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Fiery Millennials by Gwen [fiery Millennials] - 1w ago

Recently, I had the pleasure of being featured in a MarketWatch article. My views on the blog exploded and so did many of the readers’ heads.

“She’s 27 and retiring with $200k in assets, most of those locked away in tax-advantaged accounts? Yeah, good luck with that. She’s not going to make it a year.”

That seems to be the common refrain from the comments in both the MarketWatch article and Yahoo! Finance version. (I left out the ones that talked about my relationship with my boyfriend because those are just rude.) Even @WuTangFinancial chimed in on the article which I guess makes me a Real Blogger now!

I wanted to address some things I saw mentioned repeatedly. I might be wasting my breath, but I want to say an attempt was made.

“$200k Isn’t Enough!”

They are totally right. If I were actually leaving work to retire, I’d have far more than $200k and $15k in cash. I’d be more like Tanja at Our Next Life with tons of cash to hold me through any downturns (like the correction we’re experiencing now).

However, I’m not leaving work to hang up a hammock in which I will laze by the sea with a Mai Tai in hand and play lots of golf. I don’t even know how to play golf but I wouldn’t say no to the hammock and fruity cocktail.

I am leaving W2 work to work for myself. I will be working my butt off on any number of hustles: stained glass, this blog, my podcast, freelance writing gigs, speaking gigs.….… the list is endless. I’m limited only by my creativity, drive, and time.

“She Had Help!”

They’re also kind of right, but also incredibly wrong. The kind of help they’re referring to was monetary help from my family to get through college and life after that. I only wish that had been the case, because that’s a lot easier than what I actually did to get through college debt free.

Instead, I hustled my way through high school and ended up with a full-ride scholarship for academics to the local state school. I didn’t know that was going to happen though, so I signed up with the Air National Guard and had them on standby to pay for school if my scholarship fell through. If you’d like to learn more about that time in my life, I wrote a couple of posts with all the great details.

I had other help, though. I had some amazing bloggers to look up to who inspired me to go down the crazy path of financial independence. I literally would not be in this position without them. You can find all the bloggers I recommend here.

“Good for Her, I Guess, If She Wants to Live a Deprived Life”

I don’t think my life is missing much of anything. I live a simple and modest life compared to the average American, but I am by no means suffering or depriving myself. I eat good food at home. I occasionally go out to eat. My boyfriend and I go on fun dates. Heck, we spend money on gas to see each other! I own a house. My car runs well and is paid off in full. I travel domestically frequently, and internationally once a year. I bought a purebred cat.

Me, on a trip to London to see the Harry Potter play

I’m pretty sure most of those things are things that Jacob Lund Fisker from Early Retirement Extreme would not do. I cannot live like that. I think about the future a lot more than most 27 year olds, but I don’t forget to enjoy the now.

To me, there’s no point in early retirement if you don’t have anything to do or anyone to do things with. That sounds intensely lonely and as an incredibly social person, I’m willing to delay my path to financial freedom slightly to have a richer experience of life. I know it doesn’t sound like it to the people reading the posts on Market Watch and Yahoo Finance, but it’s true!

“She Can’t Afford ______”

It’s not that I can’t afford whatever it is they think I need, it’s that I don’t see the need to buy it. Like my car. It’s a 2005 Pontiac Vibe with 172,000 miles on it. They think I drive this old high mileage car because I can’t afford it. In reality, I could buy a nice used car in cash today.

But here’s the thing. I don’t want to. I think my money is better served being invested for the future, or being saved up to live off of, rather than being tied up in a rapidly depreciating ‘asset’. I’m not even sure I want a new car, as soon I will be moving to a beautiful city with miles of bike lanes and an excellent public transportation system. I hope to not need a car at all.

I’ve also had people accuse me of being cheap, like that’s the WORST name they could call someone. I guess to them, it would be the worst label. I’m actually kind of proud of my level of frugality (which I don’t consider to be terribly extreme). Instead of buying a car windshield cover, I covered my windshield with a $.97 PVC clear shower curtain from Walmart. It worked perfectly this last week when we got over a foot of snow and I didn’t have to pay an extra $24 for it. It’s little things like this that add up into a big difference!

Jump to This Conclusion

At the end of the day, I started this blog to showcase my journey to FIRE. I’m so glad I did, as I can look back on the last few years and see how my life and opinions have changed. For example, it’s become apparent to me with the switch to side hustles and the entrepreneurial lifestyle, that I will never retire early. In fact, I might not retire at all.

Instead, I’ll be living a financially independent life, free to do what I want and work on things that interest me. That’s a pretty radical departure from my 24 year old self that started this blog determined to save up a bunch of money and retire at 35!

If not being beholden to anyone sounds like the kind of life for you, stick around! I’d love to have company!

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Fiery Millennials by Gwen [fiery Millennials] - 1w ago

As some of you may know (if you follow me on Twitter or Instagram), I made an offer on a second rental property and it was accepted! Those waffles were laced with the sweet, sweet taste of victory.

Congratulations on your 2nd property @FieryMillennial it’s okay to celebrate with a somewhat expensive breakfast! pic.twitter.com/h2fMnWQZxK

— ErikMastermindWithin (@MastermindWithi) January 27, 2018

As for the timing, I realized if I wanted to buy another rental property easily, I’d better do so while I have still W-2 income coming in.

