In the Event of My Death, Click Here…

April 21, 2016

If you’re reading this, odds are decently good that I’m actually still alive.  However, if you know me well enough to have been told that I’ve died, I hope life finds you well and happy…and thanks for stopping by.

This post is obviously a touch on the morbid side, but I feel that it is something that needs to be written.  A guide, if you will, for my surviving friends and family.  It’s also somewhat of a boot-in-the-ass to get mine and my wife’s last will hammered out, which we have been putting off for the past 6-ish months since deciding that we needed to do so.  Last summer, while visiting our best friends in Texas, we asked them if they would do us the honor of being our son’s God-parents and take custody of him in the event of our untimely deaths.  They lovingly agreed and we have informed our families of our wishes; however, this hasn’t been legally set in stone so we really need to get it done to avoid any potential issues that could arise, as well as the undue suffering of any parties involved.  We are currently in the underwriting process of obtaining new life insurance and, once finalized, we will get the will hammered out.  I’ve been researching and I think we are going to go the do-it-yourself route through Legal Zoom.

Anyway…

Dear Cheyenne aka Lovebug [unless you died with me :)] Rowan, Mom, Dad, Jeremy, Kyleigh, DeDe, Grandmas, Grandpas, Matt, Chelle, and every one of my other surviving family and friends,

To begin, I love you all.  Secondly, this one post will (hopefully) serve as an extremely simple, straightforward, one-stop-shop for our wishes regarding your handling of our amazing son and finances upon my/our death.  May you study and learn from my blog, the fellow bloggers around my site, and the bloggers that I am about to list below, as they were who got me started down this path to attaining financial independence.  This path, if you so choose to take as well, will result in the most stress-free living, bringing you closer together with your loved ones than you have ever thought possible.

The following blogs provided me with the foundation of knowledge to pursue financial independence and, likewise, placed within me the strongest and most burning desire to reach that pinnacle and retire early, thereby allowing me the opportunity and privilege to live life on my own terms and schedule, as opposed to continuing the chase of the almighty dollar, as a hamster in his never-ending wheel, so that I may continue floundering in debt and servitude, trading the minutes and hours of my life for thingsThis pursuit of stuff does nothing more than rob me of those precious minutes that would be better spent with my loved ones.

Here they are to get your started on your own journey:

Don’t stop there!  Branch out, read, and take in every thing you can!

As for Rowan’s inheritance, invest the money in the following way:  place the money in an account with Vanguard and invest 100% in the Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTSAX) – for further information on this, check out Vanguard and check out jlcollinsnh’s explanation on this strategy, as well.  Don’t waste any percentage of his inheritance paying someone else to manage the money because this will be a simple setup with the purchase of the index fund.  Invest it, leave it alone, and ignore the ups and downs of the market.  If you actually want to waste money paying someone else to manage the investment account, and therefore make me die even a little more, just take that percentage out (literally THOUSANDS of dollars each year) in cash, light it on fire, and sprinkle the ashes over my grave.

As Rowan grows, teach and encourage him to begin his own research into these topics on personal finance so that he may successfully manage his inheritance in such a way (i.e. learn about the 4% rule and the concepts of frugality) that he never HAS to rely on the financial aspects of working a single day in his life, thereby affording him the opportunity to follow whatever passion he may develop and nurture.

In a nutshell, that’s it.  Simple, free of frills and bullshit.

Thank you for being a part of my life.  May you continue to live happily and healthy.  Give my son a squeeze every single day and tell him that his mommy and dadoo will be forever proud of him and that we love him more than words could ever describe.

With all my love,

Brandon

A New Class of Heroes

Dear Son,

Growing up in southern Illinois, in the world of Major League Baseball, you were either a die-hard fan of the Chicago Cubs or the St. Louis Cardinals.  I grew up bleeding red.  Born in the 80s and growing up in the 90s, I remember watching the likes of Ozzie “The Wizard” Smith, Mark McGwire, and countless others captivate me with their talents, all the while dreaming of being as great as they were at the sport I loved.

I think it’s perfectly natural as children, and even as adults, to look up to individuals in positions of prestige that so few reach.  Turning 30 later this year, I realize that my chance of making it to the pros is long gone…but it doesn’t mean I don’t dream.  My aspirations have simply shifted toward a new class of heroes.  Toward a group of individuals that are also in a position that so few in this country reach…individuals who are Financially Independent with the means to Retire Early.

