Shaving Off My Money Mustache

I’ve been reading, researching, and writing about personal finance for a little over ten years now.  But even before I started formally sharing my financial thoughts, I spent the earliest years of my life thinking through the implications and trade-offs of how I structured my financial and economic decisions. I’ve always had a knack for finding (and utilizing for my advantage) market inefficiencies. I enjoyed saving, accumulating, and investing even early in my middle school years. I’ve certainly noticed my life and consumption have continually evolved over the last thirty years.

I started this crazy process of learning as much as I could about personal finance somewhere around 2000. I spent several years plowing through every single personal finance book at our local library and followed the research and pop-press through my entire doctoral program in financial planning. Although I read Your Money or Your Life and all of Jacob’s ERE stuff, it wasn’t until Mr. Money Mustache (MMM) came along that the movement in my brain had a coherent structure. MMM is a master at putting a ‘why’ behind the choices it takes to peruse an optimal life and efficient spending. I’ve even had Pete, the Mr. Money Mustache himself, sit with me and discuss many of the topics on this blog. Continue reading Shaving Off My Money Mustache

Selling Out To The Suburbs

I can’t believe it. We actually did it. We just bought a house in the suburbs. And, after a few more weeks of renovations, we will be moving in full time. We’ll be moving to the land of SUVs, non-walkable, car-centric, single family wastefulness that embodies urban sprawl. We even bought a new (to us) 2nd car to support our new life of excess to accompany a home with more bedrooms than we have people. This may seem normal to you, but if you’ve read my work about efficiency, lifestyle design, and riding a bike, you understand that this (on the surface) appears like a complete lifestyle paradigm shift. And in many ways it is. But, ironically, in some ways it will actually be more in line with the priorities we espouse for this stage of life.

Living the City Life Dream?
I love our old little house but I’m not sure we were really living the city life dream. At first glance our current home met the correct efficiency metrics- in-town, small, efficient, walkable (ish), paid-for. Just a few blocks from some really great trails, parks, and restaurants. Less than a mile to an incredible downtown and less than two from my office and entertainment. However, just beneath the surface were a few missing components to an ideal in-town experience. We live off a nice little street but the traffic moves quickly and almost all of our neighbors are elderly or college students. The elementary school we were zoned for is one of the weakest 5% in the state. Although we can walk around, many of our friends (and other areas we spend lots of time) are actually just out of walking/biking distance. While our home was awesome before we had kids, it has changed a bit with the two newest editions. Part of the changes are really a function of the evolution of our life over the last five years. Five years ago schools didn’t matter, going out downtown was an exciting activity, work was twice as close, and we were the college students next door. The biggest takeaway for us is that our needs in a home change as our lives evolve. (picture is the new house in the burbs’) Continue reading Selling Out To The Suburbs

2017 Challenges

I don’t really feel passionate about making change* this year. I know that doesn’t really roll off the tongue for a wannabe self improvement blogger. Maybe I’m getting a little soft, or maybe I do not have quite as much discontent that needs to be addressed. But for some reason, I don’t have the strong internal desire to make drastic life change this year. Similarly to how I felt the previous six months, I’m prepping for a lot of new commitment and life change as-is. I certainly have plenty of minor goals and things I want to accomplish, but I’m not really looking to make a ton of personal lifestyle changes. The upcoming activities of life will be sufficient for me to scratch the itch of progress.

I enjoy thinking through personal goals while trying to design the next few months and years of my life. I also enjoy the end of a year and prospecting of a new one. I often think through five to six key areas of life and brainstorm where I want to make progress. However, this year, I’m moving to a less complex set of goals, challenges, and resolutions. This year will be conceptually much simpler than many before it. I won’t be making lots of different major changes- I’ll only be working toward one or two big ones. I prefer to think of it as focused. Instead of doing lots of different life experiments and making incremental change, we will simply be working through a few major goals with focus. I think an apt example would be someone working five different jobs to make ends meet. While possibly commendable, sometimes it may make more sense to work a single job and concentrate one’s efforts there. With that in mind, the focus of this year will simply be renovating our home and making our family relationships stronger. Continue reading 2017 Challenges

It’s Finished

I remember thinking six months ago about how simple my life would be right now. I was about to enter one of the most exciting and challenging six month stretches of my life. I was switching jobs into a new industry after working with my previous employer for 10 years. I was finishing my my doctoral program. We were getting our house ready to sell and searching for a new one. We even bought a new (to us) car and traveled for several weeks.

