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For a guy that’s beat the odds and made it to that fancy millionaire status, you’d think I’d know most – if not everything – when it comes to personal finance. But here’s something that’s probably not much of a shocker… I don’t. Not even close.
When I first started this blog in May of 2015, I thought I was so smart when it came to finances. Maybe not exactly a financial genius per se, but perhaps one smart cookie might be a better phrase?
However, the longer I’ve been on the path to FIRE, the more I realize that I don’t know it all. In fact, I’ve come to the revelation that I’m in the company of folks far smarter than me in a good portion of the personal finance world.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve made a lot of good financial decisions and helped guide our ship to over a million dollar net worth.
One example was that I got us started in the rental property game. We were a little nervous about going down this path when we first did it in 2003, but now we own a paid-off rental house as well as a duplex we bought in 2015. Both of these properties are now cash flowing nicely and provide us a nice hedge against stock market volatility.
I’ve also been the strong push behind us saving more and more. That’s led to a high personal savings rate of around 60% on only one income. It’s truly a good feeling to finally be able to max out my 401(k), Roth IRA, and HSA while still building up our savings.
Then there are the side hustles. I’m not afraid to try new ideas to see how they go. I’ve written and published a couple of technical books over the years (of which I can’t name or it would give away my identity).
And, of course, I started Route to Retire, which is finally gaining some traction and picking up speed in producing a little bit of income.
I sure DON’T know it all!
Here’s the thing – in October 2017, I went to FinCon and it was fantastic. However, it turned out to be eye-opening for me. I quickly realized I’m so far from being as smart as most of these folks out there that it makes me wonder how we’ve built (and continue to build) such a large nest egg.
I also follow A LOT of personal finance blogs (I currently have 129 in Feedly alone). I see some fantastic posts that come out of these blogs from people like:
- Sam at Financial Samurai
- Joe at Retire By 40
- Brandon at the Mad Fientist
- Big ERN at Early Retirement Now
- Keith at the Wealthy Accountant
These are just a few of the folks out there producing content that just amazes me. They do incredible research, have all those cool graphs, and report back with some astounding findings. I look at all of these and know that I’m not there with this stuff.
I consider myself to be a pretty intelligent guy, but I just don’t know all the ins and the outs in this particular arena that a lot of them do. Sometimes that frustrates me because I want to make sure I’m providing you, my readers, with useful information.
It’s Ok that I don’t know it all
Even though I don’t know it all, I look at the other side of the coin and realize a couple of things…
First of all, for the average person hoping to pursue FIRE (financial independence / retire early), you don’t really need all the complex formulas and ideas to get going.
Reaching FIRE really isn’t that complicated… earn more (if possible), spend less than you make, save more (a lot more!), invest your money in something easy to understand like broad-based index funds, let time and compound interest do its thing, and BOOM – reach financial independence.
Sure, there are nuances along the way, but if you’re just doing those things, you’ll find a way there regardless. Remember the book “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff . . . and It’s All Small Stuff“ by Richard Carlson? That same formula applies to personal finance. Keep it simple and don’t stress about the things that don’t really matter.
The second thing that helps me feel Ok about this is that we’re already doing it… we’ve figured out a path to FIRE and now have a net worth of over $1 million! That’s something I would never would thought I’d ever get to say. And sure, a million bucks ain’t what it used to be, but for a family like ours with a modest lifestyle, it’s a great position to be in.
We’ll be reaching FIRE at the end of 2019 and that’s despite the fact that some of the stuff I read out there from others can be over my head.
Considering that only 1% of Americans retire before age 50, we have to be doing something right. That surely doesn’t mean I have all the answers, but it does mean I’ve got to have some insights that others could use to reach FIRE as well.
Learning is the key
I’m sure that even the smartest experts in our community don’t know it all when it comes to personal finance (even though sometimes it seems like they do!). However, the thing that I’m sure they do is continue to educate themselves.
And that’s what I enjoy doing as well. I love money talk and the idea of FIRE, so I keep learning from those that are smarter in this area than I am. I constantly listen to financial podcasts, read financial books, and of course, follow personal finance blogs in the community… and then I share what I’ve learned with you.
For instance, I was blown away by the idea of “hacking” your HSA to use it almost as a tax-free savings account and so I shared my take on it with you.
Investing in rental properties is something I believe is a great asset to our portfolio, so I try to write about some of the important things I learn along the way.
I loved the idea of geoarbitrage and I’m excited about our plans to move to Panama. As I’m learning about how these costs will fit into our lives, I’m happy to share those details with you.
The idea of adhering strictly to the 4% rule makes me a little anxious, so I discussed my feelings on it in my “Is the 4% Rule Safe to Use in Retirement Planning?“ post.
So here’s what I’ve come to realize… no one knows everything there is to know in the personal finance realm. However, there are some folks out there who know so much it makes my head want to explode!
What I love though is that we all have great contributions and perspectives to share. Moreover, those contributions help each of us build our finances even stronger than they would from just a few voices.
I can’t always compete with those guys and gals on some of that extremely complicated stuff, but I don’t think I need to. I try to take you along with me on the journey of what I’m learning that I think may also be helpful for you. It might not always be the most complex information, but if it helps give you ideas on how to grow your finances then it makes what I’m doing well worth it.
This must truly be a shock to you that I don’t know it all when it comes to finance. How about you – are you a financial genius?
Thanks for reading!!