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Everyday I’m (Not) Hustlin’

It’s been a while since my last post. Summer has flown by as they all tend to do. I’ve settled into my Midwestern lifestyle quite well. The bike I purchased when I moved out here has been getting put to work at least five times per week. I’ve been trying to make it to the gym four times per week. I’ve been traveling all over the place for weddings, holidays, and family events. During travel I’ve been plowing through interesting podcasts. I’ve made a conscious effort to read a lot more. I just finished “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World” by Harry Browne and I’m now onto the 700 plus page behemoth “Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.” by Ron Chernow (I’ll report back on this one when I finish it in 2018).

My personal finances have pretty much been on auto pilot for some time now. Moving to the Midwest provided some excitement for a while as I didn’t know exactly where my expenses would fall out. But now that I’ve been here for a few months everything is kind of boring on the financial front again.

Researching personal finance, financial independence, investing, etc., has taken up a lot of my spare time in the past few years. Now I’m at a point where I am at a very comfortable spot with my financial plan. My systems are in place and everything is running like a well oiled machine. My 401k contribution is set to max early in the year, my HSA contribution is set to max, every two weeks I invest my surplus cash into Vanguard like clockwork, my debt is gone*, and I’m happy with my run-rate expenses (haven’t cut cable yet but that may be coming soon).

Even though everything looks great from 30,000 feet, I get a little stir crazy at times. I feel like I should be doing MORE. For the past couple years I have been optimizing everything related to my personal finances. Increasing income, trimming expenses, funding emergency fund, investing, paying down debt, etc., all of which took a lot of work, time, and planning. Now I read other personal finance blogs and everyone is talking about that side hustle life. Making extra money outside their normal day jobs to help them reach their financial goals faster. Honestly reading about all this hustling makes me feel a little guilty that I’m not doing more.

After months of figuring out what else I could be doing, I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that it is OKAY to not pursue a side hustle. By no means do I think it is a bad idea to have a side hustle, I actually think it’s a great idea. But for me right now, it just doesn’t make sense. My day job income has been increasing fairly rapidly as of late allowing me to reach my financial goals much faster than originally projected. Therefore the gap between my income and expenses continues to grow. I no longer have debt looming over my head. The more my day job income increases, the more significant the side hustle would have to be to make a dent in my financial goals. I’ve accepted that it’s okay to use my time outside of work to do things that don’t earn money and bring me joy instead.

Part of this FIRE journey is charting your own path without concern for what others are doing. I know I shouldn’t be comparing myself to others, but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy task. The journey itself needs to be enjoyable. I do not need to feel guilty when I’m going for a bike ride or watching Netflix with my girlfriend instead of starting a business on the side. Some may say it’s risky to have all of one’s income completely concentrated in one source. I would agree to a point, but the further your income moves away from your expenses, the less of a risk it actually is. At the end of the day hustlin’ for me would most likely have a slight positive impact on my financial picture, and a larger negative impact on my personal life. And for that reason – everyday I’m not hustlin’.

Do you ever feel guilty when you’re not leveraging your spare time to earn more income? How have you gone about dealing with it?

* – I paid off my last student loan a week ago. I am now DEBT FREE!

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The Stigma of Subsidized

Everyone has been given money, services, or goods at some point in their lives. Usually the main givers are parents. In most cases they at least provide food, shelter, and clothing until the age of 18, at a minimum. In addition, some parents even provide vacations, private music lessons, college education, inheritances, house down payments, cars, investing lessons, and passed down heirlooms. Everyone’s situation is different, but does that mean any one way is “more right” or “more wrong” than the other?

I am a big fan of reddit. In the Financial Independence subreddit there are over one hundred thousand subscribers, many of which share invaluable stories and information which help thousands of other people get ahead financially and reach their FIRE goals. Some people ask advice about how to start on the path to FIRE. Others share how they FIRE’d at 35 years old. Others ask what to do with a recent windfall.

