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Interview of Sorts with 1500 Days

First off a big thank you to 1500 Days for taking time out of his busy schedule to share a little about himself and deal with my crazy Interview of Sorts questions, I hope you all enjoy it.

Can you share a little bit about who you are, just pretend we had that weird introduction at a party and you are supposed to tell a perfect stranger who you are and what you do, except the difference is we care.

I’m a 41 year old family guy who writes software for a living. I have two daughters, ages 7 and 5. The older one is just like me while the younger one is just like my wife. Strange how that worked out.

In my free-time… Hold on a second, I have no free time. This is because I’m in the middle of rehabbing our home. Just this weekend, I put up a bunch of shower tile in 2 bathrooms. The whole house should be done in 6 months or so.

When I do actually have moments to spare, my favorite activity is enjoying the outdoors here in Colorado.

Oh, and I have my little blog (1500days.com). The core focus of the blog is early retirement (hopefully at 43), but it’s also my outlet. There is no shortage of things and people who annoy me and I enjoy writing about them.

UPDATE: I’m now 45. Ugggh. Time goes by fast. But, I have good news too.

  • I no longer work! In April of 2017, I exited the cube for good.
  • Also, my home is just about done. The remodel went way overboard, but the house looks great now.
  • Despite my retired status, I still have no time! In the past 13 months, I bought a trailer park, a coworking space, and traveled all over the world. On many days, I feel busier than when I had a full-time job.

This year, we’re trying to stay home and be calm. The FIRE community makes a big deal about experiences, but looking for happiness there is unfulfilling.

If you didn’t spend all your time blogging about money, Frugalsaurus, and early retirement what would you be doing?

Frugalsaurus, Me, Spendosaurus

I like to build stuff, I like to work with wood and also 1s and 0s (software for you non-geeks). I have a crazy treehouse planned for my children that I’ll build in the spring. I also have a long list of projects lined up after I retire. One is a murphy bed in our guest bedroom. Another project is a microbrewery app for my state of Colorado.

UPDATE: The treehouse is now done! So is the murphy bed. I also made my front yard all fancy. However, I’ve quit coding for now. Maybe I’ll pick it up again, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I never looked at another line of code.

Recently you hit the 1 million dollar mark in your investments, what did you do to get there, was it just saving your 9-5 paycheck or was it more than that?

The most important part is participating in 401ks. Between the wife and I, 401ks are about 50% of our portfolio. A 401k is a complete and total no brainer. Every time someone tells me that they don’t contribute to their 401k, I want to yell and scream. I control myself and limit my criticism to some mild passive-aggressiveness.

A bathroom I designed and built from the studs for a past flip

Before we had kids, we flipped houses and this was highly profitable. The US tax law has an amazing rule that states that if you live and own a home for 2 years, you don’t have to pay capital gains where you sell. On one of our flips, we made 100K. All. Tax. Free. The proceeds from the flips went into after-tax savings. Our little home flipping adventures have greatly contributed to our bottom line.

computer investment software

1500 Days and Even Steven Money both use Personal Capital, a free website and app, to track our investments.  It allows us to see everything in one place including our investment holdings, balances, performance, allocation, and sectors.  Personal Capital also allows us to see the big picture with our overall net worth and even do an investment checkup with a retirement planner and fee analyzer.  If you sign up using these links I may earn a commission from Personal Capital, that’s my transparency guarantee. 1500 Days will not earn a commission but I promise to buy him a beer next time I see him:)

While 1 million dollars sounds pretty good, I’ve made plenty of mistakes including not maxing out my 401k when the markets were tanking in the last recession. Another mistake was blowing $20,000 on a new Honda Element 11 years ago. Live and learn.

One final thing I want to say is that you don’t have to make doctor or lawyer money to build a large nest egg. While I’ve never divulged my income, I make far less than the Penny Planters (180-200K/year). It’s all about saving until it hurts when you’re young. Then, save a little more.

UPDATE: As of today (2/5/2019), our investment portfolio sits at $1,617,868. Our net worth which includes our house, cars, and dinosaurs, now stands at $2,132,868. Don’t sneeze at the power of compound interest. We have far more money than we’ll ever need. Life is good. It’s even better when you don’t have to worry about money.

I know a lot of us who are looking to retire early talk and practice being frugal, while here at Even Steven Money we put into practice many of the same frugal habits, is there any that you pay extra or care more about quality than price?

