Why the painting “The March to Valley Forge” by William Trego?

I have been asked occasionally why I chose the picture at the top of the blog, William Trego’s “March to Valley Forge.” It’s a picture of a key point in America’s war for Independence, created in 1883.

 

From Artdaily.com

The oil painting was painted by Trego in Philadelphia in 1883 and exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he studied for three years under Thomas Eakins. It is made even more impressive by the fact that Trego’s hands were nearly paralyzed – possibly from polio – at the time that he painted it, forcing him to hold a paintbrush with one hand while guiding it with the other. Trego’s inspiration for the painting was a passage from Washington Irving’s 19th century biography “Life of Washington”: “Sad and dreary was the march to Valley Forge, uncheered by the recollection of any recent triumph. . . Hungry and cold were the poor fellows who had so long been keeping the field . . . provisions were scant, clothing was worn out, and so badly were they off for shoes, that the footsteps of many might be tracked in blood.”

 

While I don’t place my efforts anywhere near on par with the struggles at Valley Forge, I do want to point out that getting to financial independence is a struggle.

 

  1. We are constantly being bombarded on media with the consumer culture, how buying this item or that one will make us happier, sexier, more fulfilled, less stupid-looking, etc. The marketing departments in the world have had over 100 years to perfect this, and they are very good. They especially target the 18-35 year old crowd because their purchase preferences have not been set yet. As one gets into their 40s and 50s, you tend to purchase the same cars, same cereal, and same toilet tissue. That is why so many shows market to the younger generation, because that is what the marketers want.
  2. The desires of Family (especially your significant other) play a massive role in gaining (or failing to gain) financial independence. The biggest financial decision you make in life is not your career, your school, or where you live – it’s who you choose as a spouse/significant other. If you choose someone who likes to spend, run up credit card debt, and live an extravagant lifestyle, you will not easily be able to achieve financial independence.
  3. Expectations of society (neighbors, work, etc.) also play a significant part in your spending. If you are a lawyer, doctor, etc. you are expected to dress a certain way, drive a certain car, and live a certain lifestyle. It is really difficult for someone in that situation to buck the trend and concentrate on achieving financial independence. That is one of the reasons I like being an engineer – our societal expectations are much lower.

 

As I said in my earlier posts, I really didn’t get the FIRE “bug” until I hit 36. I lost a tremendous amount of time and wealth accumulation in the 14 years from graduating till then. When I talk with college students and emphasize starting off the bat with savings, I hit them with the chart below. It shows three options:

  • Starting at age 22, investing $5,000/yr. and then stopping at age 30 when life makes it complicated
  • Waiting till age 30, and then putting in $5,000/yr. until you retire
  • Starting at age 36 (when I did) and putting in $11,500/yr. until retirement

 

