If We Were Having Coffee…(4/23/16)

If we were having coffee, we would, presumably, after several sit downs together, eventually get to the topic of politics.  While I’m starting to believe that politics may be an even bigger taboo subject than money and financial matters in general, by this point we would have developed a well enough rapport with one another to bridge this subject.  I’d tell you how I believe that double-standards (i.e. you must accept my differing view or else I will berate and destroy you…but if you do disagree with me, I won’t accept your view and will continue to berate and destroy you) and political correctness are putting a muzzle on our First Amendment right of free speech; not the legal right itself, but rather our free-thinking exercise thereof.  On that note, our Founding Fathers would be spinning in their graves if they knew how everybody is constantly tiptoeing around other peoples’ feelings for fear of being painted as offensive, sexist, racist, elitist, cold-hearted, or any other adjective that gets thrown around at anybody who may have a differing opinion from that which is “in” at any particular moment.  I believe that this stifles conversation and honest discussions, leaving the majority, who remain silent out of fear, to be subjugated to the whims of others.  I’d tell you that, while I’m not overly engaged in the political process, I am a conservative-leaning registered independent.  I find that the two-party system, with their constant toe-the-line bullshit, breeds divisiveness and destroys true opportunities for change and progress in our country and the world at large.

The summation of my overarching view of politics.

We could debate issues all day long; and that’s the beauty of it…we should.  It’s healthy to have differing views among the masses.  It makes for interesting conversation.  But that conversation must go two ways and we shouldn’t be so closed-minded that we lose our sense of humanity and decency, whereby lashing out and attacking each other for our differences.  Rather, we should embrace one another’s viewpoints and realize that every individual is shaped by his or her current situations, past experiences, and ongoing attainment of knowledge.  As opposed to simply asking one another’s viewpoints on a particular subject, let’s choose to look deeper and ask the “why?” and “how?” of one’s coming to form that particular belief or opinion.  Likewise, make an attempt to see how a person’s particular belief has evolved and been shaped over a period of time.

This conversation might take more caffeine than a single cup of coffee…I’m gonna go brew a bigger pot.  It’s your turn to talk…what have I got ya thinking about right now?

– Nurse on Fire

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

If We Were Having Coffee…(4/15/16)

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that this week has been AWESOME…except for that one thing

The weather around our neck of the woods has been absolutely incredible this past week.  Warm, sunny, and, of course, windy (as always!)  I swear our son would live outside if we’d let him and that’s pretty much what we’ve been doing.  Our seed potatoes arrived by mail and I got them planted alongside the sprouting strawberry plants we put in the ground last year…they returned! 😀  Last year we enjoyed SIX of, I kid you not, the greatest strawberries I have ever eaten; hopefully this year will produce more as the plants are producing some runners.  Also, our son helped me put fresh potting soil in our PVC tube planters, which were initially a failed effort as strawberry planters but this year we are going to plant some small annuals of marigolds and evening primrose in them.  We’ll see how well that turns out.  If you haven’t seen this project idea, give it a Google because it’s really cool.  Maybe I’ll post a picture…especially if the flowers don’t let us down!  Also, we gave the Jeep an awesome and well-deserved scrubbing.  My wife cleaned and vacuumed the inside with exceptional detail and I, along with a little help from our son on the hose, gave her a good bath (the Jeep…not my wife! ;))

Everything else around the house is starting to flower out nicely, as well.  We planted a rose bush and a lilac bush last year, as well as two dwarf apple trees that are going strong, and nearly all of our lily bulbs from two seasons ago are exploding with new growth.  Also, I dug up one of the five chokecherry bushes along our sidewalk to make things symmetrical and to make room for the construction of two new flower beds that are each going to measure roughly 3′ x 15′.  We discussed planting tulips last fall but held off and have now decided that we are going to do so this year.  I ordered the bulbs from Colorblends and they’ll be arriving around the first week of October; here’s to hoping we’re not shoveling snow to get them planted!

I also put up a couple shelves and a tool organizer in the garage that have helped with organization and safety to keep some things out of our son’s reach.  We are going to begin working on going through our stored stuff in the basement and pricing more things for a garage sale this spring/summer.

