Brewing FIRE was born on April 1st, 2018 (no joke!). It was officially conceived around January 1st, when I bought the domain name and started building out the site.
I thought about taking the plunge and starting a blog for a long time prior to actually doing it. In fact, I started two other blogs (both music-centric) in the 90’s and 00’s, respectively. Neither of those ventures were personal, though, which is probably why it took so long to start this one.
Brewing FIRE initially was going to be about homebrewing and personal finance. I wrote multiple articles on the benefits of homebrewing, associated costs, and a beginner’s equipment guide. Pretty soon, though, I realized that it would take a ton of content creation in the homebrewing genre to be useful, and I frankly didn’t have the time to do it. So I pivoted.
Next, I began writing a lot of informational “finance how-to” type articles for the blog. But I noticed that they weren’t getting much attention, probably because every personal finance topic has been beaten to death at this point. So I pivoted, again.
What’s the only thing I can write about that I know no one else has covered? My personal story. And, amazingly, some people actually enjoy reading about others’ personal experiences, trials, tribulations, and breakthroughs.
So lately I’ve been writing mostly about our boring lives, and occasionally mixing in some tips or insights I’ve gained along the journey. I’m always incorporating tidbits I learn from other bloggers’ experiences, so I hope that you can learn something from us as well.
Three years isn’t really that long, but a lot can happen over such a period. Our family has experienced much growth over the past 36 months: financial, emotional, and literal growth.
No matter how lackadaisical I’ve gotten about this blog, I’ve consistently posted a net worth update every month since March 2018. These updates include a spending and investing summary, as well as the mundane goings-on in the Brewing FIRE household. It also includes a tally of our net worth and breakdown of assets.
Here’s what three years of Net Worth progress looks like:
In 3 years, our net worth has more than doubled, with a compound annual return of approximately 29%. The S&P return over this time was 14.6%, so we also doubled the return of the market! Is this because we are investing wizards? Shit, no. We contributed more than $100,000 to our collective accounts in each of these years, which explains half of our growth. Still, we’ve had a pretty good run of late.
Home Equity: we sold our house in December when we moved to Virginia, so that would explain the loss of equity in our home. It also (partially) explains the big jump in our cash position.
Cash: I can never make up my mind on how much cash we should hold (more on this below). Right now we’re sitting on our down payment for a new home, plus approximately $50k of additional cash. Until we’re settled and I figure out whether I’m going to become a stay-at-home-dad or not, I want to have some extra money available.
The other curiosity is the massive jump from our 2020 balance to 2021. This is just a result of choosing March as the net worth snapshot from each year. March 2020 represents the nadir of our retirement account balances, as we dipped significantly during the initial Covid panic. As everyone knows, the market rebounded hard soon after this point, and thus our balances recovered quickly, and have accelerated through 2021.
My initial interest in the personal finance space came from the investing side. As I watched the Global Financial Crisis speed-bag my meager portfolio in the balls, I had a growing desire to take more agency over my investments. This led to countless hours spent on The Motley Fool, Seeking Alpha, and eventually brought me to JL Collins’ Stock Series. I also found The Mad Fientist along the way, which spurred my fetish for tax optimization.
Interestingly, my core investing principles haven’t changed much over the years:
- Spend less than we earn
- Consistently contribute to a hierarchy of buckets based on tax efficiencies,
- Automate, and
On the fringe, I’ve flip-flopped on certain issues many times over the years.
We’ve debated the merits of paying down our mortgage versus investing. Ultimately, I stopped making extra payments on our property.
I started buying bonds in late 2018 when interest rates began to rise, but reversed course during the pandemic (and ensuing plunge in bond yields).
I’ve also changed my mind on the size of our emergency fund / cash cushion. I don’t know if I’ll ever settle that debate. Sometimes it just feels nice to know I could buy a Tesla in cash tomorrow if I wanted to.
