My Financial Mount Rushmore: @DaveRamsey @mrmoneymustache @madfientist @BudgetsAreSexy @wealthy_barber This past summer during the Great American Road Trip, we had the opportunity to stop by Mount Rushmore and see the giant heads of the inspirational leaders who built this country.
This experience got me thinking about some of the inspirations in my life, particularly those in the personal finance arena. I’ve been reading personal finance material for over a decade. During that time, I’ve gained many insights that have shaped my own financial journey.
However, just as the landmarks commission had to sift through the many great American’s for Mount Rushmore, I too will attempt to boil down my financial influences.
Since I’m not limited to working on the surface area of a specific hunk of rock, I’m stretching the rules a bit and narrowing down my financial influences to 5. I will present them in chronological order from my first influencer to my most recent.
I was in my mid 20’s and just finishing my graduate degree. My brother who was an avid reader and would often recommend books to me suggested a personal finance book. Sounded boring to me and I told him as much.
I thought that settled the topic, but the next time I saw him, he handed me a copy of The Wealthy Barber. Insisting I read it and assuring me that it was an easy read. I let it sit on my nightstand for a few days, but knew it wouldn’t be long before my brother inquired about how I liked it.
So one night, I thought I’d give it a shot, at least I could tell my brother I’d tried. I was hooked by the end of the first chapter. It was such an easy read and the content was simple but mind-blowing. I breezed through it in a few nights and down the rabbit hole, I went.
I asked my brother for another recommendation. He gave me The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing. After finishing that book, it was A Random Walk down Wall Street. Then I Will Teach You To Be Rich. And on and on.
The Wealthy Barber sparked my passion and these subsequent books fanned the flames. I had always been a natural saver, but it was Chilton that taught me the power of using my money wisely rather than just squirreling it away under my mattress.
I immediately increased my 401k contributions at work and opened up my first brokerage account. My natural frugality now had a plan and a direction. I don’t know where’d I’d be had I not read the Wealthy Barber, but I doubt I’d be writing this list.
Ironically I discovered Dave Ramsey because the satellite radio in the new-to-me car I had just financed was still active. That’s right the guy who tells you to sell your car and get out of debt came into my life when I bought a car with debt.
I wasn’t comfortable being in debt before I discovered Dave Ramsey. That discomfort turned to emphatic disdain once I started listening to his radio show (and later podcast).
I think I would have eventually moseyed my way out of debt had I not started listening to Dave. But it was his influence on my financial life that caused me to take my debt seriously.
His radio show/podcast provided the number one ingredient I needed to change: immersion. I read all his books and listened to his show during my daily commute. It provided exactly what I needed to stay motivated during the long journey out of debt.
Then, once I achieved debt freedom, I found myself lost. I had this one sole financial focus for so long and it felt great to achieve it, but also left me directionless. I had climbed the debt-free mountain and didn’t know what to do once I got to the top. Enter Mr. Money Mustache.
Mr. Money Mustache
Well, technically I discovered MMM a couple of years before I became debt free. But at the time we were well on our way to debt freedom, it wasn’t a matter of if we’d get there it was a matter of when.
It was around 2012 when my brother sent me a text with an MMM link in it. I had spent the previous years reading financial books and a ton of financial articles. The problem with the articles I had been reading was that they were all saying the same things: stop-buying Frappuccino’s, cut your cable and don’t eat out as much.
We’d already made all of those adjustments in our life. We were living a frugal lifestyle and I was beginning to believe there was nothing more we could do. Then I read MMM and it changed the way I looked at everything in my life.
Not only was his writing style humorous (I mean the guys famous for talking about punching people in the face), but also the content was exactly what I needed. He took the traditional look at my financial life and flipped it on its head. I reexamined the car that I drove, my commute to work, our grocery habits, our house, etc.
Basically, all the budget items I’d assumed were “fixed”, I was now recognizing that they weren’t fixed at all, they were all choices. If I made different choices with those items, I’d be able to live a different life.
But perhaps the most impactful part of the MMM experience for me was the introduction to the idea of early retirement. I figured once we became debt free, we’d nudge up our 401k contributions a few percentage points and then just spend more money on “stuff.”
Well, after MMM literarily (not literally) punched me in the face, I realized just how stupid this plan was. So as soon as we were debt free, we started maxing out our 401k’s and began to blaze a new trail to the top of the FI Mountain.
(Turns out when we summited the debt-free mountain, we had only just reached the first base camp of the FI Mountain.)
I came across the Mad Fientist when he launched his podcast by interviewing MMM. I was hooked immediately and have listened to each new episode as it became available. He essentially became the curator of everything I should be reading.
With each new episode, he introduced me to a whole new library of content. Bringing some amazing financial insights into my life. But that was only the beginning.
For some reason, it took me a couple of years to realize that the Mad Fientist also wrote a blog. So after listening to him for 2 years, I discovered there was a whole other side to my favorite podcaster.
In addition to being an amazing podcaster, he was also a tax code genius. I poured through all of his blog archives (often times reading a post 2-3 times) and began to revisit my own financial decisions.
First up, was my choice to use Roth accounts. Both my wife and I had an option of using a traditional 401k or a Roth 401k. I’d previously been told to always invest in a Roth. Well, not so fast. Using the Mad Fientist as inspiration, I ran the numbers myself and the choice became clear: we switched our allocation that day to move all money moving forward into a traditional and not a Roth account.
My mind was blown again when I read his posting on the Ultimate Retirement Account. Yep, Opened an HSA immediately and have maxed it out ever since.
Anyone of these three impacts would have been enough to earn the Mad Fientist a spot on my Financial Mount Rushmore, but as is his style, he went above and beyond and changed the course of my financial life three times over.
My last (or maybe more accurately most recent) stepping-stone in my financial journey was discovering J-Money. I had been vaguely familiar with him before (I don’t think you can exist in the personal finance space without being familiar with J$), but I’d mostly utilized Rockstar Finance as another curator for my PF content.
Then I read his piece on tracking your net worth. BAM! Financial life changed. I started tracking our net worth and it has been awesome. I wish I had started years ago. I’ve always had a vague sense of what our net worth was at any given time, but I wish I had an actual record of what our finances looked like on a given month X number of years ago. Oh well, better late than never.
After the net worth revelation, I dug more into J-Money’s content. I discovered an amazing combination of creativity and generosity with money. His challenge everything series was…well, it was challenging in the best way possible.
Before J-Money, when I would reduce or remove a bill from my budget, I’d feel pretty good about myself, but it would end there. Now, when I reduce or remove a bill, that extra payment goes right into savings instead of vanishing into the abyss of daily expenses.
It was really hard to leave a few names off this list (Paula Pant from Afford Anything and Mr. 1500 were hard cuts to make), but the mountain is only so big and I could only fit 5 (lego) heads on it. To the five that made the cut (and the dozens that didn’t), I am forever grateful for the insights and encouragement you’ve provided on my financial journey.
I’d love to hear from you: Readers, which influences make up your financial Mount Rushmore? If you are a blogger I’d love to read a similar post about the financial influences in your life? (Maybe Fritz at Retirement Manifesto will get a Financial Mount Rushmore chain going?)
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