Graduate A Graduate B Graduate C
Age Investment Value @10%   Investment Value @10%   Investment Value @10%
22  $    5,000  $           5,000  $       –  $                 –  $          –  $                 –
23  $    5,000  $         10,500  $       –  $                 –  $          –  $                 –
24  $    5,000  $         16,550  $       –  $                 –  $          –  $                 –
25  $    5,000  $         23,205  $       –  $                 –  $          –  $                 –
26  $    5,000  $         30,526  $       –  $                 –  $          –  $                 –
27  $    5,000  $         38,578  $       –  $                 –  $          –  $                 –
28  $    5,000  $         47,436  $       –  $                 –  $          –  $                 –
29  $    5,000  $         57,179  $       –  $                 –  $          –  $                 –
30  $    5,000  $         67,897  $ 5,000  $           5,000  $          –  $                 –
31  $          –  $         74,687  $ 5,000  $         10,500  $          –  $                 –
32  $          –  $         82,156  $ 5,000  $         16,550  $          –  $                 –
33  $          –  $         90,371  $ 5,000  $         23,205  $        –  $                 –
34  $          –  $         99,409  $ 5,000  $         30,526  $          –  $                 –
35  $          –  $       109,349  $ 5,000  $         38,578  $          –  $                 –
36  $          –  $       120,284  $ 5,000  $         47,436  $  11,500  $         11,500
37  $          –  $       132,313  $ 5,000  $         57,179  $  11,500  $         24,150
38  $          –  $       145,544  $ 5,000  $         67,897  $  11,500  $         38,065
39  $          –  $       160,098  $ 5,000  $         79,687  $  11,500  $        53,372
40  $          –  $       176,108  $ 5,000  $         92,656  $  11,500  $         70,209
41  $          –  $       193,719  $ 5,000  $       106,921  $  11,500  $         88,730
42  $          –  $       213,091  $ 5,000  $       122,614  $  11,500  $       109,102
43  $          –  $       234,400  $ 5,000  $       139,875  $  11,500  $       131,513
44  $          –  $       257,840  $ 5,000  $       158,862  $  11,500  $       156,164
45  $          –  $       283,624  $ 5,000  $       179,749  $  11,500  $       183,280
46  $          –  $       311,987  $ 5,000  $       202,724  $  11,500  $       213,108
47  $          –  $       343,185  $ 5,000  $       227,996  $  11,500  $       245,919
48  $          –  $       377,504  $ 5,000  $       255,795  $  11,500  $       282,011
49  $          –  $       415,254  $ 5,000  $       286,375  $  11,500  $       321,712
50  $          –  $       456,780  $ 5,000  $      320,012  $  11,500  $       365,384
51  $          –  $       502,458  $ 5,000  $       357,014  $  11,500  $       413,422
52  $          –  $       552,703  $ 5,000  $       397,715  $  11,500  $       466,264
53  $          –  $       607,974  $ 5,000  $       442,487  $  11,500  $       524,390
54  $          –  $       668,771  $ 5,000  $       491,735  $  11,500  $      588,330
55  $          –  $       735,648  $ 5,000  $       545,909  $  11,500  $       658,662
56  $          –  $       809,213  $ 5,000  $       605,500  $  11,500  $       736,029
57  $          –  $       890,134  $ 5,000  $       671,050  $  11,500  $       821,132
58  $          –  $       979,148  $ 5,000  $       743,155  $  11,500  $       914,745
59  $          –  $    1,077,063  $ 5,000  $       822,470  $  11,500  $    1,017,719
60  $          –  $    1,184,769  $ 5,000  $       909,717  $  11,500  $    1,130,991
61  $          –  $    1,303,246  $ 5,000  $    1,005,689  $  11,500  $    1,255,590
62  $          –  $    1,433,570  $ 5,000  $    1,111,258  $  11,500  $    1,392,649
63  $          –  $    1,576,927  $ 5,000  $    1,227,383  $  11,500  $    1,543,414
64  $          –  $    1,734,620  $ 5,000  $    1,355,122  $  11,500  $    1,709,256
65  $          –  $    1,908,082  $ 5,000  $    1,495,634  $  11,500  $    1,891,681
66  $          –  $    2,098,890  $ 5,000  $    1,650,197  $  11,500  $    2,092,349
67  $          –  $    2,308,779  $ 5,000  $    1,820,217  $  11,500  $    2,313,084

 

Notice how the person who started early and then stopped, still winds up with a lot more money than the one who waited, and then kept putting in. Also notice how much I have to contribute to “catch up”
I often see FIRE blogs that talk about their wonderful, frugal lifestyle, and I get it. I can see how being content with your life is a major point to make this work, and is a key part to happiness in life. I just want to make sure that everyone realizes that it is also a struggle against the current to make it happen, and it takes hard work and perseverance to be successful.

An interesting point. Washington and his army marched out of Valley Forge in June 1778, ready to continue the struggle. Roughly 39 months later, they (with the help of the French) were able to encircle Cornwallis in Yorktown, and after a siege, force his surrender – the final major battle in the war. After a long struggle, independence was gained!

I wish you luck on your journey.