That pretty well sums up our spring cleaning and outdoor fun-time progress this week.


So…..back to that one thing…

Have you ever done something so catastrophically dumb that it made you feel physically ill?  I managed to do that this week.  Yesterday, actually.  I have this habit where I, without even consciously thinking about it, take my thumb and pinky and spin my wedding ring around on my finger.  Well, I happened to do that last night at work and realized that my ring wasn’t on my finger!  I immediately felt sick to my stomach, thinking I had somehow managed to wrap it up in some disposable gloves in a patient’s room and threw it in the trash.  Yep..my mind went there.

Last week, before going to bed, I took my ring off  to put lotion on my hands and forgot to put it back on, leaving it on the counter for the night so I was HOPING that’s what I had done this time.  I texted my wife and asked if she had seen it.  She hadn’t!  :-S  Okay, the next logical possibility was that I left it in the pocket of my shorts the night before when I took it off to put lotion on our kiddo after his bath.  However, it hadn’t turned up in the laundry so that was a no go, as well.  Or maybe I did do that and it fell out of my pocket and got lodged in the recliner while reading to him before bed?  I was holding out hope that that was the answer and so I controlled my panicking and waited it out until morning.

Morning came…I went home and checked the recliner…and the couch…and the bathroom…and the bedroom…see where I’m going with this!?!?!?!?!??!

My wife then had a thought.  She asked, did you sit it on top of the Jeep when you put on sunscreen yesterday?  Prior to her getting in the car and heading to the post office, I had taken the bottle of sunscreen off the top of the car where I had left it.  That previously mentioned sickening feeling had returned with full force at that point and, rightfully so, my wife was, shall we say, less than pleased with me as we both come to the realization that my ring was quite likely gone for good.

Thankfully, the post office is only a few miles from our house and we live in a not-heavily-traveled area.  I headed out the front door and started walking her traveled path.  After about a quarter mile, I turned around and got the Jeep, driving instead and making frequent stops where I felt the change in the road could have caused the ring to slide off the roof.  No luck with the first few stops.

Finally, about a mile from the house, I came to a spot that I knew there was no way the ring could have stayed on beyond that turn due to the change in the road terrain.  I got out, glanced around, and I FOUND IT!  While I was still incredibly pissed off at myself for the situation in general, that was a moment of pure elation and relief.

I love my wife and I have cherished my wedding band since the day I put it on; however, this “experience” has resulted in my viewing this ring in a whole new light.  While I don’t like to project feelings onto inanimate objects, this is completely different.  An inanimate object like my cell phone, for example, is replaceable, and is not worthy of having feelings attached to it.  If my phone fell off the roof of our car, got ran over, and smashed into a thousand pieces, I’d be irritated at the monetary loss of replacing the thing but, all-in-all, no big deal, I’ll order another one tomorrow.  However, my ring, which is now and will remain glued to my finger (figuratively, of course :-D,) is irreplaceable.  Sure, I can buy another ring, just like I could buy another cell phone.  But I can’t buy this ring…this ring that my loving wife placed on my finger the day we were married.

I hate disappointing my wife and that’s exactly what I did.  She, again rightfully so, stayed pretty pissed at me for the majority of the day.  I don’t even wanna imagine how the day would’ve gone if I hadn’t found the ring.  We won’t venture down that road.  You’ll be happy to know that, thankfully, we’ve since made up and we’re still best friends!  🙂

All that being said, here is my extremely public acknowledgement of my immense screw up and, to go along with it, my globe-encircling apology.  I’m sorry, my love.  It took me two years to temporarily lose my ring; here’s to hoping you’ll give me another 80 to try and not do it again!  😉  I love you!

– Brandon

Back to my question:  have you ever done something so catastrophically dumb that it made you feel physically ill?  I’d love to hear your story if you’re willing to share!

