Announcing The Crowd-Pleasing Catchy Title Challenge for Summer 2018

I read somewhere that blogging traffic generally slows down in the summer months. Admittedly since the weather has warmed up there have been 2 or 3 weekends where I was not so active on the blogging sites. That being said, along with my summer of listicles to lighten things up and provide a quick read for readers I'm adding an additional challenge: The Catchy Title Challenge for Summer 2018.  The goal here is just to add that fluffy flourish to your blog and keep readers engaged. Also, if successful it can increase traffic. Who doesn't want that!

Remember when you first signed up for this blogging adventure after reading your favorite bloggers' "How To Start a Blog" page. Many recommend titles that are How To or x Ways to Do This or That. In short, people search the internet for solutions. That's a nugget I recently realized after blogging. That's why they use Pinterest top... didn't know that either. Pinterest is apparently a visual search engine. What!

So to help kick off this challenge, here are some templates for catchy blog titles. I would encourage you to step outside the regular How To X or  X Ways... that's amateur ish. I am challenging myself to push the envelope a little and hit 10 outrageous titles this summer (Jun to mid-Aug 2018). I find just reading some of the templates act as sentence starters for future posts.  So not only is it a great way to add some flash it can help generate ideas. Read on!

End of Summer Update (Aug 2018)
In case you missed it, here are a few of mine ...

Top Three Sources for Catchy Titles πŸ‘ˆ see what I did there πŸ˜„.

My Early Retirement Journey - how to be single in your 30s and retire early

My Early Retirement Journey - How to be single in your 30s and retire early

My Early Retirement Journey - how to retire early in your 30s

No graphic but does provide some interesting adjectives to name a view....
Unbelievable / Beautiful / Terrible / Controversial / Shocking / Fluffy / Tasty / Seductive / Fantastic / Brilliant / Top / Powerful / Attention-Grabbing / Delicious / Mouthwatering / Gorgeous / Successful / Valuable 

End of Summer Update (Aug 2018)
In case you missed it, here are a few more ...

Enjoy. Use the wishbone icon to Share/ Tweet/ Comment/ Like/ Subscribe!

What No One Tells You About Managing Your Aging Parents' Finances

So I'm feeling pretty good. My mind is a buzz, and I got a lot done at work today (Wed, 30May2018). It was a busy day but I still managed to get some personal stuff done as well during downtime and breaks. Namely, I was able to tackle some errands for my aunt. If you're just joining us, she was staying with me for awhile and is slowly losing her mind. I've taken over managing her finances and what was overwhelming 3 weeks ago has been chopped down to bite-sized tasks that I've slowly tackled. Today was another mammoth task-ticking day and I thought I'd celebrate this mini-milestone with My Journey readers...all 3 of you πŸ‘€! In fact almost every day in the the last week or so has generated some new idea for a blog post. So before I draft them all into incomplete draft obscurity,  here's a quick listicle of what I learned just today from managing my aging aunt's finances!

What no one tells you about managing your aging parents' finances

  • They will be auto-enrolled by someone in lots of things for which they no longer remember the email address or password.

  • You will spend lots of time getting to know customer service agents via phone no less... during your work day (for those of us not FIRE'd).

  • They will likely have been swindled by some automatic withdrawals for fees or services they don't utilize or of which the are unaware.

  • There will be late fees.

  • They will have overpaid for something or many things.

  • They will have purchased something for which they have no need (e.g. loss of income insurance, international calls, and unlimited texting).

  • The medical bills are plentiful and outrageous. Donut hole...what that? Medicare Part what now?

  • You will have to navigate life as caretaker and child (care-receiver).

  • It is difficult establishing your independence while they assert theirs.

  • They have two to six cell phones for some reason. None of which they know how to adequately use.

  • They bought DVDs for you to watch the next time you come visit and for you to take home with you. You don't have a  DVD player.

  • They're happy to see everyone... all the time. It's as though they can feel their life slipping away from them even if little else registers.

  • So many unanswered questions that will remain that way.

    • Why are you using $150 worth of electricity/month for just you? In your country, you used to fetch kerosene.

    • You're really paying $100 for just cable? For what again?

    • Why do you need so much car insurance?

  •  They've forgotten how to bargain shop or can't be bothered. Why do you have chips that cost $7? Where did you even get those?

    • This is a woman who used to split an extra value meal among 3 kids instead of getting each a Happy Meal. #thrifty

    • We used to get Blizzards only when they were free at Dairy Queen when the temperature was below zero.

  • Some companies (no affiliates) are really helpful when you share your experience and even when you don't.

    • Amazon Prime refunded monthly charges for 7 months where my oldie had signed up and not used the service.

    • Credit One removed late charges when asked.

    • Bank of America credit card (worst bank based on previous experiences) refunds security deposits. Apparently if your credit is bad enough, they require a security deposit.

    •  Bank of America in branch customer service was helpful when trying to re-establish online access.

    •  Spectrum (internet/cable provider) stops charging late fees on balances after the internet/cable account is deactivated for non-payment.

    • Meals on Wheels didn't charge late fees for a past due balance.

  • Some companies are not really helpful.

    • SANTANDER is the worst. The literal worst. They will break usury laws and get away with it because they don't offer car loans...they offer "retail installment contracts."

    • Said installment contract for my oldie's car has now tallied up 30% of simple interest and counting. The limit for her state is 18%.

  • After you stop being annoyed with all the additional responsibilities of caring for your favorite oldie, you'll learn to enjoy their company once again. Cheers!

Comment below and share your story. How have your parents changed as they've gotten older? Did they get more lax or less bothered about anything? What about between siblings?

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How Design-Thinking Can Inspire Your Early Retirement Journey

Possible titles for this post.
How to Design Your Life
How to Design Your Life in Early Retirement
30 things to do in your 30s
How to Design Your Life Along your Early Retirement Journey
How to Design your Life: Visions of Life in Early Retirement 
How to Design your Life: Visions of Life Along Your Early Retirement Journey
How to Design your Life: Visions Along My Early Retirement Journey
How to Design Your Life: My Early Retirement Journey x - List 


I've been writing this post for a while now. As you can see above, I was getting stuck even on the title. It is something I have journaled about before I started My Early Retirement Journey. After reading Michelle's bucket list on Making Sense of Cents, I was motivated to at least post some draft of what's been circling in my thoughts because it was powerful to me what she had essentially spoken and written into existence. It was her bucket list from 2011, and it is remarkable how much of it she has achieved already as of 2018.  Her list was not just the typical adventure travel list; it included financial and personal goals. I found it really inspiring and felt compelled to get something drafted and published sooner rather than later. Thus, I purposed to get this post up by this weekend Memorial Day Weekend 2018 as opposed to putting it off any longer or scheduling it during peak blogging season.

