[Duke’s we have a very honored guest hanging out at the Kingdom’s finest table for dinner this week, JW from over at The Green Swan. Learn from one of the top bloggers on Personal Finance and his journey to reach FIRE by his target date – 2023. Learn more about him and his story below!]

Hi Dukes! Thanks so much for having me in the Kingdom today. It’s a pleasure to introduce myself to your readers!

Your Story:

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?

Well, as of this moment I’m a husband, father of two boys, son to some Rockstar parents and a good set of in-laws as well. I have two nieces and four brothers / brothers-in-law and three sisters-in-law. Family is the foundation for me and reflecting on it right now I realize I have a pretty special one.

I got to where I am with the help of all these great people and others. My parents laid the foundation for me in building solid life and personal finance habits. Education was important to them and I’ve never stopped learning. My older brother was a great role model for me and helped so much along the way in self-directing my retirement plan and strategy. I had the great fortune to marry relatively young and my wife has been a great partner to build a life with. And I’m blessed with two rambunctious boys who I’m figuring out how to spend as much time with as possible.

From Chris -> Family is one of the strongest motivators in our lives, along with any other people we truly care about. Loved reading this as it truly shows their priority in your life. More evidence Dukes are the new epitome of a gentleman.

When did you have an epiphany moment to get in gear towards building a financial kingdom for yourself and your family?

Personal finance has always been an interest of mine going all the way back to high school and college days. I started building the habit of paying myself first back in high school at which point I opened my first Roth IRA. Saving was always a high priority of mine because I knew I had to start someday and I knew that I couldn’t rely on anyone else to do it for me.

I really had the epiphany moment when my wife and I were expecting our first kiddo. Up until that point, we had been diligent savers, but still with the thought of working until our 60s (or 50s if we’re lucky). With the kiddo on the way though, that’s when I started researching more about life insurance, how much I needed and if I needed it all. I realized with the nest egg we had at that point that buying life insurance wasn’t really necessary. That led me down the road of determining how much money I needed to never work again. And that led me to the Financial Independence and Retire Early (FIRE) crowd which I now am proudly apart.

Roadmap Questions

What are your big motivators for building a financial kingdom and achieving FIRE?

Going back to the question above, the big motivator for me and my wife are our two kiddos. We now have the goal in sight to retire early with a target date of March 2023. At that point the kids will be 6 and 9 and we’ll have all the time in the world with them. And looking further down the road, once we are empty nesters we’ll be looking to spend more time and money traveling the world together.

It hasn’t taken much of a sacrifice at all to get to this point and having these motivators on the horizon will make it all worth it.

When looking at the kingdom roadmap which milestone are you currently working towards?

At this stage of the kingdom roadmap, we are “decorating”. While we still have a solid 5 years before we pull the ripcord, a lot of the saving and investing we’ll be doing in the next few years will be to build cushion in our retirement lifestyle. In March 2023, we’ll be 37 years old and still (hopefully) have a long and healthy life ahead of us. It would be silly to pull the plug and expect to not work ever again without a significant cushion.

So that’s exactly what we’re doing right now. We’ve declared ourselves financial independent and now we’re decorating. While still working, we are trying to give ourselves a taste of what early retirement will be like. We are starting to go on bigger vacations, we’ve added a cleaning service, some home remodeling is on our radar, if there are things we need in our life we’re buying quality, etc.

While we are letting our lifestyle inflate a little here and there, we are still not spending needlessly and we are still investing heavily. We’re just starting to decorate a bit more 😊 and ease ourselves into our retirement mindset.

From Chris -> Looking forward to reading more of your posts on the decorating you do man!

Have you faced any challenges while working towards financial stability and how did you adapt to them?

We’ve definitely faced some challenges along our journey. I think the biggest of which has been on the career front. I would consider both my wife and I to be hard workers. While it has been our career growth that has really helped fuel our financial journey, it’s also been one of the biggest sticking points for us to live a balanced life. I’ve written a post on what I consider to be a paradox that a high income leads to early retirement. I found myself at the crossroads of living the life I want and continuing to chase paper…and I finally chose to step off the career ladder to get back more of that life balance. It was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made and am excited to say that I have no regrets.

If you met someone who was just starting out on their journey towards building their kingdom – what would be your advice to them?

Take action, start now, save and invest. “Adulting” can be tough and investing can be daunting, but if you don’t take control of your future don’t expect anyone else to. Jump into it and start teaching yourself the ropes. Don’t get stuck in paralysis by over-analysis. You will make mistakes. Just try your best to catch them early and learn from them as you go. Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to building a great kingdom!

Let me share one quick example of a mistake, or a woulda coulda moment for me. I more or less have missed out on house-hacking. What that means quite simply is buying a duplex, triplex, etc; living in one of the units and renting out the others. It is a great, lower-risk entry into real estate investing while helping to pay for your own housing cost. While I went all in on mutual fund stock investing, real estate is still on my radar and another great wealth building option. Live and learn, but no regrets.

What differences do you see between yourself now and yourself 10-years from now?

Oh boy what a great question!! Well if I were to take a snapshot of myself today and 10-years from now I suppose the biggest difference I would see is a man and wife working to bring home the bacon vs. a man and wife living a life of pleasure and leisure. A life where half our waking hours are spent at the behest of “the man” vs a life fully spent living 100% toward the pursuit of happiness.

Blogging / Writing Questions

What motivated you to begin writing about personal finance and starting a blog to share with the world?

What motivated me was simply wanting to share my story, trying to spread the awareness of FIRE, and to be part of the conversation we are all having in the FIRE community. And while I went into it with the mindset of “giving” with  my blog, I must say I’ve also received so much. The FIRE community is filled with great folks that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet and interact with as much. And being part of the conversation and listening to others has been what has helped cement a lot of my own goals and financial objectives. Just a few examples include cementing my thoughts around 529 plans and setting my target retirement number and date (linked above).

What are one or two top lessons or some advice you could share on building a great blog like yours?

For those folks looking to get into the blogging world, I would say it isn’t for the faint of heart. It truly must be a passion otherwise it can be awfully hard to stay motivated to engage and write content for weeks, months, and years on end. I’m just entering my third year in the blogging world and if personal finance wasn’t a passion I wouldn’t be here today. If blogging is in your future, find a passion and commit to it!

From Chris -> So true! Having the passion and a true “why” really makes a huge difference!

Concluding Thoughts

Have any other ideas, thoughts, or advice you would like to share with our readers? The floor is yours!

The final thoughts I’d like to leave you with is to build a life worth living. There isn’t just one answer of how best to live your life, there are many different fruitful avenues and paths to travel. Just be mindful in how you are building your life. We all have a finite amount of time here and yet many folks aren’t thoughtful in how they are designing their life. I have been trying to be more mindful especially these last four or five years on my journey toward FIRE, but it is an endless pursuit. Have a vision of what the future holds and go get it!

Thanks again for having me by the kingdom, Dukes! And thank YOU for taking a look!

The Green Swan

And there you have it folks, what a great interview and very honest story. We appreciate having you on the blog JW, and look forward to reading more of your articles this year!