When I was a child, I was overweight and lacked the understanding of the drive and work ethic that it took to make it to the pros.  Now, as an adult, I am working on shedding the pounds, both in the form of excess body weight and the crushing weight of debt.

Since beginning this journey toward financial independence, I have been inspired by “Hall of Famers” such as Mr. Money Mustache, jlcollinsnh, Go Curry Cracker1500 Days to Freedom, The Mad Fientist, and countless others.  As many of my fellow bloggers are on their own similar paths, I look forward to my future induction into “The Hall.”

As you continue to grow, I have no doubt that you will love the Cardinals, just like your dear old mom and dad.  In your first year alone, you have already been to two games, first in Denver and again in Houston.  Thankfully, your God-parents and best buddy, who we went to the game in Houston with, are Cards fans too!  While you were too young to truly enjoy the experience, more will come and your love of the game will grow.

However, the inspiration behind this post actually came from a different sport…football.  A recent Wall Street Journal article, Why the Redskins’ Players Are So Frugal, caught my attention and got me wondering…why don’t we hear more stories about professional athletes with a grasp on personal finance?  The average playing career in Major League Baseball is 5.6 years, the NFL’s average is a mere 3.5, and, according to Forbes, roughly 80% of retired NFL players go bankrupt!

If you develop a love for a particular sport and want to take a serious shot at going pro…and as your dad, of course I’m rooting for that…it is my sincere hope that you will follow in the footsteps of these frugal athletes who understand that money is finite and, in the world of sports where an injury can end a career, tomorrow is never a guarantee.  Living beyond your means, no matter how small or large the paycheck (and no matter in what career you ultimately choose), is a surefire path toward financial disaster.  A big house, fancy cars, and the like, will not fund your retirement.  So, again no matter what career you are in, pay yourself first, learn to live on less, decline to take on debt whenever possible…and join me in “The Hall” even earlier than I intend to get there.  Play ball!

 

Love,

Dad

Cultivation of a Passion

Dear Son,

“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor” – Henry David Thoreau

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I first discovered that quote, maybe 12-ish, but when I did, I printed it out, put it in a frame, and kept it on my bedside table throughout the remainder of my childhood.  I’ve always loved it, believed it, and, although life has kicked my ass into different directions, I still do.

The thing is, I never really developed any true passion for anything while I was in my formative school-age years.  For a while, I had the idea that developing computer-animated movies, like Toy Story or Minions for example, would be really cool.  Realizing that, the vast majority of the time, I can’t draw for shit, I had the good sense to not pursue the idea…not that I knew how to pursue it anyway.  Beyond that, I honestly cannot think back to my childhood/early-teen years when I had some sort of epiphany regarding what I wanted to do with my life.  Truth-be-told, I didn’t even know what my options were.  I always considered myself to have been a good student, getting A’s and B’s, with the intermittent straight A’s, throughout my entire primary and secondary education.  However, good grades don’t equate to a career choice.

During my junior and senior years of high school I was in Building Trades class, enjoyed building houses, and upon the encouragement of my teacher, sought a junior college program in construction management.  Having no earthly clue what I would ultimately do with the degree, or any other ideas for schooling, I went for it and graduated with the Associate’s degree in 2007.  While in the program, having always loved math, I developed an interest in construction estimating and came to the idea of becoming a property damage insurance adjuster.  Interviewing for one position, against a stack of applications about 4 inches thick, with zero experience, I didn’t get the job.  I took to a job-listing site (Monster, I think?) and rather quickly got a job as an insurance salesman with AFLAC.  I loved the thrilling potential of unlimited commission-based income; unfortunately, no matter how much passion and drive one brings to the table, things don’t always work out and, after just a few short months, I was broke, with credit card debt, and moving back home with my parents to work at a factory.