After nearly a decade of investing in individual stocks (for better or worse), I sold all of them in early 2019 and switched to passive index investing. The shift has been refreshing, and taken a lot of the stress/tinkering out of my investing life.
Most recently, I’ve moved our after-tax money to a Robo-advisor (Wealthfront). I’ll cover that decision in an upcoming post.
My view of my career (job?) has shifted over the past few years. In 2016 I changed positions within my company, which resulted in less responsibility, less stress, and a 4 minute commute!
Honestly, I’ve been very fortunate and I shouldn’t complain about my job. Still, my fundamental complaint has always been the same: work takes too much of my time. We were supposed to have 15 hour work weeks by now, dammit!
I realized long ago that I will never sacrifice the things that matter for a job. More recently, I’ve taken to refusing promotions that will diminish my quality life. What’s another dollar worth at this point, anyhow?
I’ve been planning my departure from the corporate world extensively during the past few years. I tried to make my exit last October when we decided to move, but I was coaxed into a remote position. I’ll try to quit again sooner or later. There are just too many other things I want to do with my time.
Family / Time
Speaking of time. Time is one of the recurring themes on this blog. I’ve become painfully aware of its scarcity during the last three years. Two kids and a full time job will do that to you.
I’ve looked into ways to buy back some of my time, but there’s only so much benefit to be gained. Working from home has definitely improved the situation, but I’m still working most of the week. And thinking about work tends to creep into my off-time, which is a stressor and a drag.
I would like to find a better balance, and carve out more time for my kids. They are only small for a finite period, and I don’t want to regret the fact that I could have been with them more when they were little, instead of working to earn money that we might not even need.
Being present for my family is now of paramount importance. In the literal sense, and in the ‘mindfulness’ sense.
Which brings me to mindset and psychology. I’d say that a majority of the progress I’ve made in the past three years has been emotional.
Over my life, I’ve been described by friends, ex-lovers and strangers as “arrogant, selfish, sarcastic, un-empathetic, oblivious” and numerous other negative terms. Most of it has been true, at various times. Really, I’m some combination of obsessive compulsive and perfectionist, which often causes me to fail to see the world around me. In other words, I’m not always present or ’emotionally available‘.
I’ve always been skeptical of mindfulness, meditation, and associated Eastern traditions. But my favorite neuroscientist philosopher (and skeptic!), Sam Harris, has dragged me into the world of self-reflection.
To be honest, I still don’t meditate that often. However, I’ve gotten much better at staying present in a given moment, and identifying negative emotions before they make me say or do something mean. It’s made a world of a difference for my relationships and general mood.
I’ve also read a significant amount during the time I’ve been publishing on this blog. 137 books by my count, plus countless blog posts (from contributors like you!). The most impactful books for me have been on productivity and behavioral psychology. I’ve been hyper-focused on understanding what gives me fulfillment, and how I’m prone to making decisions against my own interests. Sometimes it just means overcoming bad habits that detract from my overall well-being.
Another move we’ve made in the interest of well-being was our literal move, and the choice of geoarbitrage.
Most definitions of geoarbitrage describe it as purely financial: relocating to reduce cost-of-living while maintaining a similar (or better) standard of living. To me, I think geoarbitrage should be viewed through a more holistic lens, not just in terms of financial benefit.
Why do I say this? Well mainly because our move from CT was lateral in terms of cost of living. Sure, we’ll save a bunch on property taxes, and maybe on utilities, down here in VA. But we also gave up a sweet house hacking situation at our former digs, so the net gain is small.
When we decided to move south of the Mason Dixon, there were numerous potential benefits that drove the decision, including:
- Warmer weather (and more days outside)
- Lots of outdoor attractions (river, hiking, beaches and mountains nearby)
- A healthier local economy
- Stronger population (and job) growth
- (Modestly) lower costs for goods and services
- More quality options for public universities
- fantastic craft beer scene!