In keeping any hints of envy at bay, I want to take a moment to celebrate what I have crossed off a short bucket list I once kept and a de facto one acquired along the way:

  • See Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in person

  • Visit California

  • See a Broadway show in NYC

  • Visit the Redwood Forest

  • Ride the PCH

  • Water-ski

  • Learn to surf

  • Sail the Intercostal Waterway

  • Visit Mexico

  • Take a roadtrip or two

  • Visit more states (seen 40 of the 50)

  • Visit all seven continents (4 so far)

  • Go to Eastern Europe

  • Be Independent

  • Get my own place, no roommates

  • Graduate college (3 times over)

  • Get an advanced degree

  • Get a passport

  • Get passport stamps

  • Go snow skiing... the list goes on.

Design your life.
So in accumulating my monstrous student loan debt and having an adventure here and there, I did graduate from a fancy school or two. One of which published some webinars on how to design your life. It was awhile ago now, but from what I remember the lecturer applied basic principles of engineering and design-thinking to the concept of achieving your optimal life flow.  In the Design Your Life Lecture Series, there are questions posed that must be answered and exercises to further aid your life design. I would encourage you, readers, to spend a little time getting to recognize your flow.

General Synopsis and Tips:

  • Your optimal life happens at the intersection of skill set and challenge.

  • Identify engagements (e.g. work, meetings, instrumental activities of daily living) that leave you with more energy (positive) rather than less energy (negative).

  • For optimal flow, as your skills move from low to high, so must your challenge otherwise you risk anxiety (too challenging) or boredom (not challenging enough).

  • Lastly, passion is not something you find, it's something that comes into focus along the way. So you're not necessarily seeking your passion but optimizing your flow.

The FIRE community has re-framed some of these concepts as happiness quotients derived from line items in your time/expense graph (i.e. spend money on things that make you happy or afford you the time for things that do; eliminate expenses that don't). Many are heard to describe spending more time with family; raising their children; or traveling as desirable objectives in the FIRE journey.  I had a brief travel bucket list in my late teens to early 20s and am grateful to have had the opportunity to cross off a few places stateside and abroad. Having been to everywhere I care to see the list soon ended.  I never made another one. In my current season of life, travel for the adventure of it isn't really a high priority.  For the record, neither are children and creating a family. I think what takes the challenge of out of adventure travel for me and thus the interest, is that it is fairly achievable. If you want go to go the Redwood Forest, save your money, buy a ticket and go. Granted the save the money part didn't always happen first, but the idea is- there wasn't really anything to work towards.

Now in My Early Retirement Journey, I want my life engagements and life events to be more purposeful, more intentional (not unlike my saving). As referenced in the Design Your Life lecture series, I want a positive energy outcome. Right now, I am very grateful to be employed at a fairly technical and straightforward job, but it is not providing my optimal flow. I'm happy to seek that outside of work and have pointed my compass towards My Early Retirement Journey.  It's been 3 years since I've graduated professional school and been seeking some sort of direction. It's been 1.5 years since I first watched the Design Your Life webinar. My thoughts circle around the same or similar life events I want to happen, but I have been unable to commit to anything. I vacillate betwixt the events being too small, insignificant, or without impact; to not really wanting to expend the energy to commit to something for which I can't reliably anticipate a desirable outcome;  to not wanting to push my luck and ask for anything more in life. I largely feel as though I've been given enough and that perhaps I'm being greedy. With that mindset, I find myself stuck and still not moving my life forward or in any direction really.

Then last night when I again tried to write this post, I stumbled upon Physician on FIRE's list of things to do in early retirement, and it got me thinking again. With this most recent post, my recall of the Design Your Life webinars and Michelle's impressive bucket list, I decided to just go for it.

Without committing to anything, or self editing, I am going to free associate what I see, saw, and have seen when envisioning My Early Retirement Journey (i.e. life in general). Achievable or not; significant or not; wish-list or bucket-list or goal-list or dream-list; desirable or not; superfluous or insignificant; worthwhile or without impact; work towards or magically happen; passively or actively seek; classified or not; categorized or not; contradiction or not; hypocritical or not; off-brand or not; these are my visions, as is.
My Early Retirement Journey - how to be single in your 30s and retire early


My x list.
Here no particular order.
(revision date: 25 May 2018)

  1. Experience life in another language.

  2. Have my student loan debt cancelled before 25 years.

  3. Raise awareness for the student loan debt crisis. Let the campaign make national news and be really successful.

  4. Find a place I can call home.

  5. Answer key question from the DYL series and life in general: Where do I belong?

  6. Reach FIRE by 35.

  7. Reach FIRE by 40.

  8. Reach FIRE by 45.

  9. Discover my purpose while I still have time, energy, and health to enjoy it.

  10. Leave a lasting legacy on the world.

  11. Leave a lasting impact on the world.

  12. Know that my life was meant to be.

  13. In my community or place I found to call home, do public health or  community service.

  14. Work with the American Red Cross disaster relief.

  15. Do a free medical mission.

  16. Find a church family.

  17. Find something that excites me as much as going to school in the 3rd grade (I went even when I had the chicken pox I liked it so much).

  18. Form a tribe that nourishes my spirit. Or learn to live without one.

  19. Be unbroken.

  20. Have a ritual of a morning, afternoon, evening walk/stroll.

  21. Eat ice-cream again.

  22. Not get diabetes or high blood pressure.

  23. Not get cancer and die a miserable death.

  24. Not get killed, murdered, or raped.

  25. Not die a horrible death.

  26. Die peacefully in my sleep at age 62 after being retired for at least 20 years.

  27. Eat well.

  28. Cook more.

  29. Regularly try new recipes.

  30. Bake more.

  31. Chop more.

  32. Eat more vegetables.

  33. Never be constipated again.

  34. Not be incontinent. Never lose bladder or bowel control.

  35. Never need dental work again.

  36. Automate the easy choices in my include breakfast, lunch, finances.

  37. Be kind.

  38. Have 1, 2, or 3 now wildly successful men from my past profess their undying love and proclaim I was the one that got away.

  39. Eat seasonally.

  40. Crack a lottery game and reap the rewards.

  41. Get to/thrive on a bare bones 500/500/500 budget; if student loan eliminated, replace with health insurance, travel budget/ missions (total 18k/year).

  42. Enjoy water sports.

  43. Host a small group (e.g. life group/bible study).

  44. Write a love story blog/ web series in the vein of the Murder She Wrote television program and be really good at it. Be the first to create this genre.

  45. Be an old lady actress.

  46. Have a cult following of my Love She Wrote serial blog.

  47. Not take an OTC or RX for at least 1 calendar year (not even an ibuprofen, vitamin, iron pills, or GI aids).

  48. Find my voice.

  49. Stop being the sidekick in my own narrative, life story.  Stop playing a supporting role in my own life. Be the hero of my story. Be the hero of my journey.