P.S. – wanna know an ironic (dare I say funny?  Just kidding…not funny!) coincidence in this whole story?  I’m posting about this for the #weekendcoffeeshare and, when my wife went to the post office, she was going to pick up my coffee order from Honest Roast Coffee.  It’s insanely good coffee; but, seriously, WTF?!  😐

Weekly Photo Challenge (4/8/16): Future

In response to the latest weekly photo challenge regarding the future, I also sought out how I could incorporate one of this past week’s daily one-word prompts…green.  The following two photos are what I came up with:

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Each photo was touched-up using Lightroom 6.  The first photo is of one of the day-lily bulbs we planted two summers ago, which has begun sprouting this spring.  Second is the shadow of our son encompassing one of the other lily bulbs we planted.  Both photos are symbolic of my future, as well as the growth and beauty that is and will continue to come in my life.  I hope you enjoy them and have a great day!

– Nurse on Fire

Anatomy & Physiology of Personal Finance

As a nurse, part of my job is to educate patients on various subjects ranging from medication benefits, uses, and side effects to disease processes and rationales for doctor-ordered treatments.  This got me thinking about how I could interweave these lessons with a Personal Finance twist.  Here are some analogies I have come up with so far:


 

In the womb, the developing fetus grows in what is known as the cephalocaudal and proximal-distal fashion, meaning that it develops head-to-toe and from the near-to-far (center-outwards.)  Starting at the top, we have the brain, which begins to form around the fifth week of development, along with the spinal cord, heart, and other organs.  In the realm of personal finance, we, ourselves, are the brain.  We choose what we do, how we educate ourselves, how to spend our time, energy, and money, and we control everything that we do in pursuit of our personally determined goals and desires.

 


Our heart begins beating around the sixth week of development and in the realm of personal finance, I liken our budgets to the heart.  Money from our respective jobs flows into the budget, where it is then pumped out and utilized to destroy our debts and/or feed our investments with vital, oxygen-carrying nutrients.

 


Debt can be compared to Diabetes.  The analogy I use when educating patients on the effects of uncontrolled blood sugar levels is that the sugar molecules circulating through your blood vessels and capillaries can be likened to a golf ball making their way through a garden hose that gets progressively smaller as it reaches our hands, feet, and eyes.  These large sugar molecules don’t like to fit, in essence get stuck, and result in decreased blood flow to the extremities, numbness/tingling (neuropathy) of the hands and feet, and diabetic retinopathy of the eyes, which can ultimately lead to blindness.  Debt, likewise, when allowed to get out of control, can lead to this progressively downward spiral and have detrimental effects on our health and well-being, financial and otherwise.


Pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, is a condition in which the pancreatic enzymes amylase and lipase are elevated, resulting in intense upper abdominal pain for the patient…pain that, from my nursing experience, is generally only relieved with morphine and being NPO, an acronym for nil por os, a Latin term meaning “nothing by mouth.”  Eating/drinking results in a process known as peristalsis, which moves food and fluids through our GI system, and causes digestive enzymes, such as amylase and lipase, to be released, stimulating the pancreas and resulting in increased pain.  This is comparable to the idea of selling in a down market…it only increases the pain!


 

To bring up the proverbial rear, market forecasters could be viewed as the bowels of personal finance…they’re generally full of shit and give me a stomach ache.  🙂  Just eat your fiber (pick a solid index fund) and enjoy regular relief in knowing that history has shown a general upward trend in the market.  And remember, in the event that doomsdayers are ever actually correct, our money will be toilet paper anyway (pun intended…but don’t actually do that…EVER…money is literally disgusting!)  Besides, if they’re ever right in saying that our financial system is collapsing, you’re still better off investing in the market because hoarding cash under your mattress or burying it in the backyard is only going to result in the loss of your purchasing power due to inflation.


Well I certainly hope you’ve enjoyed my cheesy analogies for the day; in the event I come up with more, you’ll be the first to know.  Have an awesome day!  😀

– Nurse on Fire

 

If We Were Having Coffee…(4/9/16)

If we were having coffee, I would tell you about my wife, Cheyenne, and how she is my greatest friend, the mother of my son, and the love of my life who has stuck by me for nearly 11 years, in spite of all the times she should’ve simply told me to go fuck myself.

