My story didn’t start with winning the lottery or by getting a large inheritance. I’ve never been the smartest guy, best looking guy or most innovative guy in the room and honestly I don’t really care if I am. I’m just a normal guy who loves personal finance and has a thirst for learning. I want to constantly improve myself and learn. I want to share my experiences with others and give advice to help people when I can. But, for me to be able to share my experiences and my knowledge, I think I need to tell you a little of my backstory and why I’m striving for Financial Independence.
During high school I worked at a golf course cutting grass watering grass and raking bunkers under blistering heat for 4 years, and for those summers, I’d be at work almost every day. Even on my “days off” my dad would come into my room and would tell me to get up and go to work. Oh how I hated those mornings… I was working 12 days on and 2 days off rotation for the 10 weeks of summer we got and would work on the weekends during the school year. I would only take maybe 3 or 4 days off during the summer to hang out with friends, go out of town or just relax. I didn’t really take too much time then because I knew it was my time to work. I had a job that could basically give me more hours than I would ever want. It was an opportunity that I know a lot of my friends weren’t able to get. They would be satisfied with their 2 or 3 shifts a week. I knew that if I only worked that much, I would just waste a lot of time at that age. It was a seasonal job. We’d start in early spring before Easter and work until the course closed in the fall. The summer was my time to work. I used to be able to save half of my paychecks that would go towards living a bit in the winter, paying for my schooling, my car and my future house.
As I got older, I started working multiple jobs at a time; I saw this as a golden opportunity to take advantage of being able to learn new skills as well as earning a bit of extra income. If there was ever an opportunity to take an extra shift or get some overtime I was always the one that people would ask because they knew that I wanted to work, I would take everything that I made from those extra shifts and put it right into my savings.
Between 15 and 21 years old, this was the easiest money to make. As I got older and started going to university and college, my schedule got a little more flexible with when classes were, I found a job working at a retirement home with some more flexible work hours that allowed me better opportunities at the time. There were days where I would work from 7:00-2:00 go to class from 2:30-4:30 and be back at work from 5:00-8:00.
When you are a teenager, the weekends are your escape from school, work and your parents. Everyone wanted to get their weekends off and I knew that people were always willing to give up their shifts because they wanted to spend time with their friends and family. On weekends for me, it was always easy to find the shifts that people didn’t want and they very quickly became the shifts that I would capitalize on. Saturdays and Sundays I would be able to put in 10+ hour days by taking the shifts that I knew people didn’t want. There were always small jobs around the building too that needed to get done that they would be looking for people to help out with, whether it was setting up events or staying late after work to steam and clean carpets, I was interested because it was easy money to make and if you show people you are willing to hustle as well as know how to get the job done, they will come to you for the next thing and rely on you. This was my bread and butter throughout university and college.
I did this until I got my full time job working for the government; At this point, I changed my strategy a bit where I would work my career job 7:00-3:00, and then go to my second job and work 4:30-8:00 I would do this 3 days a week on top of still keeping my weekend shifts. It was nice at the time and I did it for a while however it seemed like work had consumed my life a little too much. It really started to take a toll on me and I started to have some health issues that were creeping into my life along with some bad habits. It was definitely becoming more challenging trying to accomplish the simplest life task without getting frustrated and giving up. I decided it was time for me to take little bit of a break from working two jobs. After a few months of starting to work on myself and get back to being healthy again I decided to buy a house.
Shortly after the purchase of my house, there was a change in my contract and with that a change in payment. I didn’t get paid for 6 months. It was a mental strain going through this knowing that if I didn’t have an emergency fund to tie me over I would have been screwed. I couldn’t talk about it, didn’t want to talk about it and it was a little bit of a running joke with some people and that was tough to hear. I realized how fragile life could be to have only one stream of income coming in. If that ever disappeared, troubles wouldn’t be far behind. I finally had my case resolved and got my back pay which was nice, except that I needed to finalize the rest of the down payment for my house as well as pay back my parents for borrowing some of their money to get me through this period.