  50. Inherit a million dollars.

I would encourage all of you to at least write down your x-list for your life. Whether you believe in working with the universe, speaking thoughts into action or existence, plain hard work, vision boards, or the help of a higher power, making your intentions known is a part of the process even if only to yourself. Have a great day! Enjoy the journey wherever it leads.

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Scrapbook | A Photo Journey Inside the Home of My Early Retirement Journey

Welcome back to My Early Retirement Journey! Where I come from (unspecified country), when you've been friends with someone for awhile, it's expected that you will spend equal amounts of time in each other's home. One of one and not enough of the other and someone is quickly offended. Besides how can you get to know someone if you've never been invited into their home.  Personally an invitation to someone's home moves a relationship from casual to personal on the way to close.

In this community where we openly talk about the once taboo topic of personal finance, how then have I not let you peer into my personal space. I've been blogging for about 3 months now, so it seems fitting.  Here it is- my humble home in all its ordinary glory. Come on in!
Photo Journey (photos taken May 2018)


My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s and retire early
Outside my apartment building. I live in one of the apartments without a balcony.

My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s and retire early
Bed when I woke up this a.m. Nightstand = storage container


My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s and retire early
Swivel tv stand.


My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s and retire early
Armchair I sweat together one summer. From Target (no affiliate).


My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s and retire early
Kitchen. Dishes air drying. Single girl Cheerios dinner from last night.


My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s and retire early
Missed trash day on Thursday. Backpack from overnight stay in Maryland. Toaster oven, no regular oven.


My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s and retire early
Stacked appliances. Miss the old non HE washer. Have to air out detergent compartments, otherwise mold.


My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s and retire early
Laundry mountain. Empty Crockpot box.


My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s and retire early
Shower recently cleaned for houseguest.


My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s and retire early
Closet and empty hangers from clothes that need to be put away. Also no dresser, just use closet shelves.


My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s and retire early
Yay, mostly empty laundry basket. See laundry mountain.


My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s and retire early


My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s and retire early
Mostly clean kitchen. Sometimes I brush in the kitchen sink.


My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s and retire early
The opposite end of my apt visible from bed.


My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s and retire early
Pretty much same vantage point.


My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s and retire early
On the other side of the swivel tv stand. Sorry these are out of order. Don't know how to re-roder them without re-uploading everything individually. I'll do better next time.


My Early Retirement Journey - How to Be Single in your 30s and retire early
My dressing area, where I sit to get ready in the mornings.

That's it folks.That's also what $910/mon gets you in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. I hope you enjoyed the tour. Tune in again next time!

Coming soon: A photo journey behind closed doors. My Early Retirement Journey opens her cabinet and closet and fridge doors 😁!

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My Week Ending May 25, 2018: Dominica, Design Your Life, Commencement

Welcome back to My Early Retirement Journey. In case you're just joining us, here's a little bit about me.  I am a single 30-something, openly Christian, hesitantly immigrant-y, human woman. I love watching TV while eating takeout, and I want to retire early. I currently work as a consultant in a tele-health call center making around $40/hr. I started my professional life in 2015 at the ripe ole age of 31 after a few false starts. I spent 2016 paying off about $10,000 worth of credit card debt. I spent 2017 paying off about $20,000 in private student loans; I still have about $300,000 in federal student loans for which I am currently on an income-based repayment plan for the next 25 years, give or take.  I started really getting into savings and investing late 2017 when I stumbled upon the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community.  In 2018, I made the decision to try to save for a sabbatical and maybe if all goes well continue the journey to early retirement.  Along this journey, I give weekly updates just like this one. Come along with me, I urge you!

Monday -  Yay! Another work week. Spent the bulk of the day between calls researching Croatia, Portugal, Lesotho, Dominica. Trying to plot my mini-retirement. Get me out of here! Based on flights from say Oct 11, 2018 to April 11, 2019, it was cheapest to leave out of Washington DC and fly to Porto, Portugal. After reading a few blogs, listicles, and articles, my day of searching was a bust. I have in my mind a 6 month sabbatical/ mini-retirement. To travel to Europe, I would need to get some sort of visa to stay past 90 days. Boo! I thought about just doing 3 months #easychoice. But 3 months is like a summer vacation. Which would've been nice in 2015 after finishing professional school and was just enough time during the K-12 years, but now I'm looking for more than enough time. I want to fully rest, reset, recuperate, restore... all the r words.  Then I googled countries where you don't need a visa to stay 6 months. On the list were: Barbados, Canada, Dominica, Lesotho, Mexico, Panama. Barbados, Dominica, and Mexico were quickly discounted. Island retreat is not of particular interest to me. I just picture running from weather regularly. Pass. I got stuck on Canada for the rest of the day because I want the convenience of my current life. I quickly realized it didn't meet my other C: cost. Then the day was over. Defeated. What now?

Tuesday -  Worked 8a-4p. Even got out on time. Went home and cleaned up the trail of debris left by sharing a space with another human. It's been a trying 10 days. It wasn't all bad. I think like any relationship, miscommunication and lack of communication was at the helm. Enough about that.  After cleaning and sweating to death, went to Walmart to run errands and get my aunt her "things." Spent about $58 (Budget: $50/wk) on our cart of stuff. Took my aunt to dinner (chicken and rice). That was about $24 (Avg: $9 for just me). By the time we got home it was around 9p. Showered. New Girl. Sleep. Repeat.

Wednesday - Working till 3p today because heading to Maryland after work. On the way to work I remember wishing I had a different life. I don't even want to wake up really wealthy one day. I used to want that. Of course that would be nice, but as of this moment I just want to wake up with a whole new life. I want a reset button. I want to have the opportunity to take all the lessons I've learned and really win at life. I want to redo elementary school, middle school, high school, college, work life, friends, family. Everything!  This sounds like a good idea for a post - design your life. Stay tuned. What would you do if you had a reset button?

Thursday - Went to my cousins' college prep graduation from Good Counsel High School in Maryland (no affiliate). We left the house a bit after 7a to make sure we could find parking. Graduation didn't start until 10a. That was fun, she said sarcastically. The drive to a lovely catholic church in downtown DC helped cement how much I don't want to go back to living/driving in the city. As much as I hem and haw about NC, my life is very convenient here. I pay an emotional and somewhat financial price, but that's what makes me stuck in a decision loop.

Knowing how much debt my aunt has accrued - pulling from her 401k and falling behind in her mortgage- to send my cousins here took the celebration out of it for me. And then knowing they are about to encounter another debt journey to go to college after I hemmed and hawed about which schools would lower their debt burden to have it fall on deaf ears just made it a bittersweet day. Plus I was tired.

