[Duke’s we have a new honored guest hanging out at the Kingdom’s finest table for dinner this week, an awesome introverted blogger sharing his story to inspire the world: The Fintrovert. Learn more about his story and journey with personal finance below!]
If you reflected on the very moment you’re writing this post today, tell us your story – how did you get you get where you are?
I can truly say I got to where I am today because of my struggles. My 20s were a lost decade. I hit rock bottom in my early 30s.
Graduating in 2002, I was a sheltered 22 year old. I grew up in an affluent, high-cost of living area. Sure, it had its advantages like summers roaming freely in a tree-lined neighborhood, going to a private high school and a debt-free undergrad education.
But the downside was I had no financial education. Consumption was a given. My Dad had to keep up the lifestyle that my parents had built and as a result, took jobs out-of-state. This led to an unstable home and an eventual divorce for my parents. It also led me to be wary of demanding jobs.
Graduating several months after 9/11, my attitude towards the world was apathetic, if not nihilistic. I had no interest in a job or career and took a safe and less than challenging position at a community hospital.
I then got caught up in the online poker craze. Not knowing what I was doing, I lost. A lot. It got so bad I had to move home with my mom. With no responsibilities, I actually became a winning player for a bit, got myself out of debt, paid off my car, bought a condo, and moved out. But once I left the confines of my mom’s home, all discipline left me and I eventually began losing again. Seeing that poker wasn’t the answer, I applied to grad school at an expensive brand name university. While there, I took on over $70,000 in student loans.
I also quit my job right before my 30th birthday. Rather than getting another job, I took an internship at an advocacy group. It eventually turned into a four day a week $40,000 position. It was there I hit rock bottom.
For awhile, I had no car and was eating peanut butter off a knife I was so broke. I remember being so malnourished that I got sores all over my mouth.
I had to grow up and get a real job. I found a entry-level position at a consulting firm and started making better money while continuing with grad school. This was a brutal time in my life but I learned a lot of what makes me successful today.
After 3.5 years there, I got an offer at a foundation that was a 40% raise. I took it. Around the same time, I found the financial independence community. FI gave meaning to my days at work. I now-had a plan to reach freedom, which is what I ultimately craved as an introvert.
When I was in debt, broke, and living on $40,000, I learned to be frugal. Now that I was making good money, I just applied the same principals to saving. I wiped out all my consumer debt and a loan I owed to my Dad. At 33, I was maxing out my 401(k) for the first time.
My wife worked down the street from me at the time. She wasn’t my wife then of course. It was a coincidence that we worked just a few blocks away.
Actually, I was sitting outside eating lunch and I saw her walk by (I had seen pictures of her). Thinking she’d believe me to be some sort of stalker, I froze until she walked by without noticing me. Things went very well that evening. We got to know each other on lunch breaks by taking walks and spending evenings together.
I left that job that was near hers and started working at an advocacy group lobbying for research funding for cancer patients and setting up support programs. Finally, I was doing what I wanted. That part time, $40,000 a year internship six years before set me up to make nearly four times that salary and do the job I wanted.
During a cash crunch at my current position, I strategically negotiated a reduction in my salary in exchange for being able to take on a consulting client. That catapulted our earnings and is a major reason why were are where we are today in addition to my wife’s hard work and saving.
When did you have an epiphany moment to get in gear towards building a financial kingdom for yourself and your family?
My epiphany moment was when an auto mechanic looked me squarely in the eye and said “you’re broke. You have nothing.” He was helping me get my car back on the road after an engine failure. Through several conversations over a few days, he began to understand the dire financial situation I was in.
That day, I realized that my actual identity – no matter where I grew up or what schools I went to – was that I was broke. And not just financially either.
Having a stranger bluntly articulate my situation stunned me into action. I’ll never forget that man sort of laughing in disbelief and flatly saying that to me. That was definitely one catalyst that made me realize I was in a huge life hole and needed to make changes. I started to say what I wanted and go after opportunities that would enhance my financial situation.
What are a few of the biggest challenges you have had that have helped define how you perceive money today?
Dealing with debt defined my perception of money. Getting into debt playing poker and going to grad school put me in a place I never want to be again. Eating peanut butter off a knife and going to bed hungry will scare you out of being in debt again.
That time in in my life not only defined how I perceive money, but defined a large portion of who I am.
Could you define the term introvert from your perspective, and explain why it can be challenging for introverts in America?
An introvert uses time alone to recharge, reflect, process, and analyze. Introverts take in lots of stimuli and desire to make sense of it, dream about it, rationalize it and connect with it.
Taking in that stimuli is overwhelming and processing it can be demanding. We need time alone – or at least in quiet – to internalize the external world.
Being introverted in America is challenging because our culture is to be big, loud, and brash. Just look at our current political leaders, celebrity personalities, and movie characters – all big personalities. Go to our cities like Las Vegas or New York. Constant stimulus. Walk into a stadium and you are bombarded with lights, sounds, and people that have nothing to do with the game.
The external world can be exhausting.
But the real issue – the issue I try to address on my blog – is the extroverted workplace. Work is not just work in America. Work is your identity. It is often where you meet your post-college friends and romantic partners. It is where you get your value and economic standing.
