Momentum Series Interview: Camp FIRE Finance – Spreading Financial Freedom
We’ve reached #8 in the Momentum Series – an interview series to share the stories of bloggers from across the personal finance community.
The goal is to showcase their story, the wins, the losses and the actionable advice that others can take value from. Whether that be conquering debt, maximizing career earnings, the road to financial independence or other strategies for success.
Joining us on the Momentum Series this week is Ty Roberts from Camp FIRE Finance (and Get Rich Quick’ish).
Camp FIRE Finance is a website dedicated to showcasing the best financial independence content through curation and original features. It’s an amazing resource to get the latest and greatest from financial bloggers from all corners of the world. This interview with Ty covers his financial backstory, personal finance blogging journey and the launch of Camp FIRE Finance.
If you want to connect with Ty:
- Website: https://www.campfirefinance.com/ (and https://www.getrichquickish.net/)
- Twitter: @CampFireFinance (and @GetRichQuickish)
Ladies and gentlemen please welcome Ty! Let’s dive into the Momentum Series Interview: Camp FIRE Finance – Spreading Financial Freedom.
Hi! I’m Ty and you may remember me from such financial blogs as Gen X Money (now defunct) Get Rich Quick’ish (on life support) and Camp FIRE Finance (thriving!)
I’m a husband and father of four living in the Seattle area. Later this year I’ll be celebrating my TWENTIETH wedding anniversary to my high school sweetheart.
I’m currently running two blogs. Get Rich Quick’ish has been going strong for nearly three years, but I’m in the middle of shutting it down so that I can focus on my latest project, Camp FIRE Finance.
I’ve got degrees in Communications (Associates) and Marketing (Bachelor’s).
I skipped college to pursue a career in sales. Turns out I was a mediocre salesman and being mediocre is a tricky spot to find yourself in because it’s easy to become complacent.
Good salespeople can make fantastic money while bad salesmen leave the profession when they aren’t making enough to get by. As an average salesmen I found myself in a spot where I was making more money than I could make by punching the clock somewhere, but I had a very low ceiling.
I knew that college was my ticket to a better financial future, but going back to school was going to require some sacrifices. I was already in my mid-20s so I didn’t want to work and go to school part time (that would take too long). So I quit work and became a full-time student.
Three years later I graduated with degrees in Communications (an associate’s degree) and Marketing (a bachelor’s degree). Yadda yadda yadda, fifteen years later I’m now a Marketing Manager for a company you’ve all heard of.
Can you share the coles notes version of your financial journey? How it started and how’d you get to where you are today?
Financial awareness became a thing for me about eight years ago. At that time I was battling a growing sense of frustration with my financial situation. Despite a steady job and a decent income, I couldn’t seem to get ahead.
One day while driving to work in my new truck I accidentally tuned into the Dave Ramsey radio show just long enough to hear some advice that struck a chord: “sell your overpriced cars and pay cash for something that you can actually afford.”
The idea hit home and within a few short weeks I’d sold my new truck and my wife’s new SUV and paid cash for two of the ugliest cars you’ve ever seen. In those two moves we’d eliminated over $20,000 in debt AND simultaneously freed up over $500 per month.
It was invigorating. And if you’re reading this right now then you know how addictive personal finance success can be. I was hooked! This was the beginning of my Get Out Of Debt Plan.
Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. A very short time later I lost that steady job of mine along with my decent salary.
Sometime during my subsequent fourteen-month bout of unemployment I discovered Mr. Money Mustache. Then I found Jim Collins. By the time I was once again gainfully employed, I’d been converted to the FIRE concept.
Digging out of the financial hole I dug for myself while I was unemployed took a few years, but these days we’re back in the driver’s seat and we are sooo close to reaching FIRE that I can taste it!
Your family of six is now living (and thriving) off of a single income, what were the main reasons initially in making that decision?
We always knew that we wanted to have one parent at home with our kids, so really this wasn’t much of a decision for us at all. It’s just always been that way and we’ve never had the advantage of having two incomes.
What are the biggest factors that have set you up for success to make this single family income thriving a feasible reality?
While there are many factors that have allowed us to thrive on a single income, there are three main things that jump out at me:
- Hard work
Throughout our nearly twenty year marriage we’ve busted our butts to make things work and to create a life that is good to us. It hasn’t always been easy and it sure didn’t happen fast, but consistently working hard, and making some sacrifices along the way have been the recipe for success.
But that’s not all. We’ve also received a ton of help from family and friends along the way. That’s been a huge advantage for us and I’m extremely grateful for it. Here are some examples of the help we’ve received that helped us get to where we are today:
- When my wife and I got married we lived rent free for a few months in a grandparent’s empty home.
- During another transition period in our life my parents let us live rent free in their basement.
