I know what y’all are thinking.
“An intro story 18 posts and 4 months into the blog?”
Yep, mostly because the other articles we are writing are still in the works.
“Why is this such a long ass article?”
Chill bro, it reads quick, and it’s always good to know what motivates people, maybe you can relate to parts of it, or at least see why we are the way we are.
Anyway, we are going to dive into a little background about the two of us, and why the idea of financial independence and retiring early appeals so much to us.
Mr. Rat Race Reject
So I, Mr. RRR, was born the youngest of three siblings, even though I have a twin, to two deaf parents. My parents were never well-off and they committed what’s known to be financial suicide by getting a divorce when I was very young. So, now being faced at being a deaf single mother of three kids, my mom knew that her disability check she was receiving wasn’t going to cut it. So, she got a job as an overnight associate at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart’s brand is synonymous with “well-paid” and “excellent benefits”….right? With my mom working nights, my grandma came and starting staying with us to help out. Again, we were not very well off. I’m not sure what the poverty line was at that time, but I’m positive that we were well below it. Admittedly, I didn’t realize this until I was older. I wore hand-me-down clothes that I was lucky enough to get from my older cousins, we never had cable tv, and most of what we ate, my grandfather had grown on his farm. I genuinely cannot ever remember going out to eat at a sit-down restaurant with my family. Sure, we had the occasional McDonalds, or Hardee’s (they had a deal at one point for 29¢ hamburgers, and I think we ate there for the week), but even an Applebee’s was something that we couldn’t afford (luckily, cause Applebee’s sucks anyway). Frankly, I remember countless times that our electricity or water was cut off, so most of these other things were luxuries that we would only dream of having.
So, with this up-bringing, it would be easy to see that frugality (we called it being poor when I was growing up) comes naturally to me. But, so did over-compensating. The second I was old enough to get a job and make some dough, I was spending it as fast as it was coming in to prove that I had something. I needed everyone to know that I had flashy stuff, and think that I had money. I always had the newest iPhone, and gadget. I wasted thousands of dollars on cars and motorcycles, including car loans, buying classic cars, buying unnecessary cars, etc. I was blowing tons of money on dates, taking girls out to eat at restaurants, movies, desserts, you name it. The one benefit was that because of my family’s measly income, I qualified for a Pell Grant to go to college, and I took full advantage of that. I remember meeting Mrs. RRR in a math class in college, and I saw that she was walking back to her car in the opposite direction that I parked, so I started parking on the other side so she could see how nice my car was. God, I was insufferable… But, somehow, with a lot of persistence it worked. But, I wasn’t even close to out of the clear yet. I remember one night, while we were dating, we decided to run and get a RedBox movie-keep in mind, these things are $1.00 – and my card got declined. How sad is that! I’m still embarrassed about it! Talk about an all time low. I literally didn’t have $1 to my name.
Somehow, it all worked out, so to fast-forward a little bit, we got engaged, and then got married. Surprise!! We did all the things we were “supposed” to do. We both had good jobs, and so we blew our money just like society tells us we are supposed to. We bought a fancy loft in a desirable part of town, we bought a newer car, and we went out to eat all the time. I had looked into real-estate investing before, just flirted with the thought here and there, but nothing ever came of it. And, at the time, investing to me wasn’t for some end game, the end game was to have more money to spend. We even discussed how we could start saving 100% of my paycheck, and spending and living off of Mrs. RRR’s paycheck, which was about double mine. But again, all talk. No action. All until one faithful day at work.
I work at a physical therapy clinic, and I overheard one of our patient’s mother talking about how if she had found this website 5 years earlier, her and her husband would already be retired. I was intrigued. I wanted to know more. She was kind enough to write the website down, and she gave it to her daughter’s therapist. I asked her for it, but she said that she would “look into” it and let me know. Well that pissed me off. Lo and behold, she put the paper down on her desk, and a few minutes later I snuck in there and found the website that would become my salvation. Mr. Money Mustache. I dove in head first and starting reading every article. I was eager to learn, but because it was kept from me, it made me feel like it was a big secret that I wasn’t supposed to know. That just motivated me more. I was like an alcoholic at a NASCAR race. I just couldn’t stop reading. I came home, and announced to Mrs. RRR that we would no longer be going out to eat, we were cutting cable, we were changing cell-phone providers, and she wasn’t going shopping anymore…
Well, that was probably the worst way I could’ve done it. And she didn’t like it. We are conditioned to believe that we are working to afford more things, nicer things. It’s an endless carousel of upgrading. Phones, TV’s, Cars, Clothes. And what I was
suggesting demanding was 100% the opposite of that. She was resistant, as anyone would be. I tried to get her to read the articles and enjoy them as much as I did, but that didn’t work either. But, with patience, some small slow changes, and the promise that she wouldn’t have to work anymore after a few years (in case you missed it, she hates her job -> The Reject Engineer) I brought her over to the dark side…or the light side, I’m not sure which metaphor fits. Anyway, a little over a year later, and here we are: on the fast track to Financial Independence; in a downgraded smaller, more affordable condo, with a duplex rental property; maxed out 401k and Roth’s with more money in the bank than we’ve ever had; looking for another property to house-hack (I promise, I’ll write an article on house-hacking, and our rental property strategy); and writing a personal finance and frugality blog to hold ourselves accountable. Life is unexpected.
