March was a pretty crazy month.
The US stock market has hit unprecedented levels of volatility after the outbreak of COVID-19 went global. Making matters worse, an oil price war broke out.
I’ve never experienced anything like this in my 10 years of investing. Even Warren Buffett recently remarked that he’s never seen anything like it – and he’s been at it much longer than any of us. It’s a black swan event at global scale.
The market value of the FIRE Fund has dropped significantly as a result of all of this.
Of course, as I’ve written about hundreds of times now, it’s the passive dividend income that the Fund generates on my behalf that matters most. It’s the wellspring from which my financial freedom flows.
Well, that passive dividend income has been insignificantly impacted thus far.
March represents the largest single month of passive income I’ve ever recorded. I also notched my largest ever positive delta between passive income and expenses in a month. It’s during turbulent times like these that it’s particularly nice to be a dividend growth investor.
The US dollar has also considerably strengthened against the Thai baht. In terms of my local purchasing power, I’m probably ahead thus far in the crisis. Plus, there’s the fact that I’m spending much less as a result of the lockdown, further reducing stress on my cash flow.
We’ll have to see how things play out, though. Many companies, even those that are high quality, are struggling right now. No business is built for zero (or near-zero) revenue. I’m optimistic about the long term, however.
March was certainly extraordinary in the markets.
But March was even more extraordinary for personal reasons.
I celebrated the 10-year anniversary since starting the journey to FIRE (financial independence/retiring early). And I commemorated that anniversary by announcing that Oh and I are getting married. We’re happily settling down in Thailand for the foreseeable future.
Moreover, it’s now been nine years since I started writing about my journey to and through FIRE. My, how the time flies. I picked up the “virtual pen” and started blogging in March 2011, which was one of the best choices I’ve ever made.
Writing has been cathartic. It’s also held me accountable. Being so public with my choices – financial and otherwise – has kept me focused on the mission. I’ve also become much more deliberate and thoughtful. The last thing I’d want to do is make a very poor choice, write about it, and be embarrassed.
Mostly, though, I’m proud of the fact that the writing has inspired so many other people out there to set out for and achieve their own versions of FIRE. This makes me incredibly happy.
With these personal and professional milestones reached, I’ve been more reflective than usual.
And I realized that I’ve now achieved the life I endeavored to create back in March 2011.
I’ve attained financial independence, early retirement, physical fitness, emotional stability, and a great partnership with a wonderful woman. I have everything I’ve ever wanted, including love, health, and time. Life is good. And I’m grateful.
Furthermore, much of the FIRE-related content I’ve published over the years is fairly evergreen. These articles are timeless in terms of the information and inspiration.
I’m honestly not sure there’s too much more I can say about FIRE. Much of the broader insight I can provide as it relates to achieving and enjoying FIRE has already been given.
One of the big reasons I started writing in the first place was because I wanted to show a journey from $0 to FIRE as it transpired in the real world. Many of the books I’d come across about and/or by successful and wealthy people were a recounting of what they’d done to get there. It seemed far more interesting, worthwhile, and relatable to show a middle-class Joe marching to FIRE in real-time with all of the challenges that came with that.
I wrote about what I thought would work. I said I was going to take actions. Then I took those actions and reported on the results. I ate my own cooking, proved out the strategy, and reaped the rewards of consistency, patience, and perseverance.
I’m now in fantastic physical, emotional, and financial condition. I openly shared the journey to and through FIRE over almost a decade of my life, all while sharing real-life financial updates. I’ve thrived since quitting my job six years ago. There’s nothing left for me to prove.
Thus, I think this is a great juncture to conclude the FIRE-related content.
The subtitle of this blog is: Save, Invest, Retire Early, Move Abroad.
I have, at various times throughout the last nine years, concentrated on different elements of that subtitle. The writing changed and grew as I changed and grew. Allowing the creativity to naturally flow kept things interesting for me and you readers.
The first year of my writing was dedicated quite a bit to frugality and saving, as I had to come up with capital to invest. Then the writing transitioned largely into investment content from 2012-2014 because I had to aggressively invest all of the savings. I then delved much more into tactical strategies to retire early around 2015. And I’ve spent the last two years heavily discussing geographic arbitrage and moving abroad after personally experiencing the benefits of living in Thailand.
I’m now going to circle back around and concentrate more on investing content moving forward.
I believe that’s an area where I can add the most value on a forward-looking basis. The content I produce in that arena is less evergreen and more time-sensitive in nature compared to FIRE topics.
After all, stocks are changing in price and value every day. Business is constantly evolving and growing. Every quarter reveals a different set of circumstances for a company. There’s M&A. Dividend increases. New products. Management changes. On and on it goes.
With this in mind, I plan to continue to helm the Undervalued Dividend Growth Stock of the Week series. This series highlights a high-quality dividend growth stock that appears to be undervalued at the time of publication. I perform a thorough analysis and valuation process, even including valuation opinions from professional equity analysts for additional weight and perspective. These articles go up every Sunday at Daily Trade Alert, and I share an excerpt here after they’re live.
I also have a weekly reader mailbag column that I head up for DTA and share on social media every Saturday.
Then there’s the quarterly updates on Warren Buffett’s investment moves. Those lengthy special reports (often in the range of 5,000 words) are exhausting and thrilling for me to put together.
In addition, I plan on regularly publishing works here at Mr. Free At 33 as the ideas strike. They could be broad investment themes, dividend-focused pieces, or even specific stock articles.
Of course, I’ll remain transparent in the interest of full disclosure and continue updating the FIRE Fund portfolio spreadsheet as I’ve been consistently doing since early 2011.
I’ll still be very productive for someone who’s been blogging for nine years. That’s ancient in the blogging world. And it’s thanks to you readers that I’m still at it all these years later.
This is the end of a chapter that I started writing in earnest many years ago. It’s the end of the beginning and on to a totally new chapter in life. New adventures and challenges await.
The candid shot I’m including with this article is my favorite picture of Oh and I. It was taken shortly after we first met. This moment perfectly encapsulates our relationship. We’re laughing most of the time we’re together.
This life I’m living now started off extremely rough for my first 30 years on this planet. It was not easy to get from a welfare childhood in Detroit to an early retirement abroad. But here I am. And how amazing it is. Every action I’ve taken has led me here. The journey to and through FIRE has culminated in enjoying an idyllic, fairy tale life in Thailand with a terrific partner.
It thus seems right to conclude this chapter in the way most fairy tales conclude.
…And they lived happily ever after.
Thank you for all of the support over the last nine years.
I hope you continue to enjoy the content, find inspiration, and take action toward achieving your dreams.
What do you think? Are you facing a new chapter in your life? Have you achieved FIRE? Living happily ever after?
Thanks for reading.
P.S. If you’d like to achieve financial freedom, check out some amazing resources I personally used on my way to becoming financially free at only 33!