There were a few people there to help celebrate my cousins' commencement that I didn't know and in small talks about college, debt, and personal finance in general, I affirmed a few realizations: meeting new people is really not that much fun for me anymore; I don't like when people disagree with something I feel so strongly about; just as I haven't been able to successfully evangelize about Christianity, talking about FIRE is met with similar incredulity. When to me I just wish someone would've mentioned (maybe more than once) a different path to college and personal finance when I started on my debt journey, it's hard to swallow that people are about to walk into my mistakes.  I am not of the popular opinion that you need to let people make their own mistakes. What the heck are parents and your elders for if not to guide you! What's the point in making the same mistakes as those who came before you?

Friday- Yay, 4 day weekend! So glad I decided to drive back home last night even though the time I left added 2 hours of traffic to my journey. Woke up in my own bed with fresh sheets, the sun shining, and no work!  It's Memorial Day this coming Monday and I have 3 new post ideas I'm going to work on. I woke up fairly rested and excited to create some content. Onwards!

TV this week: New Girl, Family Feud (courtesy of my aunt)
Takeout this week: Peruvian chicken and rice

BlueBird (no affiliate) balance: (as of 5/23/18)
My Early Retirement Journey - How To Be Single in Your 30s and Retire Early

Note: I use the Amex BlueBird prepaid card in my current Working Budget for regular monthly expenses (groceries, eating out, phone, gas, etc..). My last budget update 03Mar2018 showed this line item as $540/mon (down from $600/mon), but in April 2018 I decided to challenge myself to $430/mon based on my idea that my bare bones budget, if needed and possibly in early retirement, is 500/500/500 housing/student loan/expenses. Since my loans are currently $566/mon I subtracted that $66 from the $500 for expenses and rounded down.

Next pay date: $215 is auto-deposited the 8th and 23rd of every month.

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7 Cheeky Ways To Save on Your Energy Bill This Month: A Listicle

So welcome back to My Early Retirement Journey. As I'm closing out this month, I've been dabbling in some listicles. One is already posted and one is scheduled. Stay tuned.  This is a quick one to wrap up this mini-season of my life.  My April 2018 power bill came and it was pretty low. I thought about what I could have done unintentionally to get it this low. Here's what I came up with for you in this here listicle.

7 Cheeky Ways To Save On Your Energy Bill This Month

  • Live in a studio. I only have 3 light fixtures. I can see every wall in my apartment from any spot in my home. I don't have central air or heating. Only one window opens so I'm very well insulated from the elements.

  • Don't work from home. Use your company's electricity for your laptop, refrigeration for your lunch and heating up snacks. Also for heating and cooling.

  • Work a day job and a side hustle so that you're away from home at least 12 hours. Unplug everything or charge it at work. Don't need to use any energy if you're not home.

  • Use a $1 lamp. Use a $1 lamp from the dollar store for all lighting needs. Because of the studio, one lamp lights up the whole apartment. Plus it's late when you get home so you just need it to find your way to bed.

  • Use a toaster oven for all your baking needs. Use a toaster oven instead of a regular oven because your studio apartment doesn't have an oven. Plan on only needing the space for 2 years so think it doesn't matter. Then wind up living there going on 3 years because you can't afford a nicer place to live or own.

  • Wash dishes no sooner than once every 10 days. You weren't home anyway to eat anything.

  • Don't shower. It uses hot water which requires energy. I don't think I showered this week at all. Just don't get sweaty and it keeps people from wanting to talk to you at work if you do.

Charged about $23.38 this month (48.87-25.49).

A note on this bill. When I first moved into my apartment, my first power bill said the average monthly usage for my area is $35. So I auto-pay $35/mon. There's a credit because I haven't been using that much energy every month. I haven't logged in recently to check the actual bill because they send a snippet in email, and they changed the log-ins and setting up log-ins is my pet peeve.  But I just subtracted the two balances to get what I was charged this month.  As you may know, My Working Budget is based on historical spending and I give myself an allowance to cover every day expenses. Most everything is automated. I reconcile balances as needed. That's what works for me this early in My Journey.

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What are your energy saving tips? Comment below and start the conversation!


My Week Ending May 18, 2018: Royal Wedding, Sick Again, Misery

Welcome back to My Early Retirement Journey. In case you're just joining us, here's a little bit about me.  I am a single 30-something, openly Christian, hesitantly immigrant-y, human woman. I love watching TV while eating takeout, and I want to retire early. I currently work as a consultant in a tele-health call center making around $40/hr. I started my professional life in 2015 at the ripe ole age of 31 after a few false starts. I spent 2016 paying off about $10,000 worth of credit card debt. I spent 2017 paying off about $20,000 in private student loans; I still have about $300,000 in federal student loans for which I am currently on an income-based repayment plan for the next 25 years, give or take.  I started really getting into savings and investing late 2017 when I stumbled upon the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) community.  In 2018, I made the decision to try to save for a sabbatical and maybe if all goes well continue the journey to early retirement.  Along this journey, I give weekly updates just like this one. Come along with me, I urge you!

Monday - Oh what a weekend! Flew to Tampa after work on Friday, May 11, 2018. Got to the gate with minutes to spare. Almost boarded a plane to Phoenix in all my frenzy. I guess that's why they check those boarding passes. Day 3 of being a pseudo caregiver and I know it's not for me. I want to contact Jillian at Montana Money Adventures and see how to plot a mini-retirement. Because I love milestone dates, I was thinking of pushing through until my next birthday (March 2019) and just taking a year off, FIRE be darned.  But since my lease is up in October 2018, I'm thinking why wait. Well these are daydreams, of course, because I've been plotting my escape since Work Day 1. 😐

Got my evaluations from the class back. That put a little sour in my spirit. Overall, most of the comments were good. But there was one mean-spirited one. Like a human, that's the one I've decided to dwell on. Mostly because I get tired of just taking it. You know, sometimes you just want to fight back.

Tuesday- A few days with my aunt and I'm back to planning my escape. Her jailbird (adopted American) daughter is coming "home" in December 2018. I want to be as far away from wherever "home" is. Considering my aunt is likely her home base and my aunt is currently displaced this has put an urgency in my desire to relocate. Brain (what I call my thoughts sometimes) told me Croatia or Portugal. Brain is stuck on those areas, unknown reasons. When I pushed back, I came up with South Africa, Botswana (after seeing the Meghan and Harry movie), and Spain. A few hundred clicks, and I've come up empty. On my wishlist are similar concepts to early retirement: peace, serenity, rest, relax, restore. At a bare bones budget of $1500/mon x 6 months, I'd need $9,000 saved by October 2018. Six months is another time frame Brain has come up with. Just enough to get away but not too long to require something to do. Also leads to an amount that seems feasible to raise in the next 4 or 5 months.

Mental roadblocks: what will I do with my car? my stuff? what if my aunt is not settled by then? what if I can't get my old job back? I don't do enough to be terminated, at least I don't think, but do I do enough to be re-hired?