  • Stats: Duplex
    • Unit #1: 2 bedroom, 1 bath
    • Unit #2: 2 bedroom, 1 bath
  • Size: 2,062 square feet
  • Style: Conversion
  • Condition: Better than average?
  • Built: 1910
  • Purchase Price: $69,000
  • Repairs: est. $12,500
  • “Total” Acquisition Cost: $81,500

What does that gross?

  • Rental Income:
    Unit #1: $675
    Unit #2: $500
  • Does it Meet the One Percent Rule? In spades!
  • Total borrowed— $51,750
    • Mortgage: $51,750
  • Down payment: $17,250 (25%)
  • Mortgage: $392 per month
  • Taxes: $122 per month ($1460/year)
  • Insurance: $83 per month ($1000/year)
  • Vacancy: $90 per month ($1081/year) at 92 percent occupancy, $1175/mo rent
  • Management: $117 per month ($1,320/year) at 10 percent fee, $1175/mo rent
  • Repairs/Maintenance: $100 per month ($1200/year) because it’s an old house that needs some TLC
  • Total Expenses: $904 per month

Cash Flow: $271 per month, or $3,252 per year

Cap Rate$3,252 / $81,500 = 4 percent

Acquisition

My requirements for a property were:

  • met the 1% rule
  • good shape
  • no pool or other time/resource intensive landscaping
  • low maintenance exterior

I checked the crime stats in the area. Given that it’s the far end of my neighborhood, I already had a rough idea of what’d they would look like. This property is on the better end, so the stats look better for this location!

Condition

The house is in almost immaculate condition upon first glance. The walls are still plaster with nary a crack in sight. The floors are beautiful original quarter sawn oak. Whoever split the house into a duplex did a really great job at not ruining the original layout of the house, so if a miracle happens and property prices shoot up, I could convert it back to a single family house. Until then, it’s more useful as a rental.

The outside of the house is in good shape. The siding is being billed as “maintenance free” aluminum siding, so I’m really looking forward to not having to worry about painting a wooden exterior. The roof is old. It’s in good shape, but best we can tell it was last replaced in 1994. No big deal when the roof is almost as old as me, right?

Challenges

This experience of buying a property has been fairly routine, with a few minor differences. I’m not buying this property to live in, so I don’t have to care about finding a property with an open unit. Since I’m not living there, I can’t use a VA loan which means I have to go the conventional route. Since I’m not living there, that means any loan I get will be pretty ridiculous. Add in the fact I’m being responsible and not taking out much money (see also: under $100k) means this whole finding someone to give me a mortgage thing has been more difficult than I thought it would be.

I got offered the following loans:

  • 30 year, 25% down, 5.271% APR
  • 5 or 3 year balloon mortgage, 20 year amortization, 3.99%
  • 15 year mortgage, 25% down, 4.375% rate

I wanted a 15 year loan to knock out the mortgage as quickly as possible, but I had to call 8 different lending institutions before I found someone who could give me one. A few said I couldn’t get one because we’d be running afoul of predatory lending laws. A 4% ROI isn’t the best, but it’s a 15 yr mortgage so I would be paying double ish what I would be with a 30 year loan.

Inspection

The list price was $79,900. I offered $79,000 with them covering closing costs and an inspection. This meant I ended up with a $2,500 credit and a chance to inspect the house for flaws. Let me tell you what, that $350 I spent on the inspector is the best money I’ve spent in years.

Because of inspection I had done, I’m walking away from the property.

record screech

WHAT??

Well, as immaculate as the property looked during an open house, a closer inspection revealed a LOT of things going wrong. The current owner, as far as I can tell, is an older gentleman who no longer has the time or energy to keep up with an investment property. There is a lot of deferred maintenance that’s piled up.

In no particular order the house needed the following work done:

  • New roof within 2 years: It was last done in 1994. It passed inspection, but barely.
  • New furnace: That bad boy has been around 30–40 years at least. It’s in good condition, but efficiency wasn’t a concern when it rolled off the line. A new furnace would cut down on utilities (that I would have to pay).
  • Main water line dripping into the basement.
  • Some electrical repairs (bad sockets and things not turning on)
  • Probably some foundation work: the inspector couldn’t tell if the dirt slide was new or not, but the fact it happened had him concerned and would need a look from a foundation guy.
  • New gutters
  • Bathroom repair/reno: the upstairs bathroom is leaking.… directly into the bathroom downstairs. Both bathrooms are ugly and who knows what you’d find once you get into everything. I could see that turning into a total gut job.
  • Stair banister loose and spindles needing replaced
  • Some light regrading outside the house to further direct water away from the foundation
  • New doorbell

Now, some of those things aren’t a big deal. Some of them are a very big deal. Added all together, though, and I could easily spend the entire cost of the house on renovations. This is not what I need right now with quitting my job and striking out on my own.

The financing was also more than I expected. Just the down payment was going to be about $23k! That is a massive chunk of change. I have it, or will have it by the end of March, but that is almost ALL my cash on hand. I would feel incredibly stressed and uncomfortable starting my solopreneur life with little cash in the bank. Then add in all those repairs? And all the things that need to be done with my first property?

No, thank you.

Watch out for sunk cost fallacy

“Well, I’ve already put down $500 in earnest money and $350 in inspection fee. It’s too late to back out now.”

NO. STOP. DANGER WILL ROBINSON.

