TicTocLife - A Story of Financial Independence
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FIRE Insider
The inside scoop on financial independence, retiring early, and the FIRE community from Chris & Jenni at TicTocLife.
Hey Subscriber,

Chris here—it's been a month since our last FIRE newsletter (what we're calling FIRE Insider)! I'm going to share what we've been reading and listening to around the web as it relates to financial independence and retiring early. We've got a little update at the end about us, too! This is a more compact edition of our newsletter, so if you've been following along—let us know what you think of the changes!

But first, Jenni and I have written five articles since our last newsletter:
  1. How FIRE Let’s Me Volunteer to Vaccinate You
    This is a story about how FIRE turned a pandemic into an opportunity for Jenni to give back in one of the best ways she knew how. Vaccination events around the US, and the world, are in need of volunteers to handle myriad different activities to fight this pandemic.
  2. FIRE Isn’t Prescriptive (It’s a Spectrum of Personal Choices)
    Gaining financial independence has no rule set. No one defines retirement but you. The FIRE movement sometimes misses the personal part of finance.
  3. Black Wall Street and the Business of Creating a Community
    Imagine a thriving community of Black-owned businesses and residences in the era of Jim Crow. It happened in Oklahoma where Black Wall Street was born. This is the widely unknown story of an interconnected, segregated Black community that rode the oil boom to wealth and entrepreneurship until it was left starting from scratch once again.
  4. Specialist vs Generalist: Pros and Cons for a Career (and Life)
    What if the key to creating a fulfilling retirement is in building a life that transitions from being a generalist to learn, a specialist to earn, and returning to a life of unusualness and novelty as a generalist once again?
  5. Healthcare Nonprofits (and a Leaky Roof in Our Feb. ’21 Budget)
    January was over in the blink of an eye. We recap what we have been up to, how we spent our money, and Chris's update on his yearly theme, discomfort.
Be sure to cast your vote in this month's donation poll for healthcare nonprofits! It only takes a moment and helps us focus on part of TicTocLife's mission—elevating others!

What we've been reading —


Through "the power of low expectations", J.D. (Get Rich Slowly) suggests we could live a much more content life. There's a lot in this piece, both to love, and to learn from. The consistent thread is about managing expectations, but he covers a lot. Did you know about Maximizers vs Satisficers? Understanding the difference might let you avoid anxiety and be more content. There's also some classic advice from Mr. Charlie Munger, key tips on avoiding the hedonic treadmill, and a meditation on being satisfied with the cards you're dealt.

We have all suffered from buyer's remorse, but what about saver's remorse? Ever missed out on an opportunity in order to save a little money? She Picks Up Pennies explains the dynamic between saving and spending too much.
I've been there before and regret not taking advantage of the situation when I had the opportunity. There is a fine balance to building wealth. The goal is to save now to have a better life later in life. But it's important to no lose sight of the big picture.
The purpose of savings is to lessen stress, not compound it.

Have you considered planting a (symbolic) garden for Early Retirement? In this quick bit of inspiration, Adam (Minafi) explains how the tending and growing of a garden can relate to the skills, interests, and projects in your life you need to cultivate in order to have a successful retirement.

Do you sometimes struggle watching others move forward when you’re still figuring things out? Kevin (Financial Panther) left his law practice behind and moved on to full-time writing. He doesn't even practice law anymore but still defines himself as a lawyer. Comparing himself to his classmates making Partner at their firms, he thinks about all the what-ifs in life. Did he make the right choice to leave the law and choose his own path to FIRE?


Wondering where to invest your excess cash in 2021? With many people having near record-high savings rates recently, where should you invest your excess cash? Mr. Tako says he can’t stress enough the importance of having solid financial defenses in-place before you take on risk and explains the basics, and then gives us some detailed ideas on how to grow our wealth in today's investment environment. This post is for the amateur investor Mustachian that wants more than "VTSAX and done".

Do you think there's a wrong way to invest in the market? Noel at Happily Disengaged sorts the good from the bad. Index funds? Individual stocks? He explains his reasoning behind having a mix and how his investment thinking has matured over the years.
Personally, what I think really matters when it comes to investing is doing what you need to do in order to keep investing (and saving large amounts of your income) over the very long term. If throwing a little chunk of money at speculative investments or individual stocks lets you, on the whole, keep saving 30, 40, or 50% of your income for years and years—that's what really matters.

There's nothing forcing you to take a chance when investing, don't let FOMO push you over the edge into oblivion. Your investments should be driven by your own thesis—something you can support and agree with. As Physician on FIRE puts it, "there are no called strikes in this business".
Part of "time in the market" is having investments that you can rest easy at night with. Bitcoin, individual stocks, and all matters of speculation pass us by all the time teasing their home run potential.


Accidental FIRE analyzed whether COVID is driving people from cities. How do you think the pandemic is playing into real estate supply/demand and pricing?
My first thought is that supply is constrained, playing a bigger part in real estate prices as folks don’t want strangers coming through in a pandemic.