Wednesday -  Still don't have my Fall 2018 Escape plan mapped.  To tell the truth, I'm fully discouraged as I've been trying to escape since I graduated in 2015, earlier if I'm honest. I do have some tentative plans for the royal wedding πŸ˜„, however. Part of said plans has been commingled with the idea of dropping my aunt off in Maryland early on Saturday. But that would mean missing the royal wedding! There would be coverage on Sunday and really, getting my mental space back would be worth it. However, on further thought, although it seems apparent to me she's not having very much fun here what with all the bickering, I think her feelings would be hurt.  Sometimes even if people don't like you or whatever current situation, they want to be the ones to end the relationship/ experience. Dealing with humans is not really on the top of my list of things I enjoy. Hence why I choose to live as independently as possible.

Back to things that I'm slightly excited about. My royal wedding menu: English muffins, or cornbread or blueberry muffins; potato salad, some bbq meat (meatballs or lil smokies), rolls, tacos and refried beans and some sparkling juice. Get excited!

Thursday - Worked. Felt really bad, healthwise, congested and both hot and cold. Another wish for early retirement now is ample recovery time - rest and restore. Ran errands at Walmart (affiliate). My BlueBird card (no affiliate) finally had a balance of zero. Had to use my Visa for the rest of my expenses. My spending in May 2018 has been a little out of control. I have to pay some of my aunt's bills. I've mentally allotted half of the side gig money (about $800) and my monthly tithe to her cause before I start to feel the tug on my budget. Helping out family is a line item in my budget.

My Early Retirement Journey - how to retire in your 30s
Visa Expenses - All related to my aunt, total: $486

This week has been a struggle. I haven't slept through the night since last Thursday, May 10, 2018 and my body is feeling it. Thoughts race about my aunt. I'm tense, on edge all the time and defensive which is not a good resting state physically; side gig ended and I thought I'd finally have time to relax and now this; her being here is bringing out a side of me that I don't want to get to know. Will the misery never end! We don't have any actual conversations. I'm at a place in my life where it's important to me that people try to get to know me. For someone who has known me my whole life, I doubt she knows very much about me. We simply don't talk. I've tried over the years, believe me I've tried. As an adult, I realized the importance of trying to learn from your elders especially as her medication list lengthened thinking hmmm in America people are so nostalgic for their family. That just isn't my reality.

My Early Retirement Journey - How To retire in your 30s

Transportation notes:
DMV renewal: $112
Car Inspection: $30
Gas: $24
Airport Parking: $14
Gas in Tampa: $8
(some returned airfare for cancelled flights)

Bills notes:
Aunt's electric bill: $138
New phone (airtime): $28

My mental rant reminds me of an article I read once about how children used to be economically valuable and are now emotionally priceless. It's certainly true in this part of the world. With some of the people I'm surrounded by of late, I think sometimes people have kids because they're afraid they're not going to be good at anything else. Somehow their life has meaning and purpose by doing the deed and popping out yet another ordinary human. But my wildly unpopular belief is that raising kids is as much of an accomplishment as raising yourself. Ok, so what? Wow, you didn't die and neither did your offspring. Ok? What was the point of your life? Millenial Revolution posed a similar question in one of their posts that makes me feel this is not an idea I alone hold. I think in poorer countries, you just need the help. That seems reasonable to me. But in the US...really what is the point?

Friday - It's Friday 2:20 a.m. as I write the update for today. I'm awake as my aunt lies snoring beside me. No matter how I try not to feed into the bickering with my aunt, it's like my mouth just opens. When someone barks at me, I bark back. Maybe because in so much of my life, I'm not allowed to say anything. And now I can. It's not nice and it's not a part of me I like. Then I'm up all night replaying the scenario. And there goes both my day and the night. Peace and serenity be darned!

My apartment used to be my place of refuge from the big bad world. I've lived here 2.5 years and never invited anybody over because I didn't want them to leave behind their bad juju. Oh boy! After a week with my aunt, it's been nothing but bad juju. I come home to orders being barked at me;  in between the orders there's just silence; the constant watching; I'm afraid of making any move because it will be questioned in the form of an accusation... i.e. That's what you're eating? You're wearing that? Thoughts of moving out at the end of my lease are close to the forefront of my mind.

It's been a pretty undesirable week overall. I'm still sick. I want to attribute it to the stress of the last week, my aunt's health, her being here, and her general germs as another human that's not me. I thought about it further wondering why this year after living in the area going on 7 years that I'm suddenly getting so sick. Of course, I blame work. But what else? Sure, allergies can develop at anytime much like any immune-related disease. But let's say that's not it. The only other thing I can think of is the fact that I didn't get my flu shot this year. Maybe my body wasn't challenged with anything to mount an immune response for this year's pollen attack on my immune system. Or maybe it's a combination of everything. Either way, this was another not great week.

TV and Takeout this week: I figured out the Roku and it's been great! No more streaming on Ipad. Mostly watched what my aunt was watching- HGTV, Family Feud. Fell asleep to some New Girl. As for takeout, dear sweet auntie loves to eat out/spend money. We have that in common, the takeout part anyway. We did chicken and rice, Thai food - had some tasty beef and broccoli, Jimmy John's.

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Why Yes, This Is My $300,000 Student Loan Repayment Plan: REPAYE 2018

Welcome back to My Early Retirement Journey. So the other day, I got an email from my student loan servicer. That's better than a wedding invitation, said no one ever.

What the heck is REPAYE

What is it? REPAYE is one of four income-driven repayment plans offered by the federal government for federal student loans.

How much do I pay? With the REPAYE plan, your payment is generally 10% of your discretionary income. Your discretionary income is calculated as adjusted gross income minus 150 percent of the state poverty guideline for your family size. Additionally, payments can be estimated using their Repayment Estimator.

How long is the repayment period? It depends. The REPAYE plan’s repayment period is twenty (20) years if all loans you are repaying under the plan were received for your undergraduate degree. The REPAYE plan’s repayment period is  twenty-five (25) years if any loans you are repaying under the plan were received for a graduate or professional degree program.

What happens at the end of REPAYE if I still have a balance? Under any of the income-drive repayment plans, including REPAYE, any remaining loan balance is forgiven at the end of the repayment period.

What else do I need to know? As of now, the forgiven balance may be considered taxable income, however this single girl is curious to see how exactly the IRS plans to collect that tax bill on a population of “needy” people. Maybe income-driven tax repayment plans? 😊

For more information, go directly to the Federal Government’s Student Aid website.

What does that mean for the single girl

Take a look at the numbers. Here I openly share my $300,000 student loan balance and the income-based monthly payment calculated with the REPAYE program.

