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Michael Fitzsimmons
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I focus on investments in the oil & gas sector with an eye for dividend income and long-term capital appreciation. I typically allocate a portion of my own portfolio and devote some of my Seeking Alpha articles to small and medium sized companies offering compelling risk/reward propositions.... More
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  • How I Retired At 45 61 comments
    Feb 17, 2014 1:24 PM | about stocks: COP, CVX, PSX, XOM

    A recent article by Roger Nusbaum, How To Retire At 30!, has spent much time on SA's most popular list. No offense to Roger, but I found the article somewhat lacking on specific advice as to how someone can actually accomplish that feat. The article reminded me of an observation I made on US colleges coursework after my own graduation: lots of theoretical knowledge imparted, but why didn't they have one class to teach us the basics of buying and selling a home, how bonds work, or true cost of buying a vehicle on credit?

    I was able to "retire" at age 45. I put that in quotes because I work as hard now, or harder, as I ever have did in the workforce. The primary reason I was able to retire relatively early can be summed up in two words: work ethic.

    So I have some concrete practical advice for young folks who want to become economically independent and retire early:

    • Learn how to work.
    • Educate yourself in both a skill set(s) & financially knowledge. The education process should last your entire lifetime.
    • Stay out of debt.
    • Be frugal but not stingy.
    • Save and invest.
    • Learn the value of bartering.
    • Learn how to use tools (wrenches, drills, computers, etc).
    • Invest in yourself.
    • Prioritize your health: exercise & eat properly.

    I bet there are some suggestions below that some of my older readers might find valuable.

    Learn How To Work

    My parents instilled a good work ethic in me at a very early age. For me, learning how to work at a young age was simply a necessity - my parents didn't believe a large weekly allowance. I remember as soon as I was old enough to do so emptying bushels of grass for my dad as he mowed the grass for a penny a piece. But each penny got me a small tootsie roll at the corner store and man, that was a good payoff. When it was my turn to do the dishes, or clean the gutters, or paint, or mow the yard, or change the shock absorbers on my dad's car or the oil in the lawn mower - these were simply expected of me.

    I began mowing neighbors' yards in the summer heat of Louisiana as soon as I was able to push the mower (that's right, a push mower). I would mow an entire yard for $4 and this was when gasoline was $0.28/gallon. I did other odd jobs - washed windows, cleaned pools, and I even worked as a concession stand worker for the Alexandria Aces - a minor league baseball team whose claim to fame was future NY Yankees star Dave Winfield. I was a prized employee at the Aces because at the age of 15 I was the only person on the staff who knew how to properly tap-a-keg of beer. This taught me a key lesson: make yourself indispensable. I also worked as a front man for a circus at age 17. This job required driving to cities before the circus arrived and putting up posters and handing out free children's tickets for the circus. The catch was the entry to the circus required families to walk by the elephants. By the time the parents got to the ticket window and found out how much the adult tickets cost - it was too late. There was no way those kids were not going into the "Big Tent."

    When it came time for college, I joined the "co-op" program at Georgia Tech. I alternated quarters (not semesters back then): between school and work. I would work and save so I could afford to go back for another quarter of school. The last thing I wanted to do was ask my parents for money. At one work assignment in Vicksburg, MS I actually lived in a room at the YMCA for $7/week. The door on that room did not even have a lock on it so I kept all my belongings in the trunk of my car. But I saved enough to go back to Atlanta and get schooled in calculus, chemistry, and physics.

    Educate Yourself

    Being educated is the key to living well. This doesn't necessarily mean a 4-year or advanced college degree. I know home-builders who never graduated high school, but educated themselves in a craft and are the very best in their field. And very successful. I met a young farmer in Austin, TX who educated himself in html with a book he bought at Borders. He took a job at a small company and helped Charles Schwab build their webpage. The man is now a multi- millionaire but he can still tell you the value of a hog with a dollar or two just by looking at it.

    Whatever you chose to do in life, set out to be the best at it and learn everything you can about your craft. At the same time, you should work to diversify and increase your knowledge base across many disciplines.

    Stay Out Of Debt

    In my first engineering job out of college I was surrounded by other new graduates. This was just about the time Toyota introduced the 4-Runner. God I wanted one of those trucks and half the guys I knew bought one - on credit with a 15% interest rate. Of course I was driving a real piece they knick-named the "ghetto sled". They would say Mike, when are you going to buy a 4-Runner? When I said I could not afford one they were like what do you mean, you make just as much as we do and they knew I had no college loans to pay off like they did. So I would sit down and show them what the total cost of their 4-Runner would be after they made all their payments at 15% interest. Their faces would turn pale. I mean here are very smart engineers who excelled in physics and math who did not understand the basics of finance and credit. Long story short, I was the first one to buy a home in the rocketing San Diego housing market of the early 1980's. My old ghetto sled was parked in the garage. I was lucky and sold that house 5 years later for a $50,000 profit. That was the seed money for my early investments. So, you see - small changes in strategy at a young age can have a huge impact in your economic well being.

