October 9th marked the two year anniversary of Stop Ironing Shirts. This site was founded after I lurked in the financial community for years, posting on the Clark Howard message boards for years then eventually finding my way over to the MMM forums. In early 2017 I started discovering the number and diversity of financial independence blogs out there – This plus a little help from early interviews on the ChooseFI podcast sent me diving into content consumption.
Health circumstances in 2017 left me focused on caring for my spouse and it led me to a blunt re-evaluation of life goals and financial independence. Many ideas/plans were knocked off course, the reality of the how short life could be hit us in the face, and a lot of idle time waiting (and in waiting rooms) left plenty of time to think about the future and consuming early retirement content.
The site was founded completely anonymously at first. If my former employer found out I was planning on leaving there could have been painful financial consequences, namely terminating me before bonus/equity compensation payouts. These days I’m more of the semi-anonymous type, occasionally doing an interview or guest post and documenting life updates after leaving my career.
What are my thoughts after two years of Stop Ironing Shirts?
1) I’ve enjoyed writing a lot more than I’ve focused on the the “business” side of blogging. The technology side is challenging, it brings back memories of why I dropped out of computer science and elected to go into finance. Eighty seven posts over two years has allowed me to write our story and connect with a lot of people. Eventually there will be some monetization to cover the costs of having the site, but I don’t want to load every story/page full of advertisements or affiliate links. There also won’t be a course released from me any time soon. If it was about the money, I could go consult for a few hours a month.
2) I will be writing more about investing. Recently I published about the investing guidance that I’ll give friends who talk to me about FIRE: Investing in financial independence should be looked in two phases. Keep in simple in the first phase of investing for financial independence and what I’ll be writing about is tilted towards those who are in the second phase and decide to spend time on their own investments.
3) The other personal finance writers and financially independent types I’ve gotten to know through the site and twitter have been great. I specifically enjoyed FinCon because of all the people I met and making me realize this really is about personal finance writing. Unfortunately there are some “personal finance” blogs and twitter handles out there that have either intentionally or unintentionally transitioned into to a front for their political ideals. I believe personal finance is personal and financial independence (or financial improvement) is about taking personal responsibility to make a different set of choices for one to two decades. We all tell our stories and have them resonate with as many people as possible. None of us get to choose where we were born or who we were born to and most people writing already won lottery at birth by being 1 in 9 people that were born into a developed country.
It was nice to go to FinCon and realize just how small this minority is. A reporter wrote a trashy piece about needing “more politics in personal finance” which generated a masterful response from JD Roth – Does the world of personal finance need more politics? Earlier this year the general nastiness and lack of civility from people who believe personal finance needs more politics left me debating quitting the blog and focusing my energy elsewhere. I’m glad I didn’t make that decision. We only get one shot on earth and have to make the best of it.
Top Seven Posts Written
#7: The First $500,000. Those post was inspired by helping someone through a career change they were making. The math of financial independence is overwealming if you can make good decisions for a decade to a decade and a half and save $500,000 by the age of 40. It can enable a Coast FI or SlowFI approach.
#6: Reader Question: Should I Coast FI. I received a reader question around the same time as working through the career change. The debate of grinding through a current job or scaling back to a lower stress job or one in a better location is a tough for a mid career professional. Often our adult identity is tied up in our job and letting go of that can be as difficult as the money side of financial independence/early retirement. I plan on writing a few follows up to the Keep Grinding vs. Change Jobs analysis after asking this question to an FIRE panel at Fincon.
#5: Why I’m Taking A Mortgage Into Early Retirement: This was written almost eighteen months ago and I ended up renting our first house in early retirement. The question comes up from time to time in personal finance of “should I payoff my mortgage” or not. Either choice is fine, but personally I would stand on the “keep your mortgage” instead of owning a home free and clear in early retirement. Today we’re enjoying the freedom of renting and will let rental value drive our next home purchase.
#4: Why I Stopped Saving HSA Receipts: This was one of my earliest posts and I’m actually saving HSA receipts again. Many of us get our HSAs through our employers and need to examine those fees. My fees in 2017 were painful and they’ve since been reformed and came closer to market. Fidelity also finally offered individual HSA accounts and they are the lowest cost out there.
#3: Early Retirement Decisions: One More Year. This was written in January of 2018 debating if I should or should not work an additional year. Looking back at this real time debate is interesting – I won’t know if I worked too long or not until I see the market’s performance plus get a handle on what income will be coming in now that I’ve departed from full time work.
#2: Why The 4% Rule Will Always Work: I studied the 4% rule quite a bit when planning early retirement. Eventually I realized this rule was predicated on zero downside flexibility on how much money is taken out every year. If your early retirement budget based on $25,000/year, maybe there is zero flexibility. However if your budget is based on $60,000/year in expenses, they are options to reduce spending if there’s a prolonged drop in the market.
#1: Home Ownership Cost Us $60,000 in a Great Housing Market: There’s nothing like seeing a giant mistake sitting at the top of my blog stats as a reminder of what not to do. We paid over 200x monthly rental cost for our last house, including cashing out over $100,000 in investments in late 2015. Even with a decent increase in the home’s value, we ended up losing a lot of money compared to staying in a rental. This post even earned a panel discussion on Stacking Benjamins! and I ended up writing a second post to follow up on questions that came up.
My Favorite Posts Written? (of those not included above)
#1: Your Car Is A Tool, Not A Status Symbol: It seems there is an entire machine in the United States designed to convince people they need a new car every few years. So many institutions make money off convincing people to get a new car: Automobile companies, their part suppliers, unions, banks, marketing firms, media buying that marketing, and the dealership monopoly. They will all tell you that the newest car provides the most reliability, is the safest in crash test ratings, and people seeing you in that “new car” will make them believe you are “successful”. Their livelihood is based on selling this false narrative. Meanwhile the most financially friendly and environmentally friendly thing you can do (if you must own a car) is drive your car less and own it for longer.
I’m in disbelief every day when I walk by a modest suburban house and see a garage full of junk and two cars worth $65,000+ combined sitting outside the garage. It is incredibly wasteful: We’ve owned our each of our vehicles for twelve and eighteen years and they still run fine and are as safe as the day we bought them. You get to choose if you want to be a cog in this machine or opt out by driving your car forever.
#2: I Gave My Early Retirement Notice And Live Tweeted It: This was a unique moment I will only get to do once in my life and it was neat to memorialize it. Parts of my writing for the last eighteen months had led up to this moment and it was nice reading from others who have gone through this experience. Leaving a career/company after fifteen years included parting with a professional identity, which wasn’t easy to come to terms with. It was an interesting experience to say the least.
#3: Credit Card Rewards – An Easy $2,200 per Year: Every time I tell someone this in person, I immediately hear “doesn’t that hurt your credit”. No, no it doesn’t. We’ve been doing this for years and consistently can receive two signup bonuses per person per year. This is a nice way to get $2,200 tax free just for being organized and disciplined.
I recapped my First Year Of Blogging and achieved my goal of 10,000 page views per month by August 2019. The site averaged that level of traffic from May through August before it dropped below it due to some technical work in September. Now after migrating to a new host (thank you SiteGround – highly recommended if you need to move an existing site to a new hosting provider) the site looks to be back on track.
What happens next?
The blog has been renewed for three years and leaving full time work is allowing me to post more frequently. You should see me show up in more places via podcast interviews and guest posts and eventually work on a redesign on the site. People will also have to put up with me posting nice pictures from traveling around the country and fishing in my local area. This is what retirees do, right?
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