Time and time again I’m shocked at the responses people receive if they received a leg-up financially. Parents paid for college? That is cheating on the path to FIRE! Aunt Ada worked as a secretary until she was 70, always saved money, and left all her grand nieces and nephews $30,000? Well those grand nieces’ and nephews’ financial accomplishments from then on aren’t earned. I don’t know where this negativity stems from. Maybe it is jealousy or it is just internet trolls who have nothing better to do.

I honestly could care less how you got to the financial position you are in? What people have to realize is everyone’s family and upbringing are different. So inherently their financial lives are going to have different paths than yours. In my mind, someone who was taught about retirement accounts and saving half their income growing up will be much better off than the person who received a free college education and $30,000 gift coming from a family that didn’t talk about money.

From growing up in a very rural town, to working in Manhattan, to now living in the Midwest, I’ve seen all sorts of financial situations. Some friends have fully supported themselves since 16, others are in their late 20’s and receiving large amounts of parental financial support such as Manhattan apartment down payments from their parents.

Personally my parents provided the necessities (and more) until I was 22. They would of done it longer but I wanted to act like a grown up and move out on my own. My family covered a little over one year of college and I footed the rest of the bill. Does that mean I’m better than my peers who had all four years paid for by mom and dad? Do my financial accomplishments matter more? HECK NO!

I know that if anyone was to hand me a check for ANY reason, I would put a huge smile on my face and say THANK YOU! Does that make me wrong? I sure hope not.

What is your take on being subsidized financially? Do you receive all gifts (even monetary) with open arms? Why the stigma?

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5 Nights in Cancun on Points

I am by no means a travel hacking professional, but I am trying to learn more and move past being an amateur. I’ve probably opened a new credit card once every six to twelve months or so for the past few years, but haven’t been that strategic about it.

I have a friend (let’s call him Mike) who I would classify as a semi-professional travel hacker / credit card churner and he’s been egging me on to get more serious about it like him. I have obliged somewhat, but when I start mentioning FIRE to him, he doesn’t return the favor.

Mike went to the brand new Hyatt Ziva Cancun all-inclusive resort right when it opened at the beginning of 2016. He was only there two nights but couldn’t stop raving about it. He told me “YOU HAVE TO GO!” I brushed him off for a while, but then started getting the vacation itch. The girlfriend and I were trying to think of what we wanted to do next for vacation. Europe was high on the list and we talked about it for a couple of months. We discussed the different destinations and possibility of visiting some friends over there. But in the end schedules didn’t work out and we decided to put this off until second half of 2017 most likely.

Then I started putting my travel hacking hat on. I started inquiring with Mike and reading some travel blogs. It seemed that Hyatt was offering a smoking deal for it’s Chase credit card. If you signed up for the card you received a $50 statement credit along with two free nights at ANY Hyatt property once you spent $1,000 in the first three months. The annual fee is waved for the first year, and then $75 per year after that. On every anniversary of receiving the card, you also receive a free stay (some restrictions) which will easily offset the $75 fee. This seemed like a no-brainer to me. I discussed with my girlfriend and she agreed, so then we both applied for the card.

Once we received the cards and both spent the $1,000 (we just did this with our normal spend), we were armed with a total of four free award nights. After doing some more research and talking to Mike, we were super pumped about booking the Hyatt Ziva in Cancun. I thought “if we’re flying down to Mexico, let’s try to stay another night.” So with a little more research I found out booking a 5th night was only 25,000 Hyatt points. I had 11,000 from work travel, my girlfriend had 5,000, so I only needed to come up with 9,000 more. Luckily Hyatt is a transfer partner for Chase Ultimate Rewards. The Chase Sapphire card is my everyday card so transferring over 9,000 for an extra night was nothing!