That $500 earnest money can be gotten back. I’m waiting to hear back from the seller with regards to my revised offer. If he doesn’t want to fix one thing, I can and will be walking away- with that $500 in my pocket.

Even if the seller did accept my revised offer and fix all of my demands (highly unlikely), I’d still walk away. $500 is a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of life. You know what’s a much bigger deal? Writing a check for $22k and then being on the hook for tons of repairs.

I’m not about that life.

Shout out space:

Thank you SO MUCH to the following people for all the encouragement, inspiration, and practical advice. I literally could not have done it without these amazing folks behind me. I highly recommend reading all of their stuff on real estate, as this is everything I used to find and buy my property. (and BiggerPockets. Can’t forget them!)

Paula Pant @ Afford Anything: My OG Real Estate inspiration
Chad Carson @ Coach Carson: Super useful posts on RE from a guy who owns tons of rentals and a super nice guy to boot.
GuyonFire @ GuyOnFire: A supportive and constructive voice to listen to when navigating the murky waters of rental purchases.
J @ Millennial Boss: for being my awesome co-host and a steadying influence in my life
Erik @ Mastermind Within: for walking through the gnarly house and being a sounding board for ideas!

Thanks for reading! Have you walked away from a big deal? How’d it work out for you? Any desire to get into real estate?

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Fiery Millennials by Gwen [fiery Millennials] - 1M ago

I DID IT!

My net worth shot past $200k like busy New Yorkers hustling to work.

You might remember my post about hitting $100k. If not, take a quick second, pop over there, and refresh your memory.

So…. how did I do it? I don’t make 6 figures, I didn’t get an inheritance, and I’m a SINK household.

My first $100k, as I established in the post, was pretty much 100% savings. Ok fine, it was 86% savings.

This second $100k looks completely different than the first $100k. Yes, I still saved but there were other forces in play helping me along. It’s the financial equivalent of the car in California being picked up and carried along by a wash of muddy water.

My allocations at $200k are as follows:

  • 401(k): $126k
  • Real Estate: $85k
  • Roth: $28k
  • Cash: $15k
  • HSA: $9.7k
  • Pension: $9,6k
  • Taxable: $6k
  • Car: $4k

It’s definitely interesting to look back at the chart in my $100k post to see how my allocations have changed. At $100k, I basically had a few investment accounts and some cash. Now, I have those same retirement accounts, but I also have a pension and real estate investments. In fact, adding real estate to my portfolio super charged my growth! There was no real estate in my portfolio 18 months ago and now it’s 30% of my holdings! I’m very excited to see where real estate takes me in the next 18 months!

Save, Save, Save

Saving lots of money contributed to most of my net worth growth. I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if I hadn’t furiously shoveled money into as many accounts as was legal. Investment gains and real estate are awesome, but you can’t get those prizes until you unlock the savings levels. I saved over $30k in that 18 months!

Invest Like a Snazzy Alligator Detective

The second biggest category was investment gains. Yes, the market is on a tear and going bananas. Yes, I know 20% gains in one year are not the norm and I can’t count on them every year. It’s like one of those informercials on TV. “Look at my gains! You can do it too!*

*(Results not typical)

But there’s something really, really cool at looking at your accounts and seeing the market put in a whole extra years’ worth of contributions into my 401(k) in 2017. That’s right, the gains on my 401(k) were $18,500! That is “free” money! I say free, because I know it’s growth and can go away if the market enters a downturn, which is incidentally something I do think will happen here soon. I’m not going to go out and buy cryptocurrencies or precious metals like some people I know, but I want to acknowledge I know that money isn’t mine unless I lock in those gains.

Increase Your Income

My income went from $65k to a shade over $100k in 4 years. A good chunk of that came from raises, promotions and bonuses at my W2 job. However, over the last year or so I’ve started to diversify my income streams and make more outside of work. I started a few side hustles and bought a rental property. It is a LOT easier to put money away when you don’t need it every penny for living expenses.
When I started out at $65k, I felt the pinch of maxing out just my 401(k). I had a hard time imagining how I would be able to max out my 401(k), Roth IRA and HSA in one year. Now, here I am 3 years later doing just that. Which leads me to my next point.

Avoiding Lifestyle inflation

Inflating your lifestyle is stupid easy. It’s easier to throw money at things to make problems or stresses go away. New car? You deserve it after all that hard work. Lunch out every day at work? It’s networking with your coworkers. Dinners out all the time? Of course, who wants to cook after a long day at work?? New clothes all the time? Gotta look good. Vacations to Caribbean resorts? You betcha!

What’s difficult is keeping that inflation at bay. It requires more effort for just about everything. Cooking at home, taking your lunches to work, maybe riding your bike to work, keeping your old car, resisting the urge to go shopping for new stuff…. It’s hard. I let my lifestyle inflate a bit when I moved for my second job. I didn’t really need that nice apartment so close to work. Thankfully, I learned my lesson and kept that particular dragon at bay when I moved 18 months after that. If I had upgraded everything in life, I wouldn’t have been able to save so much!

You can’t save money you’ve already spent.

Everyone says the first $100k is the hardest… looking at the timeline, I would have to agree!

Here is a breakdown of my timeline to $200k:

  • 4 months to save $15k
  • 10 months to go from $25k to $50k
  • 9 months to get to $75k
  • 8 months to get to $100k
  • 6 months to get to $125k
  • 4 months to get to $150k
  • 4 months to get to $175k
  • 4 months to get to $200k

Just a few comments here.

