My podcast was hijacked!
During this year’s financial blogger conference (a.k.a. FinCon) in San Diego, Mr. and Mrs. 1500 from 1500days.com took control of the Financial Independence Podcast and put me on the hot seat (a very hot seat, indeed)!
You’ll remember that last year at this same conference, I recorded an in-person interview with the 1500s. Well, this year Mr. 1500 figured it’d be fun to turn the tables on me so he and Mrs. 1500 interviewed me for my own show.
Sadly we only had 30 minutes to record, and the people on stage before us ran late, so this is a short but action-packed episode.
Big thanks to Mr. and Mrs. 1500 for doing it and hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
- What I was like as a child and what got me interested in money
- Details about my first job
- Why I started the Mad Fientist
- My path to financial independence and what it was like leaving my job
- The story behind my free Ivy League master’s degree
- What it was like to be on the front page of Yahoo.com
- Details of our 3-month trip around the world
- Why my wife is gross :)
- 1500 Days on Facebook
- Mr. 1500 and Mrs. 1500 on Twitter
- Last year’s interview with Mr. and Mrs. 1500
- Free Ivy League Degree
- 1500 Days on Yahoo.com
- Mad Fientist on Yahoo.com
- How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World by Harry Browne
- How to Access Retirement Funds Early
- Leave a review for the Financial Independence Podcast on iTunes
But today is different. Today, the tables have been turned. You remember that I interviewed Mr. and Mrs. 1500 from 1500Days.com at last year’s FinCon Conference, which was out in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Well, this year’s FinCon was in San Diego, California and Mr. 1500 emailed me beforehand and said, “Hey, why don’t I interview you for your own podcast?” Since I had so much fun with those guys last year, I of course said yes. And this year’s was even more fun because I didn’t have to think of any questions to ask or anything.
So this is Mr. and Mrs. 1500 from 1500Days.com interviewing me, the Mad Fientist. I hope you enjoy it.
Live from the Trade King studio at FinCon 2016, this is the Financial Independence Podcast. And this one is a different one. I’m actually not going to be interviewing anyone today. I’m being interviewed by two of my favorite people of all time, Mr. and Mrs. 1500 from 1500Days.com.
Mr. 1500: Thank you, Brandon.
Mad Fientist: I have no idea what you have planned. So I’m just going to turn it over and hope for the best.
Mr. 1500: Okay. First, I have to thank the Mad Fientist for this opportunity. I have been wanting to do this for a long time. Before we get into it, I have a little story I have to tell. Let’s take a little trip on memory lane.
We’re recording this right now at the FinCon Conference and it’s 2016. My first conference was back in 2013 and it was right after I had started blogging. I’m an introvert. I absolutely am terrified of what I’m doing right now actually.
That first conference, they had a big party the first night. I was standing there like a deer in the headlights. I just started blogging and I was not talking to anyone else. I was holding on to my beer for dear life, looking at the ground.
And this guy comes up to me and looks at my tag and says, “Oh hey, I’ve read your blog before.” I’m like, “Who’s that guy?” I have no idea who this person is. I look at his tag and I see it’s Mad Fientist. I’m like, “Oh my god, oh my god.” I felt like a teenage girl and Miley Cyrus or whoever teenage girls paid attention to just come to me.
At that point, I felt a slight bit of validation and it was one of the inflection points of my blogging career. So those are wonderful.
Mad Fientist: The feeling was mutual, absolutely.
Mr. 1500: I don’t know about that. But anyway, I calmed down a little bit after that. I still had to drink lots of beer.
So anyway, last year, I had the pleasure of the Mad Fientist interviewing Mrs. 1500 and I and I was equally terrified. But again, it was another big stepping stone for a blog career.
Ever since, the thought that’s been in my mind is the Mad Fientist gets to have all this fun up on stage, interrogating people. And what I’ve wanted to do is point the microphone back at him and today, we have the chance.
Mad Fientist: I am terrified.
Mr. 1500: I’m going to stop talking now and start interrogating—I mean asking the Mad Fientist questions.
The first thing I really want to know, Mad Fientist is what was your upbringing like? I know that your niche is near and you have the mindset, but what was your childhood like? Were you brought out to be frugal? How did you become to be who you are?