    A young engineer I know asked me how I retired so early, and I gave him some advice - one of which was pay cash for a vehicle so you can negotiate a good price. He didn't follow this advice and bought a nice new car with a 5.25%. When he showed me the car (a nice sporty coupe), asked him about the loan and he said, don't worry Mike I am saving up and buying CDs and iBonds. I said what is the rate on your CD, and he said 2%. I said why are you buying CDs at 2% when you could earn 5.25% just by paying off your car loan? I even offered to pay the loan off for him and if he made me 3% interest payments to me. I said heck man, I can't get 3% on a 10-year treasury right now, I'd love to make 3% on your car let alone 5.25%. That got his attention. A month later I got an email that he had paid off the car loan.

    Be Frugal But Not Stingy

    As the old saying goes, watch the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves. You should be as generous as possible when it comes to family and friends. Your time, assistance, advice, and help can be just as valuable - if not more so - as are gifts or money.

    Save And Invest

    After I saved enough for a down payment on a house (full disclosure - I did take a loan for my first house), I saved up some more money in a bank account with an eye toward investing. The first stock I bought was Phillips Petroleum ("P") after Boone Pickens was green-mailed and they paid a fat dividend to lure back investors. I was lured. That stock is now ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) and Phillips66 (NYSE:PSX). The dividends paid over the years have many times over covered my initial investment. Investing and holding high quality dividend paying energy companies that have a quality resource base and good technology has been the key in my ability to retire at 45. Don't worry about the day-to-day gyrations. Take a look at company's like COP, Chevron (NYSE:CVX) and Exxon (NYSE:XOM) and consider simply buying them and reaping the dividend income. Ten or twenty years down the road you will likely be surprised and very happy that you did so.

    (click to enlarge)

    But you cannot invest until you get your seed money. And seed money often needs to be earned by hard work, sweat (mental as well as physical), and some of the advice given in this article. Read on.

    Learn The Value Of Bartering

    I learned very early on that I would seldom get a raise commensurate with the engineering work I was performing at my job. Corporate America, for the most part, just doesn't work that way. So my resume was always "out there". I laid out a letter of resignation on my bosses desk at least 5 times in my career. I got some enjoyment out of looking at my boss's face as he read the unexpected news. It was amazing how a 6% raise could suddenly turn into 12% when they knew you were ready to walk in 2 weeks. But of course this only works if you are indispensable - you need to find something that no one else can do (or wants to do) and be the best at it. And you need to be prepared to walk. Oh, and when I did change jobs, I negotiated a "move bonus". Yet I did all the work myself with rented U-Hauls and buddies helping me pack. I estimate I made $10-15,000 in my life just on move bonuses I was able to pocket. Again, it goes back to work ethic.

    I barter on everything: vehicles, home insurance, the cable bill - anything. Take home and car insurance for instance. All the big carriers get you in with a good price and then jack up your rates and after a couple years you are paying 25-40% more than you were initially. They all do it. Being frugal, whenever I got the renewal notice and saw a 20% increase I would call the agent and give him or her a chance to "do better". If they did not, I would change carriers and save the 20%. Now, I use an independent insurance broker that understands me and puts my policies out to bid. I figure over the years I have saved an average of ~$1,000/year on my car/home/trailer insurance. Doesn't sound like much until you multiply it by 25 or 30 years.

    Take my internet/cable bill. Same thing: the provider gets you to sign up with a "special promotion" and then jacks up your rates every 6-12 months. Not me. I found out if I called late at night to complain, I would get an hourly part-time employee (I would hang up until I got a female) and I would flirt and shoot the breeze and then say hey man, this increase is just too much - I can't pay it. And she would say well, let me see what I can do for you. Oh - I just happen to have a promotion yada-yada. That went on for years and I was consistently paying $50/month less than my neighbors ($600/year for ~5 years) until my provider got wise and put salary people on the phones. That put an end to that, and they jacked my bill up $50. What did I do then? I called and told them to turn off the service. They said seriously Mr. Fitzsimmons? And I said sure, with RedBox, Hulu, Netflix etc. - why do I need your over-priced cable service? Hold on Mr. Fitzsimmons - let me transfer you. Bing - another "promotion" magically appeared. See, I was playing off the fact that they were losing subscribers left and right and called their bluff. I knew they didn't want to lose someone who had paid their cable bill on time every month for years.

    Bartering is a lost art. And it can actually be quite fun. I particularly like the looks on peoples' face when they watch me in action. It's a look of - what a schmuck, he must be having really hard times. Then I go off to the golf course and they go off to work.

    Learn How To Use Tools

    How many kids today know the difference between a crescent wrench, an Allen wrench, and a box-end wrench? Between a skill-saw and a jig-saw? Of all the things my father taught me, I will always be grateful for him sharing his knowledge of tools and how to use them. I built a set of loudspeakers for $200 when I was a junior in college. I still have those speakers today and their frequency response (especially on the low-end, 22 Hz) is hard to match in speakers 5x that price today. I built my current tool-house (the one shown above) as well as decks, shelves, and work benches. I have performed thousands of dollars worth of home repairs over the years. Calling "Mr. Fixit" is a last resort for me - heck, I am "Mr. Fixit". I replace my own brake pads, spark plugs, oil and gas filters. I flush my own radiator. I've even been known to rotate my own tires. When I was in college my car broke done one summer in Longview, TX. I pulled the head off under a shade tree, hitch hiked into town, bought a new valve, seated it myself, and slapped it all back together. Magically it started on the first turn. Necessity is truly the mother of invention. Yet I don't mind hard work - it gives me a feeling of pride and accomplishment. Besides, my vehicle always seems to run better when I perform the work myself.