One, wow, the power of leverage. For $5k, I put some money down on a house and immediately started getting an extra $1,200 a month! I’m not sure what other kind of investment I could make that would give me that kind of return. Legal investments, anyways!

Two, things kind of plateaued there from $150–200k due to the rental property and the fixings I was doing on it. I undeniably spent more money than necessary, but hey, I learned lots of lessons. No ragrets. Not even one letter. I hope to turn those lessons into better experiences with real estate going forward!

Final Thoughts

I didn’t do anything revolutionary to get this $200k. I didn’t buy in on the bottom floor of a cryptocurrency. I didn’t get a crazy big inheritance. I don’t earn 6 figures. All I did was live well below my means, save a bunch, invest it, and try to increase my income as much as possible. You can do it too!

What are some of your goals? Do you associate certain ages with milestones? Let me know in the comments!

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Fiery Millennials by Gwen [fiery Millennials] - 1M ago

What an amazing weekend! I don’t think I’ve seen the other side of midnight in a very long time, and yet this weekend I saw 1 am! Of course, as part of being on vacation I wasn’t waking up at 430 am like normal so it all balanced out.

What was I doing this weekend? I was at Camp FI SE in Florida, making new friends, laughing with old friends, playing board games, eating snacks (ok, there was a lot of that happening), and having a few tasty beverages. Oh, and I guess we talked about finances and stuff in there too. Once or twice.

The Good Old Days

If you’ve ever been on a vacation or fun retreat like Camp FI, you know the feeling. The one where halfway through, you step back and think to yourself, I am having SO MUCH FUN and I never want it to end!! But then, you remember it has to end, as all good things do, and you get a bit melancholic and it kinda ruins the rest of the time you’re away from the real world.

It definitely happened to me. I looked around, surrounded by happy people chatting away about Roth IRA conversions, thru hikes, and real estate horror stories, and got a bit sad. I didn’t want it to end. I’m sure there’s a German word out there that describes the feeling. If not, I’m going to need my German speakers to come up with one!

The song by Kesha ft Macklemore pretty much sums up my entire thoughts on the matter. Give it a listen.… it’s so good!

Take a minute or five each day to step back and appreciate how good things are going. These kinds of events are always something I look back on fondly and I’m glad I stored up the memories for the future.

From Consumer to Producer

This shift has become more clear to me over the last year or so. It’s very rare anymore I go to meetups and introduce myself. Most people know me, and they know my story. I’ve gone from being the attendee to the speaker. This was first made clear to me at FinCon 2017, where I was invited to be on a panel. Being a speaker meant I had an obligation to go to the Pro Mixer.

“Sweet” I thought to myself, “I can mingle with the Pros!”

I got to the event and looked around. There were no Pros. I was the Pro. I was there so people could talk to me.

Talk about a huge difference!

I was also invited to give a presentation last weekend. I had a blast getting to share my knowledge with everyone there! My friend Noah and I gave a talk on some things to think about to prepare for a mini-retirement. It was very well received and I walked away from the talk with more speaking experience under my belt. Helpful, since that is one of my goals for 2018.

JD and I laughing about somthing

Another special part of Camp FI SE was getting to take part in a round table hosted by Jonathan of ChooseFi fame. It was truly an honor to be sitting behind the table with people I look up to and respect. Someone commented there was nothing that could be asked that we couldn’t answer. We discussed how the older two panelists felt about the younglings finding this stuff early, the benefits of finding FIRE early, and some other miscellaneous but related topics. I really hope it gets released for everyone to hear!

The fact we were all wearing coordinating t-shirts made me laugh. (Sidenote: the ChooseFI t-shirt is so comfy!!)

Once again, Camp FI SE saw the birth of a bouncing new baby blog. Last year it was Joel from FI 180. This year it’s a blog called mynextmoneymove.com by Christine. Her new blog will focus on bringing FI to those in the 15% or lower tax brackets. And not like, I optimized my income to get low.… more like they just don’t earn tons of money. Even my site got a facelift! (Tell me what you think about the design in the comments!)

Good luck, Christine! Congratulations, Joel!

Next Level Fun Stuff

Since we were staying on a camp, there were plenty of fun activities to do! We played cards, board games, hung out at the fire, played kickball, went on a team building course, did some archery, and took long walks around the property. I’ve included some pictures below of all the fun times we had.

Click to view slideshow. What’s Next?

I’m going to be honest. I am burnt out af. Before I left for this trip, I was really struggling. I live in a small apartment surrounded by too much stuff. I miss my boyfriend. Work is sucking every bit of life out of me they can before I leave. The podcast takes time. I have so much to write here on the blog. I have side hustles to start. The house requires attention.

I’m still kinda struggling but not so bad now that I’ve returned. Why you ask?

At Camp FI I was with people who get it. They understand. They don’t judge. They lift everyone up and encourage those who are struggling.

(psst.… that’s me. Just in case you missed it earlier.)

So many people said nice things to me at Camp FI that I can’t quit. I got reminded I’m making a difference in people’s lives by writing. Sometimes I forget and things related to producing FIRE related content seem like chores.

