Being in Debt Does NOT Make You a Dumb*ss. Staying in Debt DOES!

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My ability to attain a relatively successful career meant that I probably wasn’t a flat out dumbass, regardless of what my wife might lead you to believe. My inability to manage personal finances, however, meant that I was undoubtedly ignorant in regards to the subject.

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I was the first male in my family to graduate from high school. Truth be told, I had a half-uncle who graduated high school about 6 years before me, but I’m choosing to ignore that to make for a better story.

Side Note: Yes I said my uncle graduated high school six years before me. My grandfather re-married very late in life and had a child with his new bride. Don’t ask, folks… it’s Smalltown, USA.

So like I said, I was the first male in my family to earn my high school diploma. My dad dropped out either his Sophomore or Junior year, and I’d be surprised if my grandpa made it much past the 8th grade. They were taught that school was for chumps, and the moment you had identified a career, schooling had served its purpose.

Yet both my father and his dad were incredibly bright. My dad still has an amazing knack for Marketing, even though I doubt he’d know that is what it’s actually called. He knows he’s good at “selling people stuff,” but could give two sh*ts about the terminology or psychology behind it. Both he and my grandfather started highly successful businesses, despite their lack of formal education, and both took chances that I to this day don’t have the courage to take.

So I didn’t have a lot to live up to in terms of expectations. If I had dropped out of high school early, I’m sure my parents would have been slightly disappointed, but it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.

While my older sister blazed through both high school and college earning a 4.0 degree at both along the way (along with things like Class Valedictorian, President’s lists, scholarships, and the like) I maintained a rock solid 2.5 GPA, mostly due to sports and… well… not really caring about school.

Again… I didn’t have much to live up to.

I did manage to graduate high school, and then attended one year at university, dropped out thanks to a job offer from my father, and later in life returned to get a degree and several certificates. In all, I’ve probably completed around 6-7 years of post-high school schooling of some kind, and now have a successful career in videogames.

Take that, weirdly-young half uncle!Read More »

Don’t Be Envious, Be INSPIRED!

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The moment I start to even feel jealous for a second though, I snap myself out of it by telling myself how good it will feel to be in that position one day. I’ll look back on this point in my life, and remember the stress and frustration, and SWEET MAPLE SYRUP will it feel good to know I don’t have to deal with that ever again.

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I am a part of quite a few Facebook Groups now that revolve around finances. While they run the gamut in terms of what subsection of financial independence they deal with, the one I’m currently pretty involved in is the ChooseFI group. I’ve mentioned this group in other posts, but essentially it’s a group of fans of the ChooseFI podcast, who post on a pretty broad range of topics.

One of my favorite posts that they do, for example, is every Friday the admins make a post that asks, “What was the ONE THING you did this week to make your life easier, happier, wealthier, more efficient, etc.? Take action each and every week and let us know!”

It’s a great topic, because the responses can be at both ends of the extreme, and everywhere in between. Some people will say things like, “I figured out a way to make toothpaste out of old shoelaces and saved $1.89!” While others are like, “I bought my 2,983rd rental property all while being President of the United States!”

Obviously I made the responses up, but the point is that you find some really valuable and cool things in the replies, some of which will be popping up on this blog in the form of future Tip Jar tips.

However the group can frankly be a bit overwhelming at times for someone in my financial situation. I would say that better than half of the posts on the group are people hitting some really killer milestones:

“We paid of the house today, and are debt free at the age of 32!”
“I have $100K in cash. How should I invest it?”
“We went to Disneyland and paid for the entire thing in cash!”
“We have so many golden toilets that I turned one of them into a pet bed!”

Again… made that last one up, but it would be pretty frickin’ sweet if you think about it…

I on the other hand would be making posts like this:Read More »

5 Tips for Talking to Your Kids About the Family Finances

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The “Friday Five” features five items to help you in your journey to financial freedom. They might be 5 tips, 5 tricks, or just 5 ideas. In any case it’s Friday, so here we go!

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My parents never talked to my me or my Sister about our finances. To be fair, my Dad really didn’t talk to us about much of anything at all other than how terrible the Seahawks were (this was the early to mid 80s, and they were stupidly awful), his fleet of semi trucks, or the chores we still hadn’t done.

I’ll retract that statement almost immediately, because my Dad did talk to us about money. Here’s how it went:

“Hang on to that Sports Illustrated with Michael Jordan on the cover. That sucker is going to be worth money one day.”

“Hang on to that Bo Jackson rookie football card. That sucker is going to be worth money one day.”

“Hold on to that Coke bottle telephone. That sucker is going to be worth money one day.”

You know what my Dad never held on to?

Money.

