Momentum Series Interview – FI Introvert: Helping 1,000 Introverts On The Path To FI
This marks feature #21 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 and insights about their blogging journey. Whether that be conquering debt, maximizing career earnings, the road to financial independence or other strategies for financial and blogging success.
This week I’m excited to welcome Drew from the personal finance blog FI Introvert to the Momentum Series.
Drew launched his blog with a goal of helping 1,000 introverts get on the path towards financial independence. Today, Drew shares his financial journey, crushing $75,000 in debt, being an introverts role on money and life, his blogging experiences and more.
The answers provided by Drew are chalked full of advice, tips and resources to help you take control of your own money and life.
If you want to connect with Drew:
Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen here is Momentum Series Interview – FI Introvert: Helping 1,000 Introverts On The Path To FI.
My name is Drew. I am 38. I’ve been married for one year. We currently have no children. I live in Alexandria, Virginia just outside of Washington, DC.
My website is FI Introvert. The goal of my blog is to help 1,000 introverts step onto the path of financial independence. I created this site to marry life-enhancing best practices for introverts with financial independence strategies. Gaining a better understanding of these two concepts has had an outsized positive impact on my life. I thought that other introverts would feel liberation and motivation from intertwining the two ideas.
I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, an MBA, and a Master’s of Government. I don’t remember anything I learned in school. I developed all my careers skills through experience, reading books, and listening to podcasts.
My career has been anything but linear. At 29 years old, I quit my job and started volunteering on a Congressional campaign for free. From there, I had some dark moments but eventually found my footing in healthcare policy and advocacy.
I now lead the government relations and patient support functions for a cancer-related non-profit. I also have a consulting contract in a niche area of healthcare access that I worked in prior to this job.
You read more about me and my career adventures here.
How were you first introduced to the financial independence movement/mindset? What were your expectations with money and retirement and its role in your life before that?
A high school friend of mine introduced me to Mr. Money Mustache. I read the first post to the last post and was hooked.
Before finding Mr. Money Mustache, I thought I would just try to earn as much as possible to pay off my debts. Once I did that, I would reward myself by spending whatever was left after my 401(k) contributions. I thought I’d be doing well by never getting into debt again.
Financial independence was a foreign concept. I figured you just earned more and more money as you got older and eventually earned enough to retire with. Working until 65 was a given and so I tried not to work too hard.
We will touch on conquering your debt in the next section. However, can you explain what strategies have most helped you increase your net worth to over $450,000?
Sure. There really isn’t any magic and anyone can do it.
First, I eliminated my debts and got to a net worth of zero. I realized that I was a broke person. Then I decided that I didn’t want to be a broke person anymore so I aggressively paid off my high interest debts.
Second, I did what I had to do to earn more money. I was underachieving and avoiding responsibility, so I went back to school. Going back to school is not ideal but when you don’t have great experience, you need something superficial like master’s degrees.
Towards the end of my master’s program, I got a consulting job. I worked my ass off there. Asked for raises at appropriate times. And eventually left the firm to earn more money once I had skills and expertise to offer other organizations.
Third, I started spending less than I earned. A lot less.
Fourth, I started investing in index funds. I stopped gambling on penny stocks and got serious with my money.
Lastly, I found and chose a partner who saw my desire to achieve financial independence as ambitious (as opposed to career ambition). Working towards the same goals, we saved over six figures since we’ve been married.
Do you have any specific financial goals you’re striving to achieve in the next 5 years?
Yes, I want to continue to achieve at least a 50% savings rate while having a child and continue to spend on investments, like our health, and experiences we value.
In the next year, I want our taxable investment accounts to have at least $100,000 in opportunity and emergency funds. We are halfway there now.
My goal is to keep filling up all our retirement buckets: 401(k)s, non-deductible IRAs, HSA, and 529.
Is there an area or area(s) of your own personal finances that you’re still looking to better master and improve?
Yes. Our spending is out of control. I think we are so smart and doing so well and then we get to the end of the month and I cannot believe how much we have spent.
We have one car, we don’t eat out, and we don’t spend on alcohol. Yet the spending is still enormous.
We are saving so much right now but I feel like we are allowing ourselves to spend too freely just because we are socking away so much. The habits we are developing are not good.
My wife and I have also discussed planning our weeks and months better as a way to save money. We need to meet monthly and discuss our spending together.
What are some of the most influential resources that have shaped your money mindset or financial situation?
Apps or Services
At the lowest (or highest) you’d reached $75,000 in debt. Can you explain the sources of this debt?
A bit of self destruction and a bit of trying to better my situation. The source of my debt was partially from spending more than I had coming in, a destructive online poker habit, and student loans from a masters program at prestigious (i.e. expensive) university.
Did you have a rock bottom moment or what finally made conquering this debt the top priority for you?
I had a lot of dark times for a few years in my early thirties when I visited and revisited rock bottom. One moment sticks out as a turning point.
An auto mechanic looked me squarely in the eye with a slight smirk of amused disbelief and said, “You’re broke. You have nothing.” He was helping me get my car back on the road after an engine failure. Through several conversations over a few days, the mechanic began to understand my dire financial situation.
- At the time, I was at least $21,500 in credit card debt.
- I had taken out loans for grad school at an that amounted to approximately $75,000.
- I was living in a condo I bought at the height of the real estate market in 2007
- I had a $10,000 loan obligation to my Dad from a failed side hustle in my early 20s.
- Oh and let’s not forget the $4,000 or so I owed on the car that was sitting dead in the mechanic’s garage.
That day, I realized that my actual identity – no matter where I grew up or what schools I went to. I was broke. And not just financially.
