Tag Archives: Money

Setting My Sights

Do you know that feeling where you’ve got the next few years all figured out but everything past that is a giant white hole of nothingness? In middle school, high school was this great unknown, in high school I had absolutely no mental image of what college life would be like, and now here going into my junior year of college, it seems like all the goalposts here will soon be passed. Past that, I have no idea what to expect. What’s next? Where do I set my target as I start adult life?

I’ve been reading a lot about financial independence in the past few days, because financial independence is an ancillary goal that makes a lot of other life goals possible. Specifically, I tore through Rich Dad, Poor Dad, No More Harvard Debt, and the blog of Mr. Money Mustache (MMM, who is quickly becoming a personal hero). And I’ve realized just how skewed my view of money is. I was lucky enough to have been taught well enough by my parents to never carry a credit card balance and pay off your debts early, but that information on its own was only probably ever enough to keep me from seriously shooting myself in the foot. I didn’t know that the way the rich made money- through the interest off of investment – was something anyone could reasonably do. And  I had never thought of dollar bills as little workers, who, when put to work in the right places, will give you 7-8 cents every year, forever. Gamechanger.

Of course, I’m not inheriting any family nest eggs that will turn me a steady profit the rest of my life. I’m going to have to build one myself. Luckily, as Mr. Money Mustache points out, this won’t be hard at all. It just takes a willingness for frugality and a focus on what you really need. The idea behind financial independence is simple: for every dollar that passes into your hands, treat it like a quarter. Invest the other 75%. In 7 years, you will be done.

How long it takes to retire at give savings rates

The magic graph: the time to retire based on your savings rate. At 75%, it’s 7 years. At 60%, it’s 13 years. At the recommended 10% savings rate? 51 additional years. Most people die before then.

7 years! I’m going to graduate college at the age of 22 1/2. At this high savings rate it will take me half a year to pay off student loans, meaning that on my 30th birthday as I cut the cake, I could retire, financially free for the rest of my life. And yes, this all includes inflation.

The catch is that the remaining 25% of your gross income becomes your working income. So if I make (hypothetically) $80k per year in a decent engineering job, I’ll actually take home $20k. But considering  that after the first 7 years this $20k/year is absolutely free, that’s not such a bad deal at all. And especially considering that of all of the things that make us happy, such as close loved ones, good and active health, freedom of choice, and purchasing experiences over things, a gross high income is not among them. The rest of MMM’s blog is dedicated to cutting out the financial fluff that, in the end, isn’t necessary and doesn’t really do anything to make you happier. It’s the difference between the wealthy and the rich.

Retiring at 30 doesn’t mean I’ll never work again – it simply means I won’t have to. I’ll finally have the freedom and choice to live how I want to and work on the projects that matter to me. Isn’t money supposed to buy us freedom?

All the same, past that 30 year mark is the same white unknown that has presented itself again and again. I don’t know what I’ll do once I get there, and I have no idea what’s in store along the way. But that’s to think about another day, and for now my sights are set.


Eating On 40 Dollars a Week

Somehow, even though I haven’t lived at home for the past 6 years, I’ve always been able to live off of someone else’s cooking, whether that be a dining hall meal plan, mom’s food over the summer, or Losino’s delicious meals at the fraternity house. So, when I moved into my rented room a little over a week ago and saw an empty fridge, my stomach panicked a little bit. It ran some calculations – $12/meal at a restaurant at three meals a day will run it $36 to get one day’s worth of food. Stomach brain then realized, it has $40 for seven. This wasn’t going to work. It passed this troubling information up to the main brain which said “No worries! Groceries are less expensive than restaurants and look stomach – google has all these people saying they can get by on $40.” “But main brain,” stomach brain said, “we’re not most people. We eat a lot.” “Well,” replied main brain, “you have a point.”

But two weeks in, I’ve actually found it pretty easy to not only keep within a budget but also to keep the food tasty and something I want to eat. Also, I’m eating more healthily than ever before. Following pretty basic diet guidelines (lots of veggies, lots of protein, minimal sugar, breads, and processed foods), I’ve found that by simply staying on the edges of grocery stores and not going in the center aisles I can get a lot of fresh, healthy ingredients for much less than a cart full of frozen dinners. Portion control is also way easier when I’m cooking my own meals and Losino isn’t there saying, :Come on buddy, one more plate!” (Which is impossible to refuse.)

My menu:


Dry oats and milk in a bowl (like cereal), with chopped fruit on top.

Needs the fruit for a little sweetness. Good fruit so far: apples, bananas. Meh fruit: peach (too squishy)


Some meat-based stew that I volumize with a lot of vegetables. I make a big pot at the start of the week and freeze it in tupperware to bring to work every day.

Week one was meat slop (ground beef, tomato puree, chopped cabbage, garlic). Verdict: Not bad, tasted like eating a bowl of meat. Yum. But too much cabbage and very greasy, could definitely use onions/mushrooms and other flavorings. Maybe try BBQ sauce?

Week two was Thai curry stew, based loosely on this recipe (chicken, coconut milk, curry, chilli garlic sauce, Asian veggies). I stopped by Chinatown on my way back from USC to visit an Asian market which was by far the best decision of the week. It had tons of unique ingredients and a whole shelf of pocky. Verdict: Very tasty. Would add less water and more lime to keep flavor concentrated, but definitely worth doing again.

Next week I want to do some sort of Mexican chicken/carnitas mix, and the week after that I think an eastern European stew with sausage, sauerkraut, and apples would be really good. After that, I’m not sure. I could use more cultures to steal food from.

(If people have recipes, please share.)


Eggs with veggies. (No cheese)

Good egg combos so far: Sauteed garlic and spinach omelet (my staple). Soy sauce and onions with eggs over easy, keeping the yolks a little runny. Hot sauce is always good.

Bad egg combo: Lemon and chives, the lemon does something to the eggs and they came out all granular.


Ha. Lots of water. I’m trying to get in shape here.

Really, it’s not hard at all, way better than I thought it would be. Being constrained by a tight summer budget has actually been somewhat of a plus – it’s forced me to buy only raw natural nutritious stuff. Kind of funny how that one turned out.