10 years ago I started this blog. I was at the break table talking about Obamacare with a group of friends when one of them suggested I should do “this” for a living. I was confused as to what he meant. He thought I should pursue personal financial planning, as I seemed wired for it. Rather than seeking an actual job, I decided to start this blog to discuss personal finance topics and of course to keep myself motivated to learn more. I poured countless hours into refining some old skills, and learning new skills to build this blog from scratch. Over the last decade I have written over 450 articles on personal finance and a book about building generational wealth. (Link in the sidebar).
Where I Was When This Started:
When I started this blog we were only about 2 years past the official end of the great recession. The great recession started first in Michigan, was significantly deeper, and lingered longer than most other states as well. I was also living in one of the most distressed economic areas in Michigan, Benton Harbor. I graduated high school in 2004 and while going to community college I worked close to full time hours at KFC as a cook. I did this through 2007 at which point I made the full transition into nuclear contracting. I worked my first nuclear contracting job in the spring of 2006. Starting out the rates were relatively low compared to now and the jobs were scarce. The worst year was 2008. In 2008 I didn’t get any travelling jobs and Mrs. C. had a high risk pregnancy. The Michigan economy was terrible and I couldn’t even get my old job back at KFC. Our total income in 2008 was $22,000, it was a scary year. In 2009 our income increased to $40,000 and we were at roughly $50,000 of household income for a family of 4 in 2010 – 2012, hitting $60,000 in 2013 when I started this blog. At this point this still wasn’t a ton of money coming in but we were fairly comfortable and able to start investing some serious money.
At the end of 2013 we had a total net worth approaching $100,000 with virtually all of it being in home equity between our primary residence and our first home which we had a heck of a time trying to sell. At the end of 2012 we had just under $4,000 in retirement funds and by the end of 2013 with our increasing household income we had increased this to $12,000.
I was keenly aware that my primary source of income was working my home plant outages at DC Cook, which without a 2nd license renewal the units would close down in 2034 and 2037. At the time there weren’t any nuclear plants that had applied for a 2nd renewal yet and it was unclear if the NRC would allow them. I felt a pressure to ensure that we would be financially independent at least 18 months prior to the first shut down date, which would be the final refueling outage. This set a goal of 2032, or age 46 for me. I adjusted the goal down by 1 year because 45 is a nice round number. Still, in 2013 this seemed like a far distant point in the future.
My basic goal was to pay off my house and build a $600,000 nest egg that I could pull $30,000 a year from by 2031. I focused in on the purpose of this blog being to document my journey to financial independence and share everything I learned along the way.
My voice felt rather different from the average personal finance blogger. Most personal finance bloggers worked professional jobs (IT / Engineering being the most common), had no kids, or didn’t have kids until latter in life, and already had achieved major financial success prior to starting their blogs. In contrast, I had 2 kids, taking on the role of being a father when I was 18 to a stepson who was just under 2 at the time, and becoming a bio dad at 21. I didn’t work a professional job (and still don’t). And of course I had limited financial resources when I started this blog.
How It Felt At The Beginning:
At the beginning I truly believed that after breaking 100 or 200 or 300 posts my blog would have exponential growth and that my articles would be read by thousands and I would be able to effectively make a living off of writing or at least be able to fully fund 2 Roth IRAs with it. There is an extreme “survivorship bias” in the blogging world. You will see a high percentage of blogs that the authors earn thousands of dollars per month, so this draws new writers to think this is a very common occurrence. The reality is that the vast majority of blogs earn no real money, and those blogs either A. don’t get read much so aren’t seen and calculated or B. Shut down because very few people will put the effort in with little monetary reward.
I had so many ideas and I wanted to cover everything. I put an immense pressure on myself to publish 3 articles a week. During most of this time I was working full time with 2 kids. Publishing on this schedule was extremely difficult. I did see some traction the first 2 years as far as total visits, page views, and a bit of income coming in. Most importantly, despite several major economic setbacks, we were still able to grow our net worth every year (with the exception of 2022).
Making Some Money:
The Money I’ve made from this blog is peanuts compared to most bloggers who have been in the game as long as I have. This is largely because the work that makes blogs profitable is the work that I don’t enjoy and therefore don’t prioritize. I don’t like doing HARO (help a reporter out) requests. I don’t like advertising. I don’t like going to comment on a hundred other blog posts to draw attention to my site. It’s almost painful for me to even attempt to make articles SEO friendly. I also hate pop up ads and banner ads. I eventually removed all the Google Adsense Ads on this site because I thought they were a distraction, and certainly so on mobile.
Today my blog is barely net positive. I spend roughly $500 a year on this site and currently the site earns around $50 a month, a far cry from the height where I was earning $400 a month. Also, when I was making money off of this blog, it was actually not from any of the articles on money. It was the articles I wrote on building monkey bars and building a treehouse that brought in the revenue.