Having a stranger bluntly articulate my situation stunned me into action. That was a catalyst that made me realize I was in a huge life hole and needed to make changes.
What strategies did you put in place to overcome this debt?
Looking back, I used a several steps to eliminate debt from my life.
- First, I got aggressive. I made up my mind I was no longer going to be someone who was broke.
- Second, I got organized. I made an honest accounting of what I owed, to who, and at what cost. I prioritized the highest interest debt and attacked it with every spare dollar.
- Third, I refinanced my debt. I got my debts to the lowest interest rates I could by transferring credit card debt and refinancing student and auto loans.
- Fourth, I tracked my debt obsessively. I tracked my debt balances daily in a spreadsheet. Each time I made the line go down it built my confidence. I forced that line to go to zero with patience and persistence.
- Fifth, I increased my income. I grew up and got a job that had a lot of responsibility and that was difficult. I worked hard to make myself valuable. I got additional work where I could (e.g. I drove for Uber when it was a newish thing back in 2011). No work was beneath me when I was broke.
Have there been any surprises or unexpected non-financial benefits that getting out of debt has provided you?
Yes. Getting out of debt removed my excuse for not traveling, engaging with friends, or having serious relationships. Once I got control of my debt, I was forced to really look at why I was not living my life. It really came down to being depressed and not understanding my introversion.
Can you explain what introversion is at a high-level and the role it plays in your life?
Yes. Introversion is characterized by needing quiet, solitary time to recharge and process information. It is believed there is a chemical and biological reason for this.
I believe I was misdiagnosed as depressed for many years as a result of not understanding my introversion. Alternatively, it is possible I became depressed as a result of thinking there was something wrong with me and not understanding my brain’s and larger biological system’s needs.
For example, I didn’t go on road trips with friends, left loud parties early, was not assertive in chaotic social situations, did not do well with roommates in college and my early 20s, was characterized as aloof and arrogant in my jobs and could not maintain a long term relationship because I didn’t nurture them.
Think this is a recipe for depression? Looking back, it all makes sense to me.
When I understood there was not something wrong with me and that I just needed strategies to ensure I had time and environments to recharge and process, my life got better and the depression lifted.
How does being an introvert impact your mindset with money? Are they any pros or cons you can identify?
My mindset about money early on was to find a way to make it on my own where I didn’t have to deal with people. An entire day at an office was unbearable when I got out of college. There was no relief from constant stimulus. So I got into online poker as a possible solution, bought out a sport collectible store with a loan from my Dad and failed at that, and traded penny stocks. I needed a way to escape but there was no get rich quick hatch.
Once I found financial independence, I realized it was the true way to ensure I could have the freedom to pursue my interests and not have to accept work situations that were not conducive to my energy flow. Money was still the means to escape but I now had a responsible and attainable path to exiting mandatory work where I was not in control of my environment.
What changes or strategies have you put in action to better manage being an introvert in your career?
Self-awareness has made me a better colleague. Understanding how my energy flows has helped my career. I can recognize when I am getting low on energy. When that happens, I have to focus on not being a disengaged asshole with my coworkers.
Planning is a huge part of managing introversion. I need to stay in the moment and realize the situation (e.g. long offsite meeting) is not forever and I will get to an environment where I can recharge. Similar to having run a marathon course several times, knowing that relief is coming when the meeting ends helps me endure.
Another example is that I engage in small talk. Just as introverts have chemical makeups that need time for quiet, extroverts need stimulation. I have to give to get. Extroverts need small talk and so I give it early on when I have the energy. Usually that will provide me hours of alone time in my office to work and charge for a meeting or presentation.
When did you first start blogging? Was there a specific launching off point or what influenced you to go down that path?
I started blogging in November 2017. I had been toying with a blog for dating advice for introverts but my heart wasn’t in it. I finally decided that I was tired of ruminating on the concept in my head and started a blog on personal finance and introversion, two passions and areas I have a lot of experience with.
Is there a mission statement or underlying purpose to what you intend to accomplish with The FI Introvert?
I want to help 1,000 introverts step on the path to financial independence and excel in their mandatory work so they can get to FI sooner.
Do you have any specific goals with your blog(s) over the next 12 months? What tactics are you planning to leverage to accomplish these?
The goal for my blog over the next year is to produce high quality content that helps readers become more empowered to leverage their introversion to excel in life and reach financial independence if they so choose.
If you could recommend 3 of your blog posts for Making Momentum readers to check out, what would those be?
Any final pieces of advice or recommendations?
Life is short. You don’t possibly have enough time to make all the mistakes you need to make yourself, correct course, and then enjoy your life. Trillions of people have lived before you. Take some time to understand your personality and the personalities of others, especially your spouse and colleagues. Read books, contextualize art, listen to lyrics and how music makes you feel, travel to new cultures, and research opposing views.
Any special shoutouts?
Yes I would like to make some special shoutouts.
First, I would like to give a shoutout to Angela from Tread Lightly Retire Early. When I was struggling early on with blogging, she was always encouraging me and pointing me to resources. What is amazing about Angela is that she does this for dozens of bloggers while maintaining a consistent, high-quality blog of her own.
Second, I would like to give a shoutout to Michael Dinich from…well…the blog Michael Dinich. Michael has encouraged me inside of the Rockstar Finance VIB group. He has provided technical and marketing help as well as encouragement. Again, he does this for many bloggers and not just me. And he’s been growing his site all the while.
Maybe there is a lesson to be learned here. Helping out other people seems to correlate with individual success. But you can’t help out others until you have your own house (or blog) in order.