I started Stop Ironing Shirts more as a hobby to write about finishing up my corporate career, early retirement, and life afterwards to help other professionals going through the same thing. I always saved money by avoiding taking my shirts to the cleaners, but the goal was to stop that (and I ironed my last shirt in March of 2019). Check out our Q&A with Stop Ironing Shirts here.
Come read how you can stop ironing your dress shirts on the way to early retirement in this interview with Stop Ironing Shirts.
Each week at Personal Finance Blogs, we publish interviews from amazing bloggers from the personal finance space. This week, we are featuring the blog, Stop Ironing Shirts. During these weekly features, we are hoping to provide a way for you to interact and learn more about different blogs in the personal finance space. Below, you can read more about the story behind Stop Ironing Shirts, learn about the author, and learn personal finance tips from Stop Ironing Shirts to help you improve your financial situation. A big thanks for Stop Ironing Shirts for this interview! Now, we will turn it over to the author for this interview.
Tell us about Stop Ironing Shirts
I started Stop Ironing Shirts more as a hobby to write about finishing up my corporate career, early retirement, and life afterwards to help other professionals going through the same thing. It was difficult for me to part ways with my professional identity and a career I built after climbing the corporate ladder.
As for the name of the blog, I always saved money by avoiding taking my shirts to the cleaners, but the goal was to stop that (and I ironed my last shirt in March of 2019).
What makes you and your blog unique?
I look at the early retirement path solely using income from a corporate job and market investment. There’s no real estate wins, no tech IPO, no small business sale, and no side hustle that made the retirement possible.
Early retirement came after a decade and a half of earnings through sales and corporate employment while investing the difference between money earned and money spent.
What does “being good with your personal finances” mean to you?
I think of personal finances in the same way I would think about a business: What you earn minus what you spend is the net profit, and the higher the net profit, the more money you will have.
For me, this means earning more than I spend, spending less than I make, and investing the difference.
There are so many expense pressures that come from being a human, so it’s easy to spend 100% or more of the incoming cash flow.
It takes self-discipline to overcome these pressures, but with practice, it can be done.
What are some habits you practice to keep your personal finances in order?
Follow a budget, then starve it: The most important habit for our personal finances was always using a budget and tracking our expenses.
When my income grew, I set up automatic investments, increased deferrals, and kept the amount of money flowing into the budget low.
Every time I got a raise through work, I increased the automatic investments to keep lifestyle creep from showing up.
Also, I try to drive vehicles as long as possible. I recently passed 230,000 on the vehicle I’ve owned for the last thirteen years!
I’m not dogmatic about the new vs. used car debate, or small vs larger vehicle, but I can’t believe how quick people are to buy a new car because of a single repair at 130,000 miles, just assuming it’ll keep costing money.
I had a round of repairs around 150,000 miles, but have since gotten another 80,000 issue free!
What are your three articles people should read to get to know you and your message better on your site?
The three articles people should read are:
The First $500,000: My philosophy around financial independence is about getting to the first half a million dollars in net worth.
Getting to $500,000 puts someone in the top 20% in the United States in Net Worth (2017 statistics), and is what I consider a financial freedom number – especially when someone can make it there before 40.
It doesn’t mean you can stop working, but the need for money to be the primary motivator goes down.
A short hold period when combined with some maintenance expense and the transaction costs of selling can cause a massive loss on a home.
There isn’t an automatic answer for everyone and comparing the cost of renting to the cost of buying is important. Personally I’m going to rent unless a home’s price is roughly within 125x of the monthly rent.
I Gave My Early Retirement Notice….and Live Tweeted It: It’s not very often someone has been at the same company for 16+ years and gives a retirement notice just short of their 37th birthday. I knew this was a once in a lifetime moment and remembered to document it for the world to see.
For someone looking to improve their financial situation, what’s your best advice?
The first step is accepting responsibility for your financial situation. Blaming someone else or “the system” is ceding responsibility and control for your outcome. Next, you have to figure out which levers you can pull to increase the gap between what you earn and what you save.
Mr. Money Mustache’s article on debt was one of the most impactful things I’ve ever read. I see too many people treating their financial situation like isn’t an emergency, when in reality, it is an emergency.
Debt, unless it is against reasonably purchased real estate that replaces rent (or an investment property), is a complete emergency. Interest is a negative charge to your financial statement each day you wake up. Too many people still don’t treat debt like the emergency it is.
Some other questions I have for you before I can provide more advice…
Do you have more income opportunities? Work more. If you’re in sales, make more sales calls, go to more events. If your income in the day job is capped, what type of gig work can you pick up in your down time? There are income opportunities that just weren’t available a decade ago.
What abut expenses? People talk about housing, food, and transportation because they are so important.
My short term/emergency advice, such as for folks carrying student loans, vehicle, and/or credit card debt looks like this:
If you can’t afford to live alone, get roommates to help share the fixed costs.
Do you have debt and want advice on food expenses? If Aldi doesn’t sell it, you can’t afford to eat it.
Finally, understand that cars are expensive. The number of nice cars I see in “young professional” apartment complexes is both shocking and depressing to me.
It seems that the 20 something dream is to live in an expensive 1 bedroom apartment, have a financed new vehicle parked outside, and then buy restaurant food 3-4x per week.
For someone who wants to become financially successful, this dream seems asinine to me.
In your opinion, what’s better? Renting a place or buying a house to live?
Renting and buying a house are both great decisions. *Selling* a house can be a destructive financial decision.
Let the numbers drive your choice, buy a property with a good rent/price ratio and you’ll be fine. I’d advise people to avoid buying something that doesn’t work as a rental property unless they are sure it is *the* forever home.
Having to sell something that doesn’t work as a rental can be destructive financially.
In your opinion, what’s better? Focusing on increasing your income, or focusing on decreasing your expenses?
I’m on the income side of this argument. I pursued a career in sales, which has a higher income opportunity and surprised some people when I said our early retirement budget is in the $70,000/yr range.
Ultimately the gap between earning and spending matters, how someone gets a gap and grows it is a personal choice.
What is your favorite investment class and why? (stocks, private business, bonds, real estate, crypto, precious metals, etc.)
I’m a long term equity investor. I like owning pieces of companies. The great thing about investing is everyone gets to pick their own assets for risk/return and sometimes we get caught up dogmatically telling people that A is good while B is bad.
There are successful investors in many asset classes: Stocks, Fixed Income, Real Estate, and Entrepreneurial Businesses.
Either find one, and get really good at it, or invest the difference between what you make and what you spend in an index fund and keep earning money.
If you received a $5,000,000 windfall tomorrow, what would you do with the money?
I’d do a bunch of investing, but that’s not the fun part of the question.
I would improve our housing situation. If we stay where we live now, I’d either get a place on the beach or with a private dock.
Otherwise I’d move our primary residence to Florida, or Hawaii, and buy a second home in the mountains somewhere.
What’s a non-money related interest you have and what do you love about it?
I love the outdoors and traveling. Fishing, trail running, and hiking and high in my list of enjoyable activities. I’ve also recently taken up surfing, so I’m excited for more to come there.
Why do you believe learning about money and caring about personal finance is important?
There are so many institutions that profit by making money *more* complicated than it needs to be.
I used to joke when Investment Bankers came to visit and they’d be throwing around all these garbage terms that were created to make things more confusing.
Investment advisors are often guilty of the same thing.
Investing money isn’t complicated: Buy slices of companies and enjoy their future cash flow. It’s also not complicated, (but very difficult) to track every dollar you spend spending and spending less than you make.
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