I’m not bagging on my Dad at all. My Dad started a business at the age of 18, built it up and sold it in his 40s, then parlayed that into a business that grew in value in the millions before losing it all due to circumstances FAR beyond his control.

Now in his late 60s, my Dad owns several small businesses in my hometown and is a staple of his community.

That doesn’t mean he was necessarily good with money.

As a kid I never knew how we were doing financially. I saw my parents buying lots of things; spots cars, satellite dishes, pools, ATVs, etc., but I never really knew if we had money in savings, or if all of that junk was purchased on credit and we were teetering on the brink of financial collapse.

It’s understandable why they didn’t share any of this information with their kids. Their parents survived The Great Depression, and was a generation that tried to forget about finances in general, not discuss them openly. They sure as hell didn’t share with their kids during that generation, and so my parents never felt the need to be super open with us.

When our finances took a dump on our collective heads in January, my wife and I decided that we would start talking to our kids about finances. We did this not to freak them out or add stress to their lives, but because we wanted to start teaching them to be financially responsible so that they can hopefully avoid our mistakes and live a financially independent life of their own one day.

We’ve learned some valuable lessons about how to approach kids when it comes to discussing finances, especially if you’re in a bad way. Here are some of our favorites:Read More »

The Vicious Cycle of Student Loan Debt

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“I don’t care what side of the fence you fall on in terms of whether or not student loans are good, not good, beyond evil, a godsend, etc. Speaking from my own personal experience they have been a burden for the majority of my adult life, and I have paid probably close to double the amount of the loans in interest alone.”

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My sister is 4 years older than I am, and when it was time for her to head off to college, my parents were in a great financial position. The result of that position is that they paid for my sister’s college, all of her books and needs, her food, and her housing four all four years while she attended a major university.

She looks back on it now as some of the best years of her life, and readily admits that part of the reason was because of how stress free and fun it was to not have to worry about the financial aspect of college at all.

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Tangent: My sister majored in Business Administration, where she got straight A’s and made the Dean’s List of her university. She then parlayed that education into a job on a dude ranch in Montana where she made close to minimum wage giving horseback tours for rich city people like in the movie “City Slickers.”

She eventually got a very good job and now makes a solid living, but for a 4-5 year stretch there, my parents weren’t too thrilled about spending that kind of money on college when they could have just paid $250 bucks for horseback riding lessons.

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Around my Junior year in high school I think my Mom began to realize that I wasn’t college-minded, and so she started to bribe me to attend. The bribes started small, but eventually she told me, “If you go to college, not only will we pay for everything, but upon graduation we will buy you a brand new pickup of your choosing.”

For a small town kid, your pickup was your world, and so this was the equivalent of telling an old, chain-smoking, Frank Sinatra-loving, widow in Vegas that the penny slots were now free until the end of time.

I reluctantly agreed.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, my career plan was to be a radio Disc Jockey, and so my major was to be Broadcast Communications. The problem was that I hated school, and my heart just wasn’t in it at the time. I dropped out after only 1 year.Read More »

Find Someone Who Knows Their Sh*t, Then Shut Up and Listen

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It’s odd when you think about it: We were smart enough to know we needed someone with more experience in this area than we had, but at the same time we were dumb enough to throw almost all of his advice out the window.

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Quick Note: Things are going well on this New York business trips in terms of me keeping up with the posts. The bad news is that I don’t have my art software and/or tools with me, so you get no fancy images at the top of the post today. I’ll add them retroactively when I get home this weekend.

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We are very fortunate in that my wife and I have an Uncle who has been a Financial Advisor for the better part of 50 years. About two years before we hit our financial crisis, we reached out to him and asked for help in getting things in order. I think we had realized that we had kept the debt monster in the closet for far too long, and it was about to kick down the door and eat us in our sleep.

Our Uncle is a fantastic human, and so not only did he agree to sit down with us, but he agreed to provide long-term guidance free of charge.

Think about that for a moment: A person who is financially sound –wealthy in fact– with a healthy list of very successful clients, was 100% willing to provide guidance to us at absolutely no charge, and do so with no set end date. We could use him until we felt secure.

Pretty baller.

So we met with him and he started to advise us on a financial strategy. Up until that point, our investing knowledge consisted solely of blindly throwing money into a 401k each month and not much else. He started teaching us about diversification, opening up a Roth IRA, building a stock portfolio, and more. He also told us that we were making some silly mistakes with our money, such as throwing all of our cash into a vacation, versus saving part of it, even if it meant putting the vacation off a few months longer.

This man told us how to kill the monster in the closet.

We then promptly went out, ignored all of his advice, smothered ourselves in BBQ sauce, and laid down in front of the closet door and patiently waited.Read More »