    I love to see women using tools. Love it.

    My dad gave me many tools and I have bought many tools. They have paid for themselves many times over. Again - it all comes down to work ethic.

    Invest In Yourself

    Sometimes people get the impression I don't spend a dime. It's not true. While I am certainly not your average American consumer, when I do buy something I buy high quality items that will last. My current Toyota truck, for example, I bought new (for cash) and have owned for 12 years now. I have 150,000+ miles on it and consider it barely broken in. I will likely put 300,000 miles on this truck before I even think of a buying a new (or used ) one.

    When I spent $700 on a bamboo fly-rod, my girlfriend at the time thought I was absolutely nuts. Yet how can she understand the thrill (and value) of being able to land a #16 Adams Wulff fly as gently as the real deal and watching an 18" rainbow trout rise to it? You must have your relaxation and leisure "down time". If you can combine the two with exercise that is even better.

    Travel. One of the best investments I have made is in traveling both inside and outside of the US. Many of my trips were work related (Japan, Singapore, Israel, and England) but even then I would break out my wallet in order to immerse myself with the native people and enjoy the food and customs of other nationalities. I loved it. And I think it extremely valuable - especially for Americans who I believe very much need the exposure. Outside of these work trips, I also took vacations to Ireland, Europe, Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean. Invest in yourself and travel. Traveling grows your knowledge. Knowledge is power.

    Another investment in yourself is reading. I am a voracious reader, and not just the Wall Street Journal. I am a frequent visitor to my local library and frequently exchange book suggestions with friends and family. Reading is a very inexpensive way to relax, open your mind, and gain perspective about the world. And yourself.

    Lastly, the US tax code is designed for self employment. Consider starting your own business in order to take advantage of all the write offs that you are legally allowed to deduct.

    Prioritize Your Health

    I still remember the day in college when I realized smoking would kill me. I quit that very day. Diet wise, it took me a few years of bad habits in early bachelorhood to prioritize it. Today, I don't eat out much because I simply cannot find the quality of food that I can make at home. I eat fruits and vegetables every day. I also eat chicken, beef, and seafood - but in moderation. I do spend extra for meat and chicken that is grain fed and organic. I have a garden and love walking out my back door to pick fresh spinach and kale. I cannot even buy store bought potatoes any more after growing my own.

    Exercise daily if possible. I can't stress this enough. Even if it is just a 20 minute walk around your neighborhood - do it. I try to practice yoga daily. I have a workout routine. I run a woodstove to keep my heating bills down in winter and can frequently be seen in my yard in 30 degree weather with my chainsaw or with my 8 lb maul splitting and stacking red oak and hickory wood for next winter. I wonder if my neighbors think I am nuts at my age doing this kind of work. But not only does the work help keep me in shape during the winter months, I also save an estimated $1,500 a winter by running the wood stove. Again, it doesn't sound like much until you multiply it by 5 or 10 years.

    Taking care of your health (including your teeth), can pay many dividends down the road. If you haven't discovered psyllium whole husks yet, you should do so. As they say, without your health you got nothing.

    Summary & Conclusion

    So that's how I retired at 45. But just remember: it all starts by having a good work ethic. In comparison, the saving and investing part is easy. While I would certainly not consider myself wealthy, and while I still face financial challenges in the future (old age care, etc.), for now I am able to spend time doing the things I either want to do or need to do (for my family) without having to work for someone else. Yet in many ways I work just as hard today as I ever have (if not harder). I doubt this will change until I grow old enough to be physically unable to work. At that point, I bet I play a lot of chess and dream about fly-fishing in the mountains of Colorado.

    Disclosure: I am long COP, CVX, PSX, XOM. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

    Additional disclosure: I am an engineer, not a CFA. The information and data presented in this article was obtained from company documents and/or sources believed to be reliable, but has not been independently verified. Therefore, the author cannot guarantee its accuracy. Please do your own research and contact a qualified investment advisor. I am not responsible for investment decisions you make. Thanks for reading and good luck! NOTE: I am considering buying shares in VET over the next 48 hours.

    Themes: retirement Stocks: COP, CVX, PSX, XOM
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Comments (61)
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  • Hungry for Knowledge
    , contributor
    Comments (367) | Send Message
     
    BOOM!! You da Man!
    19 Feb, 03:31 PM Reply Like
  • Michael Fitzsimmons
    , contributor
    Comments (9064) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Haha - why thank you Hungry.
    19 Feb, 05:06 PM Reply Like
  • ca7711
    , contributor
    Comments (441) | Send Message
     
    Michael,
    Great for you! finding your vision for life early and sticking to it through a good portion is a great accomplishment.
    20 Feb, 02:15 AM Reply Like
  • polecat
    , contributor
    Comments (62) | Send Message
     
    First, I enjoy and follow your post like a squirrel for nuts.
    I retired at 53 an have never looked back. My path is much like your's in that I have followed all the bullets points except the last( more on that later ).

     

    At the age of 29, I was struck with the though that with no rich relatives ( I was the first in my family to attend and graduate college) or ships coming in I had to do something. I began then to learn about the financial markets. Today, 10 years after leaving the work a day world, my wife and I made the correct choices. Life really is about the choices one makes.

     

    I didn't follow good health practices and the result was a stroke at age 63, from which I have made a great recovery. Speaking from I who has been there, health is everything.