 

Mr. 39 Months

Memorial Day 2017

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, grew out of the sacrifices of the American Civil War. It is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. The first place to hold services for it are in conflict, but by the 1870s, numerous cities and towns were taking part. In 1915, after the publication of the poem “In Flanders Fields”, Moina Michael came up with the idea of using red poppies to honor those who died serving the nation during war.

 

It is estimated that over 1.8 million Americans gave their lives in the wars from the Revolution till now. Most folks celebrate this day with a BBQ with friends and family, but with little thought to its significance. For me, as an army veteran and with family who served, it bears a slightly higher significance.

 

I had three uncles on my mother’s side serve in Vietnam, and have two Brother’s-in-laws who also served (one in Vietnam). While none of them died in the war, I still honor their service. As a West Point graduate, I’ve had a few of my classmates die in combat, and I am saddened by the loss. I remember them when they were young, 18-22 year olds with all the promise and passion of youth. I remember and honor them.

 

In today’s America, there are fewer and fewer people connected to the armed services, and the people who protect us. I applaud the fact that the society, for its part, goes out of its way to acknowledge the debt and celebrate the people who do this hard work. I make every effort to thank these folks, both active and veteran, whenever I see them, and I hope you do as well.

 

Politics has always been a divisive force in America, and it often has led people to hate the soldier, even though they are doing their duty to protect all. I guess that comes from our innate dislike of a “standing army” that we inherited from our British kindred. For the longest time, America did not “go overseas to seek out dragons to slay” as John Quincy Adams said in the 1800s. It was only with Woodrow Wilson and WWI that America really began to go out in the world and make their mark.

 

I am not going to get into whether this is good or bad – again this isn’t a political blog. Just take the time to remember the folks that gave their lives so we could live in freedom on Memorial Day. That is the greatest gift you can give them and their families.

Mr. 39 months

 

Note: A “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution was passed in Dec 2000 which asks that at 3pm local time, for all Americans “To Voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence.

Book Review – Retire Early and Live Well by Gillette Edmunds

This book could be classified as one of the earliest FIRE books I have seen. Written in 1999 (right before the dot com crash), the author details how he retired from financial journalism in 1981 at the age of 29, with a wife, two kids, and $500K in investments. In his first year, he suffered through a serious market downturn, and then the “flash crash” of 1987. Still he and his family were able to survive and prosper, and then participate in the great investment boom of the 80’s and 90’s. When he wrote the book in 1999, he had managed to triple his investments while living off them.

 

The first part of the book covers how to determine if you can retire today. He goes through the process of determining your current living standard, tax multipliers, future spending and debt. He provides a chapter on the issues that might pop up with an early retirement (emotional issues, fee based investment advisors, life expectancy, etc.) In the end, he provides a formula for determining whether you can retire now, or how much more you need to save before you can, including suggestions on speeding up the process. It’s a good first start.

 

The second part of the book assumes you are ready to retire early, and works on how to set up your investments to supply you with the funds you need for the long term. He doesn’t assume a “4% rule” (it may not have been completely accepted in 1999) so his process is more along the lines of:

  • You need $60,000/yr. to live, including taxes
  • You have $1,000,000 in investments
  • You assume a 3% inflation rate
  • Thus you need investments that make 9% return historically (6% for your $60,000/yr. plus 3% to offset inflation)
  • Design your asset mix to make an average of 9%

 

This is a key plus for this book versus many other investment manuals. Most information available concentrates on the “accumulation” phase of life, where you are building your wealth. Very few cover what to do once you have achieved financial independence and just want to live off it.

 

Mr. Edmunds then takes the time to explain each of the asset classes, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they fit in with a retirement portfolio. One of the more interesting points he has in when talking about real estate. For most folks, they think of getting real estate with no money down or with 20% down payment at most – using leverage to maximize gains. What the book points out, though, is that you are now retired and don’t need to increase wealth; you need to generate cash flow. Thus, Mr. Edmunds suggests purchasing real estate with 50% down and 50% leverage, so that the property generates a good 10%+ case flow from day 1 (instead of waiting years). This fly’s in the face of current real estate planning, but it does have merit!