You see, I haven’t always been the loving husband and father that I am today.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved her…but there were countless numbers of times where I didn’t put her first and treat her like the priority that she should’ve been in my life.  I could make excuses and blame it on being young and immature, but that’s bullshit.  I was simply too damn dumb to see what was right in front of my eyes and I way-too-often took her for granted.  Words cannot express how grateful I am that she has stood by me, but I’ll never truly understand the why.  I have come to realize how each and every one of my mistakes could have led to her ending our relationship, and that each one of those instances would have had the capability of subsequently leading to our son not existing.  Take a sip of your coffee and just let that marinate and sink in for a moment.  The thought of it truly breaks my heart and I will never jeopardize our unknown future again.  Witnessing the power of the butterfly effect in my own life is revolutionary in that I no longer think in the here-and-now; instead, my priorities are solid and my thoughts, actions, and planning are forecast years into the future, thereby allowing me to learn from my past mistakes and, therefore, make greater decisions in the present.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that my wife is truly astounding and that I have never, nor will I ever, be truly deserving of her.  However, until she wises up and realizes that (maybe by reading this? ;)) I’m gonna hold on tight as hell and never let her go.

What would you tell me about your significant other?  Have you experienced any butterfly effect moments in your own life through your own mistakes/choices/experiences that have had the potential to completely decimate your entire world as you currently know it?  Let me know in the comments below; thanks for joining me.

We’re in the Black!!!

Ladies and Gentlemen, mark your calendars!  As of this 8th day of April in the wondrous year of 2016, the Nurse on Fire Family officially has a POSITIVE NET WORTH!

I’ve had this post in the works for the past month because I knew this day was quickly approaching.  However, I must laugh at myself because, yesterday, I had an epiphany and realized that it has, in fact, already passed!!!

For the past year-and-a-half, I’ve had an account with Personal Capial (PC) in an attempt to track our net worth.  However, we constantly had issues with my wife’s student loan accounts; i.e. whenever PC would attempt to update her loans, it would result in failed login attempts and her being locked out of her account.  Having to call Fed Loan and have them reset her password umpteen million times finally became far more of a hassle than it was worth, so we deleted them from the account and PC has gone by the wayside in our house.  In February, I started playing around with Excel, came up with my own system, and am now tracking our saving, spending, investments, and net worth.  In doing so, I was surprised to find that we were far closer to a positive net worth than I ever realized.

The epiphany came yesterday when I realized that, while I’ve been adding my automatic contribution to my Federal Employees Retirement System pension fund in our savings percentage, I failed to add my contributions into our net worth!

If I work for the feds for at least five years, I can leave my contributions in place and apply for a deferred retirement; then, once I reach 62, I would be eligible for a pension based on my high-three average base salary and number of years of service…OR I can remove my contributions and invest them elsewhere on my own whenever I leave government service.  However, if I leave before five years, then the latter is my only option and I’ll have to move the funds elsewhere.  Whenever we decide that our time here is done, we’ll play with the numbers to see which will be the better option.

In full disclosure, I do not factor my current student loan debt into my calculations because it is being paid for, over the course of a few years, in exchange for my ongoing service with the Indian Health Service here in South Dakota.  Since the yearly loan repayment funds are dispersed directly to me, I make a large payment at the beginning of the contract year and deposit the rest into a dedicated bank account, from which monthly payments come out of automatically.  This requires essentially zero effort on my part…I LOOOOOOVE automated finances!  Back to my point…I do not count this cash-on-hand as part of our assets, either.  Rather, I essentially pretend these loans and the cash do not exist so that neither have any effect on our net worth.

With all that said….

The Nurse on Fire Family’s current net worth is $4,146!!!

Now, if we could only figure out how to survive as a family of three and a dog on $14/month, I’d truly be on FIRE!

To celebrate, I’m heading over to Rockstar Finance and submit our net worth to be added to The Ultimate List of Blogger Net Worth.  This will put us, as of the current posting, at number 185 on the list.

