We are excited to introduce you to Dave from The Financial Journeyman. He left high school without direction or passion and found himself working a manual labor factory job. He later found a passion with investing his earnings and developed a dream to pursue a new career. His story is full of perseverance and hard work. Here’s his amazing journey!
What was your life like before you pursued your dream?
In high school, I was immature. I was well liked and semi-popular, but lacked ambition. I was basically a lazy kid who wanted to cut class and hang out with my friends. I was not bold. Teachers liked me because I was respectful. I was just a challenge to them and my parents because I did not want to work. Looking back, the best excuse that I can give you is that I lacked goals.
Following high school, most of my friends headed off to college or to work at their family’s business. That is when I panicked because I did not know what to do with my life. For about two years, I worked a few part time and temp jobs. When I was 20, I got a full-time job working at a mattress factory. It was hard. Just imagine lugging mattresses around all day.
What was your freedom dream?
I was grateful for my job. It is where I developed my work ethic. It was a union shop and if you did not perform the union did not want you and you were let go. My factory job paid well and that motivated me, but I was bored with the manual labor.
I wanted to escape the factory and sweating to earn a living. I dreamed of being free. I knew that education was my ticket out of the factory.
What was the catalyst to pursuing this dream?
I was making good money and wanted to learn how to invest. My dad was an Accountant and had some suggestions. He and I went to the local book store and I bought a few books. I bought an investing book by Charles Schwab, The Richest Man in Babylon, and a Mutual Funds magazine. Reading those books gave me the confidence to invest. I started to invest $500 or more every month in mutual funds. I took to it like a duck to water.
After working in the factory for two years I decided that I wanted more out of life. I got depressed when I thought of doing manual labor for 30 years. I discussed it with my parents and they suggested that I start taking classes at night.
With my interest in investing, I decided to pursue a business degree. I was, however, afraid of going into debt to go to school. I saw debt as a barrier to freedom.
It’s one thing to have a dream. It’s another to make it a reality. How did you plan to turn your dream into a reality?
My strategy was to keep working while I pursued my Associates degree so that I could save for both the long term and to pay for my classes. At the time, credits at the local community college only cost $68. I think they are almost $200 now (still cheap). My basic strategy was to keep investing $500 and save about $300 for my classes each month.
What challenges did you face along the way and how did you push through?
I worked at the factory for about 4 years and earned my Associates Degree from the local community college at night. The work was hard. There was a point where I could have taken an easier job. There was even a point where I could have taken a few years off from work and just attended college.
When I was 25, I already had about $50K in mutual funds, so I could have easily said heck with it and live off that money and pay for my degree. That was not my goal though. I wanted the degree, no debt, and $100k by age 30. It was like I was out to prove something to myself. I set out to reach these goals on will power.
From Dave’s Blog: Saving $100,000 by age 30
How did your dream evolve or change as you worked towards your goal?
After earning an Associate’s Degree, I got a better job in the sales office of a national auto parts warehouse. It was a great experience. It was my introduction to the business world.
I also felt confident in my study habits from earning my first 60 credits and wanted the BS degree. I transferred to a local university and worked on earning my Bachelor’s in Business Management at night. All my credits transferred. Another benefit of working and going to class at night was that I was able to apply what I was doing at work to classroom projects and presentations.
I eventually went on to pursue a Master’s Degree!
What is your life like now? What have you learned since reaching this dream?
I now work for a large not-for-profit healthcare company that has 1,100 employees. I was brought in to develop the Recruiting Department. I oversee all the hiring for 4 health care centers in two different states. I am responsible for hiring everyone from Housekeepers to C-Title positions. I have one employee and work directly for the Chief HR Officer. I like my job because I grew into a role where I have almost total control over how the department operates. With that comes responsibility and accountability, but it is a heck of a lot better than loading a 53’ trailer with mattresses.
Eleven years later, I’m also happily married. I met my wife when I had one year left of college. She was working as a public-school teacher and going to graduate school. We live the good life. We’ve saved and paid cash for many home remodeling projects - bathroom, kitchen, put on an addition, built a nice deck, and a few other projects. We take a vacation or two every year. We go to pro and college football games. She likes Broadway plays, so we go to the city a few times per year.
From Dave’s Blog: 10 Years Later
Both her parents and mine are getting older and my in-laws are in poor health. We must keep an eye on them. My parents are younger, but I still watch out for them. It is funny how life changes. What I am most proud of is that my parents do not have to worry about me.
Do you have any regrets or things you would do differently?
I don’t. I did not take the easiest path. When I was in my mid-twenties, my friends were heading off to Europe for two months of backpacking across many different countries. At the time, I felt that if I joined them, I would not reach my goals. Today, when I talk with these friends, they are hoping to retire at age 67. I am going to retire at 52. I have decided to have fun later in life when I will be able to afford it.
What would you say to someone who wants to do what you did?
First, be true to yourself. Don’t compare yourself to me or to anyone else. Evaluate your situation and set your own goals. Set the bar high. You will be amazed at what you can achieve. Don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled. Work hard and live smart. It is ok to struggle and be uncomfortable along the way.
We live in a world where everything is fast. It is ok to postpone gratification. Learn to save until it hurts when you are young. Once you develop that habit, you won’t break it as your career develops.
Success did not come easy for me. I was not a natural student. After I made the decision to become successful, I had to follow it up with action. I would say that action is the key word. It is nice to have dreams, but action is required to make them a reality.
Another Dream Begins
We never stop dreaming and growing. What’s your next freedom dream?
My blog, The Financial Journeyman, is my new passion. It was launched in April of 2017. I am enjoying writing and interacting with the financial independence community. I work on it part-time and see it as a long-term project. Everybody has been great. J. Money has been very kind to me and featured two of my posts on RockStar Finance. I feel like I am becoming an active member of the financial independence community and am really enjoying it!
From Dave’s Blog: New York Personal Finance Meet-Up
Our next goal is to retire in 11 years (at age 52). We reached a net worth of $1,000,000 last summer. Our goal is $2.5M plus some other income sources (pension, SS, etc.).
How are you planning on achieving this new dream?
We live on about $3K per month, but we plan on spending much more in retirement on travel. With that goal in mind, we currently save 50% of our gross income. Our savings goes into our 403B accounts, Roth IRAs, taxable investments, defined benefit pension, and emergency savings account.
From Dave’s Blog: Balanced Growth Portfolio
Thank you to Dave for sharing his story. We love that he worked while pursuing his degrees in order to stay out of debt. We wish him and his wife the best while they work towards early retirement! We can’t wait to hear where they decide to journey in the future!