Hey there, I'm Joel! A few years ago a simple question changed my life: “How many years do you want to work?”
I thought I knew the answer. Most people retire in their 60s and 70s, while some people work really hard and finish in their late 50s. Anyone who retires earlier than that either inherited some serious money, or got wealthy launching a successful Silicon Valley startup, right?
Around her 30th birthday, my wife was in a serious car accident. She only had minor injuries, thankfully, but the car was totaled. After the ordeal we were shaken up, and had a heart to heart about how precious time is. We discussed our careers, and how they left us feeling unfulfilled. The thought of spending thirty more years in a cubicle every day deeply troubled us!
When we eventually discovered the Financial Independence community and read about people retiring after less than a decade of work, we were excited, but had some serious financial issues to resolve:
- A new home worth less than half its mortgage
- Six-figure annual expenses and lifestyle inflation
- Sizable wedding, travel, and new car expenses
- No investment knowledge whatsoever
Although daunting, we were determined to turn our finances around and learn as much as possible. We devoured the FI blogs. We read every book we could find on the subject. We trimmed our spending month by month and tracked our net worth as it grew. This helped form a mission statement for my blog: to document our journey, and help as many people as possible save up their own FU money, replace fear with flexibility, and avoid all the mistakes we've made in the past!
Our hard work paid off. Within five years of starting our journey, we reached financial independence! What does this mean in plain English? It means work is now optional, and we can spend our days doing whatever we want, no longer a slave to the 40+ hour workweek! We can spend more time with friends and family, working on health and fitness goals, or working on creative endeavors, with no pressure to turn a profit.
So who the hell am I to give you financial advice? Well, I could try to impress you with my numerous graduate degrees and M.B.A., but honestly, these credentials didn’t keep me from spending my money like a lunatic, so they won’t help you either. What I have to offer is experience and perspective. I’ve been poor, and I’ve been wealthy. I’ve been spendy, and I’ve been stingy.
The point is, no matter what financial mistakes you’ve made, I’ve probably made them too, or at least something similar. Through my posts, I’ll share with you details of my household’s finances from the past decade, the mistakes we’ve made, and how we fixed them. I’ll cover topics ranging from real estate and investing to expenses and my views on debt. Most posts will have at least one juicy example of how I did things exactly wrong, and then how I managed to turn things around. I am pretty passionate about this stuff, so stick around for some great new posts every few weeks.
How did we go from broke college kids to six-figure spenders, and how exactly were we able to turn things around? For that, you’ll need some backstory… on the next Financial 180.
Dive Right In!
New around here? Check out all our posts chronologically, or browse through the specific topics that interest you:
There's nothing else I can trim from my budget!
Are you sure? We found over $1,000 per month hidden in ours. Read our post 180 In Depth – Part 2 to see how we turned cutting back our expenses into a game.
I enjoy shopping and won't give that up!
You don't have to stop shopping… you just have to shop smarter! Tricks like the 72-hour rule and cart-free shopping help immensely. Read our post Monthly Savings: Shopping for ideas.
Food is expensive; there's just no way around it.
We thought so too… and then we cut our grocery bill in half. Knowing where to shop and what to buy is key. Read our post Monthly Savings: Food for the tricks we learned, like our $3 rule, and a breakdown of item costs across different stores.
You can make money quicker and easier with real estate!
Quicker? Maybe… easier? Well, before you dive into the real estate world, read about our six-figure losses and our ‘renter from hell' in our posts How Not To Buy A House and Adventures in Real Estate.
I Don't make as much money as you, so I have to work longer.
Surprisingly, the length of your required working career isn't determined by how much you make, but rather, how much you save. The more you flex your frugality muscles, the more you save, and your required number of working years reduces. Want to figure out how many years you have left? Read our posts How Long Will You Work? and Why You Can't Retire.
Investing is too complex for me to do on my own.
That's a popular misconception that makes a lot of money for the investment advising industry. Investing doesn't have to be any more complex than opening a bank account and choosing a fund. We walk through this in detail in Investing Can Be Simple.
I have the discipline to take on debt responsibly.
Debt is the Ying to compound interest Yang, a force that accelerates your money into the red. It's surprisingly easy to accumulate and surprisingly hard to get rid of once you're knee-deep. Read The Dark Side of Interest and You're a Hazard To Your Money for more on this.
What if I go too far and become a miserable cheapskate?
Being frugal is different than being cheap. It can actually be a good exercise to push your frugality to the extreme for a few months to test your limits, but there are natural boundaries you'll encounter that should stop you from going too far. For me, it was living with my in-laws, and the experience left me ready to jump out of my skin. Read about it here: Frugality vs. Sanity.
There's no way I can reduce my driving expenses.
This is a hot topic, but in the style of Mustachianism, I don't believe driving is a necessity. I believe driving is a LUXURY and we can all do more to trim this expense down. Read The Car Problem and FI is Hard for more ideas, including how we spent five years as a one car household.
But… I like my job!
Financial Independence doesn't require early retirement, and isn't an all or nothing concept; It's actually a smooth continuum of increased benefits along the savings journey. Some of our most popular posts, The Power of FU Money, The Milestones of FI, and Are We FI Yet, discuss this in detail!
Why would I put my money in a 401(k) I can't touch until I'm 60?
Contrary to popular belief, the money you put into tax-advantaged accounts is yours to access at any time, and there are numerous ways of doing so fee-free! Read Don't Fear the “Penalty”! to figure out how.
I'm too afraid of <healthcare, recessions, asteroids> to pursue FI.
The best way to face your fears is to better understand them. In Replacing Fear With Flexibility, we discuss these hot topics in great detail.
I'll never get my <significant other> onboard with FI; so why try?
You'd be surprised what people would be willing to try when they wrap their heads around the concept of never having to work for money again. Why not do a ‘trial run' to test the FI saving waters? Check out my Interview With ‘The Wife'! for how my wife and I deal with differing opinions on money.
If FI is so simple, why isn't everyone doing it?
FI may be simple, but it certainly isn't easy. It requires significant financial muscle and is guaranteed to push you out of your comfort zone. Read about how we tackled the ‘big three' expenses in FI is Hard.
Interested in starting your own Financial 180? You've come to the right place. The math is easy: create a gap between what you earn, and what you spend. If you can save half your income, your working career will only be around a decade long! Want to shorten it even more? Read on to see exactly what expenses the wife and I cut from month to month. Track your progress against the milestones of FI, and gradually build up your own savings snowball. Check out the books and links in our resources section and jump-start your journey to FI. The you ten years from now will be glad you did!