FIRE.073 Takeaways from my life to date

This was an article I wrote for

Our story seems quite different than most, but anyone can use pieces of my life examples to better yourself, including my mistakes.


My story to LifeInFIRE started as a (lucky) middle-class 12 years-old when I was taught how to save and how bonds/high-interest rates worked.  That year Alaskans received checks of $1000 each.  My dad made me save mine, while ALL my friends bought new stuff.  A few years later I had enough to buy a car, but I was forced to buy an older car.  I had a little summer part-time job and my dad told me if I saved some money, he would match it.  I saved ALL of mine and spent his.  These turned out to be great learning opportunities that I don’t regret at all.


I also watched my parents log their spending in a multi-column budget book each evening. They could quickly and easily track their expenses over time.  I’ve done this in a few different ways since high school. It helps you become aware of your current and historical spending.  Note: we spend almost the same decade after decade as some items rise and other categories drop.

Delayed gratification:  

I learned you can get what you want, but make sure it’s what you really want, and you can pay for it, rather than paying the bank back.  I guess I was a lucky child in that I received a gift for christmas and my birthday, usually what I had been asking for over the previous months.  I learned that I had to wait.  It became normal.  30+ years later I still plan for what I want, research, validate and then make the purchase decision at a later time.  It helps to stay out of stores, or bringing my wants/shopping list for some structure.

Investing Oops

You won’t have this problem in modern times.  I learned about investing in bonds 12-15% in the 80s.  At the time a stock trade could be HUNDREDS of dollars.  You know about low-cost index funds, I wish my MBA had said just three more words “Total Market Index.”  I had no clue.  Luckily you are educated in this regard.  Remember, you can overcome lower investment returns by saving well.  However, it’s very hard to use investment returns (unicorns) to overcome low savings.

FIRE/Not working

It was NEVER my intent to no longer be a worker (retired) at 43.  I originally planned to leave corp America in my early 50’s to teach (at a comm college) and give back to how I started my career.  To prep for the change, I actually taught night classes for over 20 years, while working a busy day job (side hustle wasn’t even a thing yet).  I saved EVERY dollar from my teaching side hustle because it was just an extra “playcheck.” 

Some differences:

We do not have children.  We had smallish, manageable college student loans (graduate as well), some with parental assistance, some with employer assistance, some paid for monthly/aggressively for a few years (at 90’s tuition rates).  We both were working professionals.  We targeted a lifestyle (once we got better organized) of living off one salary and saving the second.  That allowed less stress from daily work—even the possibility of a layoff.  Financial INDEPENDENCE has many levels, but they all give you control, power, freedom.

Great markers

If possible:  Same spouse, same house, same cars over time, save early and continually for the future.  If most of the items work out, you will have a stronger, less stressful financial life and possibly (much) more freedom into the future.  (Yes, that was worth repeating from above)

                Same spouse (25+yrs together), same house (27yrs, 1026 sq ft), same cars (10+ yrs, purchased as 3yr olds), save early (one of our paychecks * 20yrs) and continually (still do a little part-time work for “playchecks”).


A big part of my life seems to entail giving back in my own way.  There is no big activity or a five-foot-giant-check handed to someone, but rather lots and lots of small efforts to try and help others have a better day/life.  It may be like me; teaching, presenting, writing, having a conversation, listening to someone, performing an action to help (carry something, pick something up for someone, smile) in the smallest of ways.  If you give out positivity, you will surround yourself with said positivity.  (Even grumbling old(er) men can give, I prove that).


It is vital that you put effort into your health and wellbeingA strong, happy body will carry you throughout your day much easier than being broken down.  I lost 140 pounds when I was 29- 30, anything is possible.  Move, get some sunlight, smile to others and fuel your body with the vitamins and nutrients you need.

My wife and I are so basic/normal (stealth?), but we do what we want (planned out) and have a great life.  Thousands of smart little decisions over time may multiply into your greatness or really goodness.

*** Nothing in this article is to be construed as financial advice.  I am not a financial planner, nor do I pretend to be.  You should always consult your own professional when seeking advice.

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