After choosing a domain name and starting my blog back in September of 2013, the software behind the scenes called WordPress asked me to declare a tagline. Unprepared, the first three words that came to mind were Invest. Retire. Travel.
Those three words accurately presented the message I wanted to convey to my readers so I went with it. But they don’t as much anymore.
More than four years later, I’m in the midst of a second renaissance for Retire Before Dad.
The first was after my rookie year at the FinCon blogging conference in 2015. At the conference, I learned about what it would take to lift my blog to the next level.
I implemented what I learned, hosted logo design competition on 99Designs, and lo and behold, it worked. The blog became an online business and started to flourish.
Now it’s even helping to support my family while I’m unemployed.
Back in the early days, much of the content focused on investing in individual stocks. I spent a lot of time writing about stocks and even more time researching them. Readers still around from that time have surely seen the change to more general personal finance topics.
The problem was individual stock writing had a limited audience and was already saturated by sites like Yahoo Finance, Seeking Alpha, and Motley Fool. And writing detailed articles about stocks wasn’t fun for me.
After the conference, I started intertwining more personal stories and eccentricities into lessons about money. In the process, found my voice and what excites me to continue this project.
The newfound voice had the added bonus of a broader audience.
Fast forward to FinCon 2017 in October, I walked away with a refreshed vision of what I can do to make this website even better. Conveniently timed while not working full-time, I’ve embraced the opportunity to set a new foundation for growth to reach and help more readers every day.
Behind the scenes, I’ve made changes to grow my audience and create a better website from which my voice can be amplified. A blog is a changing beast, always in need of updates and modifications to stay current.
Front and center for this latest renaissance was a long-overdue change to the RBD tagline. You’ve already read the new tagline in the title:
Build income streams. Explore the unusual.
The Origin of ‘Why’
Ever since I opened my first passbook savings bank account when I was about 8-years-old, I’ve looked at investing in terms of income. If I invest X dollars into something, what does it pay me back? When my uncle gifted me one share of Chevron stock in 1995, I saw a path to early retirement by simply doing what he and the books I read told me.
Buy and hold stocks for long periods of time to build wealth.
I graduated college with a finance degree, started earning a salary, and accelerated my investing.
Office life was fine, but I was bitten by the travel bug and needed more adventure in my 20’s. So I quit my job to go backpacking in Asia and Latin America.
The trip cost me about $10,000, but accounting for the two years of foregone salary and investment returns, the actual cost was a few times more than that.
When returned in 2002, I was 27-years-old, broke and unemployed, and my only option was to move in with my parents (and play video games in my underwear among copious snacks).
Around the same time, my Dad retired from a teaching career. At age 56, he had the rest of his life to do whatever he wanted. With wanderlust fresh on my mind, I wondered if I could retire at a young age and travel the globe again without the restrictions of time or money.
What if I could build perpetual income streams and seek adventure full time? And so, I declared to my Dad that my goal was to retire ‘before’ him, at age 55, to spend the rest of my days exploring.
That’s ‘why’ I started pursuing early retirement. Marriage and kids complicate (in a good way) this singular goal of retiring early to travel. But it’s still at the core of what drives me.
Now the ‘why’ of my early retirement goal is two-fold… family and travel.
Build Income Streams
There’s more than one way to earn a buck. As your skills and knowledge grow, so does your ability to earn and build wealth. For the first 15 years of my career, I focused only on my profession and investing in stocks and mutual funds.
That’s was the advice I received. Work hard, save a big chunk of your money. Invest it to grow.
For all that time I thought to work and save a high percentage of my income was enough to become wealthy. But I could have worked harder and earned more if I had hustled more. I didn’t.
For doctors, high-paid lawyers, and very frugal early savers, working a job and saving and investing can be enough.
But I’m convinced it is not enough for most of us.
Many of us have average careers in expensive cities. A lot of us aren’t intellectually gifted and don’t have a premium education. Some of us live in areas of low economic activity lacking good local job opportunities.
And a good number of people simply didn’t prioritize saving and investing at an early age. When they reach their 40’s and 50’s, they feel behind in their progress and shamed by all the ‘experts’ who repeatedly insist that starting early is the most important step you can take to build wealth.
Well, shit, what if I didn’t start investing early in my life?
If you focus all your earning efforts on one income-producing activity, you’ll only be as wealthy as that job can make you. But, if you can create a surplus of cash flow beyond your spending needs, that extra cash can work for you.
Making your money work for you is one form of passive income known as investment income.
Passive income is not a jet plane immediate wealth. But, if you start small and slowly build a compounding machine of income, eventually it will make a dramatic impact on your finances, no matter what age you begin.
Income streams come in other forms including side business ideas or ventures that don’t require your full-time attention. As you gain confidence in your ability to earn in your career and investments, you can take more risks to build income streams.