Yeah, absolutely. I buy good, quality tools for construction, no Harbor Freight for me.

I also like Apple products because they last forever. I’m typing this on my old Macbook that is over 7 years old. I drool over the MacBook Air, but it would be a silly purchase since this one works fine.

Finally, quality pizza and beer is a must. If I’m going to ingest crappy calories, they must taste good.

UPDATE: I still subscribe to most of the above. I did throw down some big coin to buy a Macbook Pro about 4 years ago, but now I’m more frugal than ever. I’ve since started keeping a budget and was horrified by how much money we spent some months, so we’re cutting back.

Blogs and Podcasts are relatively new, do you think this is something that will continue in the near future or can you take a look into your crystal ball of the future and see what’s next?

People have short attention spans and we are overwhelmed with information. Twenty years ago, the idea of Twitter would have sounded ridiculous. Now, it is a part of our daily lives. If you write a 2000 word blog post, it better be really, really good or folks are going to click elsewhere.

My best guess is that media in short form (whatever that is) will become more and more popular.

UPDATE: I was somewhat correct in that Instagram has taken off. Apparently, people don’t even have time to read.

If you were writing a book, what would it be called and who would you have narrate the audiobook?

I am writing a book. The working title is Money, Life and Little Plastic Dinosaurs. It still has a long, long way to go, so don’t hold your breath. The introduction totally kicks ass though. It came to me when I was standing in the valley of Yosemite National Park. Really, it will be great. Now, I just have to finish the rest of it.

As far as narrating the audiobook, my number one choice would be James Earl Jones. Can you imagine the voice of Darth Vader telling you about the Rule of 72? Second would be Christopher Walken. He is a quirky guy and I love his bizarre speech mannerisms. Third would be Paul Reubens in his Pee Wee Herman voice.

UPDATE: I’ve made zero progress on the book. I’ll probably get to it someday, but in the meantime, I’ve started another site about stuff that annoys me. More soon.

In this same book that we just decided you are writing, one of the chapters is called “The 3.5 Keys to Wealth that Mom and Pop Pop Didn’t Tell You”, what’s in this chapter?

  • Be very careful where you live: If you live around by Mr. and Mrs. Spendy Pants, you may get sucked into their consumer craziness. If you don’t conform, you may feel like an outcast. This very thing happened to us.
  • Work your ass off while you’re young: When I first started working at my real job, I put in 80 hours weeks for 6 months. I had no family, so it was easy to do. The right people noticed and I grew my salary aggressively. Now that I have a family, I am done with the crazy work weeks. However, I’ve been able to maintain my healthy income ever since.
  • Study computer science: I didn’t realize that I’d enjoy programming computers until I was 24. At the time, I was in pharmacy school and quit it to pursue software development. It was one of the top 3 decisions of my life. I love the work and there is incredible demand for it, so you’ll be paid well.
  • (3.5?) Use your brain: The mainstream media throws so much crap at us. This seems especially true with money. Most of it is fear mongering. The best thing you own is your brain. Question everything. Accept nothing without careful consideration.

UPDATE: I’ll add one more: Track. Your. Spending. I had no idea how much was going out until I started writing it all down. It may surprise you. I was spending a lot more than I would have guessed. I use the Waffles on Wednesday spending tracker. I like that I have to manually enter spending because it changes my spending habits.

Papers with financial software

What makes you want to retire early?

The world is beautiful. Catch it while you can.

There are so many things I want to see and do in this world and work just gets in the way. Take a look at any National Geographic magazine with the curiosity of a child. The world is huge, beautiful and spectacular. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit 39 states and a handful of foreign lands, but I’ve barely scratched the surface of our pretty blue sphere. I want to see and do as much as I can while my body is in good condition.

Besides that, I love to read. I love to build. I want to spend more time with my children. I want to exercise more.

Retiring will free up my life.

UPDATE: At this point in my life, time with the kids means the most. I’m so thankful that I get to walk them back and forth to school, volunteer for all activities and spend the summers with them.

After they leave the roost, I’ll use my liberated status to live in other parts of the world at a leisurely pace. This morning, it was -3 in my hometown. Portugal sounds a lot better.

What makes you think you can retire early?

The thought of early retirement actually terrifies me. I started working when I was 14 and have always had a job since. The thought of not working a regular job doesn’t sit well with me at all. However, this problem is with me and my money security issues.

I love numbers. Numbers are the truth. I know how much I spend per year, so I just apply the 4% rule to that.