I worked at that factory for three years awaiting my now-wife, your mother, to graduate from high school, then community college, all while also working on additional prerequisites of my own.  While working at the factory, I knew that I wanted to go back to school…for what, was yet to be determined.  I tossed around the ideas of criminal justice, culinary school, teaching, and space man (just kidding)…I didn’t know what the hell I wanted.  Thankfully, my mother-in-law, your grandma, was going through and graduating from nursing school around this time, prompting me to consider that as a possibility, as well.  I really loved the idea of teaching history but knew that teachers in my home-state of Illinois were being canned left-and-right.  The more I looked into nursing and developed an understanding of the ridiculous number of career paths, including teaching, nursing could present, I had my choice.

At this point, with absolutely no prior experience working in healthcare, I was not in pursuit of any preconceived notion of a “passion” I had.  I took a course to become a Certified Nurse’s Aide and thus began the cultivation of my passion.  I have now been a nurse for nearly two-and-a-half years and I could not be happier with my career choice.  My career started in Indiana, working with a population of patients dealing with diabetes and kidney issues.  Now I find myself working in South Dakota on a Native American reservation.  Next? Well, that’s for another post.

The point is that my passion for nursing was not some innate sense of purpose for my life…but it is now.  I honestly can’t see myself doing anything else because I love it.  Having the opportunity to help people every single day is incredible and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so.  As I continue to cultivate my passion and look forward to the future, I know that my opportunities are near limitless.

It is my sincerest hope that you, my son, will find a passion for your own life, no matter what it may be.  As your parents, I believe it is our duty to present you with opportunities, helping you to see the many options that are available to you.  Likewise, we have an immense responsibility to be realistic with you.  To guide you in seeking out and fine tuning your strengths while also working on your weaknesses will, theoretically, help you succeed in finding a passion worth cultivating.  While I would never advocate for the idea of blatantly telling you that you can’t do something, if you come up to me at sixteen, tell me you want to be a musician and have never picked up an instrument in your life, I’m going to be honest with you and tell you that your odds of success are, while not impossible, incredibly unlikely and that you should consider music as a hobby, not a career.  However, if you tell me you want to travel the country with a back pack and live off the land, I’ll support that…so long as you have the knowledge and skill set that would allow for this choice.

The point is, I don’t care what you do with your life.  That’s not to say that I am aloof with regards to your choices; what I mean is that your mother and I will expose you to as many life experiences and career options that we possibly can and, whatever you ultimately choose to do with your life, we will support you in your rational and well-thought-out decision.  Your future will be a heavily researched and discussed topic throughout the entirety of your childhood.  Whether you want to be a doctor, an unemployed vagabond, or anything in between, we will not allow you to come to that decision lightly.  However, in the long run, no matter how much effort we put into helping you, your choices will ultimately be just that…your own…and, as long as you’re happy and find peace and contentment in your life, I’m good with that.

Love,

Dad

P.S. – I would like to extend a huge thank you to Ernie at Purple Sweatpants for inspiring this post.

This all started with you…

As my first post to this newfound idea of a blog, backstory to how we came to where we are in our lives is warranted.  With that, my first post will be a letter to my amazing son, for without him, none of this would be possible.

Dear Son,

The first time your mother and I ever laid eyes on you was February 7, 2014, during our first prenatal visit ultrasound, confirming that we were, in fact, pregnant and having a baby!  You were dancing around and fist-pumping like we were playing dance music, which turned out to be our earliest indication of your love for music.  Mommy even played music to you for the remainder of her pregnancy, especially your favorite song…”One Horse Town” by Blackberry Smoke.  Coincidently, before we found out we were pregnant, your first concert was Blackberry Smoke in St. Louis on January 23rd.  Back to the point…the adventure that awaited us shortly thereafter would bring us to your first home…Rosebud, SD.  We thought your first home was going to be Houston, TX.  While in college, we had decided that is where we ultimately wanted to be; so, while working in Evansville, IN, I began applying for various jobs, interviewed for a couple, and accepted one.  However, six days before loading up the moving truck and heading out of Flora, while standing in your grandparents’ living room, surrounded by all of our boxed up possessions, daddy’s phone rang and it was the Rosebud Indian Health Service Hospital.   Within a three day period, I would be interviewed for, offered, and accept a nursing job that would bring us to a location to which your mother and I had never been.

