Happy Thanksgiving!

I went on a cold but sunny run this Thanksgiving morning and had an hour to clear my mind of any distractions. Here are the many thoughts of what I am thankful for this year:

– I’m thankful for my wife’s health. This holiday weekend marks one year from the Sunday morning we were lifting weights together and the mysterious and debilitating “headache” started. Its not 100%, but its a lot better.

– I’m thankful for my own health, feeling the aching of my cold legs turning through the morning temperatures, cold air hitting my lungs with a bit of burn reminding me that I’m alive.

Continue reading “Happy Thanksgiving!”

2009 – Financial Independence: The Year Sh*t Got Real!

I had always marveled at Financial Independence, but I didn’t quite know why. I knew my parents struggled with money, I knew that my grandfather experienced a poor investment experience (concentrated tech stock position in his early 60s), and I thought it would be “cool” to be a millionaire by 40. I was running numbers with a financial calculator in my college finance classes and figured out this is possible with some savings and investment savvy.

We had always been decent savers, but in hindsight I was more of a “financial engineer” than a serious saver. We borrowed a little extra on my wife’s graduate school loans to fund Roth IRAs, we both contributed to get the match on 401ks, and I bought my first house at 22 which we did quite well on with a 97% mortgage and 2004-2007 price appreciation. I “invested” with the hottest fund managers in an expensive traditional brokerage. We also turned around and bought a massive house in 2007, a new truck, we heavily spent on travel (without credit card hacking), and ate plenty of expenses meals out. We still thought we were frugal, but really weren’t.

Then welcome to 2009….and did it ever change:

Continue reading “2009 – Financial Independence: The Year Sh*t Got Real!”

Foundations of Financial Independence

You are in the business of you! You are responsible for both total revenue and total expenses. What are you doing to increase your income today? What are you doing to increase your income potential tomorrow? Where are the best paying jobs in your field? What is the incremental value of education? The path to financial independence begins with increasing your income and finishes once you’ve optimized your expenses

Increase your Income Continue reading “Foundations of Financial Independence”

Best Jobs for Learning Sales Skills in College

Learning how to interact and influence people in person or on the phone is an important skill set for people in professional sales. So many potential employees rely on written communication which is often not effective at professional sales.   The sales jobs available when I was in college usually involved going door to door selling vacuum cleaners or cutlery to all the parents of your friends or trying to sell to other broker college students.   Instead of doing that, here are the best places/jobs to learn sales skills while in college:

They need a salesperson!

1) Property Management: Every college is full of property management companies. Do what it takes to get into one, whether its maintenance and repairs, property showings, or answering the telephone. Learning how to sell the benefits of a crappy house/apartment in a college town is great experience in overcoming objections in professional sales. You may also pickup some skills that’ll help you develop a nice real estate side hustle/investment portfolio in your future life. Continue reading “Best Jobs for Learning Sales Skills in College”

Five High Paying Sales Positions

Here are five high-paying professional sales jobs for people to consider if they’re just starting their job search out of college or are looking to change careers:

Will this place hire a washed up sales guy like me?

1) Commercial Insurance Agent: Almost all companies purchase insurance (and are required to purchase certain types of insurance). Commercial insurance is generally sold through independent brokers that underwrites and presents risk to various insurance companies, then helps negotiate the best coverage/price. This business is highly competitive for new agents, but agents are paid annually for both new business and retained customers and the only cap on earnings is the agent’s time.  Typically new employers require a college degree and some type of sales experience.

Continue reading “Five High Paying Sales Positions”

Asset Allocation Disclosed


Every finance forum has discussion after discussion related to asset allocation.  The Vanguard Total Stock Market Fund is generally accepted as a solid be-all, end-all option for people pursuing early retirement. I unfortunately did not start with the “basics”. My degree is in finance and I studied for a CFA, so that combined with a naturally high opinion of myself set me off on a mission to pick stocks. Hundreds of hours were spent analyzing companies, listening to investment podcasts, and trying to find that company that’ll beat the market.

The results are a whopping 1.24% higher return on the S&P 500 over a five year period, but I am humbly trailing the market YTD.  We are slowly transitioning our holdings into index funds and in hindsight, it would have been much better to focus on a side hustle or just devote more time to sales in the regular job than all the work and effort put in for a marginal improvement over the index. Continue reading “Asset Allocation Disclosed”

Home Ownership: The Power of Scarcity

There are two types of financial decisions: Good financial decisions and educational decisions. We’ve purchased four homes and did well with one, did okay with one, lost our rear end in one, and our current one we’re cautiously optimistic on. The biggest lesson we’ve learned in home ownership is the power of scarcity.


The first component of a house is land. A homeowner/developer must have enough land to build a house. The problem with land? They’re not making more of it. Now if you’re driving through parts of the US, (ahem – New Mexico, Texas, Nevada), you’re thinking that land isn’t scarce. If you live in an urban area, open land for purchase is either really expensive or just doesn’t exist. Even worse, sometimes you have to buy a house on land just to tear it down! Now that sounds costly.

Now that’s scarce!

Continue reading “Home Ownership: The Power of Scarcity”

Why I Stopped Saving HSA Receipts

I’ve always been a fan of the Health Savings Account.  Pre tax?  Check.  Pre-FICA?  Even better!

As soon as my employer started offering these, I put away the maximum contribution allowed.  I did the math, saw a $10,000 out of pocket maximum, then said as long as we don’t have a ton of medical expenses in the first two years, this risk will pay off!  At the time, I worked in a state with an income tax and Mrs. Shirts was also working. This meant we was earning below the social security contribution limit, but in a 25% marginal tax rate as a dual income home. On top of federal income tax, we were also paying 6% to the state of Georgia and 6.2% for Social Security.  The HSA immediately allowed us to reduce our tax liability while putting away money tax free.


We were fortunate over the next eight years, putting away the maximum each year while not incurring much in healthcare expenses. We also enjoyed one of the best stock market runs in history between 2009 and 2016. Our account quickly grew and before we knew it, we had amassed over $60,000 in the HSA account.  Then we ran across the Mad Fientist’s article referring to the HSA as the Ultimate Retirement Account. Continue reading “Why I Stopped Saving HSA Receipts”

Why Costco?

I get accused of being obsessed with Costco. One of my personal jokes is “If Costco doesn’t sell it, I probably didn’t need it”. I am a bigger fan than average, but its become a running joke now with my friends.

  • When I go on vacation, I usually stop by a local Costco and post a picture on Facebook.
  • When they were building the local Costco (reducing my distance from 10 miles to 3 miles), I would post pictures updating the construction
  • I went to the new Costco on opening day and it was a personal highlight to meet Craig Jelinek, the current CEO of Costco.
  • At one point at had a 10%+ concentration in Costco stock in my portfolio.

Okay, maybe I’m a bit obsessed. But why should you shop at Costco? Continue reading “Why Costco?”