 

Edmund suggests you figure out the investment return you need, and then create a portfolio of 3-5 different asset classes that don’t move in sync with each other (ex. US Bonds and foreign stocks often vary year to year in returns). He provided what the average returns were for each of these asset classes are, based on the longest studies he had available at that time (1999). He does caution not to use the returns from 1984-1999 as he recognized they were an anomaly.

 

In the final part of the book, Edmunds helps you design your retirement portfolio. Here is his chart and a corresponding list of Vanguard Index funds and their returns over the last ten years (in case you want to do comparisons). You will note to start that his returns are higher for most items vs the last ten years (especially for bonds):

No Description Book Return 10yr return Vanguard
1 Emerging Markets 14% 2.42% VEMAX
2 US Small Company 12% 8.01% VSMAX
3 US Large Company 10% 7.30% VLCAX
4 Foreign Company 10% 5.68% VTIAX 5 year
5 US Real Estate 10% 5.00% VGSLX
6 US Oil & Gas 8% 1.26% VGENX
7 Corporate Bond 7% 5.75% VICSX As of 3/2010
8 Foreign Bond 7% 4.50% VTIAX as of 11/2010
9 Treasury Bond 6% 6.79% VLGSX as of 3/2010
10 Municipal Bond 5% 2.59% VTEAX as of 8/2015
11 Money Market/CDs 4% 0.76% VMMXX
12 Treasury Bills 3% 0.68% VMFXX
13 Gold 3% -5.62% VGPMX

 

 

Using his format, if you wanted to get a 9% return for the situation above, you could go with:

  • 40% Large Company stocks @10% return = 4%
  • 35% Foreign Company stocks @10% return = 3.5%
  • 25% Treasury Bonds @6% return = 1.5%
  • Total of 9% return, on average

 

I think the process has merit, but I’d like to see more studies post-1999 on long-term returns.

 

The epilogue of the book is possibly the most useful part for those of us retiring early. In it, Mr. Edmunds details his story and “How to live through a crash without putting a bullet through your head.” He had many ups and downs, made some mistakes, but eventually came out alright (even today, he is doing well, 35 years after retiring at 29). He talks about steps to take when the market is crashing, life planning for after retirement, and what lessons he has learned. If nothing else, look at it for this chapter.

 

Overall, I think it is an excellent book, though some of the percentages might be dated. Grade 4 stars out of 5

 

Mr. 39 months

Income investing – a basic portfolio of stocks, REITs and bonds

 

Intro

My father passed away in 2004, at the age of 70.  He was fairly frugal and had his investments set up to last for some time, so I inherited part of his IRA account (he had taken his pension/401K and gotten it put it into an IRA when he retired).

For those of you who have not had an “inherited IRA” – when you receive it, the IRS has you calculate your remaining years of life, based on your current age. At that time, the IRS tables said I could expect to live another 41.6 years, and so I had to pull out  1/41.6th of it. Each year, the number drops by 1, so the following year, I had to pull out 1/40.6th of it…..

I kept in with the same investment advisor for about a decade, and it grew as I was only taking out the minimum required. However,  in tracking I found they were always about -1.5% less than what I could have gotten from a regular diversified portfolio that I could set up. I made the decision in 2015 to take it away from them and invest it myself.

As one gets older, one starts to look at how to move from “saving for retirement” to spending your retirement money – and making sure it lasts for the remaining years. The traditional way that has been done is to setup your investments to generate income – through bonds and stock dividends. In the past, you could build quite an income portfolio with a mix of 6-7% bonds and 5-7% dividend stocks.

The issue has been that, with the low interest rates in place for the last several years, bonds have been returning very poorly (1% – 4%) and companies have not been paying dividends (the S&P 500 has been paying out about 2.2% dividends for the last year or two). What is a guy to do?

I picked up an interesting book, titled Yes, you can be a successful Income Investor by Ben Stein (Yes, that Ben Stein) and Phil DeMuth. The book was written  in 2005 (after the dot.com bust, but before the 2008 crash) but the concepts still hold up. They list a variety of income-yielding securities and then tell you how to combine them in a portfolio where you can get maximum yield for minimum risk. The concepts are followed in numerous articles on the web and in finance magazines as well.