I was a little nervous how much of a pain booking it would be since we were using my two nights, my girlfriend’s two nights, and 25,000 in points. I called with both of our Hyatt Passport numbers and booking it was easy peasy. It took less than 10 minutes. At the end of booking the reservation the Hyatt representative said “you know… if you booked this with cash it would have cost about $3,200!” I also have Hyatt status so she said there was a good possibility we would be upgraded. As a reminder this place looks like the bee’s knees and is all-inclusive.

Flights were pretty simple as well. We’re traveling in January which is pretty far away so I wanted to book flights that wouldn’t cost me an arm and a leg to change or cancel. When you book with Southwest using points, you can change or cancel your flights with full redemption of points and fees. So we booked two round-trip tickets to Cancun on Southwest for 47,000 Southwest points (transferred from Chase Ultimate Rewards) and $157 on fees. The Points Guy values Southwest points at 1.5 cents each so our flight “cost” us 47,000 x 0.015 + 157 = $862. Since there is no repercussion for canceling these flights, I’m going to be keeping an eye on flights using cash and if we can get a good deal, I’ll save the points for another day.

As you can tell we’re extremely excited for this trip but it’s still far away. In the meantime I’ll be enjoying the summer and having a winter trip to look forward to.

Am I still a travel hacking amateur? Have you used points for a recent vacation? If so, share your story.

Note: I am not affiliated with any of these brands and the blog is not monetized. This story was just too good that I had to share.

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Mid-2016 Update

Man have I been busy, and not paying much attention to Fervent Finance. The month of May included packing up my old apartment, selling furniture, moving to the Midwest, traveling for work, traveling back to the Northeast for a wedding, finding a new gym, researching purchasing a bike, and many more things I’m probably forgetting. June, so far, has included traveling for work, buying a bike, and another wedding.

The move to the Midwest has been a great transition for me so far. I am enjoying being back in the burbs with lots of room to roam and with my significant other. I have a nice home office setup which has worked out great.

From my picture at the top of this post you can see I just bought a bike! I’m super excited about it. I have spent about $350 on the hybrid bike and accessories so far (accessories not mounted in the picture). There are bike paths and trails all around me that I’m pumped to explore. I’ve found I live in a pretty decent biking community. This is a pretty big expense for me, but it’s much cheaper than buying a car! I hadn’t biked since I was a kid and forgot how much fun it is. Definitely no regrets so far.

My finances have been way more boring than my actual life. My expenses have averaged $2,453 per month for the first five months of 2016. My goal for 2016 is to spend less than $30,000 (or $2,500 per month), so I’m on pace. I think I should definitely hit that goal since for a little over four months of this year I was living in Manhattan, and now I’m in the Midwest. My savings rate is hovering around 60%, but this should go up the remainder of the year due to the fact that my compensation is somewhat concentrated in the last four months of the year due annual raise and bonus time falling then.

I’ve recently ratcheted up my 401k deferral to 60% in an effort to max it out in July. It is a little tough to see my paychecks shrink, but will be nice to have my paychecks for the final five months of the year be without 401k deferrals. My brokerage account will definitely feel the love during that period.

The girlfriend and I have already devised a nice system for splitting expenses. It’s working great so far. Personally I believe since we discuss finances regularly, it puts us ahead of the game, and gives us one less thing to argue about.

I’m attempting to up my amateur travel hacking game and am currently in the process of booking a free trip to Cancun for the winter. Haven’t locked it down yet but I have the award nights and points in the bank to do it. I haven’t been to Cancun since spring break in college and think it will be a nice change of pace to go with my significant other, rather than during spring break with my college friends. Can anyone say cocktails, naps, and the beach?

The blog has definitely fallen to the wayside due to me spending more time with my significant other, getting into biking, continuing to work out, and traveling for work. But hey, priorities tend to change and I like to be outside during the summer months (at least when work lets me get away from my computer for a while).

How is the start to your summer going, personally and financially? Do you find yourself concentrating on different hobbies and projects as time goes on and seasons change?

