Many readers of The Simple Dollar have come here over the years to get ideas on personal finance, improving their life, improving their career, and improving their use of money. Although many of the articles heavily include details from my own life, I don’t really have a great full summary on why I write The Simple Dollar. How am I qualified to write such a site? Where did I come from?
So, let’s address all of that.
For starters, I’m not a finance specialist. My educational background is in the hard sciences – life sciences and computer science (I received two degrees in two very different disciplines). My path to writing about personal finance comes largely from my own experience, with some very healthy support from the multitudes of stories from my readers as well as an enormous amount of reading on the topic.
Simply put, I’m not interested in theories about personal finance. I want to know what actually works in my own life or in the lives of my readers.
So, where did I come from? I grew up in a small town in rural Illinois, along the Mississippi River. My parents never had a whole lot of money. My father worked at a factory which regularly had massive layoffs followed by calling the workers back a few months later. He had several side businesses, mostly revolving around fishing and gardening, a pattern I followed, to a degree. My mother was a homemaker who had her hands full, because not only did I have two brothers, she also stepped up to the plate to be a surrogate “mom” for many children that lived near us as well as her own two younger siblings. Our dinner tables were usually crammed full of people every night.
There wasn’t a lot of money to be had, and when there was any money, my parents were always wanting to spend it in ways that would make up for the lean times.
I eventually went to Iowa State U., majoring in life sciences and, later, computer science. I wanted to major in English lit, but I didn’t believe that it would ever earn a good living for myself. I was very lucky to be able to go there as my parents had almost no money put aside for college. Instead, I managed to get enough scholarship money to cover enough of my education to get me through with large but not overwhelming student loans. I made a few money mistakes there, too.
While in college, I fell in love with my future wife, Sarah, who actually grew up pretty close to where I did.
After college, I got a good job and got married. I made one key promise to myself during my adult life, that I would always strive to be the best parent I possibly could. So, when our first child came along, I began to focus a lot of my attention on what he would need for his future.
To put it simply, I didn’t like what I saw. I was spending far more than I earned. Sarah and I had over $20,000 in credit card debt, several consumer loans (for furniture and the like), a pile of student loans, two car loans, and no money in savings. I didn’t have enough money in my checking account to cover the bills.
At the same time, I was finding that my job was often taking me away from my child (soon to be children) when I felt they needed me the most. I was away on business trips when my son took his first step and when my wife found she was pregnant with our second child. I had to skip out on lots of family events to get work done on weekends.
In short, I was obviously heading down a path to a future I didn’t want: an absent father and a tenuous financial situation.
I decided to make some serious changes to my life. Starting in October 2006, I started The Simple Dollar, to share those changes as they happened.
I paid off every single debt listed above. I paid off all of our credit cards, all of our consumer debts, all of our student loans, and all of our car loans. We’ve also replaced both vehicles and own those as well without any outstanding loans. Our only debt at the moment is our mortgage, which we chose to get later on once our finances were in a much-improved state and we realized that mortgage payments were as good a deal for us as rent on an apartment big enough for our five person family.
In 2008, I walked away from that job. We had lowered our living expenses so much that by 2008, the income that The Simple Dollar was beginning to generate enabled me to walk away from the job that was causing such stress. I’m now a stay-at-home parent who balances that with writing.
I’ve written more than 3,000 articles for The Simple Dollar. I currently write two articles each day, which I give away on this site. In the past, I used to write more, but I was often unhappy with them as they often felt incomplete.
I switched to a vegan diet and lost thirty pounds. In 2010, after some medical tests, I made the choice to switch to a vegan diet for my long-term health. Since then, I’ve lost just shy of thirty pounds during an Iowa winter and I feel wonderful.
While doing all this, our household currently has three children that are still preschool aged, including one infant still in diapers.
I write The Simple Dollar for one reason and one reason alone. I write it because I know that there are people out there who are sitting at a point in their life that they’re unhappy with, and often it has to do with the grip that money has on their life. I know exactly what that painful grip feels like and there’s nothing I want more in life than to make it possible for them to escape that grip and follow whatever path life has in store for them with less fear and more personal freedom.
I write about what I do most of the time because I know how valuable it is to realize that you’re not alone in trying to escape this grip. I managed to do it and there is nothing I’d like better than to help you to do it, too. That’s why I don’t sell seminar series or audio courses. My books are available at the public library and all of my thousands of articles are available here free for you to read.
If you find even one thing on this site that helps you to put your life in a better place, then we both win.