TicTocLife - A Story of Financial Independence
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Merry Aftermas!

By Jenni

December always makes Chris and I happy to see people enjoying the holidays. Even though it's been a tough road, everyone seems to have gotten into the holiday spirit, perhaps a little more this year. Christmas trees went up around town even before the first of the month. Beaming white lights and decor fill almost every doorway and window we pass on our daily walks. It brings us so much joy to see the holiday spirit come alive.

Even though we have not been physically able to get together with our families this year, we feel like we have spent more quality time with one another.
  • We started a family book club by reading You Better Not Cry: Stories for Christmas by Augusten Burroughs. Afterward, we had a family zoom call to recount funny Christmas memories.
  • Zoom holiday craft time was a surprise for my mom this year. With our favorite cocktails in hand, we made salt dough ornaments.
  • We replaced most of our traditional store-bought gift-giving with simple handmade crafts or goodies.
  • Joe at Retire By 40 shared a delicious Thai dish that we recreated along with some of our favorite dessert treats.
Making holiday ornament
Virtual gatherings provided more quality time with family
We've been blessed with several abnormally warm days this December. Sixty degrees of warmth made seeing family and friends safely outdoors a little more enjoyable. On our last nature walk to find river stones, we found a fun pathway leading through a long tunnel. We will have to return and do some more exploring in the Spring.

This month, we tried a few different types of writing styles as well as recapping November's budget. Be sure to cast your vote in this month's donation poll for those organizations that need a lot of help right now for medical disaster relief.
  1. A Timely Letter to My Teenage Self (The True Cost of College)
  2. The Architect Who Made Nothing
  3. How the 4 Expressions of Power Affect Your Wealth and Well-Being
  4. Medical Disaster Relief Organizations (and Nov. 2020 Budget)

What I Wish I Would Have Told Myself

POST A Timely Letter to My Teenage Self (The True Cost of College)

Chris asked me a really great question a few weeks ago. He wondered if I knew what was the true cost of my college education. Honestly, I could not answer how much I paid in total when it was all said and done. I had an approximate idea based on my tuition costs but I wasn't able to come up with an exact answer. I went in search of the total amount looking through my historic tax files, loan accounts that were closed long ago, and then finally discovered an old email that brought me to my answer.

Now that I know the true cost of college, I want to share my story of how I paid off my student loan debt. I start with a letter to my teenage self of all the things I wish I knew before I started my academic career. There was so much I should have known about financial aid and student loans that could have set me up for a better financial pathway.

    The documents that prove my experience with the true cost of college.
    I could have bought a brand new car with the amount of interest I paid.
    Take a step back with me to 2002 when I am about to start my eight-year academic career. Just think of all the things you wish you could have told yourself before you started college.

    A Timely Letter to My Teenage Self (The True Cost of College)

    What is Your Tax Payoff Day?

    POST The Architect Who Made Nothing

    Chris tried his hand at writing a story-driven post about an architect who "made nothing", which would be a strange thing for such a profession to do.

    He describes a world in which all of your annual income taxes are paid to Uncle Sam before you ever see a dollar. This alternative take on taxes lets you come away with a novel point of view on what each of your dollars is worth as your year goes by...and some ways to maximize them.
    The average worker’s last day of their annual tax burden, by state. Source: Tax Foundation.
    In the spirit of the giving season, your least valuable dollar might be someone else's most!

    The Architect Who Made Nothing

    What Are the 4 Expressions of Power?

    POST How the 4 Expressions of Power Affect Your Wealth and Well-Being

    Are you familiar with the 4 Expressions of Power and how they affect your wealth and well-being?

    The four expressions of power.
    1. Power within is what you build within yourself.
    2. Power to is the freedom that power within enables.
    3. Power with is the leverage you create with your own power by teaming up with others to affect change
    4. Power over embodies a classical form of power wielded by rulers and tyrants.
    The Four Expressions of Power: Rulers exhibit the one you're most familiar with—power over.
    The Four Expressions of Power: Rulers exhibit the one you're most familiar with—power over.
    3 can enable financial independence while 1 can destroy your character as the Sword of Damocles hangs over your decisions.

    How the 4 Expressions of Power Affect Your Wealth and Well-Being

    'Tis the Season for Giving

    We decided to match Jesse's (of The Best Interest) donation to a Rochester, NY area food bank at up to $50 as long as we could help drive the social actions to 50 and encourage more donations. Mr. & Mrs. 1500 also joined in on matching Jesse's donation in full.

    Tweet Thread

    Altogether, we helped boost the number of meals available to the community by more than 750.

    For our December monthly donation poll, we chose to focus on Medical Disaster Relief organizations. With the world full of chaos right now, we wanted to help support those who are there for us when disasters strikes.

    Please take a moment to review the organizations we picked and cast your vote for your favorite one before the end of the month.