What we've been listening to —

I've been listening to more of the BiggerPockets Money Podcast lately (did you know episode 1 is with Mr. Money Mustache?), and it's a well-produced show that brings on a lot of the FIRE community for Q&A. A recent episode was with A Purple Life who just recently pulled the plug on her corporate job at 30 years old to kick off early retirement with, initially, a $500K portfolio. If you're interested in "Lean FIRE" and exceptionally early retirement, it's a great introduction to Purple. The show is hosted by a duo, including Mindy, whom you may know as the other half of 1500 Days.

Jesse at The Best Interest recently started his own podcast—and he just released his fifth episode with a question from us! We asked for a creative place to stash short-term savings (downpayment, college semester payments, replacement (used) vehicle, etc.). I think you'll appreciate his creative answer! The episode also summarizes Warren Buffett's latest annual shareholder letter succinctly.

TicTocLife "Behind the Scenes"

On giving —

Last month we chose to focus on racial equality programs to celebrate Black History Month in our monthly giving. The organization that received our donation focuses on civil rights, land retention, access to public and private loans, training, and rural economic development for Black and small farmers. Congratulations to National Black Farmers Association for being last month's winner.

To learn more about our monthly donations, read about our Reader's Charitable FIRE Fund. You'll find the history of our giving and how we're donating to different organizations each month through our reader poll while using FIRE principles to fund the donations.

Inching —

We've got a small trip planned for next week. You read that right. We're inching back into travel (which was one of the big motivators for us to retire from full-time work). We're headed to Emerald Isle in North Carolina for a little under a week. We got a great deal for a condo on a beach entrance with a full kitchen (under $500!). We're treating it as a test run before thinking about further destinations via air travel in early summer if things keep progressing nicely on the pandemic front. Have you started to dip your toe in?

From the Readers —

Every week we get thought-provoking comments and questions from our readers. Often they're follow-ups to posts in the comments section, sometimes on Twitter, or occasionally directly via email. We read all of these and reply. They mean a lot to us. We'd like to highlight some of the more interesting comments that might go unnoticed by fellow readers who likely have similar questions. We'll do that in this spot in future emails.

Here are a couple of standouts since the last newsletter:
  • Reader Dave suggested that VTI/VTSAX hold morally questionable investments (think vices and weaponry) and decided to switch to a different diversified portfolio. Dave's comments got me digging into the details of other VTSAX-like US total market funds and you might be surprised by what I found. There are also some pointers on finding Socially Responsible Investments (SRI) and the related ESG funds.
    On morality and investing in VTSAX/VTI.
  • Reader Kpekus struggles with investing in diversified index funds versus individual stocks, especially as they compare themselves to their friends and their sometimes more successful investments. Kpekus suggests:
    "But if an investor constantly keeps his eye on the market, like my friend does, his risk will not be greater than mine. He would, in a downturn, sell off badly performing stocks before he loses all the gains he has made on those stocks."
    Is it really that simple?
    On the effort required to time the market.

We're in an app —

Did you know there's a free Mr. Money Mustache app? It's a nicely designed, cross-platform reading tool that lets you keep articles for offline reading, mark them as a favorite, and more. But it's more than just a reader. You can find other Mustachians on the map, access a FI calculator and savings accelerator, and sync across devices. Best yet—we're now included in the optional blog list which brings all those features to TicTocLife writing!

The app is maintained by a husband & wife team that has been nothing but gracious in working with us to integrate our content. There's a small yearly subscription fee ($10) for premium features that supports their work. We're happy to reach a larger audience and serve as an example of a FIRE couple.
Check out the app!
Mr. Money Mustache mobile app

Our latest posts —

In case you missed one, here are our latest posts since our last newsletter:

How FIRE Let's Me Volunteer to Vaccinate You

Being a pharmacist with a sudden abundance of free time left me with the opportunity to use my fortune to help others. Will you heed the call to action?

By Jenni
The site of a recent vaccination event I volunteered with.

Healthcare Nonprofits (and a Leaky Roof in Our Feb. '21 Budget)

This month we're reviewing healthcare nonprofits alongside our FIRE budget review!
We review three healthcare nonprofits for our monthly donation, get a surprise roof leak, sell some stock, and review our February 2021 monthly FIRE budget!

By Chris

FIRE Isn’t Prescriptive (It’s a Spectrum of Personal Choices)

Gaining financial independence has no rule set. No one defines retirement but you. These are 7 ways the FIRE movement misses the personal part.

By Chris
FIRE Isn’t Prescriptive (It’s a Spectrum of Personal Choices)

Black Wall Street and the Business of Creating a Community

The businesses of Black Wall Street in its heyday [Image source: America in Color: The 1920s, Smithsonian].
Imagine a thriving community of Black-owned businesses and residences in the era of Jim Crow. It happened in Oklahoma where Black Wall Street was born.

By Chris

Specialist vs Generalist: Pros and Cons for a Career (and Life)

Do you consider yourself a jack of all trades or an expert in your field? The differences between a Specialist vs Generalist reveal a spectrum and timeline in life.

By Chris
In life and in your career you'll define yourself sometimes as a specialist vs generalist. What are the differences, pros & cons, of each of these skill types? And how do they apply to life after work in retirement?
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