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The Move

The Move is officially complete and I’m publishing this post from the Midwest. The last month has felt like a blur. With a bachelor party, grabbing dinner and drinks with friends/coworkers in the city before I left, actual work, cleaning my apartment, throwing junk away, donating clothing, and selling furniture (I ended up selling basically all of my furniture and netted about 440 bucks which I was pumped about), I’ve been quite busy.

Figuring out how to get myself and my stuff to the Midwest was stressful to say the least. I learned that moving companies price their one-way truck rentals based on supply and demand of each location. The big name truck rental companies wanted about $1,200 for a one way truck rental. I almost spit out my coffee when that popped up on my computer screen multiple times. Apparently they need trucks in the Northeast and don’t need them in the Midwest. If I wanted to drive a truck from Atlanta to NYC, it would of only been around $200. Renting a truck quickly fell off my list of ways to move.

So then the wheels started spinning in my head of what to do. I could rent a bigger car or SUV and drive it to the Midwest with my stuff. But then I would have to sell all my furniture. I ran into the same pricing issues with driving the truck rental one way. I’m way too frugal to spend an arm and a leg on a car rental to move my not-that-valuable crap to the Midwest.

Then the best plan of them all came. My sister volunteered to drive her SUV the 2.5 hours to my apartment in Manhattan and help me load it up and bring it to my parents’ house. I thought this was great idea, because it would really force me to pair down my stuff and then I could find a cheap flight to the Midwest and call it a move. I’ve been trying to welcome more minimalist qualities so this ensured that I would have to sell my furniture, donate a ton of clothes, and throw away stuff I didn’t use. This option was a win on all accounts.

This plan worked to perfection. I paid my sister for her gas and troubles, and took her out to lunch. I then booked a $150 flight out to my girlfriends’ in the Midwest (I also got upgraded to first class and was able to check three bags for free, that has to be a good omen for the move and relationship right?). The approximately $200 in moving costs definitely trumped the driving time and potential $1,200 plus gas I would have had to spend on a truck rental or $500 plus gas I would have had to spend on a car/SUV rental.

My parents are doing me a big one by letting me store a bunch of stuff at their house. I luckily (or unluckily, depending on how you look at it) have to come back to the Northeast about a half a dozen times this year for weddings and other events, and will fill a big suitcase every time I swing by my parents. Aren’t parents great?

The stress of the process was a pain, but I’m very happy the move is finally over and that it went according to plan. Now I can concentrate on living the Midwestern life, my girlfriend, and my FIRE goals.

Other happenings

On a side note, some of you saw my tweet a week ago about how an email saved me $2,000. Without going too far into the weeds, when I moved to NYC work loaned me $2,000 with the expectation that I’d pay them back when I moved out. Well that time came and HR emailed me to start figuring out my repayment plan. I obviously would rather keep the $2,000 for myself so I replied to the email noting that I didn’t think it was necessary for me to repay the amount for XYZ personal situation reasons. I didn’t hear back for about a week and then I got an email noting that forgiveness of the loan was approved and it’ll be treated as income, but they’ll foot the tax bill as well! It never hurts to ask people

My boss, who I discussed in my last post, took a group of us out to dinner for my farewell. It was a great time. The core group of guys I work with are the reason I haven’t left my company, even though I could make more elsewhere. We enjoyed a great dinner at a nice restaurant, with a few bottles of red. I felt appreciated which was nice and these types of events funded by work are something I’ll definitely miss when I leave.

I’ve had a string of good fortunes lately which I cannot deny. I hope I don’t revert back to the mean anytime soon with a string of bad luck. I hope everyone’s Mays are off to as good of a start as mine.

Any big life changes on the horizon? Anyone moving to another state?

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Attaining A Remote Work Arrangement

In my last post I shared how although my job is in NYC, I will be working remotely for six months and moving in with my girlfriend in the Midwest. It is an exciting time, of which I spend a lot of figuring out the logistics of the move (which will take place in May) and what to do with all my stuff. I am currently in the process of going through my belongings and donating, throwing away, and selling things (cha-ching!).