    To learn more about our monthly donations, read about our Reader's Charitable FIRE Fund.

    Personal Finance Favorites on the Web

    Below are the articles we've read since the last newsletter that really struck a chord with either of us. Give them a read, check out the authors, expand your information sources with these quality creators.

    1. Poisoned Just Enough: Why I’m so Optimistic About 2021
      Mr. Money Mustache
      There's a heart-wrenching story in here that also serves as a metaphor for 2020 as a whole. MMM really turns it up though when he challenges all of us by being an example to give this holiday season. And there's some very real reasons to look forward to 2021!
    2. A Handmade Christmas
      Mr. Tako Escapes
      Tako uses his experience hand-making some very lovely wood hexagons (which are the bestagons) to explain that sometimes DIY work isn't about being the most "economically efficient"—it's about using your time to do something you enjoy and the satisfaction you can derive from it. It just so happens that, sometimes, you wind up with a gift for someone else!
    3. Maybe There’s Hope For Our Consumer Culture After All
      Accidental FIRE
      What are you doing to fight the throwaway society that we've so sadly expanded with our incredible technology development over the years? And is there hope we might just find a way out of a mountain of waste?
    4. Military FIRE – The Tax, Investing, and Travel Benefits of Military Service
      Mad Fientist
      This is a very niche post as it really only applies to military members, but I think that also means it could be highly impactful for those military members! If you've got family, friends, loved ones in the military—this might just be part of their ticket to FIRE, share it with them!
    5. The Worst States to Retire In
      Retire By 40
      We're still working out where we'll ultimately settle down in early retirement, and our concerns have mostly been about cost of living related expenses among the US states. But there's a lot more to it than I'd thought of (especially regarding estate taxes). This post gives you a solid breakdown of criteria to use evaluating your own state (or country), along with some of the worst!
    6. Retirement Lessons from Voltaire’s Candide
      Ad Otium
      If you're ready for more thought-provoking, philosophical, Stoic-adjacent posts on retirement—check this blog out. In this post, the author ruminates on the value of work in the context of retirement. “Work keeps away three great evils: boredom, vice and need”. How tied to work is your own identity and how does that affect your ability to leave your job?
    7. The Joy Of Moving Rocks
      1500 Days to Freedom
      Appropriately on the heels of Accidental FIRE's relative context post, Mr. 1500 wrote about his joy of doing manual labor as the couple reenvisioned their yard in the desert. It's a "muscle over motor" situation as MMM would say, and there's ways to enjoy doing it!
      Personally, I try to find ways to do extra physical work that also accomplishes a chore, errand, or task. An easy example is hoofing it to the grocery store with a load of reusable bags and returning home shoulder laden with dozens of pounds of groceries. It's a good workout and gets something done!
    8. Millionaire Interview Update (6 & 18)
      ESI Money
      For years, ESI has been interviewing millionaires about their journey. They've been doing it long enough that they're going back through the catalog and getting follow-ups from their early interviewees. How's it look 3 years or so later? Well, $20M+ for one. This is how they've done it. (As is no surprise, both still do some form of work despite retirement)
    9. The Eight Stages of Early Retirement
      Millennial Revolution
      From Striving to Boredom to Balance (and several steps in between)—it's the process of earning early retirement. Where do you fall on the timeline? Feel free to skip the bad ones (I don't think I've been bored for a very long time)!
    Light at the end of a tunnel
    Alas, there is light at the end of the tunnel!
    We wish you a very Happy Holiday. Continue to stay safe and hang on for just a little while longer. Let's make 2021 a wonderful New Year!

    Thank you for giving us the most valuable thing in your life:

    Your time.

    Chris & Jenni

      See an article from our favorites a friend might like? Forward this newsletter onto them!

      Our Latest Posts

      Incase you missed one, here's our latest posts since our last newsletter:

      A Timely Letter to My Teenage Self (The True Cost of College)

      A message from the future warning me of the true cost of college may have changed the course of my financial life.

      By Jenni
      Discovering the true cost of college left me frustrated.

      The Architect Who Made Nothing

      A story about the architect who toiled and yet made nothing.
      Not every dollar is earned equally. Are you spending your least valuable dollars in such a way as to waste your most valuable resource, your time?

      By Chris

      How the 4 Expressions of Power Affect Your Wealth and Well-Being

      The 4 expressions of power can be the keys to building wealth and well-being in your life, or they can corrupt you through coercion and a lack of forgiveness.

      By Chris
      The Four Expressions of Power: Rulers exhibit the one you're most familiar with—power over.
      If you found an article we wrote that a friend might like, forward this newsletter to them!
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      Thanks again for subscribing to our infrequent newsletter. We both hope you're enjoying TicTocLife as much as we are. If you have feedback about this newsletter, you can reply directly or use our Contact form.

      Warm regards,
      Jenni & Chris