     

    Keep up the great articles an I'll keep reading.
    19 Feb, 03:44 PM Reply Like
  • Michael Fitzsimmons
    , contributor
    Comments (9064) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » polecat - I am glad you have made a great recovery from your stroke. I did not take good care of my health in my 20's....ran around too much living the single life in San Diego. Too much drinking combined with too much work - we'd drink coffee to get through 10 hr work days and then go to the Mexican bar after work and shoot tequila so we could sleep and get up the next day and go to work (rinse and repeat). Long story short a doctor diagnosed me with a peptic ulcer at the age of 26. Needless to say that was a wakeup call and I soon got my act together. Today, I am able to make it by on a $110/month catastrophic health plan, $5k out of pocket deductible, but it works for me. If I had signficant health problems now, I'd probably have to go back to work. Knock on wood. Teeth are a big deal too if you are retired...serious dental bills can really eat into someone living off their savings and investments.

     

    All things I hope young people learn early in life.
    19 Feb, 05:11 PM Reply Like
  • Gedankonomist
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    Comments (749) | Send Message
     
    "I barter on everything..."

     

    You mean haggle. Good article.
    19 Feb, 03:59 PM Reply Like
  • Michael Fitzsimmons
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    Comments (9064) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Thanks for the correction - you are right. But I also do barter - especially with my garden vegetables and with my labor.
    19 Feb, 05:12 PM Reply Like
  • Larry Harnar
    , contributor
    Comments (324) | Send Message
     
    This is great. I really enjoyed it. Lots of wisdom here.

     

    Larry
    19 Feb, 04:30 PM Reply Like
  • Michael Fitzsimmons
    , contributor
    Comments (9064) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Thanks Larry. I just wish SA would have published it on the main screen. But they passed - said it was too much about "personal finances" to which my thought was, how can an article about retiring early not be about personal finances?
    19 Feb, 05:13 PM Reply Like
  • Larry Harnar
    , contributor
    Comments (324) | Send Message
     
    I had the same issue with an article that I wrote. Too much personal finance, not enough "investing" content. Oh well, I really enjoyed your story and i think it'll be an inspiration for a lot of people.

     

    Larry
    19 Feb, 05:23 PM Reply Like
  • Michael Fitzsimmons
    , contributor
    Comments (9064) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Thanks Larry - yeah, I thought this article was perfect for SA. After all, they have now published two of Roger's articles on "Retire by XX", yet in neither one did I see any real actionable advice for the every day Man or Woman that say just graduated college and wants a realistic shot at retiring early. So, I was disappointed SA passed on this article, but I suppose they have there reason. Maybe it was the pictures of my toolhouse and woodpile!
    19 Feb, 06:44 PM Reply Like
  • anarchist
    , contributor
    Comments (1413) | Send Message
     
    All good advice Fitz but I would add one more:
    Divorces can set ones retirement back years so if you have a partner in life you need to work at it, be appreciative of your partner, acknowledge his or her positive attributes and minimize their weaknesses as they can make your life enjoyable or miserable.
    19 Feb, 05:00 PM Reply Like
  • Michael Fitzsimmons
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    Comments (9064) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Wise words anarchist. I never tied the knot, though I had a few honeymoons along the way and came close a time or two. Some of my friends (divorced) say that is the only reason I could retire early. Although I must say that from my perspective, if I had had help on the home front, I think you could have been much more successful in my professional career. Not being married has been a regret of mine. When I was young, I had many girlfriends...but I was scared to death of marriage. Now that I think I could be a really good husband, the girls are gone haha. Life is funny.
    19 Feb, 05:15 PM Reply Like
  • Kelvin M.
    , contributor
    Comments (166) | Send Message
     
    Just out of curiosity, do you have any kids? I am 21 and have several siblings and I am pretty sure my parents could have retired long ago without us acting as financial sinkholes. The advice here is great but I have to wonder if having kids and retiring early are mutually exclusive things?

     

    I am no where near the age where I can consider either but I figure the sooner I understand the better prepared I will be when I get there. Thanks for the article.
    19 Feb, 05:11 PM Reply Like
  • financeminister
    , contributor
    Comments (826) | Send Message
     
    superb post... have to read this again. I'm 32 and want to retire at 45 too....well, not exactly retire as I enjoy working but have enough of an income stream so that I just work for "time pass".
    19 Feb, 05:14 PM Reply Like
  • Thomas S Hunter
    , contributor
    Comments (15) | Send Message
     
    I really enjoyed this article Michael. Personally, as a young guy, I find much of this advice very actionable and helpful. Since I live in a big city (NYC) some of this advice is very hard to implement (e.g. paying cash for housing) but I really like the advice for negotiating with cable companies etc.
    19 Feb, 05:22 PM Reply Like
  • Michael Fitzsimmons
    , contributor
    Comments (9064) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Thank you Thomas and yes, after I wrote the article I thought about city dwellers and the inability to cut down trees, split wood, and/or have a garden out your back door. But as you said, perhaps there is other advice in the article that can help those folks and who knows, maybe one day they will leave the city for a more rural life.
    19 Feb, 06:45 PM Reply Like
  • retpdguy
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    Comments (168) | Send Message
     
    Michael, great job. I really enjoyed reading that story.
    19 Feb, 05:42 PM Reply Like
  • ZenStudent
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    Comments (28) | Send Message
     
