Today is the 14th anniversary of Lazy Man and Money. I’m 44 years old, so next year I will have spent 1/3rd of my life as “Lazy Man.” (Those who have known me through the other 2/3rds of my life may claim that it’s closer to 100%). For now, I’ll have to settle for my “inverse pi-anniversary” because 44/14 is a close approximation of pi. (That got way too nerdy. I’ll dial it down.)
There are only a few single-author money bloggers that have consistently been around longer. The only one I could think of was Jonathan of My Money Blog. There were several others that have taken a hiatus or sold their blog and came back under a different brand.
Consistent blogging is difficult for me these days. My priority is to homeschool the two kids (ages 6 and 7), while my military pharmacist wife is virtually-deployed* to help with the coronavirus. I don’t have much energy after putting the kids to bed. Trust me, I still have many, many money stories to tell. Hopefully, if I continue to stay healthy, you can look forward to being bored by them for decades.
The Beginning of Lazy Man and Money and FIRE
It might be hard for many people to understand what the blogging landscape was 14 years ago. Twitter had launched just a couple of months before so no one had heard of it. Facebook was only 2 years old. Lazy Man’s hockey stick growth curve has to be coming any day now, right?
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 2,558 blog posts (and 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). But I specifically set the FIRE goal about a decade before most personal finance bloggers started categorizing themselves that way. 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 coronavirus.
I mention this because I ran a Twitter poll awhile 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.
You can think of me as the blogging equivalent of a Susan Lucci and a Jamie Moyer child, 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 importance:
- 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.
- 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 start of my career there until the end was only a couple of years. 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.
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, that 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 that they could reduce their risk by developing software overseas. The cost of living is much lower, so oversea software engineers would work for less money than American ones. The movement picked up steam from 2003-2012. I have lost track after that since Big Tech has consolidated to several big companies.
I got very worried that the economics of developing software in the United States simply wouldn’t make sense going forward. At this time, the iPhone wasn’t invented yet. And while its software is still developed in the US, the hardware is largely outsourced to China.
- 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 months) and 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.
Because I had a long-term view of our money management, we have some flexibility.
Unexpected Bonus 5th Factor:
A 14-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 $7,500*** 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. What is missing from that is a timeline. I could lack through all my old posts to know for sure, but I think it meant for now when I hoped we’d retire early.
That projection included my wife’s net worth because $3.5M with the rule of 4% (the 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 2.3M. Our net worth outside of that is less, but not much less. Most of it is tied up in retirement accounts and real estate investments. We’re expecting that all of this will bring in $200,000 a year in income in retirement.
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 dividends that we can spend. As we’ve learned over the last couple of months, 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. 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. Fourteen years can feel like a long time when you trying to reach financial freedom. However, looking back on it, the time flashes by in the blink of an eye.
* “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.
** Happy Military Spouse Day! I’m double-dipping with two special days at the same time.
*** 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.