The scales have finally tipped in our favor and our net worth is only heading up from here.  Thank you for all your support and thank you for joining my family on this incredible journey.  If you haven’t done so already, please follow along with us and say hello.  You are all truly amazing and inspiring; thank you, again, and have an amazing day!

 

– Nurse on Fire

Fight Club and the History of Marketing

First off, excellent movie.  Secondly, the reasoning behind this post is that I stumbled upon an extremely interesting article written by Mark Manson, titled How Your Insecurity is Bought and Sold, that I think you should check out.  It is a (quickly read…I promise) history lesson behind how the world of advertising was changed during the early 20th century when a man by the name of Edward Bernays entered the scene.  Bernays was, interestingly enough, the nephew of Sigmund Freud.  His advertising theories and methods started in the tobacco industry (convincing women to start smoking!) and quickly permeated throughout every aspect of advertising as we know it today.  While the article obviously doesn’t mention Fight Club, I couldn’t help but think about the movie the entire time I was reading it.

Bernays was obviously a shady character.  However, love or hate his beliefs and methods, he was also, without question, a genius at what he did.  Please go check out the article and let me know what it’s got you thinking about in the comments below.

– Nurse on Fire

Saving Money with MORE Credit Card Debt?

You read that title correctly; the Nurse on Fire family just took advantage of an opportunity that is going to save us several hundred dollars…by taking on additional credit card debt!  Say what?!?!

We made our semi-weekly post office run this past week and I was thumbing through the typical junk mail when I got to an envelope from one of our credit cards.  I nearly tore it up because I knew it wasn’t a bill, as I keep track of it online.  Thankfully, I opened it to find those lovely/tempting/seductive/dare-I-say-slutty? convenience checks!  0% interest until September 2017 with a 3% up-front charge.

Typically, I would shred those things faster than the Cubbies lose in the post-season.  This time, however, I got to thinkin’…

We are currently working on paying off my wife’s student loans, which are both federal loans and private loans through Wells Fargo.  The Wells Fargo loans are compounded daily at 5.75% interest.  By utilizing one of these checks to pay off Wells Fargo, this is going to save us (by my calculations) $450 in interest over the next 18 months.

While putting those loans on the back-burner for a little while, we can begin funneling even more money towards her federal loans, targeting the higher-interest unsubsidized loans first, thereby saving us even MORE money in interest!  #HappyDance

Sure, all we’re doing is moving our debt from one hand to the other.  The 3% charge dips into the savings by a couple hundred bucks but I still call it a win if it saves us a few hundred more on top of that.  All-in-all, I’m happy with this decision and am looking forward to getting the letter in the mail telling us that we no longer owe Wells Fargo any more money.

Smart decision?  Dumb decision?  We’ve already written the check and mailed it off, but I’m still curious as to what your honest opinion on the matter is.  I know that credit card debt, no matter the reasoning, can be horrifying but, if you had the opportunity, would you do this?  HAVE you done this?  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

– Nurse on Fire

Weekly Photo Challenge (4/1/16): Landscapes

I happened to run across this weekly photo challenge and, since I just happened to be perusing through some pictures with my wife the other night, I thought I’d toss a few of my own into the mix.  While I’ve been lucky enough to capture what I feel are some pretty decent shots from time to time, I still need to practice more and I have a LOT to learn.  Thankfully!  I mean, who really wants to know everything?  That would be stupid boring.  Anyway, the tablet I’m currently on doesn’t have Photoshop or Lightroom (which I also still need to learn :-D,) so these pictures were touched up using the pre-installed photo editor on my Microsoft Surface 3.  For a greenhorn in the realm of photography, I don’t think they’re too shabby…even if I do say so myself…lol.  I hope you enjoy them!

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Until next time,

– Nurse on Fire

4/3/16 Update:  I installed Lightroom on my tablet this evening so I changed the original layout of this post to include an added copyright watermark and changed the display to run as a slideshow instead of having the images show up individually.  Otherwise, no additional adjustments to the images were done from what I stated above.  For those of you who have already viewed and liked our photos, and for any and all who come after you, THANK YOU!  😀