Mad Fientist: Yeah, I don’t know what caused it. My brother is not like I am, but it was definitely ever since I was a little kid. I just love money. I always wanted money. I always wanted to have a portfolio to manage someday and invest it.
My dad bought me five shares of stock when I was really small. I can’t remember when. It was when you still looked in the newspaper to see what the stock price was every day. He bought me five shares and every morning, I would look in the paper and check out the shares.
And yeah, my family has tons of different stories about keeping me busy all day by throwing coins in the pool secretly and then I’d spend all day going in the deep end and I’m almost drowning to pick up a quarter at the bottom of the pool.
I don’t know why, but yeah, money has always been a big thing. And yeah, I’ve always liked math and I think the engineering mind was always there. Yeah, I think it was from day one and I don’t know where it came from because my brother is not like that. He’s good with money and I actually want to get him on the show to talk to him about it because he’s doing a very different path, but he’s still really good with money.
But yeah, it’s definitely in-built in my body somehow.
Mr. 1500: Cool. Do you remember what those first five shares of stock were? Do you still hold them to this day?
Mad Fientist: Yes, I do. And they are the most annoying things in the world because I have to claim them after I record my dividends on my tax return. And it’s $2.75. I think I’m up to $4 a year now, which is great.
And I can’t find the shares because they’re actual physical shares back in the day and I can’t figure out how to sell them. But yeah, it was Pepsi, Wendy’s, Disney and ADP. I think it was actually four shares. There may have been a fifth, but I can’t remember. So ADP was the company my dad worked for.
Mr. 1500: Okay, cool.
Mad Fientist: One of them, I was able to sell because some company contacted me. They were like, “Do you want to offload these? You only have two.” I think it was Disney. They were tired of sending you checks for $2, so they’re like, “Do you want to sell them?” I was like, “Yes.”
Mr. 1500: Nice. So moving on, what was your first real job and what age were you when you started working?
Mad Fientist: My first real job I guess was probably Jersey Mike’s Subs when I was 15. I may have had a restaurant job before then, but I think it was probably Jersey Mike’s Subs. Yeah, 15 years old.
And then I was manager by 16. So I had keys to the store, which wasn’t probably a good idea because we would sometimes open the shop up at midnight after being out drinking and things and then make a number 17 fillet cheese steak and then clean the grill and then go home. But I never burned down the place. Yeah, that was probably my first real job.
Mrs. 1500: Success?
Mad Fientist: Yeah, exactly.
Mr. 1500: So what was your inspiration for that Mad Fientist? What caused you to start Mad Fientist?
Mad Fientist: I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’m a really terrible computer person. I got into computer programming because I like math and I was good at math and I never was really a big computer geek, so I didn’t even know what a blog was until I stumbled upon GetRichSlowly.org and that’s JD Roth’s site and he’s been on the show before and he’s actually at this conference. I’ll see if I can spot him walking by.
So I didn’t actually really know what a blog was and I saw that and I was like, “Oh yeah, that’s what I’m doing.” I just want to get rich slowly. I don’t want to buy a fancy house or a car. I just want to have a big portfolio and be wealthy one day, but I want to do it properly.
And then from there, I found EarlyRetirementExtreme.com. That changed the game because I was like, “Oh, I didn’t know you could do that.” But now, that’s exactly what I’m saving for.
When I started to get real interested, super pumped on it, I was like, “I know I can get there quicker if I do a lot more research and figure out strategies to save better or save more, invest better.”
At the time, I thought I was going to be in investing better, but it turned out that investing is quite easy within an X fund. So it evolved into tax optimization and things like that.
I was like, “I know I won’t do that research unless I have some external motivation to do it.” I was like, “I’ll start a blog. I’ll write about it.” I think teaching people is the best way to learn something yourself. That was the main source of inspiration.
And then, I also started this podcast at the same time and I was like, “Cool, I can just call all these cool people that have already done it and get all their tips and figure out how to get there quicker.” It was all selfish.
Mr. 1500: Nice. You mentioned the strategies. That’s probably my favorite part about your blog. The question I probably get most often in my blog is you talk about how much you love your 401K, but you can’t get to it until 59 and a half.