Living rent free was a HUGE advantage because as you know now, I was a mediocre salesman and we weren’t exactly rolling in the dough.
- More than once my in-laws bought groceries for us when we were dirt poor college students.
- My in-laws also put new tires on our car.
- A brother gave me a loan when I was unemployed.
- During my bout of extended unemployment, a friend put me to work for several weeks on his construction crew while I was looking for another white collar job.
- Another friend threw some freelance work my way.
So yes, we absolutely worked hard, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without that hard work, but we also received a ton of help from our family and friends along the way, and that has also helped us get where we are today.
Is there any other advice and recommendations would you make for a family looking to implement this single income strategy in their own lives?
Unfortunately there isn’t a magic formula that works for everyone. So the best advice I can give you is to be flexible and open to unique situations.
To make this work I actually gave up my income for three years. We were sooo poor during this time, but we did what needed to be done, because we knew the long term benefits would be worth it.
Thriving on a single income wasn’t possible in our home state, so we had to move far away to a place where it was possible. Moving from family and friends SUCKS, but so does being poor. And I don’t want to work until I’m 70, so again, this is a short term sacrifice that will have long term benefits.
For us, it all came down to being flexible and being willing to try some out-of-the box ideas.
What are some of the most influential resources that have shaped your own money mindset and financial situation?
- The Simple Path to Wealth by Jim Collins. You can’t retire early without putting your money to work, but investing can be scary! Thankfully I found this book because it not only shows the reader that investing in stocks isn’t scary, but it’s EASY. And it’s relatively safe as well!.
- 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey. This book helped me to see the difference between working hard and working smart. As a car salesman I was working hard, but I wasn’t working smart. I LOVE this book (and probably need to re-read it)
- Getting To Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury. Over the past 10 years or so this book has probably made me well over $100,000 dollars (that’s not an exaggeration). Because of this book I’ve been able to negotiate compensation packages that were MUCH higher than my employers were initially offering. Over the years, in incremental difference between their initial offer vs. what I negotiated has added up to over $100,000 in paycheck, bonuses and stock options.
- Mr. Money Mustache introduced me to the 4% Rule and early retirement. Thanks to him I’ll be reclaiming a good 25 years from my working career. How can you put a price on something like that?!?
- Go Curry Cracker because Jeremy and Winnie showed me that a life of full-time travel is possible. To be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever become a full-time traveler, but if they can live they can live the lifestyle they do, then the one I’ve got in mind is within reach.
- The Mad FIentist because Brandon showed me that not only can I put my money to work by investing it, but that there are a ton of ways to optimize they way I put my money to work. And by optimizing here and there, I can generate even more money and retire even sooner.
- Honorable Mention: JLCollinsNH.com. Under normal circumstances this would be #2 on my list, but I’ve already referenced Jim’s book and everything you find in the book can also be found on his blog.
- The Stacking Benjamins Show is brilliant because they somehow take personal finance and make it fun. I know I’m not supposed to say this, but I learn so much and get so many ideas by listening to this show.
- Radical Personal Finance is fantastic because Joshua Sheats is willing to take on topics that most people wouldn’t go near. I love listening because even if I don’t agree with everything he says, I know his position is well thought out and he makes me challenge my own take on things.
- Afford Anything with Paula Pant feels like a show that I should be paying for. Paula is so down to earth and genuine in her desire to help her listeners build a better life for themselves. Her ability to distill complex topics into something that everyone can understand is amazing.
Apps or Services
Most people use Personal Capital to track and monitor their net worth, but I use it to track my spending. It’s one of the few financial apps that I have on my phone.
Is there an area of your own personal finances you’re still looking to improve and master?
I’d like to branch out from investing mainly in index funds and diversify my portfolio. Specifically I’d like to get into real estate (rental properties) and divided stocks.
But I’m struggling to find the time to learn enough about these things to jump in (see full time job; wife; 4 kids; two blogs).
Let’s assume there is a 24 year old who just graduated university with $40,000 in student loans and they’re now about to enter their first career with a starting salary of $50,000. What advice would you give them to best navigate their journey to financial freedom?
In this order:
- Avoid lifestyle inflation. A huge mistake that so many recent grads make is to inflate their lifestyle once they get that first big salary.
- Take advantage of free money. Max out your 401k (enough to get the full employer match); enroll in an ESPP.
- Eliminate then avoid debt. You can inflate your lifestyle after you’ve eliminated your debt, but don’t go back into debt to upgrade your life (e.g. no car loans; pay cash).
- Live off of your salary. What’s left after you’ve paid yourself first, paid your taxes, insurance is yours to do whatever you want with. Knock yourself out.
- Bank all gains. Things like bonuses, stock grants, raises, etc. should be invested.