To pay or to REPAYE

The difference (Standard Repayment vs REPAYE):
Using standard repayment as the original: $3642
Using REPAYE amount as the new: $566
The percent difference is (3642- 566)/ 3642 * 100 = 84.5% decrease in monthly payment

Because I chose to contribute to a traditional 401k vs Roth 401k, I decrease my adjusted gross income and this helps keep my payments low since the REPAYE payments are income-based. This year (2018) will be the first year I attempt to contribute the maximum to my 401k.
Final thoughts

I know debt is sacrilege in the FIRE blogosphere, but each person's journey is different. It makes more sense to me from a financial standpoint to carry this debt and apply for loan forgiveness after 25 years.  I hope and pray it pays off!  The most salient ramification is that if I were to take on a mortgage, my debt-to-income ratio would be quite high. Psychologically, carrying a mortgage and this loan is burdensome which plays a role in why I have gotten out of the housing market.

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My Week Ending May 11, 2018: Duty Free, Tampa, Roku

My Early Retirement Journey - single 30-something, early retire

Oh what a week! Welcome back to My Early Retirement Journey! And in case you missed it, this is what happened last week.

Monday -  Finally got my new phone ($9). Had it delivered to work. That's not really allowed, but the first time I tried to order a phone from Simple Mobile (no affiliate), they shipped via FedEx. FedEx  tried three times to deliver it during the workday at my home. I obviously wasn't there and their shipping guidance did not allow anyone else to sign for it. This time, given the previous history I had it shipped to my work. Womp, womp. It was delivered to the mailbox at work on a Saturday. I was home!!  After a year without regular cell phone service, why now? Well the short answer has to do with the declining health of my aunt. I felt it would be best to have a reliable way to be contacted and to have a phone I could use to work from home, if needed. I have a post coming up on why I went without a cell phone for a year. Stay tuned. This was even pre-My Early Retirement Journey. I think FIRE has been in my blood all along, just unrealized.

Tuesday -  Worked 8 hours. Hectic trying to deal with my aunt. I have bought the same airline ticket twice now. Each time the price keeps going up, naturally. In the moments where she is lucid I defer to her guidance. But this is a mistake. It's been a rocky transition in my role as surrogate caregiver via telephone. Not one I particularly desire to be perfectly honest. I've clung to my claim to fame as the only person I know who has no baby, pet, husband (partner), or house.  As far as typical responsibilities, I'm duty free.  It's an identity I'm getting to know and to date, getting to like.

Wednesday -  Worked 8 hours. Got gas during my break. Had a delicious nacho chips with beans and salsa lunch at work. Tortilla chips taste so much better at work. I don't know why.  Decided to do nothing that pertained to adult responsibility. This lasted until around 8p and then I washed some hand. Summer tends to lend itself to that. All that darn daylight inspires a more productive me.  Plotting my social media debut with my blog...maybe this summer...maybe sooner.

Thursday - Worked 8 hours. Woo hoo! First week with no side hustle! Suddenly, my aunt called me twice to ask me to drive her back to NC from FL. It was originally an idea I was thinking about - me flying down and driving her back so she could have her car for little errands. The more I thought about it though, why did she need a car? She can't seem to find places in her immediate surroundings, how then in a new environment. Tonight's personality was her abrasive self.

Ran errands at the big Walmart, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods, spent at least $60 ($10 over weekly budget) trying to find food for my aunt's visit. She said to wait until she comes, but I know given her history she will complain if there's no food. And I don't want to hear it. I armed myself  preemptively.

Friday - So, after much debate and $300 dollars later, I'm flying to Tampa to collect my aunt who either has dementia or a raging UTI. We are hoping for the latter. Well at least I am. She still says she's not sick and there's nothing wrong with her so she didn't need to go to urgent care. The hardest part of elder care for me has been deferring to their judgement by default and then remembering later that they're sick and it's really up to me. This is why a flight that originally started out as $45 has now come down to $300. This is something my family who is now being looped in still has not reconciled as they are still passing on her wishes to me. And I'm like NO! She doesn't know what she's talking about. She still thinks she's the person she was. All I want to scream is HELP ME! But I say nothing. Who will listen? What can they do? I don't have a baby precisely because I never desired to care for nor nurture anyone. Now an actual adult person might be relying on me. πŸ˜“

At work, tried to go out for lunch. It was too busy. Ended up with chips and a banana. One bite of banana was distasteful and chips weren't any better. Two hours later I ended up with Hunan Shrimp just before the lunch special was over.

Set up Roku this morning. Glad I followed my own good judgement and ordered this contraption. I had looked into Sling last year (2017) after or during my summer seasonal hold for cable. I didn't want to use my debit card to try it out so I think I put it on the back burner. With my aunt coming to town, I figured she would need something to do during the day. She initially said she'd be fine without cable. Ha, my logical brain said. I listened and I'm glad I did. I was able to set it up this morning and after the recent turn of events it was a good purchase - $40 for 2 months pre-paid Sling and I got a free Roku Express, no affiliate.

TV this week: Survivor (it's getting so good!), Rules of Engagement, Bull
Takeout: PF Chang's via Foodsby (a new food delivery service; meal ended up being free because our order was late!),  Chinese by work, Spicy Chicken and rolls from neighborhood grocer

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Enron and Madoff and Ponzi! Oh My!: How to Background Check Your Financial Professional

So when I started My Early Retirement Journey, one of the first things I had to reconcile was the fear of letting my money go to a place I didn't understand. Every few years, we hear the stories of Bernie Madoff, or the next Bernie Madoff, or the Enrons or even watch CNBC. CNBC has an entire 13-season-and-counting run of American Greed which chronicles stories of greedy doctors, businesses, and financial advisers and firms. One must wonder, who is going to be next? When will the next Ponzi scheme come tumbling down and who will be affected? Is it going to be someone in the oft touted Vanguard or one of the new robo-advisors popping up...Wealthfront? Betterment? Ellevest?

What can we as consumers do to arm ourselves? Well as far as I know, no one truly knows what anyone is going to do, but the US government does put some safeguards in place to try to keep us and our assets safe.  I did some research and this is what I found.

Who we are as investors?
In 2010, the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy asked the Library of Congress’s Federal Research Division to prepare a report on behavioral traits of U.S. investors.  The Library of Congress report identifies nine investing behaviors that can undermine investment performance. These behaviors include: active trading; the disposition effect; focusing on past performance and ignoring fees; familiarity bias; manias and panics; momentum investing; naΓ―ve diversification; noise trading; and inadequate diversification.

How to invest wisely?
The SEC recommends you ASK QUESTIONS. Per the SEC, we see too many investors who might have avoided trouble and losses if they had asked basic questions from the start. We encourage you to thoroughly evaluate the background of any financial professional with whom you intend to do business—before you hand over your hard-earned cash. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or have been investing for many years, it’s never too early or too late to start asking questions. It’s almost impossible to ask a dumb question about how you are investing your money. Don’t feel intimidated. Remember, it’s your money at stake. You are paying for the assistance of a financial professional. They should be prepared to answer your questions.