After a few months of living at my place, I had considered the opportunity of possibly renting out some of my rooms and trying my hand at being a landlord. I had always been infatuated with real estate since I read Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad. I knew that I wanted to expand my knowledge and the best way to learn was with some hands on experience. I found a few buddies that were looking for a place to live and I had a few extra rooms I wasn’t using so it seemed like an easy match.
This was definitely a failed experiment as things went sideways pretty quickly. Between chasing rent payments, running essentially a bed and breakfast for their friends to spend multiple days on the couch, leaving the house looking like a pigsty and a lack of respect towards anything that wasn’t theirs, it was starting to really wane on me mentally. My house was a place that I had worked tirelessly and relentlessly for years to get. It was something I took a lot of pride in ownership of and within a few months it had lost its luster. Looking back, I can see it was my fault as I did a poor job at screening them and setting firm guidelines. However, it was definitely one of the most valuable learning experiences of my life because it taught me the value of doing my due diligence with renters. Don’t get me wrong, collecting rent money was nice but it just didn’t feel good. It was more stressful being home than being at work. After they left, I worked on refining my process for a while before I found another roommate to move in; it has quite literally, been night and day between the two situations.
A few years later, I was out for breakfast with some friends of mine. One of them who worked at a restaurant near my place had mentioned they were looking for some help. They we’re looking for someone to be a host at the front of the restaurant and be the face of the place. The idea at first seemed a little bit out of my comfort zone/ but after thinking about it a little bit, it really seemed like a great opportunity to work on some of my soft people skills. It started as a couple days a week. Then a couple days became a few, after a while I realized I was spending almost all of my spare time there. I didn’t really mind this that much as it was an opportunity to work on some new skills and do a little bit of networking with some of the clients.
While I was working there, I was also looking for ways to get to know the areas I was considering for rental properties. The easiest way to do that was to combine making money while driving around different neighborhoods. So, like any sane person who just loves to work, I decided to pick up a third job driving for Skip the Dishes.
It wasn’t the most lucrative side hustle but at the same time it was taking me right to the neighborhoods where I was considering investing and I was writing down the street addresses for all of the houses for sale I saw to go and research later (also known as driving for dollars in an indirect way). So some days I would work my career job, drive to the restaurant to work for a couple hours and then go drive Skip for a few hours to see what was new in my targeted neighborhoods. At this point I am pretty much a full blown workaholic. This was pre-COVID (ah simpler times…) once COVID happened, well life changed pretty quickly. The restaurant shut down for a while and I figured this would be the best time to stop driving for Skip to avoid my chance at exposure. This has been an extremely tough time for millions of people. I am thankful that I was able to transition to work from home however that comes with its own set of challenges in building a new routine, adapting to the ever evolving world around us as well as trying to stay safe and healthy. This gave me a break and a presence of mind to take a step back and re-evaluate what my plan was and where I plan on going.
I have always wanted to purchase rental property, diversify my portfolio and use some of my refined people skills. I started looking at various properties more seriously until I found something that would suit my criteria. After a few months, multiple offers, and one deal falling through I finally bought an investment property. That was a learning process to not get discouraged if something takes longer than expected.
Over the years my story has been continuously evolving. It’s has its ups and definitely its downs. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes but I will constantly be learning and growing. Life is about pushing your own boundaries, trying new experiences and finding your own personal joys of life.
Being wealthy is really a mindset of having an abundance of joyful things in your life. Like spending time with your friends and family, pursuing your passions and being able to give back to my community. For me, money is nothing more than a means to give me options. I have spent a lot of time working so far in my story and over the years, I’ve managed to save a good chunk of that money. Saving it is nice don’t get me wrong. However I want that money to work harder then I work. It has to be able to work 24/7, 365 so I don’t have to. I want it to work this hard so I can have the opportunity to change my career path if I wanted to, start a business, donate to charity or start a scholarship fund. This is why financial independence is important to me. It gives you options! I don’t want to end up slogging through a career that I love now but I might not love as much in the future because I have to. I want to be able to have options in life to be able to pursue what I want if things change. Financial independence gives you that. To me, the most important part is that I’m constantly growing and constantly learning.
That’s my why of FI.