UPDATE: I’m no longer terrified, although it took me a long time to get over my insecurity. The best part of having money is that it frees you from having to worry about money.

What’s the Awakening moment that sends you to retire and sit in the rocking chair whittling wood all day?

I want 1 million and no debt. Currently, I have about a million, but I also have a mortgage balance of $120,000. Since borrowing money is so cheap (3.25% in this case), there is no way I’m paying it off early. So, my compromise is to have enough money to cover the mortgage or $1,120,000.

UPDATE: I still have a mortgage, but my balance is now down to about $90,000. My mortgage rate is 3.25% and I feel I can do much better than that with my investments, so I keep my debt.

How important are your kids and wife in the decisions and effort you are taking to retire early?

They are very important. I earn all of the money and they spend it. Just kidding.

Really though, everyone has to be “in” on the goal. If I had a wife who demanded fancy cars or $1,000 purses, early retirement wouldn’t be so early. Plus, I’d probably go nuts and have to be locked up.

However, the family is on board. I found a used bike on Craigslist for our 7 year old. It was in spectacular condition, almost new. When I gave it her for her birthday, I cringed when she asked me if it was new or used. I told her it was used. To my relief, she said, “OK that’s fine.” She jumped on and went for a ride.

Mrs. 1500 is very thrifty as well. If she ever threatens with a suboptimal purchase. I tell her that maybe I’d be better off married to my plant that demands nothing more than water and a spot by the window. Mrs.1500 then usually threatens to “water” the plant with bleach or gasoline. The plant is still doing OK, so all is peaceful. For now.

UPDATE: The Mrs. and I went through some rough patches as a direct result of my early retirement, but we’re all good now and stronger than ever. If you want to find out who you really are, become financially independent.

When you first started blogging the idea was to share your story and hold yourself accountable, has there been anything that has surprised you along the way good or bad?

The best and most surprising part has been meeting some really great people through the blog. Some live near me and they have become friends. This Sunday, a bunch of us are going snowshoeing together up in the mountains.

When I’m on the road, I get to visit with other bloggers and readers. Recently, I was honored to meet none other than Even Steven at one of my favorite pizza places in the world.

WIthout exception (well there is one exception, but I won’t go there), everyone I’ve met through the blog has been spectacular. If I could design the world, you’d all live in my neighborhood. Except that one person.

UPDATE: My life has changed because I’ve blogged. I’m so thankful for all of the incredible people who I’ve crossed paths with.

What are you going to do on the first day you retire?

Mr. Money Mustache gave me the idea that I could retire early and for that I am grateful. He also happens to live near me. The first thing I’ll do is jump on my bike with a 6 pack of beer and leave it on his doorstep (I wake up very, very early and I suspect he may still be asleep).

After that, the wife and I will drop the kids off at school take a bike ride out into the mountains.

I’ll then do some reading and maybe take a nap, something I haven’t done in years.

After lunch, I’ll set to work on a project, maybe building a website I’ve been thinking about or tinkering in the garage a bit.

I’ll pick the kids up from school and then discuss their day with them.

After homework is done, we’ll have a celebratory pizza and beer.

I’ll end the day with one of our favorite activities, a family walk down by the river.

UPDATE: Now, I can tell you what I did. It was anticlimactic, but I wrote about it anyway. A week after I quit was much more interesting. I hosted a small gathering with folks in the FIRE community that I’ve met along the way, Life comes full circle sometimes and it is good.

While I’m familiar with you, please tell everyone where they can find you and if you have any projects or anything fun coming up that you want to share.

Since I’m in the middle of remodeling, upcoming posts will feature some of my work. I also want to inspire you to do some of these projects, so I’ll be providing lots of instructions and hints.

Also, I had to change jobs recently and this is going to result in some interesting financial choices which I’ll be writing about::

  • I have about $260,000 in my 401k. I’ll be telling you my plan for the rollover of the money.
  • In my new position, I had to establish a corporation and this is an adventure in itself. I have to buy my own health care, establish my own 401k and take care of a whole bunch of other fun stuff.

I hope to see you over at my blog, 1500days.com. Finally, a big “thank you” to Even Steven for sharing his little piece of Internet real estate with me today. I promise not to call you Stevie any more.

UPDATE: Ooops, I still call Even Steven “Stevie” sometimes.  

Want More of 1500 Days?!?!

Check out my interview with Mr. 1500, I promise you will laugh with us and maybe even at us.  Enjoy!

 

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