I just heard the same question come up in a session yesterday. I think I looked at you and pointed to the Mad Fientist and like, “The Mad Fientist used to be on the stage.”
There are all these strategies and there’s nothing wrong with them. They’re perfectly legal. They’re wonderful.
Mad Fientist: Yeah, absolutely.
Mr. 1500: I didn’t know about any of these until I saw your guest post on Jim Collins.
Mad Fientist: Oh, cool.
Mr. 1500: My question is do you enjoy? I know you said you did it because this forces you to talk about them, but it seems like you might actually enjoy reading IRS documents.
Mad Fientist: No, no, I definitely don’t. That’s the thing. That’s the only reason I was able to do it. It was because it was purely selfish reasons.
A lot of people ask me to write about five or nine plans or stuff for kids and I just don’t because I don’t have kids. I don’t find it interesting. So reading the tax documentation would be just a big slug, so that’s why I don’t do it.
Mrs. 1500: Could you cut that part out of the podcast? Because I tell everybody, “Go to the Mad Fientist because he takes all these really boring government documents and he translates them into English.” So if you could just that out so people don’t know that I’m lying to them, that’d be great.
Mad Fientist: I did that, but I just don’t want it.
Mrs. 1500: There are some documents that you have slugged through that are interesting to you. You don’t have kids so you didn’t do the kid part. I can find that information someplace else. I just don’t know that because I’m not going to go through those documents.
Mad Fientist: Yeah, once I get into it, I get really, really into it.
Mrs. 1500: Yeah, you can get a lot of tips that you would never ever, ever read because you’re not going to read those nine inch thick documents. And Mad Fientist reads them for you. Yeah, take that part of the podcast out please.
Mad Fientist: I will.
Mrs. 1500: Edit that.
Mr. 1500: Okay. So one of the posts I enjoyed most and most interested in talking to you about was your Dartmouth Master’s Degree. So here you are a guy that’s planning to retire early and yet you decided to get a Master’s Degree from an Ivy League University. I never thought you’re actually mad until I read that.
Are you actually mad? Why did you go back to Dartmouth for a Master’s Degree.
Mad Fientist: I was completely mad. Whenever I see that something is free, I’m like, “I have to do that. That’s amazing.” I always wanted to go back to school at some point. I wanted to try graduate school.
And then we moved to Vermont and we moved really close to Dartmouth actually and I was like, “This will be great. I wonder if they give employees a way to get a free degree after working for so many years or something.” I looked into it and it was the case, so I was like, “All right, great. I’m going to apply for a job so I can get a free Master’s degree.”
I went there and I had to work for a year before I was able to get it, before I was able to start the program. But I was like, “Why isn’t everybody doing this?” You can get a free Ivy League degree. Why is everyone not taking advantage of this?
And then two weeks into the program, I was completely stressed out with all the work I had to do on top of my full time job and then I find this is kicking off at the same time. And I was like, “Oh, this is why nobody is doing this. Yes, it’s free, but my life was hell for two years.”
It was worth it now that it’s done, but it was not the most fun thing especially because at the time, I was so focused on financial independence that I would have rather been actually reading those tax documents that we talked about earlier than reading whatever else I was studying.
Mr. 1500: Sure. Next, I want to talk about the financial independence movement. And we’ve had a lot of stimuli. I’ve noticed Mad Fientist has been on the front of Yahoo! not once, but twice in the past month. What was that like?
Mad Fientist: Just as well as I did. You guys were the ones that led the way. Mr. and Mrs. 1500’s smiling faces were looking back at me at Yahoo.com a week before it happened to me. So I was emailing you guys and congratulating you and somehow it happened a week later.
Yeah, I would have freaked out had I still been working, but it was a good timing. I wasn’t working anymore, so it wasn’t a concern with my bosses finding out, which was the main thing that I was worried about.
But a lot of friends did that I didn’t think would see it. My Mad Fientist secret life came out then, but I know it was probably a lot more scary for you guys because you are still working and your bosses found out. So could you tell that story because it’s amazing.