I’m not quitting, but I will be dialing things back here a bit more than I had been. This is literally the only thing I can cut back on that won’t negatively harm a partner or other people. I quit in 10 weeks. I can grit my teeth (not grind. I don’t want to go back to that level of stressed.) and bear it. With better optimization strategies I will keep writing and making a difference!

I’m going to lay low for a while. No trips. The next event I have planned on my calendar is Camp FI: Midwest in August. I would love to do other FI related events, but right now I don’t have the mental bandwidth. If you email me, my response will probably be hella delayed. But please! Don’t stop writing them! I love each and every single one of them. Especially if they involve cat pictures, gifs, or videos.

Thanks for reading! Would you go to an event like this? What would like to see in an event like this?

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Fiery Millennials by Gwen [fiery Millennials] - 1M ago

I dubbed 2017 the Year of Caring and thought it worked well, so I decided to continue the theme into 2018!

2018 is my Year of Being.

So.… what does the Year of Being mean?

It means I’d like to do the following things:

Be Happy

I want to do more things that make me happy and less things that don’t make me happy. It sounds simplistic, but still something I want to work on. I’m a fairly happy person by nature so this one might be easier for me than for others. I have several books on happiness queued up to read including The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. If you’ve read something on happiness that’s made an impact on you, share it in the comments below!

Be Healthy

This is a multi-faceted goal. It means doing some things less (like eating processed foods laden with sugar) and doing others more (working out). My current environment is not conducive to doing either. I have started this by only buying healthy food at the store which is a good first step. Do you know how hard it is for me to turn down Christmas candy on sale for 60%??? But I resisted.

As for working out, I try to do body weight exercises as often as I can, but space and time are at a premium. Living in a very small studio means less floor space to be able to do things like pushups, sit ups and all the other ups. I also really can’t join a gym as I will be moving in 12 weeks. Therefore, I’m looking to start the bulk of this goal when I move. I’ve researched the nearby fitness options and was overwhelmed with choices. Ninja warrior gyms, yoga classes, and more. However, I discovered a place that has a pool. And in that pool are Master Swim times. It’s basically a swim team for adults. I swam from ages 8 to 18 and love it. The thing about swimming is it’s lonely and difficult to do yourself. Sure, there are places out there that will cobble together sets together for you, but it’s not the same as having someone else come up with them and supervise your time in the pool to ensure your strokes and such are optimal. It is only a mile or so away so I’ll be able to get additional exercise on the way to and from as I ride my bike.

This goal also encompasses less alcohol and caffeine and better sleeping patterns. I do my best work when I get a solid night of sleep so I will be looking to pin my schedule down to the best times.

Be Kind

I like to think I’m funny, but too often recently I’ve noticed my humor can come at the expense of others. Most of the time it’s in a teasing way, but there have been times where I’ve missed the mark and said something I later regretted. Hence, be kind. I want to support people, and lift them up. I don’t want to put down people or say unkind things. It requires watching what my brain is thinking and cutting it off before the ugly words make it out of my mouth. We’ll see how I do with this one.

Be Thoughtful

This kind of goes along with the previous goal, but it’s different. Too often I do things impulsively so I want to slow down in 2018 and put more deliberate thought into my life. Why am I doing ____? Why did I do ____? Where do I want to go in life? How can I get there? I want to plan a bit for the future so I can be more proactive with things instead of reacting to events.

Be Motivated

I really struggle with this one. I feel like I’m on the ground floor of life, just waiting for things to break and push me to higher ground. But things aren’t just going to happen my way. I need to work on things and improve to move up. Motivation is that thing deep down inside of you that makes you do things you wouldn’t otherwise. Crazy things like buy a rental property, start a blog and podcast, and want to retire early.

Sometimes I wear down and don’t want to do much of anything. It’s unfortunate because life doesn’t stop even when I want to. So in 2018 I will be working on my motivation levels. I want to move from the sloth end to the Elon Musk end of the spectrum.

Be Present

Too often I find myself tuning out and not being present with those in my physical surroundings. I especially want to be present when I’m spending time with loved ones. It’s hard to put the phone down and forget about what’s happening in the digital world, but it is necessary. I owe it to friends and family to not waste their time and focus on our time together. If you see me this year and I’ve got my phone in hand, call me out. I’ll probably need help!!

This wouldn’t be a financial blog if I didn’t include a few finance related goals too! Just in case you were worried.… I gotchu!

Break Even

This will be the first (of hopefully many) year of self employment for me. I’m going to have to hustle to build up a decent revenue stream. I plan on at least breaking even on my balance sheet. I like to spend money so I’m going to need to reign in that side of me and light a fire under my butt to bring in some cold hard cash.

Speaking Gigs

I want to start speaking to various groups and people about personal finances. Therefore, my goal this year is to email 10 different people about speaking opportunities. I already have 2 out there and will be working on a third shortly. Notice how this goal isn’t “Get 10 speaking gigs” because that’s something I don’t have much control over. Instead, I can email at least 10 people and try to get gigs that way. That way my goal isn’t tied to other people.… but just to me.

Get Editing Gigs

I would like to start some freelance work in 2018. I don’t necessarily want to write for people, but I would love to edit things for people. I really enjoy tweaking the writing of other people to make it the best it can be. I have a hard time reading finished works with typos and grammatical errors. Despite the fact I write more casually here on the blog, I do know how to write formal business pieces and consider it one of my strong suits.