Choose the income streams that play to your strengths to diversify your income and endure economic and personal speed bumps.
You can start a side business in college, during your working years, or in retirement. Your first side business might fail. The second too. But as your money mindset matures, you’ll eventually find something that works.
Now that you’ve presumably built a successful primary career, plus you’ve constructed a portfolio of passive income streams, and you’re running a side gig or two, you’re doing what it takes to become wealthy over time.
This stepladder of building wealth has been the natural progression of this blog because it’s the path I’ve taken. And it’s the path that I believe can work for anyone who has the gumption to pursue it.
When you build income streams, you become empowered to explore the unusual, whatever that may be for you.
Explore the Unusual
I love to travel and will talk about it for hours with anyone who will converse with me. But after all the travel writing I’ve done on the site, and all the stories I’ve shared, I’ve learned that not everybody loves to travel.
For me, my ‘why I want to retire early’ is family and travel.
But for you, it can be anything. Building income streams can help you explore whatever is interesting and unusual to you.
The phase explore the unusual is a broad description that nods to my traveling past and future, the content of this blog, and whatever it is that drives you to be better with money. It’s also a reference to a post I wrote about an Earnest Hemingway quote, one of my all-time favorites.
Live the full life of the mind, exhilarated by new ideas, intoxicated by the romance of the unusual.
This blog has pushed me to explore the unusual. Instead of watching TV every night, I ditched cable and decided to explore the opportunity of earning money online by creating a blog and writing. It was a mystery to me when I started. Success was a long-shot.
A byproduct of this platform is I can help thousands of readers to make better decisions with their money. That was, admittedly, not my goal at the onset of this project, but it’s become a driving factor of its continuance.
Writing every week about money can get exhausting and stale. When I freshen things up with something unusual, it helps me to stay motivated. Sometimes I fail and write something lame. But that’s part of being a blogger.
Hopefully, one of the reasons you read my blog is because it’s a little unusual, as far as personal finance and investing blogs go.
I recently met a Dad in his fifties. He’s working for a fintech startup. His resume was rather impressive, previously working for a few respectable investment firms and early-stage companies that received buyouts.
When I told him about my blog, Retire Before Dad, he responded with “Why do you want to retire?”. He loved working and exploring unusual opportunities in the professional world.
The quick and easy answer I gave him was travel. So I can have the freedom to explore the unusual once the kids are a little older. There’s more to it, of course.
But the point of mentioning this conversation here is that not everybody wants to retire early and travel.
It’s part of the backbone of this website, and I love that you can follow my story. And I hope that my story encourages you to create your own retirement story.
But I realize some people enjoy their careers and don’t plan to quit. Some people believe they will never retire due to their circumstances (though I think almost anyone can with the right mindset and actions, and I hope I can inspire you to try). And though nearly everyone enjoys a vacation here or there, not everybody aspires to see the world.
Not to mention, some people work hard to live the lifestyle of their choice. That may include luxury travel, a country club membership, a big dream house, and top-notch private schools for their children.
I have friends and neighbors living this kind of lifestyle and they are happy. It’s not for me but to each his or her own.
If they want to continue that lifestyle, early retirement may be out of the question. But they can still benefit from the wealth building strategies I write about.
So I left retire early out of my new tagline, instead to encourage you to find whatever intrigues you, be it an extended career, or extended backpacking trip.
Then build income streams to help you achieve it.
Like everybody else, my path in life is not a direct one. Family, job, and other external factors are always driving my decisions and what I write about on this blog.
I’m far from perfect with money. Sometimes websites or other blogs refer to me as a money expert because I write about it on the internet. That’s ridiculous. I’m definitely not, and it’s unclear to me what self-declared money experts actually know beyond what you and I can google.
The only kind of expert I’ve ever considered myself is a budget traveler. But those skills are rusty since I haven’t been on the backpacker trail in more than a decade.
Travel has become less of a topic on RBD because readers haven’t responded as well to it as other topics. But it’s ingrained in the DNA of my writing and goals. As a Dad of three young kids, the future prospect of travel is a blurry vision for now. We’re still struggling to get through dinner and bedtime every night.
What’s driven me to declare a new tagline is the response from readers. The most popular articles and the most common individual emails I receive from readers are most often focused on creating multiple and more reliable income streams. So that is what I intend to write more about more going forward.
And the occasional unusual story or experience that ties into a money or life lesson.
My challenge for you is to build income streams to enable you to explore whatever it is out there that is unusual and intriguing, be it a business venture, a new hobby, full-time video-gaming, or that epic solo backpacking trip you’ve daydreamed about but never prioritized. Let’s do this together.
Craig is a former IT professional who left his 20-year career to be a full-time finance writer. A DIY investor since 1995, he started Retire Before Dad in 2013 as a creative outlet to share his investment portfolios. Craig studied Finance at Michigan State University and lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and three children. Read more.
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