Mrs. Rat Race Reject
Hey there, Mrs. RRR here. Hopefully my part won’t be as long as this dude ^. Like Mr. RRR, I am also the youngest of 3 kids. My dad has always been the money-maker and provider for our family. My mother was a stay-at-home mom, and focused on raising the 3 of us kids. Once we started school, she continued to be a stay-at-home mom, constantly cleaning the house, paying bills, cooking meals, and getting up in the mornings to help us get ready for school or work (even after the age that I could gather things myself). I didn’t realize just how much she did and how I took it for granted until I moved out, got married, and had to do everything myself.
I never had a good understanding of how much money we had while I was growing up. But I do remember that my parents decided to build an extravagant house in a new sub-division, and I guess they realized that they had overreached and it would be a significant stretch to afford that place on a single income. I’m not sure, but I think this experience is what turned my parents on to Dave Ramsey, and from that point forward they were always very careful with their money. Not to mention that they were always saving because they were having to float 2 week trips, for a family of 5, to Cyprus to visit my Yiayia and Papou (Greek for grandmother and grandfather) every few years. I used second-hand phones that were passed down from my siblings and parents. We never had new cars, hell, my first car was a 1997 Toyota with 120,000 miles on it. My parents agreed to help the 3 of us kids get a car when we turned 16, by paying half if we paid the other half. To this day, Mr. RRR and I still drive that 20 year old beater, even though it pisses off my parents. My mom would buy me new clothes, but it was only occasionally, like right before school started and a handful of other times. Being that I have an older sister, I usually got the majority of my clothes as hand-me-downs, even until I was old enough to start making money, I still got some of my sister’s old clothes.
Once I started working at 16, I had the freedom to do with as I pleased with my money. Which my spending habits were of any teenager, with a new found freedom of being able to drive anywhere, at any time I wanted. I think my spending habits really took a downward spiral when I moved into an apartment with my sister right after high school graduation. Since I was taking classes at a local college, my parents were helping me with monthly rent, so I didn’t have to work as much or spend any of my hard earned money. Well, you would think that I would take advantage of that and save as much money as I could. Think again. I was the definition of ‘online shopping addict’. Pac Sun thrived during that time because I fell for their online promos, hook line and sinker. Needless to say, my savings account dwindled. Luckily, after two years of living with my sister, she got married, and much to my chagrin, I moved back home. But it was exactly what I needed, because there was no way I could afford an apartment by myself and pay for the rest of my school. I was able to save (for the most part) all of my measly income, while enjoying the luxury of having the whole house to myself (my parents were in a different state on a work assignment).
My parents helped me with college tuition while I went to community college and it was agreed upon that I would pay my own tuition after two years, which was when I transferred to a university to finish my degree. I did well paying for my tuition for the most part. I remember having to borrow a few hundred dollars from Mr. RRR, which he surprisingly had, so I could have enough to pay for one semester. And I even had to borrow a little more money from my parents, which they were kind enough to deduct from my ‘wedding fund’. It was drilled into our heads that student loans were the bane of our existence. But not just students loans, any loan in general. I am truly blessed that I had parents who helped pay my tuition, and flexible jobs to where I could work while I was in school to be able to pay for my education. I think that because of that, we were able to jump start our way to FI, without having students loan to hurdle.
As you read earlier in the article, we got hitched and started living the ‘American Dream’. We bought that fancy loft, which was our biggest financial mistake thus far. It was all well and great, until we realized how much owning the place would set us back in the future. I, admittedly, took a little convincing, because I loved where we lived, the neighborhood, the newer car, and the ‘experiences’ of going out on the weekends. But, since having moved into our smaller condo, de-cluttering as much of our unnecessary stuff as possible, and actively making decisions about what we purchase and where our money is going, I have been so much happier and some much more content in life. Not to mention the enormous strides we have taken toward our goal of Financial Independence and Retiring Early.
Well, there you have it. A small insight into our lives, and our past, that may help explain our motivations, our expectations, and the way we approach things. Most people can look back on their lives and pinpoint a single moment where everything changed. I would obviously say that when we met each other was the biggest point in both of our lives, but the biggest change in our financial life came when some bitch that I worked with tried to keep information from me, which turned out to be a blessing. I wish the ending could be more up-beat than that, but I’m shot….Stay tuned for more!