The book covers three areas

  • Bonds (IOU’s from companies, you are loaning them money). They pay you back a set amount each year, and then the loan amount when the loan is due
  • Dividend paying stocks: Companies take a portion of the revenues and pay them out to shareholders on an annual basis. Depending on what price you purchased them at, this ‘yield’ can be somewhat high. This is in addition to any growth in share price of the stock
  • REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts): Real estate companies that are created as trusts have special tax rules, but they must pass on a significant amount (90%) of their profits in dividends. This makes them good income producing stocks, but they can be risky (see 2007 real estate bust)

They end by providing sample portfolios with actual companies or mutual fund recommendations.  Some of the approaches are very easy (Just 4 mutual funds) and some are somewhat involved (3 mutual funds, 10 stocks, 20 REITs). Overall, it’s a good read, and provides an excellent basis for building your income portfolio.

For my portfolio, in an attempt to keep it simple, I chose to go with 2 bond mutual funds, 4 REITs, and 4 dividend paying stocks. I tried to stick to the book’s proposed 50% bonds, 25% REITs and 25% stocks. My plan was not to reinvest dividends, but to use them to rebalance the account, and to pull out at the beginning of each year when I had to take a required distribution (I am up to 1/29.6th).

For the bond fund, I chose to go with two vanguard low-cost index fund, one that represents the entire bond market (VBTLX) and one that represents intermediate bonds (i.e. 7-10 years) and it’s symbol is VBILX.

For the stocks, I looked at the Dow Jones and S&P 500 for high dividend stocks. I chose Verizon, Caterpillar and Chevron, as they were paying high dividends at the time. I also chose to invest in an ETF fund, in this case the iShares account for preferred dividend stocks, symbol “PFF”.

For the REITs, I started with the list provided by the Stein & DeMuth book, and whittled it down, based on yield, P/E ratio and general company health.

In 2016, they did well, with a dividend return of 3.7%, and capital gains of 6.9% (total of 10.6%). The stocks and REITs did very well, but the bonds pretty much stayed level. Not bad for a portfolio with 50% bonds.

For 2017, I traded out the Caterpillar (it had grown over 50% and my calculations showed there wasn’t much upside versus my new pick, Cisco). Other than that, I let everything ride.

So for early 2017, here is where I was.

% Symbol Name Current Shares Current Price  Current Value Yield Type Dividend
23.4% VBTLX Vanguard Total Bond Index 2814.3 $10.65 $29,972 1.80% Bond $552.47
26.9% VBILX Vanguard Int-term Bond index 3058.1 $11.24 $34,373 2.10% Bond $606.09
5.9% HR Healthcare Realty Trust 250.0 $30.33 $7,583 4.10% REIT $300.00
7.4% HPT Hospitality Properties Trust 300.0 $31.75 $9,525 8.40% REIT $609.00
4.5% O Realty Income Corp 100.0 $57.50 $5,750 2.80% REIT $249.96
7.1% UMH UMH Properties Inc 600.0 $15.04 $9,024 7.70% REIT $540.00
3.5% CSCO Cisco 150.0 $30.24 $4,535 3.72% Stock $168.72
4.6% CVX Chevron Corp 50.0 $117.77 $5,889 5.10% Stock $214.50
12.5% PFF Ishares Preferred 430.0 $37.22 $16,005 5.70% Stock $980.12
4.2% VZ Verizon 100.0 $53.39 $5,339 4.50% Stock $227.25
$127,994 3.48% $4,448.11

 

The overall yield provided is scheduled to be about 3.48%. Nowhere near the yields it used to be, but it gives you some idea of what you could expect this portfolio to ‘throw off’ in the years ahead. Note that this does not include company growth for the stocks and REITs, so you can hope (?) that this keeps pace with inflation.

I’ll report back periodically on how this portfolio is doing.