Let’s take a step back and talk about how I was able to convince my employer to allow me to do this. I’m going to be fully transparent when I say it took a little bit of skill and a lot of luck to make this happen. To be considered for a remote work arrangement, I think you and your job need to meet certain criteria.

Do a majority of your work from a laptop. In my line of work I spend 95% of my time staring at my laptop. We even do conference calls from out laptops now and don’t even have to pick up the phone! If you’re a plumber, carpenter, or high school teacher, it is very highly unlikely for you to get a remote work arrangement for this reason. In my line of work I travel once a month on average and this will allow me to catch up with coworkers on a regular basis to ensure they know I’m still around. If work or clients don’t sponsor trips like this, it can be harder to have real life face-time with your coworkers and bosses.

Be highly rated and respected at work. Let’s face it if you’re the average worker just punching the clock, it’s less likely your boss would approve something like this. I don’t plan on my career lasting until I’m 65, so I don’t see a point in wasting my time now coasting by. I try to show that I care about work and exceed expectations. This allows me to get away with certain things that some coworkers may not. It gets me more autonomy, more paid for lunches and dinners, and apparently a six month remote work arrangement.

Convey to your boss that your performance will remain the same. Some people have a bad perception of remote work arrangements. Maybe people think you’re just going to sit on your ass all day in your pajamas and get nothing done. I actually do great work when I’m not at the office since I don’t have many distractions. I made sure to convey that my work product would not change at all. My boss did voice concern about my ability to develop those in the ranks below, but I assured that this would not be an issue.

Have a good boss or one who seems to care somewhat about your well being. I’m quite friendly with my main boss. Me working for him wasn’t exactly random. I knew I liked the guy and working on his projects, so once I had the opportunity to work for him, I made sure to do a bang-up job so that he’d keep me around and it’s definitely paid off. He’s a family man and values his time out of the office, and therefore seems to value mine as well. If I was consistently working on projects for the people who eat, sleep, and breath for working at the office, they probably wouldn’t have been as supportive. Some people think that you don’t have any control over who you report to in your career, but I’ve found out with careful planning and some effort, this can be managed to your benefit.

Get lucky! I understand this isn’t an option for everyone and realize that luck did play a role, and for that I’m very grateful.

After the fact I did some reflecting on how I actually presented this idea to my boss. In hindsight I realize I didn’t really ask permission. I had been trying to meet with him live for over a week but he was traveling, so the first thing I did when I caught him in his office was joke that I wasn’t putting in my two weeks to lighten the mood. I laid out my plan for working remotely from my girlfriend’s (he knew I was in a long distance relationship) and assured him we could make it work, that my performance would remain high, and that this was something personal I needed to do. He voiced a couple BS concerns of which I countered, and then he voiced his support. I wonder if my outcome would have been different if I walked in and asked his permission instead…

Do you work remotely? If so, how did you negotiate that arrangement? If not, what is keeping you from asking/telling your employer this is what you would like to do?

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Fervent Goes West

Not to burst your bubble but I’m not financially independent and I haven’t quit working for the man to start a new exciting business. What I did do though, is attain the fabled “remote work” arrangement from my employer (for a six month period)!

I don’t delve into my personal life too much on Fervent Finance, besides my personal financial life of course, but my significant other lives in the Midwest. We have been doing the whole long distance thing for going on two years now, and it’s just getting old. We have talked about her potentially moving to NYC or perhaps us both moving to another major US city where my job has offices as well. To be blunt, I’ve had my fun in Manhattan these last two plus years and I’m ready for a change from city life. I was born and raised in a very small town in New England and kind of miss the slow pace of life. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a blast in Manhattan but I’d like to move away from a culture where people pride themselves on how much they work and how much cash they blow on brunches, bars, dinners, and rent. I’m ready to slow down a little and of course be closer to the ole GF.

