Before you read this, read my introduction here. It’s sort of an overview of how I got here and may repeat some of the information you read here.
I was born in 1983 in a tiny town in California to a family poor in money, but rich in spirit. My parents worked blue-collar jobs that made us feel middle class. In fact, I’ve re-visited that town several times since and every time I go back, the contrast between where I live now and where I lived then amazes me. When I was young, it didn’t feel like we were poor. In fact, my Mom and Dad were good at saving for things in the short term in order to make sure our Christmases and holidays weren’t sparse. My Dad even made it a point to teach me about saving at one point by giving me a goal to buy a computer and then helping me save toward it. That goal actually played a big part in setting me on the path toward becoming a software monkey. Too bad I was too thick-headed to absorb the amazing lesson that was right in front of my face at the time. Although I was having fun working toward building a computer, the fact that I was practicing several disciplines at once — delayed gratification, setting and achieving a goal, compromise — evaporated as soon as I finished the thing. It wasn’t until much later that it would become clear to me.
Despite being reasonably intelligent, I actually didn’t do amazingly well in school. Not after sixth grade, anyway. I don’t think it’s much of a coincidence that my grades suffered while I stayed up late, sometimes all night, in order to work on various programming activities and converse with like-minded people. This pattern continued well into high school, and beyond. I still don’t have my bachelor’s degree, for instance. However, that hasn’t hurt me much financially so much as it has socially. For some reason, people judge me for not having that piece of paper.
My schooling continually took a beating after losing out to my constant need to build things on the computer and on the web. As luck would have it, that’s exactly the kind of person people wanted later on. I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point, experience became more valuable than holding a degree. At least in the jobs I applied to.
During my mid-twenties, I finally broke into the six figures. That might sound silly to you now (or not), but there were friends and family who believed I’d never make it without a diploma. I was quite happy to prove them wrong. Later on, I ended up earning into the low $200k area and I’ve been comfortable there for a while now. But it wasn’t until I was earning into the high $100k’s that I had the awakening.
Once you stop learning, you start dying.
As I stated in my introduction, I had a dissatisfaction with where I was in life. Instinctively, I knew I was doing something wrong. I was making all this money, and going through sort of the standard middle class motions, while ignoring the part of me who desired independence. This is not to say I’ve ever had a bad life. I’ve got a great family. A great home. But while I was doing well in some areas, I knew I was failing in others. Personal finance isn’t something that gets taught to us in school, so until it is and until all of us pay enough attention in school, that piece of life is up to us. It’s our own damned responsibility.
The trouble was, no one drilled that into me. I’m not blaming other people, but the way I went about my life was largely based on what I was taught to be important. Finance was definitely not at the top of the list. But it needed to be.
In my late twenties, I had a couple of false starts into the world of personal finance. I bought some books, but nothing really stuck. I often relate what I went through to dieting because it all felt forced and inevitably fruitless. It wasn’t until I was actually in my thirties that it clicked for me. In an episode of existential despair, I happened upon the Personal Finance section of Reddit. From there, I found the Financial Independence section. And it was like a light went on.
I kept reading page after page of these stories that sounded similar, if not just like mine. It was eery almost. Like someone mentions how many red cars there are on the road today and now, all you see are red cars. Sort of like that.
It was clear I had to get a grasp on my finances and understand where I was, fast. I tried a bunch of tools, most of which were great in theory but didn’t work with my personality. Eventually, I ended up sticking with Mint. It’s free. It updates by itself. I can set goals. Fin.
With a way to see where I was and reflect on all of the poor choices I had made, I was able to finally make a plan. A popular plan in the aforementioned sub-reddits is the three-part plan: Emergency Fund, Retirement Fund, Investments. So I discussed it with my wife and we agreed that’s exactly what we would do. It’s been about a year and as I recently posted, the Emergency Fund is nearly full. Additionally, I’ve put over $10,000 into my retirement accounts and will continue building those. After the Emergency Fund is filled, I will begin the investment part of my journey. And of course, that’s where I leave off in my introduction post.
However, I want to be clear. I am approaching my financial education humbly. I don’t want to assume I know things. I want to have such an understanding of things that I can explain it simply.
If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
— Albert Einstein
(Wow, I really need to find someone else to quote. On the other hand, if you’re going to quote someone, why not Einstein?)
It is through that kind of understanding that I hope to present my journey to those who might be helped in doing the same thing, but that’s not the only reason I’m writing here.
This blog is a way for me to share not only my journey but also as another tool in my portfolio. In all honesty, I would like to give to the community and in doing so, generate a small passive income just by virtue of having helped other people. For me, that would be time well spent. I want to interact with people. Exchange ideas. Learn. Teach. The whole thing. That’s why I’m here.
All so I can stop being just a code monkey and evolve into a financially independent monkey.
As of today, I am giving myself ten years to achieve financial independence. That’s June of 2025.
“Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.”
— Warren Buffett