- A diverse, culturally rich place with friendly people
In short, we made the move hoping for an improvement in quality of life. We left the never-ending hustle of the New England rat race with hopes of a more relaxed, enjoyable existence down here. So far we’re happy with the choice.
One of these days I’ll do a dedicated writeup on the (literal) years of research and debate that went into this decision. I compiled a lot of good resources in the process.
Well that just about summarizes our last 3 years, in broad strokes. It hasn’t always been easy, but I feel truly lucky for the way the last few years have played out. I can’t say we would be in the same position if we weren’t pursuing a FI lifestyle and making sure our long-term goals align with our daily activities.
In many ways, the FIRE community has drastically influenced the course of our lives, down to the fact that I’m 400 miles away from where I started this journey.
I have no idea how long I’ll continue this blog. I’ve almost quit a few times. Other times, I’ve gotten so motivated I almost started publishing weekly posts. I’ve considered changing the style to shorter, less structured posts on random thoughts and current topics. Maybe I’ll pivot to a new emphasis. Maybe not.
Thanks for following, commenting, and indirectly keeping this site going. I always appreciate the feedback and support. Let me know in the comments if you want me to post more frequently, less frequently, cover new topics, or just quit already. Cheers!
12 thoughts on “Reflections on Three Years of Blogging”
hey, 3 years is something, right? i enjoy watching the journey play out. you are one of the few who has gotten off the pot and made some moves using your accumulated money for a better life. most of what i read is theoretical regarding finances so real live-time changes are interesting to watch.
i’ve probably been called all those same things in the past and some of it was also true.
My wife calls me some other things when she’s mad, but it would be inappropriate to reproduce that language here. Thanks for following along for pretty much my entire blogging time. I think the concept of showing people what you’re doing, rather than telling them what to do, goes over a lot better. You’re doing the same thing with your MM investing series, and also tracking your individual portfolio. I think people learn more when they see an idea or strategy in action.
Love your blog Adam!! Congrats on the 3 year milestone and consistently outperforming the S&P, Warren Buffett Jr.! I’m most impressed that the majority of your net worth is in tax advantaged equities. That is very underrated. I used to live in Virginia Beach and can say VA is a great state. It’s nice to see you and the family enjoy a picnic. Keep up the great work brewing fire!
Thank you, I appreciate the kind words! I’ve tended to follow the Mad Fientist mentality of always optimizing for taxes, rather than focusing on Roth/taxable investments. There’s so much information and debate on this topic, but my general feeling is tax-optimization allows me to save more today, and that can’t be a bad thing long-term. We’re actually heading to VB in a couple weeks. We took advantage of the Covid discount and booked an ocean front hotel for $120/night!
Congrats of 3 years, dude! Like you point out quite a bit actually occurs in that time period and it’s nice to have it documented. Good stuff here and by the way you describe it, I bet if you were to chart your non-financial progress, it’d look as good as the $ one.
Good on you and keep it up as there are others who enjoy reading! Also nice to know that another blog started on a holiday.
Thanks Mr. Fate! I don’t think I can duplicate your voracity for reading, but I can try. Maybe once I get rid of this job I can catch up. I definitely feel like we’ve made a ton of progress in many ‘less quantifiable’ ways during the past few years. For one, having kids forces you to get your shit together. I’ve become more efficient and more accountable in almost every aspect. I think my biggest improvement is in my sense of gratitude and general appreciation for my circumstances. It’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world.
3 years! Congrats. It takes dedication to create content. I appreciate you sharing the journey and like your take on things. No matter how sporadic the posts, I think keeping it as a discipline is an asset. Plus you help out people like myself who are on the path by sharing your story. I agree the personal part of the PF sphere is the more interesting part. Once the basics of saving and investing are learned the material gets dry quick. What’s interesting is the unique experiences each of us have along the way and we grow and optimize our lifestyles. Hope you keep it up.
Thanks Noel! I really enjoy following along with the personal stories of the group, and I’m glad that someone may learn something from our journey. I’ll keep updating, for now at least!
