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This week we have: Nathan from Millionaire Dojo!
Nathan is a 25-year-old on his way to financial independence. He set a goal to become a black belt in finance (achieve a net worth of a million dollars) and blogs about the steps he’s taking to get there. You can follow his journey at Millionaire Dojo.
Take it away, Nathan!
First off, I’d like to thank Mike for starting this series and letting me be a part of it. Open communication is one of the best things we still have today and it’s great that people are opening up and being honest about their lives. So much of what we see from each other on the internet seems to be the highlight reels. Everyone shares their highly edited selfies and the best photos from their travel experiences. It is a rare occasion to see someone sharing something negative about their lives publicly so this series is a real treat.
I’ll start with my losses so we can end on a positive note.
Loss #1 transitioning from a stupid teenager to adulthood
When I was 18, I went to hang out with a friend. We didn’t have much to do, so we decided it would be fun to play beer pong. With Vodka! A few rounds into the game, I had drunk probably over 10 shots and was trashed. I’m not sure how much I ended up drinking in total, but I definitely lost the game and eventually blacked out.
After we were done playing vodka pong, we got hungry and decided to go to waffle house. I don’t remember driving there, but I did. I remember small moments eating at the restaurant but the rest is a blur.
When we left the restaurant, I pulled right out in front of someone and they slammed into us. No one was hurt, thankfully, but the cops came and had me in handcuffs shortly after.
I spent the night in jail wondering what kind of impact this was going to have on my life
At the time, I figured my life was ruined.
My parents picked me up the next day and my dad informed me that my punishment from him was going to be paying for any expenses that the DUI occurred. Since I’ve always been a saver, this was the perfect punishment. I think the total expense of the DUI was probably over $5,000. It could have been a lot more, so I’m thankful I got out with the expenses I did.
The day of my court date came and I received my sentence. My driver’s license was suspended for 1 year, I was put on probation for a year, had to take an alcohol class, and do 40 hours of community service. The worst part was losing my license for a year. My parents live in a very rural area, so I was pretty isolated. Thankfully, my girlfriend at the time (who is now my wife) stayed with me through it.
It was hard not to become a little depressed during the year that I had to stay at home. I made it through though and things got much better once I was able to drive again. I was able to work with my dad some during the year and was able to save up enough to buy a junky car. After buying the car, I had probably less than $100 dollars in my bank account. I started over with nothing but a car and a minimum wage job at the age of 20.
If you do something stupid, don’t let it defeat you. I have a good family life so that helped me overcome my self-inflicted adversity. I hit the ground running when I was able to drive again and haven’t stopped hustling since. We all make dumb decisions sometimes and you can’t let that define you. Just get back up and get to work. You’ll be successful if you can look past the failures.
Loss #2 I didn’t do it
My second loss actually came during the same period I was dealing with the DUI. Between the time of my arrest and the court date, I was able to get a temporary driver’s license. So, I was able to continue working my job at Chic-fil-A.
A few weeks before my court date, something happened at work. A coworker friend decided to take some left-over food home at the end of his shift. The Chic-fil-A I worked at had a strict policy that prohibits anyone from doing this. Since I knew other people had taken food before, I didn’t really think much of it. He did try to take more food than anyone else had though, so I should’ve said something.
Another co-worker found out about him trying to take food and decided to use it as an opportunity to make themselves look better. Yes, there are politics even at fast food chains. The tattle tail co-worker told one of the managers about it so I figured the case was closed and forgot about it.
A couple of weeks later, the owner of the Chic-fil-A came to me and the coworker who had taken the food and said he needed to talk to us in his office. He took my co-worker in first and had me wait outside.
When it was my turn to speak with him, it felt like I was being interrogated on a crime show
I acted like I didn’t know about the situation and he didn’t buy it. After the owner threatened to press charges on me, I told him that I knew the co-worker was going to take the food and didn’t do anything about it. He fired me on the spot.
Thankfully, he didn’t press charges on me, but he has done that in the past with people who have taken a chicken sandwich home after a shift. Pretty expensive sandwich.
Although I thought he was wrong in firing me, it still hit me pretty hard. I was already down about the DUI situation and this just added to my grief.
I think getting fired actually helped me become a better worker in the long run. I do my best to be as ethical as possible now and don’t let anything that might affect me negatively slide.
Don’t let your coworker friends do stupid things. Even if it means you lose them as a friend, you’re working to make money and anything that comes between that shouldn’t be tolerated. You have to look out for yourself at work because no one else is going to.
Win # 1 Enlightenment
One of the best moments in my financial life was just a casual conversation with a friend. We started talking about money and at the time, I was a die-hard Dave Ramsey follower. My friend casually asked if I had heard of some guy who went by the name Mr. Money Mustache (MMM). I thought I knew everything I needed to know about money and didn’t think this weird guy on the internet was going to teach me anything. I am a curious person though, so I checked out MMM’s blog. My mindset on money was changed from that point on.
I read every single post on MMM’s blog over a couple of months and became slightly obsessed with the concept of financial independence. Dave Ramsey tells you to just work until you’re 65 and retire a millionaire. MMM sings a different tune than Ramsey and shows how he retired at the age of 30 just by doing life a little differently.
The amount of life-changing information I’ve learned since coming across MMM and the FIRE community has been astronomical. Here’s just a small list of the things I’ve learned since finding MMM:
- How much it actually costs to have just a short commute to work.
- How much money you need to have invested to retire early (the 4% rule).
- The best investment strategy is to just throw your money into index funds.
- Tax optimization strategies to get your taxes as close to $0 as possible.
- Travel hacking with credit cards to travel the world for nearly free.
- Multiple ways to save money on everyday expenses.
And the list could go on and on. I’d say the dollar value on the number of things I’ve learned since finding out about MMM has to be in the millions.
You don’t know what you don’t know. I thought I had money all figured out before learning about MMM. It’s so important to realize you can always learn something new and to keep your ears open. My life plan has completely changed for the better since I started pursuing FIRE. I’m now planning on becoming financially independent in my thirties, building an eBay business, and blogging about it along the way.
Win # 2 – Learning about index funds
Win number 2 is tied up in the first win, but it is an important part of my life. During my obsessive reading/podcast listening, I came across Jim Collins and his stock series. Jim does a great job of explaining that it’s just about impossible to beat the market and that you should only invest in index funds.
Since learning about index funds, I’ve been able to throw all of my investments into the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund and forget about it. I don’t have to worry about picking individual companies to invest in as the index fund is invested in all publicly traded companies. It’s awesome to know that the best way to invest is also the simplest and easiest way. Index funds are going to be my ticket to becoming a millionaire and investing is the easiest step in the process.
Learn the smartest way to do something and do it. You can waste a lot of time overcomplicating things and if the best way is simple, that’s okay. While most things in life are difficult to do, investing successfully isn’t one of them.
That Chic-fil-A guy, huh…!?!? Wow. Well, in any event, Nathan did take something away from that experience so I suppose – not all bad. I really enjoy the fact that these lessons have stuck with Nathan and it was great to see him learn from mistakes and build on the positives in life.
What stuck out to you? Let us know in the comments section, and both Nathan and I will keep this discussion moving forward!
Thanks for reading!