So my goal for 2018 is to find and secure 5 long-term editing gigs for various clients. This will require more effort than the speaking gigs, but I have a feeling they’ll be more lucrative in the long run.

Conclusion

Notice how none of my goals are tied to the market or my net worth this year. With the uncertainty around my income and a market hitting routine record highs, I don’t want to set any goals around that. Instead, I set goals around things that are under my direct control.

If you would like to hear more about my goals in my own words and voice, LIVE!, my co-host and I did a special New Year’s Eve episode on Fire Drill Podcast in which we cover our individual goals for 2018 and goals for the podcast. Give it a listen below and if you like what you hear, subscribe to our podcast in your program of choice (iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, etc).

Thanks for reading! What are your goals for the year? What do you think about my goals?

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Fiery Millennials by Gwen [fiery Millennials] - 1M ago

2017 was probably one of my favorite years so far! It’s hard to believe it’s already over and done with. 2017 is one of the rare years I can remember where if someone offered to transport me back a year, I’d take it. It was that good to me. I dubbed 2017 the Year of Caring, and I think I did a pretty decent job at hitting the goals I set.

A brief overview

I started the year off right by going to Camp Mustache Southeast in January! I had a wonderful time meeting new friends, hanging out with old friends, and getting lots of good advice while I soaked up some much needed sunshine. I am incredibly stoked to go back this year!

February was a HUGE month for me as I started and ended the search for a new rental property! I think overall that one will work out even if I got off to a rather rocky start.…..

March was fun as I hit my 2 year blogiversary and closed on my rental property. I didn’t do much that month that didn’t involve one of those two things as blogging and closing/moving takes a ton of energy and effort.

April was a rough month for me as I adjusted to being a landlord/homeowner. I immediately had to buy some appliances and was overwhelmed with the realities of being responsible for my own place. You can read about it in this post. (So glad I’m not that stressed anymore!)

May and June were fun months spent outside and getting philosophical with topics on the blog!

July was the month full of ups and downs emotions-wise. I started dating my awesome boyfriend, took a trip to Vegas, fired my terrible contractor, kicked out my tenant, and took a fun camping trip.

August was a super great month as I got to know my boyfriend better and got a post featured on Rockstar Finance!

September was a light month on the blog for me (only 3 articles posted, shame on me!) but a big one in general. I lost my cat, took my first business trip and started my amazing new podcast with my friend J!

October was an insanely busy and fun month! I went back to Ecuador, came back inspired, turned 27, and had the best time ever at FinCon 2017.

November I celebrated 2 years with Project Fi and found a new tenant! It was a busy month with the holidays fast approaching.

December passed in the blink of an eye with the focus on spending quality time with my family, friends, and boyfriend’s family!

Goals

I set a lot of lofty goals last year. I did not accomplish all of them, but I am proud of what I did get done.

  1. February 2017 Whole30 month: Fail. I couldn’t devote that much time to thinking about the food I was eating with working and buying my rental. I think it would be a good idea still, but I’m not going to make it a goal for 2018.
  2. Run a 5k Summer 2017: Fail. I looked for 5k’s to run in my area, but none of them lined up with my schedule. Hard to run the Firecracker 5k over 4th of July if you’re in Las Vegas!
  3. See a chiropractor and get massages: Fail. I wrote that in a particularly stressful period in my life. I’m nowhere near that stressed anymore, so I don’t see the need to go. Especially since they cost money and I was barely breaking even most of the year.
  4. Take the stairs: Pass. I did fantastic at this until the summer when I hurt my knee playing softball. I still take the stairs more than I did in 2016, even if it’s not all the time, so I consider this a win.
Money, Me, and 2017

I’m sure most of you just skimmed over the links and the pretty pictures above, waiting for the real meat of the post. It’s cool, and I definitely can’t blame you because the NUMBERS ARE AWESOME. I’ll discuss income (pre-tax numbers), spending, and an all-encompassing look at net worth.

Income

My goal at the beginning of 2017 was to make $100,000. As my income from my W2 job isn’t quite there yet, I needed to add in some extra money from somewhere. Well, after searching every couch cushion, picking up pennies at Aldi, and outright asking people for money.…… I made my goal! I came in just over my goal at $101,262. The breakdown for income can be seen below:

W2: $92,493
Rental: $7,550
Misc: $1,219

Unlike most Americans, I look at having mo’ money as a good thing. Mo’ money don’t cause me no problems! This was a pretty standard pattern for income. Tax returns in the spring, mostly flat income over the rest of the year until BOOM, December and my bonus hit to send my income skyrocketing. Little wonder December has become my favorite month! This graph does vary from last year slightly in that the amount of income recorded was much higher thanks to my online and real estate ventures. I’m hoping to continue that path next year!

Spending

While I’m celebrating my income going up, I’m not doing the same for my spending. I wish it had gone down, but I overspent on the rental property and that tanked any chance I had at keeping my spending down. Fortunately I have tons of room to improve! I can tease good things out of my spending though. My personal spending went from ~$40k last year to $25k! That’s a drop of almost $15k. My personal spending dropped mostly due to not spending tons of money on housing as I spent the year living in my friend’s basement and a studio apartment in my rental. I’ve broken it down below so you can see how I’ve divvied things up:

Personal: $25,612
Rental: $25,526
Blog/Podcast: $3,238

Personal spending includes things like utilities, internet, food, travel, and entertainment while the rental category covers everything I’ve put into the house such as paint, brushes, filters, new appliances, and the other million and 3 things a house requires to keep standing. I split the mortgage into two categories: Rent went into personal spending which was the money I personally spent on housing. That is the rent at the beginning of the year and any money I put towards the mortgage when my renter didn’t cover the whole thing. The other went under the rental category and was the portion of the mortgage I didn’t pay and insurance and all that jazz.