I love reading these reflection posts. Blogging is such a fascinating subject to me, and it’s always cool when you get a glimpse behind the curtain of another blogger.
Way to go on three years – that’s a big accomplishment. My two cents, which is worth exactly what it costs you – nothing – write as long as you want to. If the blog is getting burdensome, stop or take a break. It’s your creation, enjoy it, don’t let it control you (although your fans will probably hate me for saying that… haha). I’m only coming up on two years and I’ve shifted writing quite a bit. I was an idiot and committed to two posts a week my first year. That shit burnt me out and now I’m doing one post a week this year. I’ll probably cut down even more in the future but I started with a consistent schedule and have just stuck with it. But as you already know, everyone is different.
Looks like you’re living the dream – putting your money where your mouth is. I respect that so much. So many bloggers are like me, just writing about shit they haven’t lived, so you bring immense value to the table in relaying in real time how your journey is progressing. Don’t ever discount that.
I’d love to talk brewing some day. Back when I drank I loved brewing beer. Been a long time, but it was a great hobby. I’ve just recently started getting into the NA craft beer scene. Athletic’s brewing Run Wild IPA and Bravus’ Oatmeal Stout have been pretty impressive to me for non-alcoholic brews. I’ve got some posts in the queue to write about this, but for a long time I never thought I’d ever be able to taste an IPA again being in recovery. These NA beers have been really cool to watch develop. Anyway, total side rant there.
I’m still lost in the corporate grind, so I don’t get to read as many blogs as I’d like, but I’m going to try to add you to the queue.
Keep up the good work bud. And when asked how often you should write, I will always selfishly say pump out as much content as you possibly can.
BTW… how’s the house search going? This market is friggin’ Cannibals’ hunting for heads – brutal.
Hey, thanks so much for the comment! To address multiple of the topics you just mentioned, everything in my life these days comes down to time prioritization. I would really like the post more often, but it would definitely eat into time I use to accomplish other things. Same with reading others’ blogs: I kind of fell off the wagon for a while where I wasn’t following along with anyone else’s posts, mostly because I was just overwhelmed with all the stuff going on in our busy lives. Thankfully, I’ve gotten back into a routine, and have been able to keep up with a select few other creators, including your blog. It’s interesting to follow someone else’s take on being a homeowner, especially a first-timer! Regarding our home search, it’s pretty miserable, but hey that’s life. We’re trying to be patient and strike when the opportunity arises. I’m happy you’re able to jump back into the world of (NA) beer! It’s funny, NA beer is very common in Europe, whereas in the states we only had some awful tasting choices until just recently. Athletic Brewing was actually just a few minutes from where we lived in CT, and yes they do an excellent job. I’m really happy to see tasty options for people who want beer without the alcohol, whatever the reason. Good stuff.
“I watched the Global Financial Crisis speed-bag my meager portfolio in the balls,”
Haha! Yep, that sounds about right. High five!
But, things sure have recovered since then eh? Wild.
Fun reading your 3 year thoughts. I’d like to hope Jenni and I will be be able to write the same some day.
A friend recently recommended Sam Harris to me as well, interesting! I’m really pleased to read how you feel like your mindset has matured. I need to make some similar strides.
And so far as your last question, Adam…I hope to read more from you!
Thanks Chris! Regarding the GFC, I think I was lucky, in a way, to not have much money when everything went down in 2008-2009. It would have hurt a lot more if my $400,000 portfolio got cut in half, rather than the $40,000 or so I had at the time.
I can’t say enough good things about Sam Harris. He’s a controversial figure, for sure, but he is equally critical of both sides of the political spectrum, and I appreciate his ability to stay objective and mostly rational on most topics. His is the only podcast I would actually pay for.
Again, thanks for reading and the support. I hope, like you two, that I can slowly shift from “mostly work” to “some work and mostly life” in the coming months. But I’m certainly glad I kept blogging this long, and hope to continue indefinitely.