Long before getting pregnant, we had decided we didn’t want to know your gender, leaving the most incredible surprise in our lives for the moment of your birth.  Therefore, our pre-baby purchases consisted of gender-neutral items, of which we were in no short supply by the time you were born.  Throughout mommy’s pregnancy, we were never really conscious of the idea that we should be getting out of debt and looking beyond the here-and-now attitude that so many people have in our great country.  That’s not to say that we were spending ourselves into bankruptcy and, thankfully, your mom and I have never been without.  However, we graduated college with considerable debt…primarily student loans, but also several thousand dollars worth of credit card debt.

The day you were born was the most incredibly exciting day of our lives.  Mommy and I woke up at three o’clock in the morning to make the three hour drive to Rapid City, where mommy was scheduled for an induction at 41 weeks pregnant.  Surprise number one of the day was that you also decided it was your day to be born and mommy started having contractions while eating oatmeal that daddy made for her.  By the time we left and reached the interstate, mommy was having contractions every five minutes the entire drive to the hospital.  Surprise number two for the morning came shortly outside of Rapid City, where an (insert expletive…I prefer dumb-fuck) decided to switch lanes in front of daddy, forcing me to drive off into the interstate median.  All safe-and-sound, we got back on the road and made it to the hospital without further interruption.  After getting settled by our awesome nurse, Gail, mommy and daddy walked about a million-and-a-half laps around the OB unit, trying to move you along in the process.  Eventually, your mom was artificially helped along with meds and, son, you need to know that your mom is a bad-ass.  All throughout her pregnancy, there was a running high-five-worthy joke that she was all about “team depidural!” (spelled incorrectly on purpose) and that she was going to take it ASAP.  However, she handled her ever-worsening contractions for several hours before she finally accepted the mild-relief it brought and then, surprise number three for the day…you were finally born! at 6:43 PM Mountain Time.

When Dr. Beshara flipped you up, revealing your manly nature, daddy did, in fact, say “holy shit!  It’s a boy!”  Not exactly what I anticipated my first words to be to you, but that’s alright.  Remember…quite often, the greatest moments in life are at least a little bit unplanned.  Throughout mommy’s pregnancy, we never did let ourselves find out whether you were a boy or girl so finally knowing was such a proud and overwhelming experience that, as I’m sure your mom has told you plenty of times already, daddy cried like a baby when I first picked you up.  Likewise, I’m sure she has also told  you that, while she was laboring on with Gail’s assistance, daddy left the hospital to get some food and, in the interest of having food for multiple meals, bought some bread and a rotisserie chicken from Walmart and brought it back to the hospital.  FYI…don’t do that.  A woman in pain who is only allowed ice chips doesn’t appreciate it.  The mother of your future child/ren won’t either…remember that.

So there you were…our son.  After all the waiting and anticipation, you were finally in our arms.  It was and continues to be the greatest moment of my life and I will cherish it forever.  Your amazing mother at our side only makes it that much more incredible.  I’m writing this fifteen months later and it still feels like yesterday.  You’re growing into such a wonderful little boy and you make me smile, laugh, and even a little crazy, every single day.  Watching you play with your Mr. Potato Head, running around the living room yelling Dadoo!, dancing to Pandora, and pestering Boo-Boo is my idea of a wonderful life.

Now back to why you were the catalyst for the changes we have made in our lives.  You were the spark of realization that life is no longer about us.  Everything that your mother and I do, for the rest of our lives, is to be for the betterment of you and your future family.  In the words of Dave Ramsey, we knew that we wanted to change our family tree and have a positive influence over how you and your progeny manage and utilize money for your advantage.  You were born 9/9, we brought your home on the 11th, and on September 18th, we realized we had work to do and sat down to figure out how we were going to do it.  Our credit card debt, spread across several cards, was $12,727.42, and we knew it was no longer acceptable to be skating by with slightly-above-minimum payments.  That crap had to go!

Daddy had read six Dave Ramsey books in a two week period, watched every YouTube video I could find, and we had a plan.  Tweaking a little spending and working overtime, we knocked our credit card debt out on March 3, 2015!  So thank you, son, for being the wonderful and inspiring person that you are.  I am truly proud and privileged to have you (and, of course, your mother) in my life.  I love you and look forward to the many adventures we will share throughout our lives.  Now it’s time to get back to one of my favorite parts of my days, playing toys and laughing with you!

Love,

Dad