Value in corporate America is largely extroverted. We have to move fast, live for this quarter, be aggressive in meetings, and close that deal! Now!
Introverts don’t thrive in aggressive, short term environments. It takes us time to develop relationships, process meetings, and prepare our ideas.
For those reasons, introverts have a lot to offer corporate America. Being slower, more deliberate, and looking toward the long term are all valuable assets.
What are your big motivators for building a financial kingdom and achieving FIRE?
My biggest motivator is to take on work on my terms – or not at all. We recently learned that we have a child on the way. I would really like to be in a financial position to at worst, leave the office early and at best be a stay at home dad with some consulting income.
When looking at the kingdom roadmap which milestone are you currently working towards?
We are on Step XII: Building Your Taxable Brokerage Accounts. My goal is to get $100,000 in the taxable account and then determine if we want to start working on the mortgage or keep putting money in the taxable account. It is a tough decision. I know the math says invest but my heart says get rid of as much debt as possible.
From Chris -> Totally understand! I’m currently paying off my student loans and have chosen to do so over building my taxable brokerage accounts! The peace of mind is worth it for me too!
Have you faced any challenges while working towards financial stability and how did you adapt to them?
One big challenge is housing because we live in a high cost of living area. Ultimately, it is a lifestyle and value choice that we’ve had to make. We look at other properties when they have open houses and we have always come home saying our home is still the best value. I guess the day we don’t think that we will put it up for sale and go after the better value.
Another challenge has been my introversion. Before I understood it, I came off as aloof and arrogant. Now that I am more aware of my tendencies, I have little strategies to be more engaged at work with my colleagues. That has helped me have better relationships, get contracts, and earn more money.
I think a third challenge will be childcare. However, we are lucky to have family close by that I believe will help us.
If you met someone who was just starting out on their journey towards building their kingdom – what would be your advice to them?
My advice would be you have to move the first stone to start building your kingdom. Just start with one small stone if that is all you can do right now. Pay off more than the principal on your debt. Start building your investment snowball $5 at a time. Incrementally improve at your career each day. Work on your passion project or side hustle for 30 minutes a day if that is what you can give right now. It all adds up.
I’d also say that none of this matters if you don’t take care of yourself. Take time to invest in your mental, physical and spiritual health. Building a kingdom that no one wants to live in with you – including yourself – is a wasted life.
From Chris -> The earlier the better :), could not agree more! I loved that you mention taking care of yourself here too, because with all of the personal finance blogs and successful leanFIRErs out there, it is easy to lose track of that.
What differences do you see between yourself now and yourself 10-years from now?
I always tell my wife (who is nine years younger), “you wouldn’t want to marry the guy I was at your age.” Ten years ago I was in a job that I hated, I had not started grad school, I drove 30 miles each way to work, I had no long term relationship, and I had no savings for the future.
Ten years later, I advocate for cancer patients, I have a side consulting contract, two advanced degrees, I bike to work 2.5 miles away, have the best dog in the world, am married to a truly amazing woman, and we are building our financial kingdom block by block toward a self-directed future.
Blogging / Writing Questions
What motivated you to begin writing about personal finance and starting a blog to share with the world?
I wanted to share my story. I thought I had a unique perspective on struggling with debt, introversion, and ambition.
My friends would say, “You really like this personal finance stuff. You should do it full time.” So I thought it was something I was good at. It is a lot easier to be helpful one-on-one and change people’s lives in person than on a blog.
What are one or two top lessons or some advice you could share on building a great blog like yours?
Consistency and small gains are keys to building a blog. Whatever you do, do it consistently and sustainably. If you post once a week, post once a week on the same day at about the same time. If you are on Pinterest, stay on Pinterest. If you network with other bloggers, then keep in touch with them.
Blogging is like personal finance. It is about incremental steps and building that momentum where small gains stack together to make big results.
Why is introversion such an important part of blogging and your brand?
A lack of understanding of introversion held me back professionally and socially. I don’t want people to suffer like I did. I don’t want folks to lose ten years of their lives thinking something is wrong with them. I don’t want young people to believe money has no utility for them and to spend it frivolously.
I don’t want introverts to think they are doomed to resent their colleagues who suck away limited time and energy they would rather reserve for their close relationships and deep interests. You don’t have to be on the defensive. Financial independence will gives us the space to pursue life without fear of no time and space to recharge.
My ideal day is reading outside with my dog, working on passion projects, spending time with my wife, and being out in nature. That is a quiet day where I can do all the things I love: Form deep relationships, analyze things, learn, process, and reflect.
Financial independence is a means to more of that for an introvert. Not just two rushed days a weekend. A full live of having the energy to engage with the people and passions that light us up.
From Chris -> I totally understand that! I enjoy the quiet days spending time doing things I have passions for. I can network at happy hours with the best of them, but only after a nice recharge between them!
Have any other ideas, thoughts, or advice you would like to share with our readers? The floor is yours!
I appreciate the Dukes having me on their virtual kingdom. If the above resonated with you and you’d like to talk more about it, I’d invite you to drop me a message or Tweet me. No small talk. I promise.
And thank you Fintrovert – we have truly enjoyed the visit and learning more about you. We’re excited to see the progression of your kingdom in the upcoming years!