Mr. 1500: Yeah. We were on Yahoo! once and it was against our will. We were on a podcast, a Farnoosh Torabi podcast and that made us went to see NBC and that eventually made us went to the front page of Yahoo! So we had no idea this was coming. I look at my blog and I see it’s got way more hits than it usually does, way more than the hits I normally get on a day.
So I uttered a couple of profanities that aren’t fit for the Mad Fientist Podcast. So you can imagine what they were And that happened on Monday.
The whole point of my blog is about quitting work, so I really hope my work wouldn’t find out. But I thought they eventually would and it turned out they did. It happened on Monday.
I got all the way to Thursday morning without anyone saying a thing. I logged on to my email and the subject line of one of the emails says, “Carl, you’re on Yahoo!” And my heart just sank.
Mad Fientist: I can’t even imagine.
Mr. 1500: Yeah, the gig is up. It’s all over. This is my last day at work, which would have been okay too because I have enough now, so it would have shoved me over the cliff that it’s hard to push myself over.
And what happened was the person who found the article sent it just to me and to the most talkative person on team. Within about three seconds of that, all of my work knew.
I was surprised to find that none of them cared. I got this blog about quitting my job and none of the people at my job cared about it at all.
Mad Fientist: That’s great.
Mr. 1500: Yeah, life went on as normal. It was very strange and a bit surreal. And it’s a relief to have it out in the open now finally.
Mad Fientist: It is. I actually felt the same. Yeah, it’s nice that some of my good friends know because I didn’t tell them at the beginning because I thought nobody would find out about it and then it has grown into this crazy thing and now it feels weird telling them about it now, but at least I’m not waiting any longer.
Mr. 1500: Okay. I’d like to talk about your retired life now. You just left your job a couple of months ago. What was that like? And how has life been since then?
Mad Fientist: Yeah, it was actually a pretty interesting transition. Yeah, August 1st was my last day and yeah, it’s been a lot of fun.
I freaked out a bit the first day. I just realized what just happened and I don’t think I ever really thought about it as much as I should have like it’s a huge thing. And then I was like, “Wow, I don’t have a job anymore. This is crazy.”
And had I not had Mad Fientist project to work on, I think I would have really freaked out because trying to start something new when you have all the time in the world would have been really difficult.
Luckily I had the Mad Fientist stuff to keep me busy. But then it was only after the first day that I fell into a good routine. My voice is going, sorry. That always happens at these conferences.
But yeah, after the first day, I started getting really into a nice routine. And really, it didn’t feel too much different than work, which was pretty cool. That was also a good realization. I had worked myself into such a flexible stress-free job situation with working remotely from Scotland that retired life didn’t seem too much different. But except, I found myself waking up more excited every day because I was excited about the projects that I was going to tackle rather than just dreading what I was going to have to do.
Mr. 1500: Okay. And that’s an awesome segue way into what I’d like to talk about next. I’d like to read a couple of quotes. The first one is, “The biggest problem with ambition is that nothing you achieve ever feels like enough.” That’s from the book Leap by Tess Vigeland.
The next one is one of my favorites is, “A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of hell.” That’s from George Bernard Shaw.
The next one is, “I actually don’t use the word retirement very often. Stopping work doesn’t appeal to me. It was never about cutting the chord and work all together. It’s about having the power and the freedom to do what I want and when I want to work on the things that I want to work on regardless on whether they pay or not.”
The final quote is, “It’s important to retire to something rather than from something.”
Those last two quotes were from the Mad Fientist. My question for you is—I’ll back up a second here. Mr. Money Mustache likes to talk about the early retirement or the retirement police. “Oh you’ll retire, but you don’t have a job and yet you’re still working.”
And I could see where you might have a small point, but I want you to reconcile what you would tell people who say, “Well, you quit your job, but you’re still working, you’re full of crap.”
Mad Fientist: One, I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. I’ve learned to not care what other people say because as you know, from our Yahoo! exposures recently that there are a lot of negativity and lots of people saying crazy things.
Yeah, that’s why I try not to use the words early retirement. I instead do financial independence, which means so much more to me because that’s exactly what it is for me. It’s not about stopping work and it’s not doing anything else productive. It’s being able to choose the productive things that I pursue regardless of whether there are monetary rewards.