The anticipation and stress was intriguing but I enjoyed the challenge. I remember thinking, “Oh, how simple life will be when this phase of life finishes.” Well, it’s finished. But, life doesn’t really feel like it has slowed down very much. I seem to have a pretty consistent level of stress despite the excitement in and around my life. My brain likes to think ahead and anticipate changes or challenges if the current set of stressors are not enough. I finished my 12th and final year of college. We sold our house and bought a fancy (*soon to be) new one. I moved into the field of financial planning full time and have learned a lot! We returned our electric car and reverted back to gasoline. I’ve even switched from coffee to espresso. I’ve settled in after traveling quite a bit and kids are a few months older than they were before. 2016 was a fun year. (Picture: My awesome parents at my graduation) Continue reading It’s Finished

Turning My Hobby Into My Job

When I was a kid I told people I wanted to be an architect. I think it was mainly because I played with lots of Legos and people told me I should build or design stuff for a living. As I approached the end of high school, I leaned more toward engineering and medicine mostly just following in the footsteps of my family. At some point after my first year in college, I realized I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so I stepped back to get a generalized degree in business. After graduation, I spent a little time overseas working and traveling eventually settling into grad school learning about economics.

Ifinancen high school I remember thinking economics was the most boring subject on Earth. I equated it with graphs, charts, and equilibriums that had little bearing on my day to day life. When it came to graduate school I couldn’t decide between an MBA program or Law school. Looking back, I think I was really just buying time to figure out what I wanted to do in life. Ironically, I chose to go with economics based primarily on the fact that they offered the best assistantship and stipend. It wasn’t until I really studied microeconomics and behavioral economics that I realized that learning how incentives work and how decisions are made is extremely valuable. Continue reading Turning My Hobby Into My Job

Justifying the Choices We Make

Do you ever make decisions outside the norm that you have to justify? Have you ever tried to explain a life choice you’ve made but failed to convey the “Why” behind the choice in the time frame given to explain? We are constantly making decisions about the way we choose to live our life. There are times when we make choices we know are correct for certain situations but have a hard time articulating why they are so. Often, we’re unclear the exact reasons why we make choices but we clearly know in our gut that they are right for our life. It can be hard to verbally (or internally) justify the choices we make. 

debateUndoubtedly, when you take a position outside the status quo, you will be forced to explain your set of choices on a irregular (or regular depending on how divergent the choice) basis to those following the crowd. If you choose to live debt free, retire early, or live a simple life you will be asked about why. If you choose to follow a religion (or not to follow one), live by specific philosophical principles, or make any unique life choices- you will certainly be asked to justify your position. Especially if you regularly interact with people that share different views than you do. Even if you just eat a little differently than your peers you will be asked to defend your reasoning. Continue reading Justifying the Choices We Make

Taking the Next Step Forward

My life has changed a lot since I started writing here, pretending to be a simple economist. I’ve started school, finished school, traveled a bit, started a new job, had two kids, bought a house, paid it off, moved around town, and moved into a new career. I’ve read a lot, learned a little, and live a life that often feels completely different than the simple one that I started this journey down. I’m pretty happy with where life sits right now. Its a neat place. There are a few little things I’d like to wrap up and finish, but I’m moving into a season where the biggest life decisions (what to ‘do’, where to live, how many kids to have, who to marry) cede themselves to refining decisions and spending time with the people most important in my life.

