COURSE not. I had a great mentor at the time, and for the life of me I can't remember if asking for feedback was his suggestion, but it sounds exactly like the kind of thing he’d have advised me to do. And there were other people who were generous with their time and advice. Even one guy was such a jerk that he motivated me to haul ass in the opposite direction. And the candor of those two hiring managers…wow.

You shouldn’t just wait on these life-changing moments to come along…you should actively be working to create them. Sometimes that requires changing your thinking from, “I could never do that,” to “With some help, I probably could.”


Which brings me back to the second paragraph of this post, where I said, “I could never do that,” is the worst reaction possible to the concept of FI/ER.

Like I said, even hearing about the FI/ER concept, and especially its achievability, is a moment you can build a whole new life from.

Let’s say you research FI/ER for a while, realize that maybe instead of retiring in your mid-thirties, your mid-fifties are more realistic…or say you shoot for FI/ER for a while, get burned out on it, and think you'll never get there…are you going to give up? Or figure out ways to use those obstacles to keep going?

Think about it: every day in your life is made up of life-changing moments. Which, yeah, is simple-minded advice. Motivational poster crap. But look, take it seriously nonetheless. Becoming financially independent and retiring early requires a shit-ton of time and commitment.

And I think that’s ultimately the reason people tell themselves, “I could never do that.” It’s not that they don’t WANT to get out of the workforce, or lack the brainpower to understand the tools…it’s “lifting heavy-ass weights” for the years and years and years necessary that’s impossible to internalize. So another life-changing moment gets wadded up and tossed away…which is a friggety shame.

Don’t sell yourself short, man. Make that moment happen.

[HERE'S THAT FOOTNOTE:] I maintain that being a good team player doesn’t necessarily mean unquestioning loyalty to your current employer. Keep in mind that your employer wouldn’t hesitate for three seconds to cut you loose if doing so would increase the bottom line. Granted that your personal value equation is likely more complicated than mere salary, but all else being equal, why would you ever hesitate to follow the money?

Sick of your job? After a thirteen-year career, Early Retirement Dude fled corporate America for good. You can do it too! Visit his blog at Early Retirement Dude or email
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