How do I do a background check?
If it's someone recommended to you by a friend or family member ask them about their experience with this person. Do they get statements? Are there returns too good to be true? Is it easy to reach the advisor? Does this advisor target only a certain group of people? Are they registered with the state? What training and experience do they have?

If you're in the FIRE world, or use online services, these and others are still questions you can pose. You can search the founder of the investment firm. If your employer has a 401k, the Prospectus that comes with it lists the fund manager. You can verify your broker’s disciplinary history by checking the Central Registration Depository (CRD) or by doing a broker check. Either your state securities regulator or FINRA can provide you with CRD information. Researching investments is part of an investor’s due diligence. Also, you should know that if your financial professional or his or her firm goes out of business or declares bankruptcy, you might not be able to recover your money—even if an arbitrator or a court rules in your favor. Do your research!

Research tools:
Ask and Check - Research Investment Products and Professionals
Using EDGAR - Researching Public Companies
Using EMMA - Researching Municipal Securities and 529 Plans
FINRA Fund Analyzer - The Fund Analyzer offers information and analysis on over 18,000 mutual funds, Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) and Exchange Traded Notes (ETNs).  This tool establishes the value of the funds and impact of fees and expenses on your investment and also allows you the ability to look up applicable fees and available discounts for funds.

How to Read a Mutual Fund Prospectus
Part 1 of 3:  Investment Objective, Strategies, and Risks
Part 2 of 3: Fee Table and Performance
Part 3 of 3:  Management, Shareholder Information, and Statement of Additional Information

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My Week Ending May 4, 2018: Dementia, Remote Work, Health Numbers

Hi, there. Welcome back. So this is what happened this week in My Early Retirement Journey.

Monday - Week started off a little somber. I spoke to my aunt who raised me and she is misplacing her words. It was as if I were watching a television show except I was a part of the cast. We were trying to book her a trip to DC for one of my cousins' graduation. Strange things happened. She asked when she was going to be in New York. And when she was going to be in Atlanta. But I could tell she thought she was saying DC. One time she just said a random number in place of a word. Most of the conversation was her baseline, but obviously there were some noticeable neurological misfires.

I looked up Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease because I couldn't remember their pathophysiology.  According to Google doctor, Parkinson's has more to do with memory retrieval difficulty and Alzheimer's has more to do with difficulty storing new memories. I am thinking the issue is memory retrieval. Her symptoms are inconsistent and may likely be related to her chronic kidney disease which is conceivably turning into end stage renal disease as she has stopped taking her prescription medication and is not on dialysis. Aye!

I've had genetic testing done when I tried to donate my eggs in my 20s, so as far as I know I don't carry any genetic disposition for dementia or any other disease for that matter.  That was just my selfish moment. I tried to remember the last time she was really her bubbly, outgoing self. I would say her last best self that I remember was 2011 or 2012 and has steadily declined since then.  In 2012, she turned 63. She had retired the year before at age 62.

My Early Retirement Journey - My WeekOf note, I also work in a telehealth call center, and I hear calls like this all the time where men and women in their 60s to 80s just have a hard time at life and misplace their thoughts. At this point it seems as though they're just kind of wondering why they're alive battling all these diseases. I'm reminded of that song from Dave Matthews Band "The Space Between." For people that are living with chronic disease, especially the elderly, it seems to me they live their life in the space between doctor's appointments or recovery from acute illness, not unlike my aunt. What's the point. My Journey is both fueled and arrested at the same time. What really is the point?

I have these moments where I just want to escape my current life. I had one such moment last week   when I submitted a request to my manager to work remotely for 6 weeks. Initially I wanted out of my routine. I had in mind the idea of taking a road trip somewhere, but now I'm feeling more inclined to go on some road adventures with my aunt. I don't know that she could handle a cross country trip; maybe I've watched too many movies and I'm romanticizing end of life.  She made sure my childhood was filled with adventure and I feel I need to do something. But what?

The sudden turn in my aunt's health also got me thinking about my next 20 or 30 years.  I've pretty much accepted the rest of my 30s are going to be my grind years. I've pushed my budget enough to know this. But what of age 40 to 60? Will I make it there in good enough health to enjoy average health until my decline?, she asked into the void.

Tuesday - Worked day job. Then went to review session for my side gig, a faculty teaching job at the local community college.  Praise Jesus! My last class! Well I celebrated this last week as well. I celebrated last lecture! And last lab! It's been a hectic 4 months at best. On the plus side, I have enjoyed the structure of my week. I woke up at the same time everyday just about and got home late everyday. I adjusted.

Wednesday - Day job for 9.5 hours. Manager told me my request to work remotely for 6 weeks was denied. That solves that mystery as far as what to do with my aunt. Well it eliminates one of the options: instead of thinking I would be able to go down to Florida, she'll have to come here or go to one of my other aunts' houses. Am I really ready to be someone's primary caregiver? No. But was she ready to take me on when I sought asylum in the US? No. But she did it. And so must I. Right?

Thursday - Feeling productive today. I'm not sad as long as I don't think about my aunt and how her life is likely ending as they say not with a bang but a whimper ("The Hollow Men"). One day she'll be here, and one day she won't. I pray that she knows no more suffering.

So I worked 6 hours at my day job. We had a biometrics screening as part of what they call Health Engagement credit. There are 3 tasks we have to complete to get get a discount on our health insurance premiums next year. With the biometrics and another survey of health activities I finished the last 2 tasks.  Since spending numbers are pretty far from my mind right now, I'll share my health numbers, an oft overlooked aspect of FIRE.

  • BMI: 22 (normal range: 18.5 to 24.9)

  • Height: 5 feet 5 inches (I'm really 5 feet 4.5 inches, but they rounded up)

  • Weight: 130 lbs (likely due to recent constipation and side hustle taking up prime eating time, usually closer to 140 to 145 lbs)

  • Blood pressure: 97/67 (I'm pretty much sedated through much of the day and not easily excited; normal < 120/80)

  • Pulse: 73

  • Total cholesterol: 154  (normal range: 125 to 199)

  • HDL cholesterol: 67 (female normal range: ≥ 50)

  • Non-HDL cholesterol: 87 (normal range < 160)

  • Total Chol/HDL ratio: 2.3 (normal range: < 5.0)

  • Non-Fasting Glucose: 88 (normal range: < 140)

All within normal range trending ever so slightly away from normal compared to last year.

At side hustle, all students showed up for the final exam. Hallelujah, it's over! A little anticlimactic since I've been having mini-celebrations for 2 weeks now 😊.  I was running out of time to get my car inspected so I went to a dealer by the college that was open late and got my car inspected in order to renew my registration for the year. It took a while and I was able to grade all the exams! Yay. No homework for me this weekend.