Wonder when I bought the rental? ha my spending spiked in the summer and will hopefully be more consistent at a lower amount in 2018. Below I’ve contrasted 2016 and 2017 spending levels so you can see how much more I spent overall in 2017.

If I exclude “business expenses” like the rental and online endeavors, I definitely hit my goal to spend under $30k. However, I’m not sure I get to count that because all that money did come out of my pocket. What do you think? How should I document my 2017 spending? Sound off in the comments and let me know what you do!

Net Worth

My favorite part of the year! Tallying up my net worth! I set a goal at the beginning of 2017 to hit $200k by the end of the year. Well.… I failed. I came in at $199,696. If I round up, which I am allowed to do by every rule in math, I hit it!

This goes to show the folly of trying to hit a net worth goal. So much of that is dependent on the market. I am not going to bother setting a goal for 2018 for precisely that reason. I refuse to be sad I missed my goal because my net worth went up 56%! If that’s not something to celebrate, I don’t know what is. I’m giving myself 3 and a half pats on the back for a job well done. Below is (you guessed it) a chart of my net worth!

Summary

One last picture. These Sankey things seem to be all over the internet lately so I of course just had to make one like everyone else. A quick summary of my year in spending: picture form! (Side note: the numbers are slightly off because I made it before my last paycheck and am far too lazy to go make an entirely new picture. These thingies are fiddly!)

Overall, 2017 has been quite the amazing year. Thank you, dear reader, for reading my journey through the year and being here with me. It truly means a lot to me that people care about how I am doing. I love getting your emails, reading your stories, and getting to know you that little bit more.

Have a wonderful New Year!

Love,

 

Gwen

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Fiery Millennials by Gwen [fiery Millennials] - 2M ago

“LET’S GET READDDDDDDYYYYYYY TO RUMMMMMMMMBBBBBBBBBBBLLLLLLLLLLEEEEEEEEE”

Deafening cheers from the crowd fill the air as heavy bass is pumped into the room. Strobe lights flash. The anticipation is palpable.

All of the sudden, a concentrated beam of light appears on the announcer standing towards the front of the ring. All eyes focus on him as the cheers escalate to new heights.

“ARE YOU PREPARED.….….….. FOR A BATTLE ROYALE?!?”

More cheers from the darkened room.

“LET’S MEET.….. TONIGHT’S CONTESTANTS! FROM HOBOKEN NEW JERSEY, 6 FEET 2 INCHES TALL, WEIGHING IN AT 185 WE HAVE.….….….…… DAVE!!!!!”

A second spotlight joins the first, highlighting Dave’s rumpled brown hair and glinting off his horn rimmed glasses. He strolls casually to the corner nearest him and lifts a hand in acknowledgement to the crowd. A smile plays about the corner of his mouth.

“FOR OUR SECOND CONTESTANT, WE HAVE A NEWCOMER. FRESH FROM THE VALLEY, STANDING 5 FEET 8 INCHES TALL, WEIGHT UNKNOWN.….…. WELCOME ALEC!!”

The cheering dies off and a smattering of boos rain down on the stage as Alec makes his appearance on the stage opposite Dave. A penguin graces the front of his rumpled T-shirt. He’s noticeably more nervous than Dave. After all, he is the challenger to the reigning champion.

The announcer continues hyping up the crowd as he explains the night’s entertainment. Massive screens suddenly pop on in the back of the room.

“TONIGHT WE HAVE A NEW CHALLENGE AND A NEW CHALLENGER WITH IT. ALEC HAS LAID THE SMACKDOWN. HE CLAIMS” a pause as the crowd laughs and jeers, “HE CLAIMS HE CAN SET UP AND WRITE A FREELANCE ARTICLE ON HIS LINUX DESKTOP FASTER THAN DAVE ON HARDWARE OF HIS CHOICE!”

The screen on the left has Dave’s name. The screen on the right, Alec.

“GENTLEMEN.…… TAKE YOUR POSITIONS.….. ANNNNNNNNNNNNDDDDDDDD GO!”

A stopwatch starts.

Dave chooses a MacBook Pro. He lifts the lid and hits the power button. An Apple logo appears on the screen as it boots up.

Alec is pressing the power button on his desktop. Nothing is appearing on his screen. He fumbles under the table and takes the side of the tower off and hits the button again. A black screen with lines of white code fill his screen now as he starts rapidly typing in code.

Dave logs into his profile and selects Safari. The window shines bright against the darkened background as he begins to research the details for his article.

Alec has finally managed to get the login screen to appear and types in his details. His desktop pops up and he attempts to bring up the browser. It loads for a few seconds and then crashes repeatedly. He’s forced to go into the download manager and re-download the package and do several other updates.

Dave opens a new program. It’s a standalone writing app. The crowd cheers loudly at its appearance as Dave begins to type with smooth strokes. Alec looks noticeably strained now, his brow beaded with sweat. He has finally managed to get the browser up and start researching.

Dave types away.

