So, what is it… That you’d say you do here?Office Space
Sometimes it really does feel like that classic scene from Office Space: folks eye me curiously—suspiciously—wondering what exactly it is I do as I evade their questions about my day-to-day work. The truth is, it’s a difficult question to answer without meandering down quite the confusing path.
Many self-employed, stay-at-home, semi-retired people can probably relate. Some days are a success if I manage to get in a workout that raises my heart rate above a hundred alongside a shower. Other days, it’s wall-to-wall project tasks, outdoors fun, existential reevaluation, and intriguing discussion. Those manic days reveal the difficulty of not being beholden to a boss or schedule.
Of course, they’re also the cloying promise that lures us away from a traditional work role: the opportunity to make your days your own.
The bug that bit me with the idea of that opportunity was Get Rich Slowly‘s J.D. Roth in 2006. He introduced me to personal finance and wealth-building concepts. His writing planted the seeds of side gigs and freelancing. As most silly kids just out of undergrad, I had a few hundred bucks and minimal prospects. I had a liberal arts degree I wasn’t sure I could leverage into a career.
It was time to take a risk.
I tried something I thought I knew how to do, which was to start a small business selling personalized computer systems. Gamers, university labs, and CAD developers needed high end, reliable computers. I thought I could supply them. During undergrad, I learned how to earn beer money flipping batches of office computer motherboard pulls—a story for another time—and so I figured I could start a business around building complete computer solutions. Thanks to my parents, I had no tuition debt. I had a little room to experiment.
While that first business still lives on in name, the initial foray was packed with hard lessons in what not to do.
I relented the following year. It was time to pivot to a skill I picked up with the computer business: building an e-commerce web solution. I was fortunate enough to find a position with a regional printing company, working on their website in a junior position.
With a steady paycheck and J.D. Roth’s personal finance advice ringing in my head, I followed the basic steps. Build an emergency fund. Stay out of debt. After months of modest saving, I was ready for the next step: investing. I opened a brokerage account, picked stocks, invested my savings. I was happy to be closing out 2007 buying stocks. My portfolio grew as more tickers “went on sale”. I felt pretty fancy as a 23-year-old with a five-digit investment portfolio, even as I drove the same old car I purchased as a 17-year-old.
Through 2008, more company stock went on sale. I even bought some shares with my emergency fund. By mid-2008, the Peace Corps stole my heart and I figured, what would I need an emergency fund for? I had the idea that I’d just replenish the savings in the coming months.
And then it happened.
I want to tell you the story of what I learned since the Great Recision of 2008-2009 here on TicTocLife. It’s a story of how I turned a foolish $20,000 loss—more than half my life savings—into a stoic financial turnaround. In fact, I shared a story of that terrible financial mistake that cost me so much of my net worth when I was younger.
Today, at 35 years old, with the worst recession since the Great Depression looming, we’re cutting the cord on the 40-hour workweek. We’ve set up a life with a rather pampered existence at a cost of about $50,000 per year without ever needing to trade time for money again.
Getting there wasn’t without countless missteps, questionable choices, a bit of hard work, tons of planning, and a whole lot of good fortune. Even then, it wouldn’t have been possible without the other half of that “we”: meet Jenni.
Aside from our social media channels and the comments section, you can also reach out to me on Reddit where I like to hang around and answer frugality, FIRE, and other personal finance questions.
You’ll spot me as “ChrisAtTTL” or “Chris@TTL” around various personal finance forums, too!