Friday  - Finally made it! Last day in a four month journey of 2 jobs! Thank you Jesus!! I have little else to say.  My spending is not at the top of my list. No mental tally of how much I spent this week. No space in my short term memory. Just a lot of lists.  Need to do piles of laundry. I've been going pantyless all week because I  should have done laundry 2 weeks ago. TMI? Probably, but who is reading this anyway? Got some jerk chicken and rice on the way home. Showered. Watched Life in Pieces. About to fall asleep.

TV shows this week (via streaming apps): Life in Pieces, Survivor, Alex, Inc, old episodes of New Girl
Takeout: Yes. Too tired to think what.

Until next time, thank you for stopping by My Early Retirement Journey.

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Spotlight on: Retire By 40

Remember the 'old days' when online chat was still a thing and people would list and ask for stats upon entering a chatroom. I thought that might be a quaint idea to utilize as I browsed and shared other FIRE blogs of interest. As this blog grows, there might be other blogs that might apply to your situation or season or just might be more interesting. I like sharing knowledge; it's kind of what the Internet's all about. Some of the details are things bloggers have strong opinions on and use it to differentiate their experience. Others are things that are fun or basic to know about other bloggers.

Today's Blog Spotlight features Retire By 40. There's something irreverent about this blogger. I picture a calm middle aged man making notes on the world with nothing entirely new to say but enjoying being part of the conversation. I can relate to the heart he puts in his posts as he endeavors to remind readers it's not that much greener on his side of the grass (eventhough we suspect it likely is).

Blog name: Retire by 40
Author: Joe Udo
Blog start date: 2010
Location: California
Current Age: 44
Age of FI/RE: 38
Net worth: $2,312,988 (as of Feb 2018)
Debt: not found
Income/ Income streams: investment income, wife's salary, blog income, renal properties, Real Estate Crowdfunding, P2P Lending
Savings: $2,312,988 + $50,000/yr from wife's income
Filing status: Married

Rent/own: own
Kids: 1
Pets: no
Car: yes
Cell phone: yes
Cable: yes
Credit cards: yes, for travel hacking

Motivation: Per RB40, I had been a computer engineer at Intel since 1996, but the job wasn’t the right fit for me anymore. They needed senior engineers who can lead people and projects. That wasn’t me and the job became more and more stressful. My physical and mental health deteriorated and I knew I had to get out.
Their Journey so far: FIRE'd July 2012
 Blog Notables: His wife is still working. He is a stay at home dad and blogs on the side. Has multiple online business ventures and stays cautiously optimistic.

My takeaway: I enjoy the seemingly uncomplicated life he has carved out with simple objectives each day. I can appreciate those who lean into a life more ordinary.
How I relate to their journey: While my job still suits me for the time being, there are daily regular stressors of a work-life that chip away at my mental health. This also has fueled My Early Retirement Journey. His was the third How-To-Start-A-Blog post I read before I did my first trial with Bluehost.

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What blogbytes would you like to know about your favorite FIRE blogger?

5 Free Things I Learned From YouTube: A Listicle

No blog is complete without a listicle. Everyone must have read some pervasive article about attention grabbing titles... so here's my first attempt at one on this adventure I call My Early Retirement Journey.

Intro. I was pretty late to the YouTube era. I don't really see the point. I generally don't watch cat videos or videos of people falling. Comedy or slap stick is not really my area of interest. When I watch TV, I want to be captured and I want to suspend disbelief. I want something to grab my attention for more than five minutes. That being said, YouTube and I have made contact for a few useful ventures. In an attempt to explore with my blog, I thought I'd start with my first listicle, 5 Free things I Learned from YouTube. It's very you say... on-brand πŸ˜€. Here we go...

5 Free Things I Learned From YouTube
1. Dying my hair/ hair care. When I started graduate school, I tried out a new personality - that of a hot girl. I bought make-up and hair extensions. It was starting to get expensive and ombre was all the rave. I watched a few YouTube videos and decided to try to dye my hair extensions. It was actually kind of the end. I rocked those hair extensions for about 2 years.  As I'm learning, three easy steps are never just that. What the fashion vloggers did in a ten minute video took me about 3 days and I stained a lot of things including the carpet in my rental apartment. Oops.  I also learned other hair care tips. On the high end, I would say this saved me about $100/week.

2. Jump starting my car. One day during graduate school, my roommate and I met up at Olive Garden. Well I guess former roommate because it was fourth year and we were all in different locations. My former roommate and I met up at the Olive Garden in between our respective new towns. After lunch, we were chatting in the car with every intention of leaving soon. I had turned my car on in preparation to leave. We ended up talking for about 2 or 3 hours more in the parking lot and my battery died! I didn't have a smart phone and still don't. She did, so she looked it up on YouTube. We found out we needed jumper cables. We asked a few people in the parking lot without success. Then we asked one of the employees in the restaurant and behold! Our server had some jumper cables. Using YouTube we figured out how to hook up the cables between our two cars. Within 30 minutes, I was on my way! Thanks, YouTube. I would guess-timate this saved me about $100 for roadside assistance which neither one of us had at the time. I've actually had to jumpstart my battery several times in the ten years I've owned my car and in the last year or so finally added roadside assistance.

3. Cooking new foods/ kitchen hacks.  I like to try new recipes. Usually I look them up online and can follow a recipe. But for new or ethnic foods, I like to see a how-to video. From YouTube, I've learned to make stir-fry; salmon teriyaki many ways; how to use a Cuisinart grill...even bought one; how to caramelize onions in a Crockpot; how to shape and fry donuts; make churros; grate ginger with a fork. I've enjoyed watching other people's cooking shows. Thanks, YouTube! Estimated savings: say $50/cooking class...times at least 10 over the years = $500.

4. Using a paintbrush to clean a computer keyboard. I got tired of all the dust in my keyboard and those air cans are pricey around $6 to $10 a can. I saw online somewhere to use a little paintbrush to sweep out the keyboard. Works like a charm on my new laptop and external keyboard at work vs my crusty old personal laptop. Paint brush cost me about $2 or $3 and I've had it for about 3 years now. I would say this little hack saved me about $30.

5. Blogging technical tips. Just about everything I learned about using Wordpress, I learned from either the Rockstar Forums or a YouTube video... to name a few: moving Blogger to Bluehost; setting up drop-down menus; what Merge Top Menu means; using Cloudlfare; figuring out Headers; coding; different plug-ins in Wordpress; even some Blogger tips like changing the blocking color and font on my theme; moving back to Blogger. Thanks, YouTube! Savings: priceless.

So, what are some of the things you've learned from YouTube? Comment below and start the conversation. I urge you!