Here are the quick details. In about a month I’ll be moving to a small city in the Midwest into a condo my girlfriend rents. I’ll still be based out of NYC for work and will travel as usual for work, but I won’t have to report to the office. Can anyone say Manhattan salary with a Midwest cost of living??? Geographic arbitrage for the win! After six months of this remote work arrangement my boss and I will sit down again. I’ll most likely try to squeeze some more time out of him, but he could ask me to report back to NYC at that time. I’m not worried about that yet, I’m going to enjoy my remote work arrangement and worry about that when the time comes. There are a ton of potential opportunities at that point which may include saying no and playing hardball, getting another job, just moving back to the NYC area, starting my own business, etc. Only time will tell.

Now let’s discuss what everyone has been waiting for – how the arrangement will affect my finances:

  1. Rent – Off the bat it appears my rent will go down by over two thirds and I’ll be living in a space that is more than twice as big as my current apartment. No surprise here, as Manhattan real estate is a tad on the highly priced side.
  2. Utilities – I’ll be moving to a bigger space and splitting utilities with one person instead of two, so this will naturally go up a little.
  3. Travel – Unfortunately I won’t have as many big airports nearby so personal travel will be more expensive. Luckily since my rent is decreasing, I will be able to recoup some of the extra potential cost of personal travel to fly back to the Northeast to see family and attend the multitude of weddings I have this year in that area. Why can’t eloping become the new hot thing to do? I kid, I kid.
  4. State income taxes – I’ll be moving to a state whose income tax rate will be less than half what I’ve been paying in NYC, and also has lower sales tax. One of the disadvantages of living in Manhattan is the NYC resident tax which is on top of NY state income tax if you live within the five boroughs. This is an additional ~3.5 percent tax on my income for the privilege of living in NYC.

I’ll definitely miss Manhattan. I’ll miss my reasonably priced gym within walking distance of my apartment, with four squat racks. I’ll miss the farmer’s market on my block with incredible produce and very reasonable prices. I’ll miss the convenience of walking everywhere and public transportation. I’ll miss three airports within an hour’s travel which made personal travel cheap. I’ll miss the overall convenience and buzz.

I won’t miss dogs doing their business anywhere they please, tourists walking four-wide on the sidewalk, staying at the office for long hours as a badge of honor, inclement weather when I need to walk somewhere, smokers blowing their pollution at my face, among other things.

I do look forward to time with the GF, more easily accessible outdoors, new adventures, slower pace to life, and of course being in a lower cost of living area.

For those wondering how I was able to convince my employer to let me do this, I’ll share that story in my next post. Hopefully it will benefit others looking to do something similar.

Who wants to help me move? Has anyone negotiated a remote work arrangement with their employer? Personally, could you go back to working at an office after working remotely for six months?

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I Have Lost My Damn Mind

On April 1st I tweeted that I had lost my damn mind. No it was not an April Fool’s joke. And no I don’t think I’ve actually lost my mind. I did turn 28 years old last month, so maybe my age has something to do with it. I haven’t owned a car for over two years now, but for whatever reason I put a deposit down on a new Tesla Model 3 expected to enter production in late 2017.

Tesla was founded by Elon Musk who also is a founder of PayPal and SpaceX. I’ve always been intrigued by Mr. Musk and a couple of months ago I read his biography written by Ashlee Vance. I’ve been hooked on Mr. Musk and his companies ever since. Mr. Vance paints an intriguing picture of Mr. Musk and his abilities to do great things. Who couldn’t like a guy whose passions include green energy and colonizing Mars?

Here is a little snapshot of what sold me on putting a deposit down on the Model 3, besides the fact that it was created by Tesla and Mr. Musk:

  1. 215 mile range on a full charge
  2. Fits 5 adults comfortably
  3. $27,500 net price tag ($35,000 minus federal tax credit of $7,500)
  4. Supercharging capable (80% charge in 30 minutes at Supercharger location – and some are even powered by solar!)

