I’m Moving On, But Not Going Away

Not sure if others have experienced this but hosting my blog on WordPress wasn’t the best idea. Their hosting plans are pretty cheap but though their digital eco-system you are limited to their boundaries.

For that reason, I’m out.

I will be starting a new blog with the same content moving forward but the name will change. I should have done better research up front on domains and social media accounts before pulling the trigger.

The good news? I’ve learned about a couple amazing tools through this process and I’ll share them with you:

Bluehost – This domain hosting tool allows you to integrate with your Google accounts and transfer a WordPress content.

Namechk – This tool allows you to type a name into the search and it will tell you if that domain is available AND if the associated social media accounts are available.

If you’re starting your own blog and you want to monetize it or add affiliate links, steer clear of purchasing a WordPress.com hosting account as they lock you into a very limited ecosystem. I believe that a recent change allowed people to add plugins to their WordPress.com blogs where you could script in some Adsense or similar account but the ability to add plugins is sealed away behind their “business” paywall.

If you’re willing to wait for more easy frugal finance rules, hiking reports, travel tips, and my investment journey, please be patient. I’m working on getting the next iteration of this thing online as quickly as possible.

Thank you for reading!

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The Mid-Life Crisis

I believe I have figured out what is, and what causes the Mid-Life Crisis (MLC).

Financial experts all around the world agree that at, or around, age 40 that people begin to wake up financially and realize that they need to start investing so that they can retire without having to resort to cat food.

The crisis part comes in when people realize they wasted their youth spending money unconsciously and now have nothing to show for it. But wait Amn Duffle, isn’t it okay for people to have different life paths? And if so, is this really a crisis?

Yes and no, let me explain…

It’s not truly a crisis YET because the average 40 year old probably has a decent-paying job that can support his or her family and afford to live a fairly-comfortable American lifestyle. By this point the 40 year old has probably had a few promotions and feels at the top of his or her game at their job.

But, you see, at age 40 when people really begin investing, what they’re actually facing is the reality that they MUST work for the next 20 – 30ish years in the same hellish job just to break even in their shiny new retirement accounts. Instead of being able to retire and play golf like the media portrays, they are stuck working with failing bodies in jobs that are looking to replace them with fresher faces who will work cheaper.

THAT’s the crisis!

I’d imagine, it’s not easy coming to terms with a lifetime of bad choices and it’s pretty ironic that the most stereotypical thing we associate with the MLC is the acquisition of more debt in the form of a sports car. Maybe the person feels compelled to double-down on their behavior since changing seems futile… AND, they’re going to have to keep working anyways, so… might as well enjoy the time.

Thoughts?

Starting Late

Part of this blog’s existence is to offer advice and tips to folks who, like me, started down the road of PF and FIRE late in life. I will chronicle my progress and pitfalls here for the world to see in hopes of making other people smarter.

One of the oldest stories in PF is that of two people who walk the path of investing at different stages of life yet end up at VERY different destinations. The first person invests $100 per month for ten years starting at age 20 and stops investing additional money at age 30. The second person starts at age 40 and invests $100 every month for 30 years. The second person, with more money invested NEVER catches up to the 20 year old because of compounding.

This tale shook me as a 20 year old but not enough to action. Here I am today, nearly 40, and I’m no different than person #2. My investments will never catch up to the smart whipper-snapper.

My blog is dedicated to #2 people. People who, either through fear or analysis paralysis didn’t invest early and want to start today.

There really is NO better time than NOW to start planning for the future. Whether your future is not working or having a smooth retirement or both, at whatever age. This blog is to help the #2 people from becoming #3 people… the people who never sorted their finances and never invested.

According to this CNBC article, 34% of Americans have NO SAVINGS!

That’s nuts!

I know that’s an extreme example and there are plenty of people who live a successful life that fall everywhere on that spectrum. But it’s still a shock!

So keep reading this and other PF, FIRE, and investment blogs. Read the popular books. Gain wisdom and grow rich.

The Added-Investment Value Rule

Here’s another tip that I’ve put into practice with the tenacity of a hungry raccoon.

Choose a value that’s comfortable to you to add to every purchase.

For us, it’s $5.00.

Now, go shopping, and save your receipts.

At the end of each week (if you feel okay with that frequency) add the number of receipts you’ve collected, multiply that by your value and then invest that value in whatever form of savings account or investment vehicle you use.

For us, it’s Betterment.

Example:

You spent money at stores 7 times this week, so…

7 x $5.00 = $35.00

So we would make a deposit of $35.00 to our Betterment account.

It’s a simple way to save more money and add pressure to your impulse purchases. Do I really want that Coke from the gas station knowing it’s going to cost me $7.50ish?

Be careful that your fervor for investing doesn’t have you buying more just as an excuse to invest. You can always just invest the money without the purchases.

Give it a try.

Current Strategy

So…

I understand that there are split feelings on this service, but we’ve decided to invest with Betterment.

We threw $200 in there as a start and over a couple weeks, we’ve amassed a whopping $0.41. We’ve also developed a plan to meet a goal we’ve set through the service that will help us in retirement. My plan is to invest with them despite (not IN spite) what other popular blogs say about it.

We may be giving up control and paying higher fees with them vs. Vanguard or DIY solutions but I’m of the mindset “something is better than nothing.” And we never ventured into the investment realm before now (401K, TSP aside).

In addition, I’ve rebalanced my Traditional TSP to include the C Fund so that it’s not so heavy into Bonds (I intend to do a write up of TSP investing at a later date).

