A Little More Personal

Good morning, afternoon and evening fellow reader,

So I just happened to listen to podcast 131 – Community Building with Mr. Money Mustache and Mr. 1500 and as I’m listening to it, I’ve come to the realization that while my blog posts certain have data, they don’t have that personal feel to it. So hoping to add a little more of my thoughts in from time to time, so that you and I can develop this somewhat personal bond. So let’s start with a proper introduction.

My name is Steve, I’m 33 years old, happily married, and have a 5 year old son. My wife and I work full time and we currently stay with the Mother-in-Law, she watches our son, and we help her out around the house. We have a weekend routine where we eat breakfast at one of our favorite restaurants, and then spend the rest of the day doing whatever. Our work life is good, really grateful for it, but it never used to be that way.

Let’s go back in time about 9-10 years.

I was a bit careless, racked up debt, went through payday loans, credit cards, the works. I had gone through about 3-4 jobs, ended up settling down at a job doing apartment maintenance. I am eternally grateful for this job because I think if it happened any other way, I might still be a little more careless, or went down a darker path that this blog wouldn’t even exist.

So the job didn’t pay the greatest $9-$9.50/hr and I did special projects across 2 properties, after some time I really wanted to get insurance and things like that so I had asked about being a full time employee at the apartment complex that I was currently working/living at with a roommate (they would’ve had a full time on-site maintenance worker), was told they couldn’t do that. I asked about going back to college then, I was told that if I wanted to do that, I would have to quit.

While this was going on, I was doing a “special project” of painting all the buildings hallways on the property (6 – 3 story buildings), it was a pretty lengthy project, that gave me time to sit and read. Well instead of looking at the latest and greatest fads at the time, I started learning about penny stocks (which this was very short lived).

And I learned it the hard way, I learned all the don’ts first hand, so imagine a 23-24 year old in debt up the wazoo (borrowing money from my boss to put gas in my car, which I made sure to pay back every payday, but it became a routine), I was one skipping stone away from rock bottom.

Well that was when I transitioned into learning about options trading, which is just as risky, but was with good well known companies, not garbage pipe dreams. It still wasn’t a good idea to do at the time, and it showed. But the people that I was following and learning from on Twitter and YouTube were showing this life that I wanted, so I stayed persistent. I hit a few speed bumps, but I started becoming consistent.

Now I was able to start getting things in order, I still didn’t have the saving mentality at the time, but I knew that at the rate I was going, I was going to end up homeless. Luckily there were people willing to help with what they could, as the role they played at this time in my life was what helped lead me to here. So the plan was when I had a good day, I would work on a debt, first was the payday loans, but then came the latest and greatest phone. Guess where I went? The phone, looking back I think it was the iPhone 4S or 5 at the time? Yea, it was soooo worth it at the time *sarcasm*.

It was nearing the end of the lease in the apartment, and my roommate had said that he wanted to move out on his own, so I started looking on Craig’s List, and found that I could rent a room at some places which was significantly cheaper than what I was paying ($300 a month + 1/3 of utilities) compared to a $650-700/month 2 bedroom apartment. I had SOME common sense then, it was a no brainer.

This is around the time that my wife and I had started seeing each other, this was about the time that I started being more active in the finance groups on Facebook. The first group that I was a part of was the Investing and Personal Finance Group ran by Robert Farrington who also runs the site The College Investor. I had a lot of learning to do and that group helped tremendously. We pulled our credit reports, and developed a plan to start knocking out our debts, slowly but surely.

For a while it was working, we would wait for a debt collector to call or send us a notice, and then we would offer a settlement, it was at this time we got engaged, and a year later we were married. This is when we moved to the Mother-in-Law’s, and also found out that we would be expecting our son.

It was at that moment that I said and drilled in my head that my son will never have to experience my journey, and a summons paper was the push that we needed. We were about to be sued by a debt collector for about $2K, and between the both of us we had about 19-20 different debts. This was about the time I was listening to Dave Ramsey which is a great resource of you are dealing with debt. Anyways, I just happened to listen to a podcast about how to talk to debt collectors, and I did exactly that. I called them up, and told them I’m willing to make a settlement now, but the person on the other end said it was already in process, and there was nothing that could be done. I replied, “Well then you aren’t going to get a dime, and will be filing for bankruptcy.” And that’s what we did. See my wife was around 4-6 months along at this time, and being down to 1 income for a brief period of time was going to be a big problem, so it was a forced hand, although to be honest, I wish we would’ve started this process much, much sooner.

So we went through the bankruptcy proceedings, ended up doing Chapter 7, I remember being worried about this because we didn’t have a tradional bank account. Everything was coming out of our brokerage account at the time, and the lady asked “why do you have investment accounts?” And I explained to her that we would put money into the markets, and when we we had enough for a settlement, we would withdraw it and pay it. And that was it in regards to that, our bankruptcy was approved and we started life with a clean slate.

This was about the time that I came across Jason Fieber, creator of Mr. Free at 33, although at that time went by the name Dividend Mantra. And this started my dividend investing journey, I’ve had a couple websites since and one of the reasons my posts have been so data driven is because it keeps me motivated, every day when M1 updates my daily contribution into new stocks, and I see the dividends I was paid on that day or month, and then the next being higher I tell myself I have to keep doing this, and now it’s a part of my work week routine.

I still trade options, in fact within the past year I started trading futures. Granted I don’t trade as much as I used to, now maybe 1-2 trades a day, and I’ll setup a position in the futures market for over night, and I either wake up with more funds, or I get greeted by seeing a red $50 on the day. This is the 2nd time I’ve been keeping track publicly of a dividend account to show the power of small investments over time.

Some of my friends and family can tell you, I’m pretty brash and straight forward in regards to finance, and it’s because I’ve been there, I know that I have no one else to blame for my past, present, or future but myself. It’s not the rich guy in the Mercedes next to me, hell I eventually will be that guy (maybe, not to fond of Mercedes, there isn’t anything wrong with them, just not my style). I do think that society and inflation is a bit high compared to the current minimum wage. That could be more in line, but you make do with what you have at the time, and you grow upon it and get better and better. There is no quick route to this, it takes time and dedication.

We currently have about 2-3 years left of car payments (2 cars), so when that’s done the dividend investing will go into overdrive. Until it sustains itself and grows significantly on it’s own, then we can focus on real early retirement and who knows will the journey of life will take us next. Whatever it might be, hope you the fellow reader stay along for the ride.

Until next time.

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