How and when did you first find the personal finance and financial independence community?
Mr. Money Mustache was my introduction to FIRE. I found his blog on a college football message board. Some guys were arguing about Costco (it must have been the offseason) and another person linked to a MMM post about Costco.
I read that post and was unimpressed, but from there I found Pete’s post The Shockingly Simple Math Behind Early Retirement. And that was it for me. I was hooked.
What are the biggest benefits or takeaways you’ve had from being involved in the PF/FI community?
Without question the biggest takeaway for me has been the realization that freedom is the greatest thing money can buy.
Also, the model of “go to college, get a job, work for 40+ years, retire,” blows. That model works, but there is a much more efficient way to reclaim your freedom.
What advice would you give to a new blogger looking to enter the PF/FI blog-o-sphere?
Depends on your motivation for blogging, but regardless of you reasons, I’d tell someone to just get started then figure it out as you go along.
- If you’re in this for money, it’s most likely going to take years for you to make anything significant. Be patient.
- If you’re in this for the camaraderie, that will come almost instantly.
I realized long ago that the most valuable thing I’ve received from blogging about money is a better understanding of money. I can use this new knowledge to improve my financial situation and reach financial independence far sooner than I would have had I not started my blogs.
This year you launched Camp FIRE Finance, can you explain the thought process on why you wanted to start this new project?
I’d been running Get Rich Quick’ish for a couple of years and was burned out and felt like I’d pretty much said everything I wanted to say. Also, I kinda hate writing and that’s a bit of an issue if you’re a blogger.
When you add all of that up, it made sense for me to walk away, but I didn’t want to give up blogging entirely, so Camp FIRE Finance was my compromise.
This new project allows me to maintain a blog, but because I’m mainly featuring great posts from other bloggers, it means I don’t have to write as much. Although writing less certainly doesn’t mean I’m spending less time on the blog.
Camp FIRE is updated daily and it takes a lot of time to read posts, curate them, add them to Camp FIRE, schedule tweets, post to Faceook, write a daily newsletter…I’m spending far more time on Camp FIRE than I ever did on Get Rich Quick’ish.
What have been the biggest challenges so far with Camp FIRE Finance?
It takes a long time to get momentum behind a blog. Get Rich Quick’ish was humming along nicely and starting over from scratch is frustrating.
I’ve been blogging for over three years and it mentally it feels like I should be further a head than I am. I need to remind myself that Camp FIRE is still only 3 months old and that it’s going to take time to get it up to speed.
Is there a specific moment or interaction you’ve had since launching Camp FIRE Finance that really reinforced you were on the right path and meeting the mission of the website?
Not one specific interaction yet, but lots of smaller affirmations. Whenever I see the “as featured on Camp FIRE Finance” badge on someone’s blog it makes me feel good! Getting a message from someone about how happy they were to get featured makes me feel awesome!
Most blogs exist to attract traffic. Camp FIRE is unique in that it exists to drive traffic AWAY. I feel like Camp FIRE can be a huge benefit to the blogging community by (someday) being a site that has the potential to drive significant traffic to your sites. I cannot wait for the day when I’m able to drive a TON of traffic to other blogs.
What are your goals for Camp FIRE Finance over the next 18 months?
I can’t drive traffic to other sites without first getting people to my site. So year one is all about generating traffic.
When I launched I was able to tap into much of the Get Rich Quick’ish traffic and that helped me get off to a great start.
I’ve also paid for some Facebook and Twitter promotions. I’ve had a paid sponsorship on another blog. I even ran a promotion where I gave away some bitcoin to people that signed up for my newsletter and followed me on Twitter; that was fun and got some good publicity.
I’ve also formed a partnership with the amazing ladies behind Women Who Money and Women’s Money Talk. They help me curate the posts I feature each week and this ensures that a wide variety of posts get shown, not just posts that I subconsciously lean into.
In the coming months you’ll also see things from me like a FIRE-specific forum, FIRE-related classes, and a podcast or video show.
If you could recommend 3 articles on Get Rich Quick’ish or Camp FIRE Finance for Making Momentum readers to check out, what would those be?
From Get Rich Quick’ish:
- Why Everything You Own Is Garbage
- How to Calculate the True Retirement Cost of Anything
- Worked To Death
From Camp FIRE Finance:
- Thriving on a Single Income
- A Big Savings Rate is Not Required To Retire Early
- What is FIRE and How Does It Work?
Any final advice or special shoutouts?
A quote that I love right now: “Sacrifice for the things you want, or the things you want will become the sacrifice.”
Thanks to Scott for the opportunity to talk about myself and thanks for everyone that’s ever read Get Rich Quick’ish or Camp FIRE Finance.