Why did our investment journey begin so late?

Just like most people, we’ve been focusing on getting through life comfortably. Comfortable is the ability to buy what you need when you need it. We denied ourselves very little but we also didn’t have super expensive habits or tastes. We took out a mortgage on a home a few years back and we both have loans on modern cars. We don’t have much credit card debt but our spending habits could definitely improve.

Our journey began when I learned about the FIRE community this year. We took the first step and signed up for Personal Capital to take a look at our finances…

If you haven’t done this yet, do it now!

Seriously, I’ll wait here. You NEED this service because it’s free and it does the work categorizing your expenses for you. It can help you track bad habits like daily coffee spending, monthly bills you forgot about (subscription boxes, anyone?), and how much you’re spending month to month.

Next I read JL Collins’, The Simple Path to Wealth which you can buy from Amazon, HERE.

The book teaches you about Index Funds which are funds that invest in the total index or every publicly-traded stock. This means that your investing is tied to the market instead of an individual stock. The stock market always goes up despite crashes (read: corrections) so it’s risky in the short term but a safe bet for the long term.

DISCLAIMER: So I probably should have posted this in the intro but you need to know that I am not a financial planner and hold no certifications or licenses related to personal finance. As such, use the information on this blog and any linked blog at your own risk. I can’t be held responsible if you read the info here, invest all of your money, and then lose it if the market declines or corrects. Be a responsible adult and do your own reading and make your own educated choices.

Thanks for reading!

The Cost Per Use Rule

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve found about being frugal (specifically, about being more mindful of your spending) is the Cost-Per-Use (CPU) rule.

Here’s how it works.

Set a limit for yourself on the CPU of anything you purchase from here on out. Obviously this only works on physical, non-consumable goods… like a hammer, or coat, or deluxe baby stroller.

For me, I’ve set the limit at: $1.00

When you go to a store and you’ve got a product in your hand, take a few seconds to estimate what the CPU is based on how many times you will use the item in a year. If the number of times you will use the product multiplied by your CPU is greater than the price of the product, don’t buy it!

Example:

You want to buy a new flashlight that costs $12.00 and you remember that you went camping six times last year where you used the old flashlight and used it twice to rummage through your car at night and you used it for five nights when you helped the school crossing guard for evening classes. Based on that estimate, your math looks like this:

$12.00 (Price) x $1.00 (CPU) = $12.00 / 13 (estimated uses) = $0.92 CPU

Buy it!

If my math is wrong, forgive me, it wasn’t my strongest suit in school. Also, I’m aware that this goes against the theory that you should always buy the best version of whatever forever product you plan to own, but this is less a rule and more a way of looking at frivolous spending.

In the scenario above, if the flashlight cost $25.00, the CPU would have been higher than the price and you probably shouldn’t buy it. It’s important to be honest with yourself about the number of possible future uses because you can convince yourself that you will use ANYTHING more than you actually will, just to buy it.

This rule also gets a little tricky when you consider Feature Creep.

“It’s only $3.00 more to get the flashlight with the built-in carabiner! This deal’s a steal!”

IF… and that’s a HUGE IF, you went to a store on purpose to buy just one product, you weren’t planning on buying a flashlight with a carabiner. So you probably don’t need it. And… that carabiner option probably only cost about $0.12 for the company to add. It’s NOT a deal.

Welcome To Bootstrap FIRE

First.

 

I decided to make a blog to chronicle my family’s march towards Financial Independence (FI) and Retiring Early (RE)… sometimes written as “FI/ER,” or “FIRE,” or “FI/RE.” Before you dig too deep, be aware that I am not a licensed financial planner and hold no certifications or official positions in the PF field. As such, please use any advice you read here or at the linked websites at your own risk. If you want to learn more about the basics of what these ideas are, you can cruise over to one of the MANY websites designed around the concept:

Mad Fientist

Go Curry Cracker

Mr. Money Mustache

JL Collins NH

Financial Samurai

Millennial Revolution

Retire By 40

Those are just some of the most talked about. As a quick note, if you’re going over to Mr. Money Mustache, be aware that the community there takes Frugalism and investment seriously. The attitude feels a little elitist, but there’s tons of great information there.

Why BootStrap FIRE?

Because I’m presently serving in the United States Air Force and have reached 20 years of service making eligible for retirement from the military with a pension. Because of my position, you will need to take some of the information I plan to post here with a grain of salt. My family’s health care bills are covered which, I understand, is a huge portion of the budget for many families. Also, we don’t pay tax on a portion of my income and we have access to TSP (which we do contribute a bit to). There are some other perks that enable us to have some money to put into savings but those are the biggest items.

Why a Blog?

Because I want to tell the story of my investment journey and discovery of the FIRE community from the beginning and from the POV of someone who started late in the game (currently 37 with no investments other than TSP). We have only been contributing around 5% (fluctuates based on personal choice) to TSP monthly.

I believe this blog will also help others in the military who don’t get a lot of training on investments and saving for the future. If you stumble upon this blog, as a service member, please pass it on… I will be doing updates on TSP performance and what I’ve learned about the program here.

The blog will also have fun frugal ideas I’ve learned from other sites and some I’ve come up with on my own. It was surprising to learn how fun frugalism (read: smart choices, not, being a cheapskate) can be and I hope to pass on some of that excitement.

I hope you enjoy your time reading here (outdoorsy posts also incoming) and if you do, let your friends and family know.

Thank you!