Mr. 1500: Yeah. And I think that’s absolutely the key. One thing I always tell people is your retirement is going to be an amplification of your free time. If you spend nothing but eating donuts and watching reruns of I Love Lucy or whatever some retired people do, that’s a recipe for disaster. You should never stop working.
Mad Fientist: Absolutely.
Mr. 1500: Yeah. I really like what you say. It’s about doing the things that you love regardless of pay. I think that’s the same for me. I write code and I love writing code, so I might continue to do it, but the measure of my success won’t be money. It will be something else or it might be if anyone downloads my apps.
Mad Fientist: Right and that puts you in a really powerful position because you can do things that other people can’t do because they need to have the income. So you can tackle these projects that other people won’t.
Mr. 1500: Sure. It’s very interesting. Another thing I’m sure you found, Mr. Money Mustache, as a good example is that these people become way more successful and monetarily successful even though that wasn’t their goal when they’re retired. They’re not retiring for money, but somehow it works out that they end up financially more successful.
Mad Fientist: Absolutely.
Mr. 1500: My Mac Book froze up at the moment, so I’m going to go back to paper here for a second. Sometimes technology works well. My technician has just restarted. We don’t have much time. That’s why we’re talking so fast by the way.
Mad Fientist: Yeah, we have a very short amount of time, but it is beautiful. We’re sitting outside. You’ll see the pictures in the show. It’s beautiful.
Mr. 1500: Yeah, it’s absolutely wonderful. For anyone who doubts early retirement, look at the pictures and you have nothing to say to us.
Mrs. 1500: Yeah, it’s Thursday at almost 11:00 in the morning and we’re out here in the beautiful San Diego sunshine. Life is rough.
Mad Fientist: We’re hanging out with friends and just talking. Yeah, that’s great.
Mr. 1500: Yeah, we’ve drunk a lot of beer. Life is very good right now. Unfortunately, it’s too early to drink. We have limits.
Mrs. 1500: It’s noon somewhere. It’s 5:00 somewhere.
Mr. 1500: Maybe after this is done. Okay, I’m going to ask you one more question and then we’ll get into some fast questions.
Mad Fientist: Oh, nice.
Mr. 1500: I know one of your big goals from retirement is travel plans. I’d like to hear more about that, where you’re going, where you plan to go, what some of your favorite places are.
I hate when people ask me these in interviews, but I’m going to ask you this anyway and you can punch me if you want to. What do you want to do in five years, 10 years? Or do you not give a shit?
Mad Fientist: Okay. This is a start of a big trip, three month trip all the way around the world actually. We flew in the LA and now we’re in San Diego. We’re going to head to Mexico on Sunday and spend about a month there. And then we’re going to go down to Peru for about a week and then Ecuador for just over a week and then back up to States for a bit and then Japan for most of December and then head back to Scotland in time for Christmas.
That’s the travel plan. And then we’re going to settle back in Scotland for a bit and try to get some productive stuff done that I’ve been wanting to work on.
Mrs. 1500: That’s a good thing. You don’t have a job. You don’t have time to work.
Mad Fientist: Exactly. I know. I feel busier than ever, which is great because it’s all good stuff that I’m working on.
Mr. 1500: That is awesome. Okay, I’m going to ask you a couple of quick questions now. Who inspires you?
Mad Fientist: Everyone here that I’m friends with inspires me. They’re all doing fantastic things and really helping a lot of people in the world. And my family obviously inspires me a lot. My wife inspires me. She’s over there. She’s smiling at me in the sun.
I am lucky that I can interact with such intelligent and motivating people. So every time I come to one of these things and chat with people like you guys, I always feel really energized to keep doing what I’m doing and keep putting stuff up in the world.
Mr. 1500: Cool. What worries keep you up at night? What worries you?
Mad Fientist: I am very worry-free.
Mr. 1500: I want to know what drug he’s on.
Mad Fientist: I know. I get made fun by my friends all the time because they’re like, “You’re never stressed about anything.” Let’s see if my wife can chime in on that one. You know better than me. I feel like I’m not worried all the time, but I’m sure I worry about some stuff.
