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When It Comes to Personal Finance... I Don't Know It AllFor 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!

When It Comes to Personal Finance... I Don't Know It All - I sure DON'T know it all!
I imagine this is what some of the genius anonymous bloggers really look like.

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:

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.

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
This should be the motto of FIRE…

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.

When It Comes to Personal Finance... I Don't Know It All - Learning is the key
If you’re going to learn about finances, you might as well do it naked with a tie on!

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.

I’ve been digging further into the ways of accessing our 401(k) funds early so I wrote about my thoughts on the Roth IRA Conversion Ladder as well as Rule 72(t).

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!!

— Jim

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When It Comes to Personal Finance… I Don’t Know It All
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16 thoughts on “When It Comes to Personal Finance… I Don’t Know It All

  • February 6, 2018 at 7:38 am
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    So true Jim. No matter who you are or what is your background there is always something to learn.

    Reply
  • February 6, 2018 at 8:53 am
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    None of us know everything. The willingness to keep learning is what will set you apart!

    Reply
    • February 6, 2018 at 1:43 pm
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      I’m like a little kid with the giggles when I learn something that I realize will help us reap big benefits later!

      — Jim

      Reply
  • February 6, 2018 at 12:10 pm
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    Thanks for the mention! You’re absolutely right. Nobody knows everything. I learned so much from the personal finance community over the last 10 years. It’s the best part of being a blogger.
    You need to keep an open mind and keep learning new things. Personal finance blogs are great for that because they are not boring like a class. Most of us have interesting stories to share.

    Reply
    • February 6, 2018 at 1:48 pm
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      Great points, Joe – I’ve only been blogging for about 3 years now, but my financial knowledge has grown steadily since. I’m looking forward to continuing that education and guys like you tend to be great sources to start with!

      — Jim

      Reply
  • February 6, 2018 at 6:47 pm
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    You are definitely right about this one. I learn something new every week from the blogs and I can’t keep up with all of them. I wish I could say that mine was the definitive blog in personal finance, but that would never be the truth. I just try to keep up with you all.

    Reply
    • February 6, 2018 at 8:53 pm
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      The good news is that this is one great community of people out to help one another grow better and stronger. When it comes to team effort, the PF community is the place to be!

      — Jim

      Reply
  • February 7, 2018 at 11:14 am
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    Great post, Jim. It’s a fascinating topic. Reaching FIRE really is simple (tho not easy), as you point out. However, there’s so much detail that you can go as deep as you want to go.

    Blogging = Learning, since we’re forced to study a topic as we write about it. Keep doing what you’re doing, and someday you’ll be getting called out by another blogger as one of the “Experts” (just think, even the 5 experts you appropriately gave a Shout Out didn’t know anything when they started….)

    Reply
    • February 7, 2018 at 3:02 pm
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      Very true that some of the complexities can help expedite or optimize your path to FI and I definitely enjoy learning them.

      Now I just need to work my way toward expert blogger like my idol Fritz!

      — Jim

      Reply
  • February 12, 2018 at 6:42 am
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    Maybe you don’t know it all (I certainly don’t), but I come back here to read insightful and motivating articles on my favourite topic of finance and early retirement. Keep it up and we’ll keep learning together.

    Reply
  • February 12, 2018 at 1:53 pm
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    Hell Jim, I’m worth over $3m these days and I STILL don’t think I know a lot. But I do have a laser focus on the financial things I think are important, and I constantly keep learning.

    Keep at it Jim! We’ll meet up in Panama sometime!

    Reply
    • February 12, 2018 at 3:06 pm
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      That’s encouraging to hear, Mr. Tako, and it does sound like continuing to learn is the key to success.

      — Jim

      Reply
  • February 12, 2018 at 10:00 pm
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    Great post! How cool is it to be in a community where we constantly learn from one another and get excited by learning. And when someone knows more or even has more, we don’t begrudge them.

    Keep up the good work of spreading all that you DO know.

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    • February 13, 2018 at 9:43 am
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      Definitely a lot of great people with a lot of solid knowledge in the PF community. I love how we’re able to pickup great ideas and perspectives from everyone whether they’ve been around for a while or they’re new to the blogosphere.

      — Jim

      Reply

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