    Great post and I agree with you about the lack of financial education in high school or college. It's not surprising that so few people have anything approaching financial security in their lives. My parents did their best to teach me their excellent financial habits born of the great depression but alas I was a poor student until I got older. My Dad is in his 80's and still a millionaire even though he retired at 56, saw the world and did everything he wanted to in life.
    19 Feb, 06:09 PM Reply Like
  • Michael Fitzsimmons
    , contributor
    Comments (9064) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Zen: yes - it still amazes me that many high-priced colleges still haven't found a way to squeeze a basic class in "life economics" into the curriculum. My parents also went through the depression and still complain about the cost of a loaf of bread.
    19 Feb, 06:48 PM Reply Like
  • jeezuz30
    , contributor
    Comments (379) | Send Message
     
    I think part of the reason they don't teach "life economics" in college is to keep the people ignorant about this and working for low wages and enriching corporations until they die.

     

    Kind of a cynical view but if everybody knew how to manage their expenses and not buy way more toys than they need and retired at 30, who would get all the work done at walmart?
    21 Feb, 10:48 PM Reply Like
  • Big Thunder
    , contributor
    Comments (588) | Send Message
     
    "Kind of a cynical view but if everybody knew how to manage their expenses and not buy way more toys than they need and retired at 30, who would get all the work done at walmart?"

     

    Retirees who just feel like getting out, seeing people, and having something to do?

     

    Colleges and universities don't teach "life economics" because they don't feel that is the role of postsecondary education. IMO, finance and money management are appropriately taught starting in the early grades and continuing through high school. My kids' schools are doing it. And of course, my husband and I are teaching them as well.

     

    About "way more toys than they need" -- I think many people buy too many things because they feel an emptiness that they can't articulate.
    22 Feb, 07:58 AM Reply Like
  • jeezuz30
    , contributor
    Comments (379) | Send Message
     
    BT,

     

    I agree with you about it being a parent's job to teach their kids about money management and handling debt. I'm doing everything I can at an early age to show my kids the value of saving and delayed gratification.

     

    As far as the walmart comment, I wasn't referring to retirees working part time to keep from getting bored.

     

    I was referring to the general workforce that is usually kept in the dark about financial matters. How many people out there in the general workforce realize that most profits being realized by companies these days come from squeezing more and more productivity out of workers than ever before?

     

    1 guy/gal does 3-4 person's job now. That is money that turns into profits for the corporation. But is that profit being returned to the person being more productive or is it pocketed by shareholders/given out as bonus to execs/or hoarded up like Apple?

     

    The average worker at these types of places is just concerned with their paycheck and having enough in that check to cover their bills, anything beyond that is usually spent on the next Xbox/big screen tv/36" wheels ect.
    22 Feb, 11:24 AM Reply Like
  • jeezuz30
    , contributor
    Comments (379) | Send Message
     
    I had read somewhere how in the 50's there was a booming leisure industry sprouting that was supposed to take advantage of the increased productivity situation.

     

    The thought was that with increased productivity workers would have much more leisure time and thus there was a temporary valuation bubble on any company leisure related.

     

    It's sad to see how the reality has turned out. Corporations have since just used that increased productivity to lay of more and more workers which in turn to the government to give them their paychecks or settle for low paying jobs at walmart.

     

    Instead of an expanded 'leisure' industry we have ended up with an expanded 'government', which is due for many reasons but this would classify as one of them.
    22 Feb, 11:31 AM Reply Like
  • Big Thunder
    , contributor
    Comments (588) | Send Message
     
    "The average worker at these types of places is just concerned with their paycheck and having enough in that check to cover their bills, anything beyond that is usually spent on the next Xbox/big screen tv/36" wheels ect."

     

    Well, I think the average person recognizes they're working harder and longer to stand still, financially speaking. And I think the average person thinks of retirement as a pipe dream, which is why they go ahead and indulge themselves in the here and now.

     

    I used to do that myself, to some extent, but I haven't carried credit card debt since 1999, student loan debt since 2004, or car loan debt since 2005, so I have righted the ship. I just wonder how many years early I could have retired if I had had the mindset that retirement would some day be possible.

     

    I'm trying to raise my kids with the mentality that early retirement is the goal -- the sooner you can detach yourself from the need to work, the greater control you will exert over your life. I work with a great number of people who are working not because they need to but because they want to; the company needs them more than they need the company. It's a terrific position to be in.
    23 Feb, 08:08 AM Reply Like
  • jeezuz30
    , contributor
    Comments (379) | Send Message
     
    "I work with a great number of people who are working not because they need to but because they want to; the company needs them more than they need the company. It's a terrific position to be in. "

     

    Completely agree with you on that one.
    25 Feb, 12:22 AM Reply Like
  • Perkins Cove
    , contributor
    Comments (633) | Send Message
     
    As an ol' fart grandfather it is clear to me you had good parents. Too bad that wisdom you were born with, raised with, and developed on your own, will only be past on by articles such as this. You'd have made a great dad. But that would have changed your life...and you might not now be 'retired'.

     

    That said, wonderful article...with undertones of a true spirituality. I too heated with wood (including an operating day care center, 16 cords a year) for over 40 years. No one can heat with wood that long and not be spiritual. (grin)

     

    Again, wonderful heart felt article. Thanks for sharing.