It’s mostly optimization. If we plan something, it has to be the most optimized version and if for some reason, a cheap flight doesn’t fit into the schedule, I get freaked out about that and stressed. But I’m relatively stress-free, which is good.
Mr. 1500: That’s the thing about my life. My wife and I have fights about how we pack our suitcase. I roll my clothes and she insists on doing something else that’s far less optimal and you have to waste more space.
Mrs. 1500: Folding them like normal people?
Mad Fientist: I roll them too.
Mr. 1500: Pro tip, roll your clothes. It’s better than to wrinkle it.
Mad Fientist: It is.
Mr. 1500: Okay. Can you throw out some of your favorite books? They could be financial or otherwise?
Mad Fientist: Yeah. The book that had the biggest impact on my outlook was How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World. I think even though it’s not a financial book, it’s an amazing book for getting the mindset that you need to do something crazy like pursue a financial independence or early retirement because it just makes you realize that you’re in complete control of your life and everything that you think you need to do because of societal pressures or family pressures or trying to impress other people, you just don’t have to. You can build the life that you really want to live and not do what everyone else is doing.
So yeah, that’s my top one that I usually recommend to people. And it’s not a financial one at all.
Mr. 1500: Okay, cool. I have a final question and I’m going to go back into the suitcase and how you pack clothes. But Mad Fientist actually wrote about this.
I’m a wimp and I am actually too afraid to ask this. So I’m going to turn over to my wife who fears nothing and she’s going to ask the question. I apologize in advance. I take full blame for this question. Don’t blame my wife.
Mrs. 1500: In a famous post, you said when talking about suitcases—my screen just went blank—“I don’t like it when clean clothes touch dirty clothes touch clean clothes, but Jill is gross and doesn’t mind.” First off, how dare you?
Mad Fientist: She is gross.
Mrs. 1500: And second off, how long did you have to sleep on the couch?
Mad Fientist: Yeah. That still grosses me out. Anytime we share a suitcase, it is like the biggest ordeal because I’m like, “Where are your dirty clothes? I don’t want them touching my clean clothes.”
Now that we have separate suitcases, which are backpacks and I have a completely separate compartment at the bottom that was made for dirty clothes, I’m obviously not the only person that doesn’t like mixing them. But yeah, Jill, it’s just like a free for all. She’ll go for a run and she’ll just plow her running clothes in and I was like, “What are you doing? What’s the point? You should just not wash your clothes ever.”
Mrs. 1500: So Jill is a delightful woman. You look at her and you never think, “Wow, she’s dirty.” I would never have a problem with my clean clothes touching Jill’s dirty clothes because she’s not gross.
Mad Fientist: Right.
Mrs. 1500: So you’re wrong.
Mad Fientist: Yeah. Definitely not gross, but yeah, her habit is gross.
Mr. 1500: Cool. Thank you so much for this opportunity. I want to close with one thing. With my blog, I have often thought about writing about financial strategies and some of the stuff that the Mad Fientist writes about, but his stuff is so good that there’s no need to.
Mad Fientist: Thank you.
Mr. 1500: Yeah. The thing is worth investing long term. Some of the strategies might be super evident at first. But for example, he just wrote one of our 401Ks and whether it makes sense if you’re going to retire early, the different withdrawal strategies. And even taking it and getting the tax, it actually turns out working better than not contributing and doing an after tax.
His information is amazing. It should be a required reading for anyone who does any kind of investing. I love referring my readers to him because he’s so thorough, he’s good and he’s got these great visuals. That’s why I love the Mad Fientist.
Thank you very much.
Mrs. 1500: He should be a required reading for everybody who doesn’t invest too.
Mad Fientist: Oh, thank you very much. You guys are both fantastic. I can’t believe you offered to do this. This has been so much more enjoyable and relaxing than it was when I interviewed you guys last year. I was so freaking out. So I really appreciate it.
Thanks. I can’t wait to talk to you guys again.
Mr. 1500: Thank you.
Mad Fientist: Yay. Thank you so much, guys.
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1500 Days - Pulling the Early Retirement Trigger
The 1500s from 1500days.com joined me for my first in-person podcast interview to talk about real estate, the economy, and entering early retirement!