I thought I was so smart in coming up with a witty way to celebrate 15 years of Lazy Man and Money. However, I’m not very versed in Latin culture and I didn’t realize Quinceañeras are for girls. (You’d think I could have figured that from years of Spanish classes.) Also, I highly doubt anyone wants to see me in a dress.
So despite the title, let’s scrap the Quinceañero idea. Instead, I’ll offer this… I’m 45 years old. I’ve spent one-third of my life going by the name “Lazy Man.”
Last year, when this website turned 14 years old, I was in the middle of distance learning a 6 and 7-year-old. With two different curriculums (and teaching one to read), it was hard to get any kind of blog post published.
What a difference a year makes, right?!?! You might think that I have a whole lot more time nowadays. Well, almost anything is better than that time, but there’s a new challenge this year. With so many people having the vaccine, they are traveling more than ever. That means that my dog sitting business is booming – there’s simply way too much demand. What a good “problem” to have, right?
With that in mind, I’m going to repurpose a little of what I wrote last year. The story of Lazy Man and Money didn’t change much in a year. It’s still my money journey, combined with commentary on news, and, of course, tips and tricks for you to get the most of your money.
The Beginning of Lazy Man and Money and FIRE
It might be hard for many people to understand what the blogging landscape was like 15 years ago. Twitter had launched just a couple of months before and no one had really heard of it. Facebook was only 2 years old. Yes, this website is very old.
With that historical perspective in mind, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at my first blog post, “Welcome”.
Here’s what it looked like in November 2006 from the Archive.org’s Wayback Machine:
In hindsight my first sentence of more than 2,632 blog posts (and 2.2 million words) may have been my best:
“This blog is about a man, a lazy man, and his quest to not only retire early, but to retire rich enough to live a comfortable lifestyle.”
I’m not going to say that I invented FIRE (I didn’t). However, I specifically set a FIRE goal about a decade before most personal finance bloggers started using the acronym. The last half of that sentence translates roughly to what those FIRE bloggers call fatFire.
These concepts are the same by any name. They were here before the Great Recession of 2009 and they’ll be here after gets back from their coronavirus vacations. (In fact, my favorite FIRE book is from 1989.
I mention this because I ran a Twitter poll a while back and most people didn’t consider me a FIRE blogger. I wasn’t sure whether I should be insulted or flattered. The truth is that I’m an overall money blogger. I’ve always tried to be a generalist. I’m not the best frugal, investing, real estate, military, consumer advocate, family blogger, but I cover all those topics. However, my goals in writing about money have always been centered on my FIRE journey.
You can think of me as the blogging equivalent of Susan Lucci or Jamie Moyer, but not as talented.
A History of FIRE
Many people have asked me how I became interested in FIRE and why I created Lazy Man and Money. It was a confluence of four factors, in order from most to least important:
- My military wife’s pension
We were still dating when I created Lazy Man and Money, but she had mentioned that she could retire with 20 years of service – at age 43. Since she was obviously marriage material, I had to find a way to bridge the gap of 22 years from the typical age 65 retirement. I needed freedom to work as little or as much as I want and from where I want.
- The Dot-Com Bubble of 2000
I graduated with my computer science degree in 1998. After a year at a century-old insurance company, I went to a big dot-com. I was a rising star, quickly becoming a manager of their search engine technology. The Dot-Com Bubble lead to the entire technology team getting laid off. It was supposed to happen on September 11, 2001, but the company wisely rescheduled the layoffs. The start of my career until the end was only a couple of years.
Like many software engineers at the time, I didn’t find steady employment until 2004, almost exactly at the time that I met my wife.
I had come very close to financial rock bottom. I knew I never wanted to be there again.
- Outsourcing of the mid-2000s
In the wake of the Dot-Com Bubble, many companies realized they could reduce the costs of developing software by sending the work overseas. The cost of living is much lower, so software engineers in India (and other countries) could work for less money than American ones. The movement picked up steam from 2003-2012. (I lost track after that since much of Big Tech has consolidated to several big companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple.)
I got very worried that the economics of developing software in the United States simply wouldn’t make sense going forward.
- Actual Laziness
Staying competitive in the software engineering world is difficult. In many places, you have to work a 12-hour day and then go home and learn all the breakthroughs that other coders have made.
Facebook flew me to their headquarters in 2006 and we mutually agreed it was a terrible fit. Like NFL running backs, I was on the wrong side of 30 (by a couple of months) and had aged out of the Silicon Valley programmer club. I wanted to go home to my wife instead of living on campus.
- Starting a Family
There are very few organizations that zero flexibility. You have to do what is required no matter what. One of them is the United States’ military. Another is being a parent. As a military spouse with children (especially young ones), I have the flexibility of an icicle. I didn’t have the foresight to know my life would end up here when I started Lazy Man and Money. However, I’m thankful that during the 15-year run of Lazy Man the focus on long-term money management has given me some flexibility.
Unexpected Bonus 5th Factor:
A 15-Year Financial Journey
With the image from Archive.org above you can see my goals (on the right side). I wanted to make around $1700/mo. in alternative income. I had made $23.
It was a start, right?
In my last passive income report I made around $9,500** for the month. Those “**” are important as it isn’t liquid money we can spend right away. However, we can get to a large portion if necessary.
In that image from Archive.org, you can see that my net worth was less than 200K. My goal was to have a net worth of $3-4 million. That projection included my wife’s net worth because $3.5M with the rule of 4% (the gold standard at the time) would allow $140,000 of spending a year. I wouldn’t need that much if I was just trying to support myself.
If you fast forward to today, my wife’s military pension is worth around 2.45M. Our net worth outside of that is substantially similar. Most of it is tied up in retirement accounts and real estate investments. We’re expecting that all of this will bring in more than $200,000 a year in income in retirement. I haven’t updated that article in 5 or 6 years, but it’s looking closer to $300,000 a year. Because of this, we’ve stopped contributing to 401Ks and only contribute to Roth IRAs where we can get the money without paying tax on it.
Is it fair to say that we have achieved our goal? I don’t know. It’s not like we have millions in index funds actively throwing off a hundred thousand a year in dividends that we can spend. As we’ve learned over the last year, we never know what challenge lies just around the corner. On the other hand, it’s not like our hard work is invested in Beanie Babies – it’s real money.
Nowadays, I try not to look at money as a destination. That may be strange to the FIRE community because they are always talking about their FIRE number – a number where they hit financial independence and can choose to retire early. This article’s goal is to highlight that money is a journey. And in the words of my sons’ favorite TV show, “The journey continues…”
You may read financial magazines that project how saving and investing works in the long run. We’ve not only experienced it first-hand but it’s documented here for all to see. Fifteen years can feel like a long time when you are starting out trying to reach financial freedom. However, looking back on it, the time flashes by in the blink of an eye. You know what’s really a long time, working 40 years (or more) in a job you don’t like.
Now it’s your turn. I hate to be the jerk asking for birthday gifts, but… I’m going to be that jerk anyway. The traditional 15-year anniversary gift is something crystal. I’ve got enough stuff – I also don’t want you to spend any money on me. Instead, I’d like you to look into your “crystal ball” and leave a comment with a financial prediction for the future. Sound good?
* “Virtual deployment” means my wife is still working from home, but it’s 12-hours a day, 7 days a week for the next month.
** This number has a lot of qualifications attached to it. There’s a whole FAQ about it. The bottom line is that it’s the number that makes the most sense.