walker-1208261_1280I’ve done a lot less reflection recently and its starting to get the better of me. I’ve been in consumption mode and my life is changing because of it. The biggest change has been a movement in career. Although I am now doing what I love, I’m still in learning mode and I’m faced with new challenges and demands daily. I was good enough at my old job that most days I could just get my work done without a lot of new thinking or mental stress. When I finish most days at my current job, I’m often running low on mental energy. In fact, the other day I even struggled with a basic conversation about explaining the benefits of a simple life because I haven’t spent the time to mentally organize my thoughts given the new season of life I’ve entered. I haven’t spent the time to have the conversations with my family and wife about what our next big goals are and the steps to get there. I’m entering a new stage of life and I need to decide what’s next. Continue reading Taking the Next Step Forward

I Should Be Doing Something Else

Do you ever have the thought: I Should Be Doing Something Else? It’s a classic dilemma. I get that feeling when I have an unfinished task that requires attention. It’s similar to the notion about being at work and thinking about your kids, spouse, or what you should be doing with your life; then, thinking about work when you should be relaxing, vacationing, sleeping, or enjoying your kids or family. If you have a knowledge type job or manage others, there is certainly the tendency to have your mind going in the background thinking through the endless possibilities of things that need to be done.

typewriter-801921_1280When we have a list of things that need to be done, whether written or simply in our head, we often feel internal guilt about not doing the “Things that need to be done”. It doesn’t always motivate us to actually do the urgent things but certainly makes doing any thing else less enjoyable. Another personal example is this: I enjoy reading, especially novels, non-fiction, and most long form content. However, when I was taking college classes, especially those that suggested (or demanded) lots of textbook reading, I always felt guilty if I read something other than the textbook in my free time. A rational person would simply say, finish reading your text, then you can relax and read whatever you want. However, instead of doing the rational thing, I would simply avoid reading all together. For some reason, other activities that didn’t compete as directly with the mental space dedicated to reading for class, were easily accomplished on my to-do list. Continue reading I Should Be Doing Something Else

I Don’t Want to Read the Book

“I don’t want to read the book, just tell me what to do.” I’m an avid reader. I spend a large majority of my day reading for work, research, or pleasure. I almost always enjoy reading the book. If you are like me, you probably enjoy reading too. I’m a bit unique in the fact that I almost exclusively read non-fiction. But I enjoy a detailed and carefully informed argument about a topic. Most non-fiction books are just that. Especially the business, lifestyle design, personal finance, or self-help variety. To some extent, long form essays or blogs are similar as well. I actually enjoy reading the details and gaining context to understanding the ‘why’ behind a set of recommendations or suggested actions. Especially when it comes to life change.

old booksBut most people are not like me. Most people do not enjoy reading like I do. Well, maybe they enjoy reading their Facebook feed, but any long-form non-fiction is akin to pulling teeth. Trying to get someone else to read a 1,000 word blog post or even a short essay about a topic of interest can be surprisingly hard with some individuals. Most people don’t want to read the book. Continue reading I Don’t Want to Read the Book

Less Information, More Reflection

I’m addicted to new information. I enjoy listening to podcasts, reading plenty of non-fiction books, watching documentaries, perusing other blogs, following TED/YouTube series, and studying academic publications. In addition, I really enjoy meeting and learning from people who are a little older and a little wiser than myself. In essence, I find myself on the constant lookout for new information. Due to the nature of my employment, I must follow economic and financial (and sometimes political) news as well. I’m constantly bombarding myself with new data.

IMG_3724[1]I still find myself searching for more information when, often, I already have enough. I simply need to step back, reflect on it, and take action. I don’t really need to read more about the nuances of financial planning at this point. I need to spend more time reflecting on the choices I’ve made over the last six months and see if they align with my long term goals. I don’t need to read more about simplifying my life or organizing something a little better. I need to take inventory to see if I’m actually keeping everything organized and following simplistic principles. I need to spend much more time in reflection and less time consuming new information. (Picture is a nice little sticky note that covers up the second tab of my browser when I’m tempted to get distracted) Continue reading Less Information, More Reflection