     

    Perkins Cove

     

    p.s. that's right, you are a fisherman. And God (Universe) does not subtract days from a person's life for days spent fishing. Maybe if you fish enough....you still might have time for kids. hehe
    19 Feb, 06:39 PM Reply Like
  • Michael Fitzsimmons
    , contributor
    Comments (9064) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Hi Perkins - nice profile picture. Yes, I think my parents taught me good values - the most important one was hard work. They could have easily paid me a nice weekly allowance as most of my friends' parents did. But as we see so often today, the kids then feel a right of entitlement - to an iphone, a bmw, and that's before they are even out of high schoo.

     

    Haha - love what you said about heating with wood. Here's a quote you might like. The first year I bought my woodstove, I was in a pinch to get wood split and found myself doing so in late spring, when the sun was out and it was hot. My Dad came over and smoked a cigar while he watch me swing the 8 lb maul. The sweat was streaming off me and my Dad said "You remind me of an old Chinese proverb...". Oh yeah Dad, what's that? He said:

     

    "He who splits his own wood heats himself twice."

     

    Then he took a puff on his cigar and left. I just stood there wondering where in the world he heard that one as it was so apropos.
    19 Feb, 06:52 PM Reply Like
  • Perkins Cove
    , contributor
    Comments (633) | Send Message
     
    Oh yeah....that's an old one. And here in Vermont very apropos. interesting...when I stopped heating with wood...my health started to go downhill. I should go back to heating with wood.....grin

     

    Like your attitude Michael. And my son's name is Michael too...so that's on your side.

     

    Cheers. Spring water....?
    19 Feb, 07:26 PM Reply Like
  • Michael Fitzsimmons
    , contributor
    Comments (9064) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Yeah, my Dad is from western NY state by the PA line, so he probably heard it 100 times. But it was my first and I was impressed with it because it is so true.

     

    Yeah, I love wood heat. When I turn on my central heat (gas) it just feels different. Maybe it is because I visualize the dollars leaving my wallet, but I swear 65 degrees by the woodstove seems much more comfortable to me than 70 or 72 by the HVAC system.

     

    Spring water? Man, when I am in Colorado I have three different springs I drink from directly...love that stuff..and it makes my coffee and tea much better too! Unfortunately I don't have spring water where I live now. Sure wish I did!
    19 Feb, 07:39 PM Reply Like
  • Perkins Cove
    , contributor
    Comments (633) | Send Message
     
    Well too bad. (hehe) Our water is gravity fed spring water. It travels through old iron pipes that give it a perfect taste...especially in a pewter or metal cup. (can someone be snooty about their water....?)

     

    And the heat off a Vermont Castings Defiant wood stove, wafting over a Labrador Retriever, is the best in the world. One of the pure joys of mankind, especially if he has put up his own wood.

     

    We better stop here before someone tells us we "need to get a room".....haha.

     

    Really nice to meet you Michael. I look forward to your posts here on SA.

     

    Cheers,
    Perkins Cove
    19 Feb, 07:52 PM Reply Like
  • jamesingram32
    , contributor
    Comments (632) | Send Message
     
    I love this article, and the wisdoms held in it. I am going to get me 11 yr old and 9 yr old to read it. I'm 46 , and semi retired. I renovate/build extend houses we live in, and we're staying put in this one, I think, for a while. Capital gains on the house you live on is 0% in the UK, so that is a benefit. I have some rental income from this business now as well.
    A lot of the sucessful people here define retirement really as shifting from the corporate life, and eschewing the bling, which has never appealed to me anyhow. Sitting in an office watching guys show off their $20,000 watch is repugnant to me. I cannot fathom the logic of that.
    I worked with a fantastic and warm and funny sales guy who had a dream of owing an Aston Martin. He worked till 11pm every evening, and his girlfriend got increasingly irritated with this. Eventually, he hit his targets, bought the aston martin, and a huge diamond engagement ring for her...At that point she left him, as she had not seen him for 4 years anyhow....
    I think this little story shows how wrong it can be to chase the bling, rather than a good and decent life.
    It's about priorities, and a good dose of values, and some clean living...and I think this is the most important of all....redemption is always possible. Without that we are all doomed!
    Hey, your article and your story is an inspiriation. Thanks for sharing
    20 Feb, 08:58 AM Reply Like
  • jamesingram32
    , contributor
    Comments (632) | Send Message
     
    P.S. totally agree with you on home grown potatos, unfortunately, it is impossible where I live to grow any brassicas, apart from swiss chard ( which is delicious) as we have an aboundance of cabbage whites and moths that finish off anything left by the pigeons, phesants, snails and slugs!
    20 Feb, 09:26 AM Reply Like
  • Michael Fitzsimmons
    , contributor
    Comments (9064) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Hi James, glad you enjoyed the article and yes, I plant swiss chard as well and love to saute it in a garlic and butter sauce - very tasty!
    20 Feb, 11:36 AM Reply Like
  • Jeff Williams
    , contributor
    Comments (77) | Send Message
     
    I fully enjoyed the read!!
    Thankyou
    Jeff
    19 Feb, 06:54 PM Reply Like
  • Michael Fitzsimmons
    , contributor
    Comments (9064) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Thank you Jeff - I enjoyed your last piece on COP.
    19 Feb, 07:36 PM Reply Like
  • MLP Trader
    , contributor
    Comments (930) | Send Message
     
    A few things:

     

    - Your shed leans
    - You need to put that chainsaw away before someone trips over it or "leatherface" finds it
    - I hope you aren't claiming the trout in the photo is 18'

     

    ;-)
    19 Feb, 07:58 PM Reply Like
  • Michael Fitzsimmons
    , contributor
    Comments (9064) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Haha! Nice try MLP Trader, but that shed was 100% level the day it went up and 7 years later it is still 100% level. The ground is sloped from left to right, so I can see how you would have thought that.