Kevin

 

More on hobbies

 

I had the opportunity last week to travel to Pittsboro NC and take a woodworking class at the Woodwright’s School . Many folks may remember Roy Underhill as that manic woodworker who uses only the tools from the 18th and 19th century to make wonderful pieces of furniture and household items. I have several of his books, and took a class with him back in 2015 that was fantastic.

This class was taught by Roy’s peer and fellow woodworker, Bill Anderson. It covered how to make a wooden molding plane from scratch. Wooden molding planes used to be the way you would make intricate moldings in wood (coves, ovalos, etc.) for furniture and homes. Until the powered routers and shapers came along, these tools were prized elements of a woodworker’s kit.

The classroom is very nice, with ten workbenches, and plenty of room to operate. There is hardly any powered machinery (tablesaws, planers, etc.) – it is all hand powered work (there are a few grinders in back for sharpening). Each workbench has a basic set of tools, and some specialty tools for that specific class.

For molding planes, you take a piece of birch or beech wood, about 2in x 10in, that is set up to be very stable. You then cut in the profile you want on the bottom, create a mortise and slot for the iron and wedge that hold it in place, then create the iron (annealing it with heat, initial sharpening, then heat treating to finalize). There is an awful lot of tweaking which takes place to get the plane operating smoothly.

I find classes like this to be very rejuvenating, as you get to work with your hands – something lacking for a lot of us in today’s world. It’s great that folks with decades of knowledge are willing and able to pass their knowledge down. In some of the classes I’ve been to, there have been young folks in their early 20’s who are looking to make this a way of life. I’m sure the instructors love the fact that their knowledge will be passed down.

Whatever your hobby is, I hope you take the time to take some classes in it, to enhance your abilities and help teachers who are passing down the knowledge.

 

Again, I’d ask what hobbies are you currently taking part in, or are planning to take on in the years ahead as you prepare for Financial Independence?

Book Review – Complete Retirement Guidebook by Wall Street Journal

This is a pretty good book for those people who are preparing to retire or achieve financial independence in the next 5 years. Written in 2007, it doesn’t have as many charts and equations as many “retirement” books, but it does include a great number of web links, and great advice on the social side of preparing for and moving into retirement.

One of the things I liked about it was that, instead of going through the numbers, the book first emphasizes creating the lifestyle you want to retire to. It is here in the first quarter of the book where it really shines out versus other books I’ve reviewed.

It first asks what I think is a key question you need to consider when pursuing financial independence. How do I want to spend my time in retirement? From there is goes on to offer advice on working (or not), volunteering, relocation and fitness/health. In each of these areas, the book provides a lot of useful links and places to seek additional guidance, while covering (in broad strokes) many of the key issues you need to consider. Just reading this first part will definitely leave you with a lot of questions you will need to answer before you can proceed.

The second part of the book covers “Money Mechanics” and provides much of the same information that many retirement books provide (saving for retirement, budgeting, social security, estate planning, etc.). Again, each chapter provides plenty of links and useful information, as well as charts and forms to fill out to determine the optimum way to handle your finances.

Finally, the book ends with some excellent success stories of recent retirees – how they set themselves up for success and what their new lives are like. It’s a great way to end the book with some motivation.

Overall, I think its an excellent book that should be part of anyone’s study who is thinking of moving on shortly. Grade 4 stars out of 5

 

Mr. 39 months

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early Retirement – Good or Bad?

Early in the month, Financial Samurai had a great post about the dark side of early retirement

He starts out with some of the reasons folks want to retire early, including job difficulties, realization of time slipping away, and general feelings of hopelessness in their current environment. He then moves into some of the dangers, and lays them out in convincing fashion.

  • What if you get bored and change your mind?
  • What if you run out of money?
  • What if you lose relationships due to your changed lifestyle?

He finishes with some words of warning (be careful who you listen to about early retirement, looking beyond the conventional wisdom) and discusses what he believes the real goal should be – Financial Independence, not early retirement. While keeping an age or year as a goal to motivate and to do this so that you can live a happy, productive life doing the work you love – not the job you hate.

