Guest Post: My Brother’s Journey to Financial Independence

Boston Skyline 1

We’ve been in Chile for about a week now and it has exceeded all of my expectations!  I can’t even describe the welcome and hospitality shown by Mrs. DTG’s family.  We’ll share plenty of pictures and stories in the weeks to come. 

As promised, here is the first-ever guest post on this blog courtesy of my younger brother who has made amazing strides financially over the last year or so.  Interestingly, this is not his first appearance on the blog.  He’s the guy sitting on my shoulders trying to reach a coconut during our visit to Florida last December. 

We live in Boston, and I mean downtown Boston like I walk a couple blocks to get to Boston Common.  Our apartment complex is an obnoxious high rise complete with modern art throughout, thumping techno music in the lobby, and even a 24hr concierge.  Plus, downtown living comes complete with groceries ordered online/delivered, endless choices of restaurants, and always something to do or a show to go see.

This is where/how we’ve decided to live while pursuing FIRE.  And we’re doing it on two salaries that are below average for the city.  WHAT!?!?! 

Perhaps it’s worth backing up about ten years.  I was living in Florida with some roommates and, much like many others in their early-twenties, I was single, carrying a small balance on a couple of credit cards, and essentially living paycheck to paycheck.

Around this time, I met my now wife who, as a recent college graduate working an okay job, was no better off financially.  While she didn’t have any credit card debt, I would later learn what four years of private school entails in terms of student loans.

Looking back, none of this really bothered me.  After all, we were happy.  I owned my dream car (Subaru WRX), we went to bars/restaurants, concerts, had steady paychecks, and went on modest trips/vacations on a regular basis.

So what changed?  Probably like most who have debt, I didn’t particularly like having it especially the credit card variety.

Determined to clear that out, I did the math on paying it off through monthly payments to card providers.  I quickly realized with the insane interest rates on my cards this would take forever and cost fortune.

Next, I tried getting an unsecured loan from the bank, no go (I forget the bank’s exact reasoning).  That’s when I approached Mr DTG for a personal loan.

Even before the days of blogging as Mr DTG and his discovery of the FIRE community, he was always better with money than I was.  So he had the funds to pay off my credit cards and we worked out terms that were mutually beneficial.  Once my credit cards were paid off, I never got into “bad debt” again.

Life for my wife and I carried on for many years without much of a financial plan.  We upgraded our lifestyle with each new job/pay increase in our working careers.  We each drove nice cars (my WRX was heavily modified with performance goodies, ie $$$) and the wife had a Lexus.  Of course we had loans on each (because that’s what you do, right), upped our vacations, all the usual stuff.  Along the way we stayed away from “bad debt” and saved where we could.

This brings the timeline of my story to early 2015.  By most metrics things looked good for us financially.  The wife had a decent 401k balance of $20K and we had nearly $20K of cash in the bank at the age of 29.

Sure we had $35K of car debt and $10K left on the student loans (this was after nearly ten years of paying).  Obviously, this gave us a negative net worth, but when you are young “it’s okay” to have the kind of debt we had, right?

And to us, that almost $20K of liquid cash was a small fortune in comparison to the “average American” who doesn’t even have $500 for an emergency fund.  So again by most metrics, we were well established as middle-class young professionals.

What comes next is almost a perfect storm of lifestyle change, influx of financial knowledge, and monetary increases.

The spring of 2015 is about the time Mr DTG was showing significant progress toward his MMM/FIRE lifestyle, and in his excitement he shared quite a bit of detail of his path with me.  At first I didn’t pay much attention, but was definitely interested in perhaps following more of the “mustachian” way of life to follow some of his success both financially and happiness wise.

Around this same time, an app I had been working on was posting decent monthly sales.  Nothing like those overnight millionaire apps you hear about every so often, but it was good money for a side hustle.  Then, a few months later, my wife received multiple bonuses and a much-deserved promotion at work after her company merged with another.  Finally, in April 2016 I was given the opportunity at my job to relocate to Boston, a city my wife and I have always wanted to live.

Much like Mr/Mrs DTG are going to make some deliberate lifestyle changes with their upcoming move to England, we took the opportunity of moving to Boston to do the same.

While some (all?) would say the swanky apartment I described at the beginning of my story is completely counter to all things the FIRE community preaches, it was very important to us that if we were to move to the city, we’d be in the city.

And no, the rent is not cheap.  This is a stark change from our previous suburban lives in Florida.  But remember those expensive cars I mentioned we were borrowing from the bank? They’re gone.

Actually, we sold a lot of things we owned in our previous lives because not only is the city not car friendly (either actually driving or on your budget), our new place is half the size as our previous.

Continuing on with our deliberate changes, since we no longer own cars, our grocery shopping is now outsourced and delivered.  As it turns out, picking off peak delivery times and being in a densely populated urban environment is essentially a wash in terms of cost vs normal grocery shopping.  Plus, this is an hour or so we get back in our lives each week not driving to/from the store and actually shopping.

There are countless other relatively minor lifestyle/financial differences that are all fun and exciting for us to tackle that would take far too long to write about.  And all these combined, when looking at them from a new start kind of way, allow us to do things the best possible way (at least from our point of view), which should lead to financial gains/savings.

The last major deliberate change (while being location-independent) happened during our self-reflection around finances sparked by the move, is diversifying our investments based off reading things found in the FIRE community blogs/forums.

Jumping back to the numbers side of all of this, in just over a year we went from -$5K of net worth to +$90K (including taxable and retirement accounts along with no debts, no property/vehicle assets)!

We’re still settling into our new place and new financial situation, but we have every belief that our accounts will continue to grow bigger and bigger with the plan of entering the six figure club this year.

To close it up, Mr DTG thought I had a fairly interesting story that mirrors a lot of what you see others have done in the FIRE community, but also has a lot of its own twists and turns along the way.  We just started this focused endeavor towards FI (less about RE) and are doing it a bit differently than most by renting and oftentimes splurging for the luxuries/conveniences available to us in the big, expensive city.  Perhaps Mr/Mrs DTG will invite us back to share an update down the road.

7 thoughts on “Guest Post: My Brother’s Journey to Financial Independence

  1. upnorthinvestor says:

    interesting lifestyle choice, its great to have options to do what you want and live where you want. just to clarify the definition of Asset, from Rich Dad Poor Dad, and Asset puts money in your pocket, a Liability takes money out of your pocket, so your personal home or vehicles are Never Assets, they are Liabilities, I look forward to reading about your continued progress in your FI Journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Julie @ Millennial Boss says:

    Congrats on a complete 180 on your finances!! My fiancé and I had a similar transition when we moved from a low cost of living place to SF. We were spending outside of our means and used this move to downsize, pay off debt, and use the higher salaries to fund our retirement accounts. We also have the expensive rent but it’s tough. You can’t beat your location in Boston. I’m from the area and know by the Common is an awesome place to live!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ditching the Grind says:

      As an older brother, it has been pretty cool watching him get his financial life in order over the last couple years. More recently, he’s been showing a lot of interest in investing so it’ll be fun hopefully seeing his wealth and passive income streams grow.

      Like

  3. allroundbetterme says:

    It is great to hear another take on the path to FI. Even if RE is not in the plan. I especially like that it was a complete 180 from your previous lifestyle. My journey is still on the slow and steady path, so I’ve still got a ways to go. Looking forward to hearing an update down the road.

    Liked by 1 person

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