     

    The chainsaw was cooling off, it gets cleaned and put away after every use. I don't put it away hot.

     

    The trout in the picture may not be 18, but it's not far off. It's easily four of my "hands" (4") plus some, so I would guess it's 17". If you want a picture of some 18 & 20+ inchers, send me your personal email ;)
    19 Feb, 08:06 PM Reply Like
  • Perkins Cove
    , contributor
    Comments (633) | Send Message
     
    Ok....is the trout picture in the same location as the shed? Ie, can you step out of your door at home and make a cast? If so....I am seriously jealous.
    19 Feb, 08:22 PM Reply Like
  • Perkins Cove
    , contributor
    Comments (633) | Send Message
     
    And MLP Trader..."Islamic history". Damn, I need to get away from just Stocktalks and open up to more Contributors. I have often felt that SA has a base spirituality (in spite of itself) that even religion can't touch.

     

    Namaste
    19 Feb, 08:30 PM Reply Like
  • Michael Fitzsimmons
    , contributor
    Comments (9064) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Don't I wish. That picture was taken at a spot in the Wilderness of Colorado that requires a medium difficulty 6 mile hike.
    19 Feb, 11:06 PM Reply Like
  • wigit5
    , contributor
    Comments (4120) | Send Message
     
    Simply one of the best reads anyone can ever take the time to run over...

     

    I'm unfortunately on the wrong end of a layoff (my whole department was eliminated though not just me) so I'm back at school. I don't have any debt besides my first house (which is being rented for a profit), my primary home, and my credit cards which I pay off every month religiously...

     

    Hopefully once I have the degree I can get back to working and investing... until then trying to absorb all I can from you more intelligent people.

     

    Thanks for taking the time this was excellent.
    19 Feb, 08:36 PM Reply Like
  • Michael Fitzsimmons
    , contributor
    Comments (9064) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Thanks wigit5 and sorry to hear about the layoff. Hopefully school is going well and can prepare you for the next adventure in your life. I always looked at new jobs as a brand new chapter. I worked for 5 different companies after I graduated college, two for ~10 years, and the others just a couple years. Good way to meet a lot of people and learn alot of stuff.
    19 Feb, 11:09 PM Reply Like
  • Perkins Cove
    , contributor
    Comments (633) | Send Message
     
    Jeez....this guy is one of the most positive guys ever. Must be the genes......
    19 Feb, 11:14 PM Reply Like
  • webbersworld
    , contributor
    Comments (160) | Send Message
     
    Super inspiring article, Michael. Big mistake by SA not to publish this on the main screen. Thank you!
    19 Feb, 11:31 PM Reply Like
  • Perkins Cove
    , contributor
    Comments (633) | Send Message
     
    One must understand...SA is primarily about investing.
    http://bit.ly/14XkOO5

     

    That is the truth. In the words of Eli himself. Listen for the true words. It's about investing....way over trading....or any spirituality. That said, Eli is a hell of a great guy. He's real, in a true sense of the word.

     

    So, if your looking for spirituality here at SA....you have to sneak around. Its here. But not overtly. Thus Micheal's having to submit his article as an Instablog. No problem.

     

    Come to StockTalks for the real spirituality of SA. We are inclusive. If you have actually authored an article here on SA, we won't hold that against you.

     

    "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives" - Jackie Robinson
    19 Feb, 11:52 PM Reply Like
  • Michael Fitzsimmons
    , contributor
    Comments (9064) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Thank you webbersworld - I agree.
    20 Feb, 07:40 AM Reply Like
  • Joe94
    , contributor
    Comment (1) | Send Message
     
    I agree with a lot, but grain fed meat is not the healthy choice....grass fed beef, pastured chicken.......
    20 Feb, 12:38 AM Reply Like
  • mfdree
    , contributor
    Comments (14) | Send Message
     
    thanks for sharing. working down this path now. nice to hear it can really be done.
    20 Feb, 01:03 AM Reply Like
  • OptionsMike
    , contributor
    Comments (100) | Send Message
     
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article!
    20 Feb, 06:50 AM Reply Like
  • Michael Fitzsimmons
    , contributor
    Comments (9064) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Thanks guys - glad you all enjoyed the piece.
    20 Feb, 07:42 AM Reply Like
  • fiveoh
    , contributor
    Comments (126) | Send Message
     