I think it is an excellent warning, as so many of the Early Retirement community have the potential of falling into the trap. I see a lot of websites with people in hammocks and lovely beach scenes. What is funny is to read the ones of folks who have reached it, and to find out that they either continue to work (maybe at reduced hours/stress) or have found other “work” that they do which fills their day.

I belong to the baby boom generation, a generation which has defined itself (for both good and ill) by their job and function in society. While my goal is to be financially independent by July 2020, I know that I won’t be able to just sit down. While I might take some time to relax, travel and do a few things I’ve always wanted, I know that within 12 months I will be going stir crazy. That’s why I am big on hobbies, and will probably find some part-time work to stay in the game/keep my mind working.

What are your thoughts on this? When you hit financial independence, will you walk away?

 

 

You’ve got to have hobbies

 

One of the things they will always tell you about retirement is that you have to have hobbies or other interests in order to keep you from going batty once you gain your freedom. There are numerous stories of people retiring, and passing on a couple of years later, because their purpose in life has ended. I myself had a father-in-law who passed away 2 years after retirement.

For me, I have two primary hobbies (other than this blog) – backpacking the Appalachian Trail, and woodworking.

Backpacking the AT: When I was 38 years old, I was visiting my mother in East Tennessee. We took the opportunity to visit the Smoky Mountains National Park, and there I saw a large map (48” x 12”) which shows the entire length of the AT from Georgia to Maine. I had enjoyed backpacking in my youth, but had stopped when I joined the army. For some reason, I decided right there that I would seek out to hike the entire 2,100 mile length over the next 10-15 years.

Well, its been about 15 years, and I’ve only been able to get 716 miles done so far (about 1/3). Primarily that is because life and work continues to get in the way. I’ve been able to get it done from Shenandoah park to Connecticut (and some other states) but I still have a lot to do. I’ve currently got about 100 miles scheduled for 2017, so that should push me a little over 800 miles.

This weekend, I was able to hike it with a bunch of friends, and we did about 12 miles, even though it rained a great deal on Saturday. Its great to get out, talk with other folks from the world hiking, and just get the exercise.

The other primary hobby I have is woodworking, specifically the making of furniture by hand. I’ve managed to accumulate a full set of power tools (tablesaw, jointer, planer, drill press, bandsaw, etc.) and an excellent collection of hand tools – which I’m starting to use more and more. I will try and share some of these in the future as well.

What hobbies are you currently taking part in, or are planning to take on in the years ahead as you prepare for Financial Independence?

 

 

 

 

Book Review: $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau

Chris is an entrepreneur and author, who spends the majority of his time traveling the world, interviewing other entrepreneurs, and hosting the World Domination Summit (a gathering of creative people).

 The book was published in 2012, and contains stories from over 50 different entrepreneurs, as we learn their startup lessons. The key lesson that Chris tries to get across is that you don’t need large sums of money to get started and you don’t need to turn your startup into a giant, multi-billion dollar enterprise. Most of the people in the book are satisfied with smaller operations (often 1-person), which fulfills their needs and allows them to pursue the work and lifestyle which they want.

 The first part of the book covers basic stories of people who became entrepreneurs. It covers how individuals got their ideas, how they worked to make get the business off the ground, and some of the ways they found to succeed. One of the key points that Chris emphasizes in the book is the idea of value – how you need to provide value to potential clients in order to succeed.

 The second part of the book goes into more details of how to start and succeed in your small business. It talks about simple, one-page business plans, startup/launches, and using everything possible to self-promote the business. It also has some interesting ideas on how to fundraise (including the story of how one business got started with a car loan when the owners couldn’t get a business loan).

 The final part of the book covers some steps you can take in order to grow your business and take it to the next level. He talks about leverage, how to franchise, and getting as big as you want (but no bigger). He finishes up with a chapter on “what happens if you fail” in which he talks about several entrepreneurs who failed their first and even second time before finally making it. The key is to persevere.

 A lot of the items covered have been dealt with before, and his writing tends to gloss over many of the details the reader might wish were covered in more depth. Overall, I’d give the book 3 stars out of 5