The positive effects of the small amount of money this blog has earned were substantial at the times of deployment in our lives. I used the income from this blog to directly fund our 2016 trip to Universal Studios, our 2018 trip to Disney, and indirectly funded our 2022 trip to Universal. Trips to these money pits are typically rare for households of our size, income bracket, and location. Without the blog money I would have had a hard time making these trips happen.
Earning money from this blog also took a backseat as we started building our rental portfolio in 2018. My brainpower, time, and creative energy where better spent on building our real estate portfolio than focusing on blog income. This blog is primarily a creative outlet for me.
What I’ve Learned:
What I’ve learned writing almost 500 articles over the last decade is far far more important than any amount of money this site has directly earned. If you want to become an expert on anything, spend 5,000+ hours writing about it…while also taking action on the things you write about!
Without this site I would not have written out my thoughts and invested in Tesla in 2017. This so far has represented around a $250,000 total gain to our net worth, and I would not be surprised if 10 years from now is closer to a $2.5 million gain.
Without this site I would not have had the confidence to start a recruiting website for my employer. My employer offered a large recruiting bonus for each employee who they hired and stayed on to the end of our job. These are temporary jobs that last about 5 weeks. I created a website from scratch to promote the job and provide a way for people to submit their resumes to me. I then worked with Facebook Ads to advertise for our project. After expenses I earned around $2,000 the first outage, $6,000 the second, and am on track to earn around $20,000 this outage.
Without this site I would not have started investing in Real Estate, and certainly not the BRRRR method. I own 10 houses today, including a 6 unit apartment building. All of these properties I did massive rehabs on, greatly increasing my handyman skill sets, as well as my data analytics skills in buying, financing, and renting properties.
Without this site I would not have setup Roth IRAs for all my children and employed those too young for a real job. My 14 year old has a net worth that exceeds the median 27 year old. My 20 year old owns a house and has more money in retirement savings than the median 32 year old. My children will become multi-millionaires, and their pathway to that level of net worth will be much smoother than mine.
Make no mistake, the decision to start this blog has ensured not just financial stability, but financial prosperity for myself, my children, and likely my future grandchildren.
Where I Am Now:
I stopped publishing quarterly financial updates a few years into making this blog. It started to feel more like bragging than giving helpful information for people to learn from. I had achieved stronger results than I expected and I didn’t want my actual numbers to discourage any readers if their results lagged mine. For this year our total household income should be around $170,000. This is broken into 3 segments: $60,000 of earned income (including my recruiting bonus), $60,000 in total rental income, and $50,000 from long term capital gains. We are selling one of our houses this year, so this is not a typical year for us. 2021 and 2022 are the only 2 years we have hit 6 figures and both of those were just barely over the bar.
Our net worth fluctuates greatly and I no longer think net worth should be the most important goal. Our net worth is split close to evenly between home equity/cash/personal property, retirement accounts, and rental property equity. What I think is a much more important measurement of financial success is positive cash flow. The whole reason people set a net worth target is based on the assumptions of the cash flow they can draw from it. A $1 million net worth in investment accounts with a withdrawal rate of 5% would be an income of $50,000 per year.
For this year just our rental income is at roughly $60,000. 3 of our properties have greatly discounted rent, and 2 other units in the future will be short term rentals. We are paying a massive amount of interest on our heloc, which is currently maxed out. Once we sell the house we just finished rehabbing we will clear out a good chunk of this and our cash flow will increase by around $800/ mo. We also had several unusually large expenses this year with our rentals. I think with the properties we have in 2025 we should be able to generate close to $100,000 in income.
Once this house sale goes through we will also be in a position to buy again. I want to stay away from significant rehabs for 2024 and 2025, so anything we purchase will be at least close to move in ready. I could see doing a rehab that takes up to a month, but no major rehabs where the average person would argue to burn the house to the ground. I would like to get at least 1 single family short term rental property. With what we have learned from the apartment building I think after paying our loan and other expenses we could cash flow at least $15,000 per year from one.
This site is a creative outlet for me. Personal finance is a special interest of mine and I love having the ability to share what I have learned and what I am doing with the world. I love that the “heavy lifting” of establishing the site is done and for the most part 95% of the work on this site for me is solely writing. I have an overall goal to write an article every 2 weeks. I would like to write another book in the next few years as well. I love that this site has also become a record of sorts. I can look back and see more details about our life. The pictures, the stories, the ideas are all stored here for me and for my family to look back on at any time.
I plan to focus much more on assisting my kids with launching into adulthood and getting started with their finances, as this is the key point in life where I feel our society gets things wrong. I also plan to write more on the WHY, on philosophy and mindset vs. primarily nuts and bolts.