    Great article. I'm 33, work in O&G, and hope to retire relatively early as well. Maybe I missed it in the article, but how long have you been retired for? Any not obvious pitfalls to watch out for once you are retired?
    20 Feb, 11:51 AM Reply Like
  • Michael Fitzsimmons
    , contributor
    Comments (9064) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Hi 5oh: 33 is a great age to implement some of the things I discussed. I've been "retired" for quite a few years now - I am over 50. Pitfalls to watch out for are being too heavy in the market...as I was in 2008 when the bottom dropped out. Have worked my way back, but that was very stressfull for someone who was used to a paycheck, then didn't have one, and then saw his portfolio of savings drop 30% in a few months (seriously). That's why I like dividend paying stocks so much these days...if the stock price drops, at least you have some income. Health care is a huge issue until you reach Medicare age. For me, luckily, I have been a cyclist, outdoors person, healthy eater, and have even been into yoga for the last 15 years. As a result, I actually went the first 5 yrs of "retirement" with no heath insurance. That changed a couple years ago when a truck drove me and my bike off the road and into a ditch and I realized if I had had a head injury, well, church would have been out. So now I have a "catastrophic" health care plan: a high $5k deductible, but then it kicks in and takes over if something really bad happens. I shopped around alot for this policy and it was easy to find one for $200-400/month. But, I actually joined a local Farmers co-op - I do have a garden ;), and it is only $110/month (no dental and no prescription coverage). So, take care of your teeth (I go twice a year for ~$300) and stay healthy so you can stay off prescriptions and the nasty side effects they usually produce. Lastly, I think it prudent to own a bit of gold & silver for inflation/deflation/ or meltdown. As for your home, the more self sufficient you can be the better: garden, pond stocked with fish (wish I had one!), fruit trees, etc. etc). I am sure I am forgetting things but lunch is ready ;)
    20 Feb, 01:35 PM Reply Like
  • fiveoh
    , contributor
    Comments (126) | Send Message
     
    Thanks for the additional tips!
    20 Feb, 01:42 PM Reply Like
  • Michael Fitzsimmons
    , contributor
    Comments (9064) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » You bet. Here's another: you don't have to be an electrical engineer to buy a good quality volt-meter and learn how to use it. I can't tell you how many times I have used a volt-meter to debug and fix things. Good luck on your quest - you can do it if you set your mind to it. There is nothing like being the master of your own time...to stay healthy and do the things that are important to you. I have given up being "rich", but there are many things that money simply cannot buy.
    20 Feb, 02:34 PM Reply Like
  • Sum02006
    , contributor
    Comments (377) | Send Message
     
    Fantastic post! Appreciated your insight into how you have achieved success in your life. I think people of all ages can glean something from what you wrote. I believe that with hard work, dedication, and a positive attitude, a whole lot of doors opens up to a person.

     

    Also, thanks for all of your work writing on the energy sector. I have learned a lot from you as you have shared your knowledge.
    20 Feb, 03:23 PM Reply Like
  • Michael Fitzsimmons
    , contributor
    Comments (9064) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Thanks Sum02006. Here's another tip: always buy the repair manual for your vehicle. If buying a new vehicle, ask the sales guy to throw in the repair manual(s) for free - they will almost always do it to get the sale. You will gain confidence in doing jobs like replacing brake pads when you see how easy the 1-2-3 steps are.

     

    Also, I tend to buy trucks and put a hitch on it. Trucks are much more functional and can save a lot of money by hauling, moving, and helping out buddies.
    20 Feb, 04:27 PM Reply Like
  • haoleboy1967
    , contributor
    Comments (253) | Send Message
     
    Michael this story sums up why i follow your posts. It is spot on and you and i are very alike. The main difference between you and I is that i dont have your academic credentials, education or scholarly skill set.
    I would like your readers to know that even a blue collar guy who never made over 75k in salary can do the same thing. Much of it can be accomplished by using the exact same techniques as you outlined. In my case it involves dropping my lifestyle way down and going expat.
    Thanks again for the article. If i were a superintendent of schools in your neck off the woods i would have you come in for one week right before seniors graduate high school and make your class a requirement for graduating. Think of the lives that could be changed!
    20 Feb, 04:59 PM Reply Like
  • Michael Fitzsimmons
    , contributor
    Comments (9064) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Thank you for the kind words oleboy1967. I seem to have more in common with blue collar types than many of the educated scholarly set, although I do know many engineers who are very independent and "hands on". I also dropped my lifestyle way down, but it's a trade-off I made when I quit working - less cash flow but in charge of my own time. Well worth it. I did have a local teacher here in town that I met at her garage sale and she asked me what my profession was. We started talking and she said she taught math and her students constantly asked her why they needed to know math. And when I told her about the students in Asia being so far ahead of the average American in math etc. etc. she took my number and wanted me to speak to her class, but she never called. Along those lines, I sure wish they would teach a basic finance course in high school and college. Anyhow, glad you made it!
    20 Feb, 10:43 PM Reply Like
  • enthusiasticinvestor
    , contributor
    Comments (69) | Send Message
     
    What a wonderful post. I'm 36 and I have much life to live (I hope); I love to hear advice from folks who have lived through what I am living through, i.e. building a life and striving to achieve financial freedom. I have so much that I want to do and I hope that wise financial habits will permit me to do so. I hope to achieve a full, well-rounded life as you clearly have done. Thank you for a great article.
    21 Feb, 01:42 PM Reply Like
  • Michael Fitzsimmons
    , contributor
    Comments (9064) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Thank you enthusiastic - it sounds like you have set goals and I believe you can achieve and probably will achieve it. 36 is a great age and gives you plenty of time to do so. Good luck to you and everyone else who read and enjoyed this piece.
    22 Feb, 11:36 AM Reply Like
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