Journey to Early Retirement: Episode 3

Pit of Despair

Pit of Despair

When we last checked in with our young aspiring early retiree, he was buried under a mound of mortgage debt, out of cash, out of hope, and spending his evenings playing David Gray songs on the guitar while imbibing gin and tonics so he could sleep

Will he forever be locked in the pit of despair?  Will his employer cut him loose and the bank take the house?

Probably not, but no story is complete without a little drama


“Everybody take the $100 bill we asked you to bring out of your pocket and hold it up in the air”

1 thousand arms go up, bills waving about rhythmically

The past two hours had gone by in a blur, with audience dutifully completing the speaker’s carefully crafted sentences.  I felt like I might be at a Heaven’s Gate religious group cult meeting

But No… this was a get rich seminar, Open Your Millionaire Mind or some drivel like that

Volunteers were setting up tables at the front of the room with burning candles.

“OK, we are going to do an exercise.  When I give the command, form a line leading to the table at the end of your row and place your $100 bill into the flame.”

“WTF!”, I thought. I looked around and saw countless others doing the same.  The look of determination on some faces was disturbing

“OK, everybody get in line.”  People started to line up, a surprising number of them.  As the first made their way to the front, many of the undecided started to follow.  I put my $100 bill back in my wallet and sat down.

As the lines grew longer, the staff blew out the candles.  The lights came back on as the speaker said, “That’s it, the exercise is over.  Everybody return to your seats.  Take 5 minutes and think hard about your true feelings of this exercise, and write them down in your notebook.  What does it say about your relationship with money?”

I’m pretty sure what it means is, if you got in line to burn $100 you are probably a good candidate to sign up for a $4,000 “special training”

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Journey to Early Retirement: Episode 2

Let it Snow

Let it Snow (photo courtesy of Wikimedia)

When we last left our budding early retiree wannabe, he was just a few years out of college clawing out from under student loan, car, and mortgage debt.  Will he ever be able to recover from early financial missteps? Will he learn to use that brain for something besides remembering obscure Seinfeld and Fight Club quotes?

Let’s find out

The snow was coming down harder, 12 inches so far and no sign of stopping.

The storm had come in ahead of schedule, and my coworkers and I were stuck at the office.  News footage showed a never ending stream of cars stuck in ditches and horrific looking accidents

A friend had tried to leave earlier in the day and decided to turn around before even leaving the parking lot.  It looked like we might be stuck here awhile

By 9 pm the snow had slowed, a total of 18 inches dumped on the region.  Although the plows would continue to operate through the night, the main roadways were cleared and salted

Fueled by a late dinner of soda and vending machine snacks, I braved the drive home

My “normal” 30-40 minute drive took 90 minutes.  The snow plow had done a wonderful job cleaning off the street, by depositing 4 feet of hard packed ice at the end of my driveway.  3 hours of chipping and shoveling and freezing and swearing later, I finally broke through enough to get my car off the street

It was then and there that I swore I would never again live in a snowy climate.  Sadly, this was the only long lasting impression

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Clawing Out of Debt

I woke up around sunrise to find myself lying in the doorway, the door of my apartment wide open and my legs half way outside.  My neck was stiff and my back hurt

Some time later I glanced at my watch and jerked wide awake.  It was Friday and my last final exam was in less than an hour!  I shuffled into the bathroom for a quick shower, threw on some dirty clothes and tossed my suit over my shoulder as I rushed out the door

Big clumps of dirt and grass were sticking out of the grill and wheel wells of my car… and it all came rushing back.  I had finally finished my Senior Design project in the wee hours of the morning, but no amount of Mountain Dew and chocolate covered espresso beans could compete with 72 sleepless hours.  I had passed out driving home and gone in the ditch at 50+ MPH.  Apparently the adrenalin surge carried me only as far as my front door.  Fortunately nobody else was on the road at 4 am

I was young and fit, but working 20-30 hours a week, taking 18 Credits in an Engineering program, and spending another 20+ hours working in the lab would kill nearly anybody.

Over the next 72 hours I somehow got an A on my last final, presented my Senior Design project to the review board, attended the Graduation ceremony, loaded up the moving truck, drove it 100 miles to my new apartment, unloaded it, and made it to Day 1 of my first real job at 8 am on Monday morning.

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Chautauqua 2015. Una Fiesta Ecuatoriana

Beautiful Ecuador

Beautiful Ecuador (photo from Above the Clouds Retreats)

“You look like a 13-year old girl who has just been invited to Justin Bieber’s birthday party!” said my loving and supportive wife

It’s true, I did.  Fueled by the emotional equivalent of excessive cake, ice cream, and teenage hormones, I was running about excitedly and dancing around the room.  “This is going to be so much fun!”

“Think of all of the cool people that are going to be there!  Nobody talks about this stuff in the real world, but this time there will be a whole group of wealth and happiness minded people sharing and communing”

“And, wow!  The Captains of the personal finance world will be there.  Jim Collins! The Mad Fientist! Mr. Money Mustache! Paula Pant!  And happiness guru Cheryl Reed is going to weave it all together with her empowering talk about passion and happiness.  I’ve read their stuff for so long, it is going to be incredibly cool to meet them in person.  ”

“And all of this is going to happen in the foothills of the Andes Mountains of Ecuador, where all of our new friends will zipline through a Cloud Forest, tour a bean to bar chocolate factory, and share our abundance with the local community in a day of service.  With all of the great conversation,  presentations, and one-on-one sessions, this is truly going to be an epic week!”

My brain sputtered, nearly exploding in the process of taking it all in

When I recovered, I replied to Jim Collins’ email asking if I would be willing to speak at this year’s Chautauqua

“Why, yes.  I would.  And it would be an honor”

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The Go Curry Cracker 2014 Taxes, I did it again.  Another year of nearly $100k in investment income, but with a very budget friendly income tax bill of $0

The same as last year, income was primarily from index fund and individual stock dividends, interest from a seller-financed mortgage on a property we sold a few years ago, and interest from our cash reserves and a municipal bond fund.

This year’s tax situation was a little more complex, since I violated Rule #1: Choose Leisure over Labor.  The blog made a small income, so I learned a thing or two about self employment taxes in the process

Let’s go through our actual 2014 tax return, to see how we kept taxes low this year, and took action to minimize taxes in the future

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