Welcome and thanks for reading this blog. I truly hope you find something of value here and can use this information to positively impact your life the way it has changed our life.
Why We Started Writing
I initially started writing all of this down as a guide book to give to my son when he’s old enough to start his journey to financial independence, hopefully earlier than I did. The idea was to have a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style book for him to follow as he progresses in life full of what to do with his money by someone he trusts.
I wanted him to have a guide not just full of what to do but also why those things make sense in the grand scheme of things. I wanted to write it all down to both organize my thoughts on the subject but also in case we weren’t around to provide it in person. As someone whose father died young, I wanted something that would still be available no matter the future.
I wanted him to be able to avoid the money mistakes we made, big or small, and jumpstart the process (something I wish I did) with an early start. I wanted to make sure he understood what real wealth is and what it is not similar to wisdom in “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” and “The Millionaire Next Door”. I hope he can avoid falling into the trap of consumerism and keeping up with the Jones’.
Aside from sharing my collected financial wisdom to my son, and readers by extension, I needed a place to share my story. The victories and failures are all valuable teaching moments that I feel compelled to share. I want to help people accomplish what we have accomplished or at least shift their life toward the path to doing so. Additionally, there have been a couple of financial situations we found ourselves in that were entirely avoidable if someone had just better informed us or we knew more.
There is one situation that still makes me mad to this day after discovering the true expense to our personal finances from someone we were supposed to trust. That one situation was something I desperately want to share with as many people as possible to prevent it from happening to anyone else and a strong motivating factor to start writing this all down.
I feel compelled to share those lessons here, even if it only prevents one other person from being taken advantage of the way we were financially. I figured if I was going to go through the trouble of writing all this down for just one person I should publish it in blog form in case others find it useful as well.
Background On The Authors
Let’s start with some quick background on the authors. We are in our thirties, work in wildly different industries from each other, and love to talk about money, Disney, and board games. We love spending our free time exploring the local community, vacationing at Walt Disney World, and traveling. We have dreams of traveling to as much of the world as we can and eventually having a tiny home to “summer in Europe” when we are financially independent, in some form of retirement, or at least have the freedom to “slow travel”.
As for our financial literacy, I have a degree in business management, an MBA, and graduate work in data science. I’m currently a Certified Financial Planning & Analysis Professional, certified Six Sigma Green Belt, and SQL expert. I’ve spent the last 15 years as some type of financial analyst in corporate finance building financial statements and analyzing budgets for someone else. Over the years, I built so many spreadsheets, simulations, and analyses that I felt are incredibly useful, and I wanted to share them with anyone who would listen. The problem is that I did not have an outlet to do so beyond word of mouth. I figured it was about time to turn that skillset inward and build out my financial life, track what I’m doing, and find a way to share my knowledge and experience with others.
When we got married we had decent jobs, two cars owned outright that we’d both been driving since high school, a room full of hand-me-down furniture, and a negative net worth (mostly from student loans). A relatively typical start for a young couple coming from middle class families. Since then we’ve shifted our career directions, bought a house, started a family, and saved our way into positive net worth through intentional living.
Our finances weren’t particularly bad when we started this journey, but we quickly realized it could be optimized with some simple tweaks to get to financial independence that much earlier without disrupting our lives. There will probably be later articles that go into the details of these changes so others can see if they would benefit from making these changes as well.
Our Path So Far
First, we reorganized our expenses and set up systems to track our budget. We weren’t heavy spenders, but it was good to get the spending down on paper and see where our money was going so that we could evaluate what was important and what could be adjusted whenever needed.
Second, we reorganized our investments to reduce the expense ratios as much as possible. We rebalanced our IRAs and 401k to emulate a 3-fund index based portfolio heavy on the total stock market fund. We also fired our financial advisor as we became more confident in handling the investments ourselves since we functionally buy-and-hold without a lot of intervention, and he was deceptively expensive. (A much longer discussion/rant on why we made this decision will come later.)
Third, we significantly increased our retirement savings rate. In the before times, I was contributing 5-6% to my 401k to get the maximum match eligible from the company, and she was saving the $6,000 max to an IRA which seemed like a lot and probably more than many people do. After evaluating our plan and budget, we slowly increased my contribution to 20% (after a promotion and raise to ease the financial shock of such a shift) and opened an IRA for me as well. Those two changes didn’t materially change our monthly budget in the long run, but they significantly shorten our timeline to financial independence.
Lastly, we started paying down our non-mortgage debt at an accelerated pace. Using the snowball method, we paid off her car loan, then her student loan, and finally my student loan many years ahead of schedule.
- Reach financial independence in the next 10 years
- Pay off our house in 5 years
- Fund a college savings account for our son
- Help others achieve financial independence through this blog
- Stay at or near our goal weights
- Run more half (or full) marathons
- Stay mentally sharp by keeping active
- Keep learning new things
- Spend time with our family
- Volunteer in our community
- Travel to more countries
- Europe – Norway, Germany, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Scotland…
- Asia – Japan, South Korea, China…
- Get to Platinum status on Disney Cruise Line
- Stay at every resort
- Eat at every restaurant
- Visit Tokyo Disneyland