Alec keeps researching.

Dave types away, seemingly unbothered by the crowd and the solid wall of noise they’re producing.

Alec opens a new tab to his WordPress site and begins to type frantically on his article.

Dave checks his grammar and spelling one last time, and satisfied with the result walks over to the front of the ring to press the big red buzzer. A loud air horn sounds as Alec slumps on the table, beaten.

The crowd chants “DAVE DAVE DAVE!”

He is.….…. THE OPTIMIZER.

Stranger than Fiction

Now, obviously this is an entirely fictional tale.

Or is it entirely fictional?

The setting and scenario are completely ridiculous, but the ease or difficulty of using various technologies is real. My very first computer purchased for myself was a 2009 MacBook Pro. The only time it didn’t work was when I did something to it — like trying to partition the drive without backing up the data first (yes it hurt and no, I wasn’t yet a CS student when I did that).

It served me faithfully until about 2015, when the hard drive failed. I put a new one in it, along with some upgraded RAM, but I couldn’t update to the newest OSx so it was basically an expensive door stop.

Obviously, I needed a replacement computer. I was tired of supporting the big tech companies so I went open source. I actually went whole hog and built myself a Linux desktop. Most of the time, it works well enough and I got an immense amount of satisfaction from proving to myself I could do it. I also saved myself a ton of money!

That being said.….. it’s not an optimal arrangement.

Travel

I travel fairly often. A desktop computer, although energy and cost efficient, is NOT conducive to travel. I mean, can you imagine me setting this thing up on my tray table in coach? HA! Not a chance. Fortunately, I’ve had a work laptop that can fill in the gaps when I’m not home, but that doesn’t sit right with me. I would hate to lose or damage my work computer on a personal vacation. Also, there are some things I can’t do with a work computer (forbidden) or won’t do on a work computer where it can be monitored by my employer (common sense). Nonetheless, I’ve managed since my MacBook died.

Open Source Limitations

Open source software is incredible. Many programs are a labor of love from volunteers. As such, they are free.… but definitely full of limitations. Sometimes open source programs just stop working. Sometimes they do what you need, but the UI is straight out of 1998 and distracting. And sometimes, there is no open source program for some software you need, leaving you high and dry.

Resisting the man

I resisted as long as I could. In the end, I gave in. I bought a new-to-me from a techie friend of mine who upgraded to a new laptop. (Said friend also handles IT stuff on this blog and is awesome. Happy to hand out a recommendation if anyone is looking for help!)

Say hello to my beautiful new laptop:

I am now the proud owner of a late model 2014 MacBook Pro! It’s been so long since I was on a MacBook that everything has changed. The App Store was barely a thing when I stopped using my Mac. I used it to play Angry Birds and that was about it. Now, it’s a robust service with a ton of different apps that are beautiful and functional.

Even better, my mic connects to the laptop and Skype works perfectly every. single. time, which means I’ve been producing higher quality podcasts for Fire Drill Podcast! No more sounding like I’m underwater! Woo!

There are also a number of apps I’ve found useful. They range from writing apps to a time tracking app to an app that dims everything but the top window to cut down on distractions to my personal favorite, an app dedicated solely to writing. I’ve been able to dial in and focus on writing without getting distracted by other things on the screen. I also have an app that blocks pretty much every fun major website on the Internet for a set amount of time (or set times during the day!), which is super useful for those with an Internet browsing problem. <— that’s me, by the way.

Not Just Technology

Now, optimizing my life hasn’t been limited to just technology. I’ve been on the lookout for other ways as well.

Tolls: I’ve got out of my way — literally — to avoid tolls, sometimes tacking on an extra hour or more to my travel time in a vain attempt to stop feeding the vampires in the booth. Was that really the best use of my time and money? After some reflection, I’ve decided it is not the best use. When it makes sense, I will be taking the toll roads in the future. My time has value. I only have so much time, whereas I can always earn more money. If paying $5 saves 30 minutes of driving, then the tolls will be worth paying.

Parking: I’ve tried to “hack” parking before by leaving my car with friends and catching an Uber to the airport instead. The last time I tried this, I ended up with 2 $50 Uber rides. I’m not sure I saved money in the long run. Ergo, the next time I flew I paid $125 to park my car at the close off-airport lot. It was fabulous. I got off the plane, collected my luggage, walked to my car, and drove off happily into the sunset. Speaking of luggage….

Checked baggage: I have checked bags on most of my flights in 2017. I have been flying carriers that don’t have bag fees (Southwest for the win), so it’s not really costing me money. However, I can bring liquids and other bigger items with me on trips that I can’t fit in a carryon. Being able to fly with a growler of beer to FinCon, for instance, was totally worth the hassle of having to collect my luggage.

(Pro-tip: If you plan an overnight layover on a trip, pack some clothes and toiletries in your carryon because your luggage will get an exclusive behind the scenes tour of the airport while you’re gallivanting about town.)

I also benefitted from being able to bring home extra stuff from trips. I scored most of my families’ Christmas presents in Ecuador this year and was happy I could bring them home without cramming everything into a book bag. This was also helpful at FinCon when I brought home 9 new wonderful t-shirts and other swag.

Finale

I’m always on the lookout for ways I can streamline my life and work smarter. I’ve hit some of the big stuff but I know there’s more to do. Let me know in the comments some of the ways you’ve optimized your life!

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