Production isn’t set to begin until late 2017. I made my reservation about eight hours after the deposit window opened, so there is a good chance I wouldn’t receive mine until 2018, which is two years away. This gives me a LONG time to decide if I want to ask Elon for my money back (my $1,000 dollar deposit is fully refundable anytime before I sign a purchase agreement). In all honesty I’ll probably let him hold onto it for a while, and then by the end of 2017, I will either ask for it back or actually go through with it (only if for some reason my net worth is WAY past my goals).

I think its fun to dream. Who didn’t want to be an astronaut when they were a kid? It’s great to see people like Elon Musk still living out those dreams well into their 40’s (and probably for the rest of his life since i don’t see him stopping anytime soon. I believe Elon Musk (along with others like Amazon found Jeff Bezos) are exactly the type of entrepreneurs we love in America. Always pushing the envelope and trying to make the world better places. Hopefully I’ll be able to help in someway, even if it is by just buying a car.

Did you hand Elon $1,000 for a deposit on a Model 3? Have I gone bat shit crazy for even considering a $35,000 car?

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I’m Tired of Hearing How Bad Millennials Have It

I’m a millennial myself so I feel like I’m qualified to discuss this subject (and with a financial independence twist of course). I do a horrendous job of not following the news. I always catch myself on the websites of numerous online business news companies seeing what is going on. Many bloggers have written about how horrible following the media is on a day to day basis, and I totally agree, but it doesn’t mean I do a good job of blocking it out. The sad reality is that doom and gloom headlines equal clicks and views.

Lately, and I think this is partially due to it being election season, the hot topic has been Millennials. Every channel you flip to or online news article you read is how bad Millennials have it. They live at home with their parents. They are drowning in debt. They are the first generation in the U.S. worse off than their parents. They can’t afford a home. They can’t find their dream job. They are working at Starbucks. The list goes on and on.

Now are some Millennials having a tough go at it? Of course they are, I’m sure of it. But Millennials as a whole? I don’t think so.

Education
Let’s start with education. I graduated undergrad with about $30k of student loans. Was this more than my parents had? Yes, but that’s because they didn’t go to college! College wasn’t a “given” for our parents. Statistically speaking less than 50% of high school graduates headed off to college in 1975 (due to a variety of reasons such as war), whereas this number is about 65% today. When I was in high school I had a course to college mapped out for my by my teachers and counselor. Take these AP classes. Play a sport. Get involved in an extracurricular activity. I followed their lead and next thing you know, I was off to my school of choice with a partial scholarship.

Investing and Retirement
Our pal Jack Bogle didn’t create the index fund until 1976. If our parents wanted to invest some dough in equities, they had to do it through a broker and pick stocks, or buy expensive mutual funds with load fees and commissions. Now we have extremely cheap (or free) online brokerage accounts. I set up my Vanguard account in minutes and with a click of a button I can invest money whenever I want.

The 401k was created in about 1981 when some random guy noticed a loop-hole in the Internal Revenue Code. Before that it was much harder for workers to shield earnings from income taxes. Now you might be saying “well my parents have a pension!” Pensions are great if you have them but they are also handcuffs tying you to your employer. People notice that our parents spend decades with the same employer, that’s because people are taught to be slaves to their pensions since this will help them through their golden years. When in reality in most cases, you would of been better off socking money away in a 401k and IRA and retiring on your own terms.

Home Buying
30 year mortgage interest rates were above 10% from late 1978 to until almost 1991! Today you can get a 30 year fixed for about 3.75%. Maybe these low interest rates are inflating home values, but could you image taking out a mortgage at 12%?!? Also this community has also blogged about how owning a home is becoming less of the “American Dream.” Us millennials are okay with renting, and would rather spend money on travel and experiences instead. I may be an outlier but if I never own a home, I would be A.O.K. with that.

Employment
Unemployment currently sits below 5% which is below historical averages. The internet allows us to search for jobs all over the country and globe at the click of a button. Our parents relied on the classifieds and maybe a trade magazine when job searching (well they never really did this because they are tied to their pensions), and we can see open jobs in our field in Seattle, Boston, or Richmond instantly and submit our resume with a click. For those who are employed, inflation adjusted gas prices are below the historical average, easing the burden of commuting.

Health and Technology
This doesn’t even need an explanation. We have the internet, our parents didn’t, and the medical breakthroughs that have happened in the past 30 years have us living way longer than our parents and grandparents. Certain diseases which were death sentences 40 years ago, are easily curable today. I’m going to have to agree with our friend Warren Buffett who recently said “The babies being born in America today are the luckiest crop in history.” I don’t believe we have it bad at all!

Do you have it worse off than your parents? Is being a millennial the pits?

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Lifestyle Inflation Talks

Not everyday does something happen in my personal or professional life where I can talk about personal finance and the related topics which we so freely discuss online in this community. So obviously when the opportunity presented itself when I was riding in my boss’s car, I hopped all over it.

I know that my boss makes multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. It’s no secret in my profession. He owns a large home within commuting distance to Manhattan, and also a summer home which I visited during this trip which I’m discussing. I being nosey, Zillowed the address afterwards and was pretty shocked at how much he paid. Let’s just be honest and say you don’t get much bang for your buck when buying a beach home within driving distance to NYC.

After our trip, he gave me a ride back to the train station so I could get back to Manhattan. During the car rise we started talking about money, relationships, and how they intertwine. First thing we discussed is buying a home. My boss made a statement that millennials don’t want to purchase homes. My response was my normal rant about how a primary residence is NOT an investment. He actually agreed! And then noted that he has made money on both of his home sales in the past, but his current primary residence he has lost his shirt on and may never recuperate the costs. Basically he bought a dumpy house in a really nice neighborhood and basically had to scrap it and build again. I was pretty impressed as most people aren’t willing to share their money mistakes and admit that their primary residence is not an investment.

Next topic of conversation was relationships. He had just purchased his wife a new SUV (she stays at home) of the $40 thousand American made variety. Well they were riding with another couple one weekend, and they were in that couples’ $70 thousand foreign made SUV. My boss went on to discuss that after that night, he could sense that his wife was disappointed about her cheaper SUV after riding in luxury. I think it stung him a little because he had just shelled out 40 G’s on his wife’s car, which she now seemed to not like as much.

After the car conversation, he transitioned into explaining that he doesn’t actually live in the real world and it’s actually a little bubble. He must for his wife not to like a $40 thousand SUV and actually expect to have something more expensive. He lives in an upscale neighborhood, and he knows everyone has to make lots of money to afford homes in the area. On top of the homes that hover around low seven figures, $70 thousand cars aren’t even really a big deal. He kind of questioned how he found himself in his current situation. He was not born into this life, not by a long shot. From my observations, it’s pretty simple to figure out how he got there. He grew up lower class, wished and hoped to make it rich, busted his ass, and now he’s found himself upper class. Sad thing is… I don’t think it is as sweet as he first imagined.

I could definitely relate (to an extent). From the time I was a kid through probably 25 years old, I aspired to live a life just like this guy. Make the big bucks, have two houses, and nice cars. My first “big boy” car purchase when I was 22 was a Cadillac for Pete’s sake. But then here I am in a car with the person I wanted to be for so long, and he was basically admitting it wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

So as you can imagine, I really enjoyed this car ride. My boss could easily retire in the next few years if he didn’t let the lifestyle inflation effect him in his bubble which he and his family lives. But I bet he’ll continue to grind, work long hours, and stress to keep up the lifestyle. He’s now got a wife and kids who are used to the life, and I bet would not be easily convinced otherwise. Honestly I don’t think he could even convince himself to “turn it off” even though he notices how crazy it all is. To each his own, but as I bet you can guess – I don’t think it’s worth it. At least not for me.

Have you ever found yourself in a riveting personal finance question with a boss or coworker? How did you handle it?